Professional learning can be as simple as going for a walk.
Over the past several years I have found myself falling completely in love with podcasts, and I have come to value them for not only their entertainment value, but for their contribution to my own professional (and personal) learning.
Podcasts are one of those things that people are either really into, or not into at all. Some of us can’t wait for weekly downloads, while others have no idea what that pesky purple icon on their iPhone is for, and why they can’t simply delete it.
For anyone in that latter camp, I can tell you that podcasts are completely free, and the content is as diverse as any other mainstream media such as television, movies, music, magazines, or books. In fact, many of these media outlets have turned to podcasting to either relay similar content, or complement their mainstream content with related, new offerings.
As an educator, I am drawn specifically to many podcasts, but three in particular are on regular rotation: TEDTalks (audio), The Harvard EdCast, and Educators Lead. I say that much of my own professional learning has come via these three podcasts, and it has influenced the work happening in the classrooms of my school.
One of my beliefs about teaching and learning is that we, as teachers, need to learn in the ways we want our students to learn. This can mean seeking new ideas through new technologies. For me, I find that walking the dog is the perfect time to plug in and get down to learning (more on the benefits of dogs and long nature walks in another blog post). It’s my “me time”.
I understand that you may not be into Educational Leadership as a theme for your own professional learning, and believe me, I have a lot more interests and favourite podcasts, but I find that the beauty of podcasts is that no matter what you’re into, there is something for you. You can search by interest or subject. You can try one and stick with it, or dump it right away. It’s all free.
We all have to walk our dogs anyhow. Why not make it a time for new learning? Enjoy!
Here are some of my personal favourite podcasts:
TED Radio Hour
This American Life
The Jay and Dan Podcast
Roenick Life Podcast
If you’re like me, you are probably a pretty persistent parent in your desire to initiate a dinner conversation with your child. You likely use some variation of this inquiry, “So, how was school today?” And, if your kids are like mine, you likely receive a response similar to “Fine.” If you try another angle, you might go with, "So, what did you do at school today?' only to be met with a "Not much". I choose to believe that those are conditioned responses rather than reflective ones. Well, enter Twitter.
There are multiple reasons why our school is bringing Twitter forward, but the primary reason is to establish a bridge between the classroom and your home. In this way, your child’s learning becomes visible. Suddenly, the flat responses “fine" or "not much" carry less weight. Then, it is the pending conversation with your child that offers an opportunity to transfer learning across contexts. When your child knows you share an interest in their learning, they strengthen their own connections, and are more likely to pursue and extend new learning independently. In addition, you as the parent are more likely to engage in learning alongside your child. This could include something as simple as side-by-side web browsing, or even related family outings. These are win-win-win situations benefiting your child’s learning, your relationship with my your child, and the work of the school.
Secondly, working with Twitter is a tool to assist in teaching our students digital citizenship. Engaging with authentic purpose with adult-to-adult communication helps your child to shadow and learn about social media in a controlled environment between trusted adults.
Finally, Twitter is a tool for you to connect to the greater school community. While you child’s teacher and classroom likely remain your primary focus, we are all part of a larger school community. You will find the majority of CBE schools are now on Twitter, including all of our new schools. Teachers and School Administration like Twitter as a communication tool because it’s a) quick and easy – mobile technologies provide quick access, b) succinct – thoughts are compressed to a handy 140 characters or less, and c) specific – it is targeted to an audience that seeks their content.
Of course, the main questions about use of Twitter have to do with safety. It is important to know that this is our priority as well. To protect our students, and to comply with privacy laws, we have all been instructed to use photos where students are “not identifiable”. This means that photos are taken from angles where student faces are not visible. In most cases, teachers will also choose to use a photo filter using apps such as Skitch or Waterlogue. All our classroom accounts are monitored by a teacher lead, and the entirety of the school accounts are monitored daily by school administration. As part of our role in digital citizenship we also discuss Twitter with our students, and make this documentation part of our ongoing discussions in the classrooms.
Feedback regarding our adoption of Twitter has been very positive. One parent commented that she talks with her child about Twitter posts at the dinner table and also that their child LOVES Twitter. Experience has proven that your child may soon begin to run home, excited, to let you know their teacher posted something from their class, possibly featuring them or their work.
In terms of organization, we have decided to join Twitter as grade teams instead of a centrally controlled school account. We encourage all of our families to join Twitter, but respect that some parents choose not to be active on social media. If you have not set up an account, you can do so by visiting www.Twitter.com. Set up is very easy. You may also find the following resources to be helpful:
Getting Started with Twitter:
Parent’s Guide to Twitter:
Good luck, and thanks for joining and following.
I am an elementary school principal, passionate about engagement, innovation, and learning from the unique skills and interests of students and fellow educators.