Scott McLeod designated July 4 as Leadership Day and challenged edubloggers to write about school technology leadership. I missed the “deadline” but am going to share an idea anyway.
I just finished my first-ever virtual learning experience, a summer course titled “Internet: Implications for Teaching and Learning.” It was fun. We posted all assignments on the Internet and participated in weekly Moodle forums on a variety of topics. We presented our final projects — ePortfolios — in our instructor’s “office” at Tapped In. (Hey, this 37-year-old tried online chat for the first time. That’s huge!)
One of our assignments involved locating and participating in an online professional development activity. Many of the folks in the class shared discussion boards, forums, and networking sites specific to their content area, and most reported positive outcomes from their investigations, leading one woman to reflect, “I think it would be interesting if principals got their school on board with this global interaction perhaps designating some lesson planning time as ‘chat time’ and sharing what was learned periodically. It’s such a great tool, but one that is not used often enough if at all.”
That got me thinking.
I have experienced an awakening of sorts since starting this blog and setting up my aggregator about six months ago. There is a vast store of resources for personal and professional growth out there. Chris Lehmann has referred to them as academic networking tools, and I really like David Warlick’s recent phrase, knowing-networks. If these resources are as untapped and underutilized as some of my classmates suggested in our recent Moodle discussion, then there is a huge ed tech leadership opportunity awaiting school officials where I teach in East Tennessee.
Here in Knox County the number of unscheduled inservice hours for teachers is tripling from 6 to 18 hours, beginning this school year (2007-08). The change was adopted to give teachers more control over the kind of professional development activities they choose for themselves. What if principals would agree to let teachers log online participation hours (or perhaps assign a maximum number of hours for certain activities like discussion forums or “webinars“)? This might stimulate teachers to try some new stuff.
For instance, it took a summer course requirement for me to get off my duff and finally explore the Classroom 2.0 networking site — something I’ve been meaning to do since April when I first bookmarked it on Del.icio.us!
At my former school we surveyed our faculty once annually about their personal expertise in all sorts of areas (not just technology). We took the data and assigned every staff member to “expert teams,” and we published the list of expert teams in our faculty handbook. This is especially helpful for new and first-year teachers and interns who need advice with common, everyday challenges like printer troubleshooting or bookkeeping paperwork and so on. It would be interesting to survey the faculty to find out who is currently participating in online teacher networks. They could form an “expert group” and train the rest of the faculty!
Who out there is already modeling this practice? Is there a school or school system that recognizes and rewards teachers’ self-directed professional growth via online communities and networks? I’d like to hear about it.