Why Teacher Professional Development has to be D.I.Y.

The world’s systems have shifted to a personalised format. Anyone with a smart phone now expects to be able to curate their life and have their needs served on-demand. Communications are now asynchronous meaning my daughter, my wife and my mother all carry out discussions in the new “when-I’m-ready-to-respond” approach. Most business and services are now designed around an individual’s requirements.

“oh no! Not another change! When are we getting the PD on this?” – numerous teachers I’ve worked with.

As the world rapidly stampedes into the future, making almost all sci-fi a reality, there can be no waiting for the large-scale organisations, founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, to form committees to discuss how all might cope with the change. The only way one can adapt in this new world is to realise that we will not be served as a collective by institutionally planned programmes, but are now served by joining networks as participating, collaborative individuals. This modus operandi is crucial for students but is equally important to teachers in understanding how they will receive information on best practice

In education, there are pressures on teachers from both technology and 21st century pedagogies to continuously challenge one’s own practice and adapt to new possibilities. These changes are happening too quickly to expect institutions like schools to be able to organise enough one-size-fits-all training to keep all teachers up-to-date. The irony here is that after going through factory schooling ourselves, there is still a majority of teachers who expect learning to be organised for them en masse. After all, ‘learning’ for my generation was always something you passively received and that was fully organised on your behalf by the institution.  To be an active participant showcasing one’s own individual talents and interests is not something that people of my generation naturally recognise as an integral part of learning.

With all the modern pressures, especially from technology, on employment, the environment, and governments, education around the world is now realising that understanding and presenting to a network one’s own talents and interests is what the new industries and those adapting better to the changes, are expecting from people.

To align with other industries, teachers need less professional development in specific technologies and apps for the classroom or even particular pedagogical approaches. They need quality professional development in how to join and form collaborative networks with other teachers. By learning how to join and curate one’s own professional learning network, teachers are better served by people who can directly tackle their most pressing professional needs.

The most important thing about developing a professional learning network either locally face-to-face within and between schools or as millions do, using online networks like Twitter, teachers get a hands-on experience of learning without the traditional hierarchies. All participants are of equal importance and all move forward together both as teachers and learners. This helps teachers experience how young people already expect to learn new things, even if their school continues its 20th century approach.

If you’re wondering where your next PD is coming from, it will start when you decide on your first question and then pose it to a forum in your local community or ask Google for the appropriate global #Hashtag on social media (e.g. Google the term #EdTech). There are thousands of people waiting to help you out, many of whom will answer you on-demand but maybe … asynchronously!

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Deputy Principal in a New Zealand High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International keynote speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of  The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.