Though it’s been a few weeks since our workshop with Silvia Tolisano, the ideas she shared are still ringing in my ears. While I felt I had an understanding of many of the things she discussed, I realize now how much I didn’t yet understand, and how her framing of a number of ideas clarified a direction for me and for my school.   I’ve tried to summarize what I learned from her session with us in a previous post. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you the main points here:

  • Reflection is key to learning, including profesional learning.
  • Sharing our reflections helps us gain more from that reflection through feedback and conversation.
  • Amplifying that sharing to a larger audience of professionals via social media multiplies that feedback.
  • The online presence created by amplified reflections benefits us as professionals and the institutions that we are a part of.
  • Blogging platforms are useful tools to share reflections as they allow us to easily catalog and store our reflections.
  • Reflecting should already be a part of our professional practice  via unit planning and other professional expectations.

Honestly, it was a much more interesting read in the previous post.  I swear. Go read it!


… We Learn in Community – the AC Collaborative Professional Learning Portfolio.

After much thinking, and conversation with my team of Learning Tech Coaches, we have developed a prototype based on many of Silvia Tolisano’s ideas.

I’m super excited about this, and will layout the basics of the prototype to share with those who might want to try it at their schools,  and to get feedback to make it better. If you want to get super specific, here’s the project doc I’ve shared with our teachers.

Reflect, Share, Amplify

One of my favorite amplifiers.

A specific prototyping group was invited to participate with the thinking that in the future, all of our teachers will participate. First, teachers reflect on a professional experience; a lesson or unit plan they taught, a workshop or conference, an article or blog post, etc. This reflection they then share by posting it to our school’s collaborative professional learning portfolio built on a blogging platform. Finally, we help the teacher amplify that share by tweeting, posting to Facebook, Google+, etc.

The hope, the expectation, is teachers will begin to gather more feedback from our own teachers, as well as, from other teachers outside of our school, around the world. We help them become more connected educators, developing their professional learning network. At the same time, they develop a valuable web presence that will stick with them even when they leave our school. Simultaneously, we get to keep a bit of them when they go. Their learning and experience is recorded for our new teachers to refer to.

Teachers Decidevolvo_steering_wheel

Teachers decide their level of commitment and quality of reflection. We wanted to make this super accessible for teachers so that they wouldn’t feel intimidated by the time it would take to write a reflection. We’ve found a barrier to entry for many of us has been the feeling that the blog post needed to be a profound essay expounding wisdom and truth. By making it OK for teachers to post a single sentence or single image, we remove that barrier, while encouraging them to share their failures, as well as their successes.

Of course, we also want to encourage high quality reflections. So, we’ve provided a couple of protocols/prompts to help them write reflections. Since we’re just getting started with the Marzano Teacher Evaluation model, we’ve written prompts around  Domain 3, Reflecting on Teaching, thereby helping teachers get to know and meet these standards. We’ve also given them a tool, a rubric that will help them determine the quality of reflection they are producing. This way they can self-assess and begin to make higher quality reflections when they are ready.

We’ve also tried to remind them of times where they should already be reflecting. In particular, the documentation of their unit plan in Atlas Rubicon. Each unit plan has a place for reflection on the unit’s outcomes after/while it is taught. Simply copying and pasting this reflection from Atlas into the collaborative porfolio makes it easy for teachers to get the benefits of the amplified sharing, while not having to spend much time beyond their regular workload.

What’s more, if teachers are interested in creating their own professional portfolio, we’ve offered to help them do that. They can use the collaborative portfolio to get “warmed up,” then, when they are ready, set up their own blog. After that, they simply cross post between both portfolios.

We’ve also given teachers choice with their level of commitment. Teachers were asked to choose from three levels of commitment. They could commit to two posts per month, one post per week, or one post per week with a promise to comment on their colleague’s posts. Again, this lets them feel in control, while asking them to make a commitment to the team.

One last tidbit to share. We launched this initiative by inviting the prototyping group to a short, before school, breakfast meeting where I pitched the idea over a pile of my super, extra-yummy, homemade pancakes, and invited them to participate.  It seems to have been a good idea because everyone present committed to participate!

Next Steps?

There are some details we hope to sort out, hence the prototype prior to launching to all of our teachers. We have yet to have a clear way of encouraging our teachers to read and comment on their colleague’s posts, an important component of this process. It might also makes sense to have some guidelines around high quality responses. However, with or without those elements, this can certainly become part of many of our professional development efforts as we encourage teachers to reflect on those professional learning opportunities.

So that’s it!  Tell me what you think. How does your school help to bring the learning from conferences and workshops back to the rest of the faculty? How does your school help to encourage reflection? Would a plan like this work in your school? What might you do differently?

Oh, and big thanks to Silvia Tolisano for inspiring us!

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