After writing earlier this week (and thinking a lot about this over the last year) about teaching kids to learn, I’m thinking now about how we provide professional development to teachers and wondering if the whole approach is flawed.
There is so much emphasis on the importance of professional development (and this is how I make my own living). Most of that time is spent teaching discrete applications (e.g. Google Docs) or at best, integration strategies using general types of tools (e.g. using wikis for collaborative analysis). Some of what is taught sticks and makes it into the classroom; most probably doesn’t.
In a typical group of 20 or so teachers, there are usually one or two who grok technology as a tool for learning. More importantly, those same teachers seem to take control of their own learning and figure out what they need to know to use the tools. Most would probably do this with or without formal professional development (though they might benefit from some quicker, big picture exposure to different ideas or more in-depth in-classroom mentoring). I don’t necessarily find these teachers to be more technically adept than others; they just take the initiative to figure it out.
The majority of teachers though can’t or don’t embrace technology. They don’t have time. They don’t use technology tools in their own personal lives. They don’t see the benefits to students. They have anxiety. They don’t see it as a part of their job as educators. They can’t look at a new tool and just “figure it out.” With all those barriers, their already limited time is spent on other things.
So we talk about teaching kids 21st century skills focused on learning to learn, and yet we don’t apply this to our own learning.
Maybe we should throw out the existing PD model and start over. (I know there are a million reasons this would be difficult to implement, but I’ll save those for another post.) What do you think?