A collection of thoughts about P-12 professional development, with a (hopefully) whiz-bang ending…
Big idea 1: Most current staff development is awful.
We have known for decades what leads to powerful adult learning and what constitutes effective professional development. Yet the 3– or 4–days per year, ‘sit and get,’ one-size-fits-all training model still persists on a large scale. Shame on us.
Big idea 2: School vision statements are feckless.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a school organization that doesn’t have a vision, mission, or purpose statement that says blah blah blah life long learning blah blah blah. And yet we don’t really model ‘life long learning’ very well. Administrators feel that they can show no weakness in front of staff or parents. Teachers feel that they must be the experts before they can ‘teach’ students. No one has tried to operationalize the concept or delineate what it actually looks like. In terms of impact on daily practice, it’s a meaningless feel-good aphorism (much like all kids can learn). Shame on us.
Big idea 3: Schools have a great deal of internal expertise.
At the risk of impacting my occasional consulting income, I’m willing to say that most districts would be better served by having in-house experts deliver training rather than paying some outside guru big bucks to come in for a day (or hour). There’s a tremendous wealth of in-house expertise that goes ignored within school organizations. Shame on us.
Big idea 4: Students are experts too.
Tapscott & Williams note in Wikinomics (2006) that this is the first time in human history when children are authorities on something really important (p. 47). In other words, when it comes to digital technologies, our kids often are (or, given the chance, could rapidly become) the experts. We ignore this expertise in most school organization. Shame on us.
All of this leads me to…
Big idea 5: Have students deliver technology-related training!
Put Big Ideas 1 and 3 together and it’s clear that school organizations should do a better job of peer-to-peer training. Throw in Big Ideas 2 and 4 and we see that many school organizations could easily structure technology training opportunities for educators, parents, and students where children and adolescents were the instructors or co-instructors. The kids get the learning power and social/emotional benefit of being teachers and leaders. Adults and other students learn from the true experts.
All we have to do is walk away from our egos and our fear and embrace our mission statements, the ones that say that we all should be learners and say nothing about from whom we must learn.
How about it? You ready to start doing this?