On Friday afternoon I attended a 3-hour session led by Dr Michael Nagel, called “Understanding and Educating the Developing Adolescent Brain”. It was held at a Townsville school, as part of a series of workshops organised by Education Queensland to help prepare teachers for the transition of Year 7 to high schools in 2015. It was a wonderfully entertaining and informative session, which expanded my understanding of adolescent psychology and gave me many strategies to use in the classroom. The three hours flew by – the learning was enjoyable and useful; it was beneficial, not arduous or irrelevant. The session was attended by 40-50 teachers, many of whom knew each other (some, for decades). As a new teacher interested in teaching Junior Secondary, I knew no-one but met 3 others at my table during short conversations before the session. I didn’t share contact details with any other attendees. Although the session was somewhat interactive, like most of the participants, I didn’t speak directly with Michael. My record of learning consists of the 2 pages of notes I took (below), and a 9-page booklet that contains useful references to research outlining the characteristics of adolescents (and their brains) and strategies for working with them.
On Saturday morning I joined in the #satchatoc Twitter chat with David Price, (most ably organised and hosted by teacher and #satchatoc moderator Andrea Stringer). I’ve become a regular participant in these 1 hour Saturday morning chats because I learn so much from them. David Price’s book “Open: How we’ll live, learn and work in the future” was the topic for discussion. The session was joined by many teachers from around Australia and all over the world, and the questions and contributions were thought-provoking, reflective, practical, useful. Like Friday’s session, it was entertaining, informative, beneficial. And, far from arduous or irrelevant, because all of the participants made it what we wanted and needed it to be. It was personal and professional simultaneously – ‘open’ in action. Including ‘lurkers’ I’ll estimate that 40-50 participants attended the chat – some of these knew each other, though mostly only through Twitter follows. I didn’t know anyone else personally. Like many other participants I engaged directly with David Price on a couple of points during the chat, I enhanced contacts with some in my PLN, and I gained new contacts with others during the chat. My record of learning is evident in the thoughts communicated to others through my tweets, in my retweets of others’ thoughts, and in the Storify of the entire chat put together by another of the chat moderators. I’ve been through this Storify a few times to catch all the things I missed during the live chat frenzy. I’ve continued smaller discussions with a few people that arose tangentially from the main chat, on topics of common interest. The learning is ongoing as I write this a day later…
The contrast between these two recent PD learning experiences interests me. Both were well-presented, relevant and enjoyable. One was traditionally structured: one expert speaker, a slideshow, lots of listeners. At 3pm, more or less, the learning ended when the speaker finished presenting. In the Twitter chat, the expert was a participant. He was actively probing his own thoughts and assumptions as much as everyone else, seeking the clarity and connections we all do when we learn. It was a little bit flipped: some of us had read the book, some others knew something of the ideas presented in the book, and others were new to it all. The #satchatoc conversations echoed way beyond the hour, as evidenced by various comments I’ve seen, by the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind as I get on with my weekend, and by David Price’s own blog reflection. It’s organic, networked learning, and that is what I aim for in my classroom.
I guess what I’m trying to share is this:
I learnt a lot in Michael Nagel’s session, and I learnt a lot from reading David Price’s book and joining yesterday’s Twitter chat. What I’ve learnt most though, through the proximity of these contrasting professional learning experiences, is about the kind of learning that engages me more wholly, organically and personally. The sense of connection and collaboration, of equal obligation and contribution is possibly the difference? And the dynamic propulsion this process generates.
It is the kind of learning I want to enable for my students. It has made me a better teacher. Thanks to all involved.