I have been thinking a lot about “Professional Learning Communities” (PLC) and how they can continue to develop in our schools to ensure we are continually growing to meet the needs of our students. I have always enjoyed Bill Ferriter’s work on this topic (definitely click on that link to see some great posts) who has some great ideas on how these need to continually progress and improve to serve our school communities.
To build upon this, we are about to embark on a “Learning Leader Project” which focuses on networking and connecting educators so that they are able to shape their own learning based on personal interests. These teachers will also share this learning with their own school communities and it is basically built upon the premise of “teach a person to fish”. We are looking forward to seeing the progress of this group and how it spreads throughout the school community, modelling the idea of a “learning organization”.
Although groups will be meeting once a month to discuss and share their learning, we wanted to implement more of a “blended” model so that the learning is open, shared, and continuous during the project. Using blogs, wikis, Twitter, and other social media tools, our learning will be open and transparent to all.
Below are some reasons why we are working towards this “blended” model of learning within our school division:
- The blended model creates an archive of all the great work that is being done. Too often, educators do absolutely great work within PLC’s yet often the work is closed or kept in word documents or notes. By using blogs, wikis, twitter, and other open tools, you are able to easily share your information and learning as the work progresses. When a new teacher, student, or parent enters the community, they can easily access all of the work that has been done previously and help build their own learning in that area. In a model where this is not archived, many walk into a building and have to start from scratch. There is no replacement for the rich conversations that often happens in these groups, but at least there is a starting point for people new to a school.
- Building an understanding of a blended learning environment. We are working more towards bringing in blended learning environments into our schools, but have often not been a part of one ourselves. If we are truly wanting to implement this work in our classrooms (which we should), we need to be able to take part in them ourselves. If we want to teach something, we will need to learn it first.
- Learning is not dependent upon only face-to-face meetings. Taking part in PLC’s in the past, I know that I often had many questions or thoughts that I wanted to share with the group, but would have to often wait until the next meeting before I had the opportunity to discuss it with anyone (other than some informal conversations). Using the blended model, it is easy to have conversations that are ongoing and continuous, which can also be built upon within the face-to-face meetings. Learning is not a series of meetings; it is continuous.
- You are not limited to the knowledge of your own school. As we want to continuously have innovative and improving schools, we need to tap into the knowledge that is all around us. By having a “closed” network, we become limited in what we can do, but by creating an open environment where anyone can share their knowledge, you are inviting experts into your conversations, which we can all learn from. It is continuously said that, “The smartest person in the room, is the room.”; if that is true, let’s make bigger rooms.
- Learning is transparent to your entire community. It has been shown that parent involvement in the learning objectives of their child has one of the biggest impacts on learning. Too often we close the door to learning on our parents, where as if you had an open environment, they could not only see what you are learning about, but they also can contribute to the conversation. We need to be comfortable as educators to show the process of learning, and not only the end result. The more we can get our community involved in the initiatives that are happening in our organizations, the better.