I spent some time with my P2PU* friends in a Big Blue Button hangout and a Google Doc pondering what we can do to help others embark on a Personal Learning adventure.
I’d like to have the attitude that everyone I know is seeking to learn something every day, but since this is a course for teachers, we’re really focusing on the incredible opportunities that are out there for professional development.
I started thinking about how there is a continuum for personalized professional development opportunities (and this is rough thinking…)
- No interest in pursuing anything new
- Those willing to read something on a topic of interest to them
- Those willing to go to face-to-face conferences (potential for social learning, but limited commitment)
- Those willing to engage in book clubs or other socially mediated learning
- Those willing to engage in discussion – written or spoken – with others regarding practice in an effort to learn from and share with them
- Those willing to share goals with others to form a community that supports each other as they all move forward to meet their own goals
We all know that there are lurkers – the ones who are happy to see/listen to/read and not really necessarily interact with anyone else beyond that. I have been this learner before. I remember curling up in my princess chair a few summers ago when I read all of Kelly Gallagher’s Teaching Adolescent Writers in one day. (I think I forgot to eat I was so engaged!) I scribbled notes in the margins and I spent the rest of the day preoccupied thinking about the book and how I might use the new ideas.
A few weeks later I was able to hear Kelly Gallagher speak at the Pennsylvania Writing Institute and I had an opportunity to talk to others about what I read. Their perspectives and opinions and ideas broadened my understanding of the text and their questions forced me to think through my ideas more carefully.
Add to that the course requirement that I need to come up with a plan for implementing something I learned during the institute. It’s no longer abstract. It’s about considering your practice, what you need, how to adapt it to your own needs, and figuring out exactly how/when you intend to use it.
The only thing that could make it better would feel far too forced for a group that is together for a week is to have some kind of community that continues to be in contact, encouraging and challenging me as I work towards my goal.
Those are the kinds of opportunities I have found in participating in any of a zillion online communities. The social aspect of this kind of learning is its own reward and I am quick to count those I learn with online among my friends.
So I go back to the question: since we know that the most powerful learning is self-selected, personalized yet socially connected learning, how do we convince someone who is still content to sit in the corner and just read instead of interact to start interacting?
* The P2PU course is entitled Empower Your Personal Learning (for teachers) and it will last 3 weeks. It just began on Monday so you can still join in if you’d like!