PD learning two ways: Traditional v Twitter

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.
Michael Nagel

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.

Twitter: 1 month in.

My Twitter reflection: 1 month in.

This was my third Twitter attempt in 3 years. The first times didn’t even result in a tweet because I couldn’t see the point of it: why try to duplicate my personal Facebook page in frustratingly short sentences for strangers?

But now I get it. Now I have an expanding PLN of interesting, intelligent, energised educators. Now I participate in inter/national chats that challenge or reinforce my thoughts, expand my outlook and deepen my understanding. Now I have access to millions of resources, links and ideas, regardless what time of the day or night I decide to check in. And now I have a way to contribute my unique perspectives and useful links to people who may occasionally appreciate them.

Some things about Twitter are frustrating: the rapidity of some chats negates the potential to engage deeply; I never really know which #tags to offer my non-chat tweets to; I don’t like being distracted by tweets stating what people are eating for breakfast etc; and the 140 character limit is often too constrictive, although I understand the rationale for it outweighs the limitation. Just sometimes 141 characters would be great… or 142… or if everyone 写了中文 we could all fit a lot more in…

And that’s why I created a teacher Facebook page. I thought about WordPress, ScoopIt!, Pinterest etc, but I just don’t have the time/capacity to regularly toggle through more than 2 apps at the moment. Since I’m active on my personal Facebook page, this seemed the most convenient way for me to reflect and respond more deeply to my Twitter-trawling bounty. (For me also, fb has an aesthetically simpler/calmer design, and a faster, more flexible interface.)

And what I’ve started to sense, even though this page has only been going for a week or so, is that this is a constructive, creative space. What I post as simple ‘sparks’ of ideas, I can return to, or connect with other ‘sparks’ over time. The visual juxtaposition of such a range of pedagogy/psychology/content/inspiration/news/art/etc organically generates ideas. It’s some kind of public/personal multiply-dimensioned scrapbook, though I’m yet to determine the exact nature of some of the dimensions…

I’m able to ‘park’ my ideas in a more fluid, accessible and inspiring space, rather than my previous method of storing them in endless meandering folders on my desktop that I never return to. I haven’t created this page for ‘likes’ (which is why I’ve limited the external input options), though feel free to like this page/post, so I feel like I’m actually communicating this post with someone…

So that’s it. Thanks to all the Twitterers (or whatever the hip twitter-term is) who accompanied me at some point on my one month journey. I’m enjoying the Twittersphere (again, probably the wrong term), even if I needed more than 140 characters to express my gratitude. 谢谢