The Fall issue of the Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook from Teacher Magazine and Education Week includes content and comments from quite a few TLN Forum members.
Most prominent is Nancy Flanagan, who authors the article “Collaboration and Insight: Teacher Learning in Action,” describing a project that connects teachers in a rural NC school district with National Board Certified peers — using a virtual professional network. Flanagan shares some lessons she’s learned serving as an online moderator of teacher learning communities:
One of the pitfalls for facilitators in the online professional development age is the tendency to revert to direct instruction—to tell, to explain, to be the sage on the virtual stage. As we built learning modules for the ‘Return on Investment’ initiative, we learned to design open-ended prompts and flexible, safe opportunities to try ideas and ask for help.
The theme for this new edition of the PD Sourcebook is described by editor Anthony Rebora this way: “Can digital technology help break the decades-long hold of generic ‘sit-‘n-git’ professional development?” In an interview with Rebora, Harvard’s Chris Dede offers his answer: “Only if people use the tools well.”
In other stories, we see examples of teachers who are “using the tools well,” building their own personal learning networks independent of any official professional development requirements. Writer Elizabeth Rich reports on the rise of teacher-instigated social networks — using the NING-based The English Companion (started by teacher-author Jim Burke) as one prime example. Rich includes quotes from TLN member and PLC consultant Anne Jolly at several points in the story.
Another article explores Twitter’s potential to support student and teacher learning and includes comments from TLN members Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Bill Ferriter, both popular edu-bloggers who write frequently about Web 2.0. Ferriter and Nussbaum-Beach cite Twitter as their favorite learning tool because it allows them to access a trusted network of colleagues more or less instantly when they need ideas, advice or resource suggestions.
Finally, the Sourcebook’s Blog Watch feature highlights TLN-sponsored bloggers Renee Moore and Ariel Sacks — Moore for a post at TeachMoore about the difficulty of disentangling individual teacher contributions to a student’s growth; and Sacks for a contribution to the Public School Insights blog a few months ago, where she shared ideas about increasing teacher retention in hard to staff schools by rewarding valuable teacher leadership.