Friday, January 4, 2008

Diving in - Learning in the Deep End

Recently, I had the opportunity to reflect about my teaching practice with one of the assistant superintendents of our school district. We had a wonderful conversation that lasted over an hour. We talked a lot about a recent blog post of mine: Teaching Teachers to Fish (or Cut Bait). She helped me to visualize what constructivist professional development could look like. Together we fleshed out a structure to provide teachers with an investigative model for learning to use technology.

Here are the basics of what we came up with:
1. Have a discussion about constructivist learning/teaching :
  • What is it?
  • How do you use it (or not)?
  • What are the benefits for kids?
  • What are the challenges?
2. Discuss how this applies to the learning of new technologies.
3. Send them out to explore an application in a constructivist way - be explicit about this and provide some guiding questions and some goals.
4. Examples of guiding questions:
  • What were goals of the people who designed this program?
  • Why did they structure it the way they did.
  • What were they (the programmers) thinking?
  • Did they succeed?
5. Example of some goals - podcasting example:
  • Can you record your voice?
  • Add music?
  • Add sound effects?
  • What else can you do?
6. Come back together and share answers and discoveries.
7. Explicitly discuss the learning process :
  • How did it feel?
  • Was it frustrating?
  • Did they have any breakthroughs?
  • Did they make connections to the ways students learn.
8. Send teachers back out to continue to explore - give an option of more guided teaching materials, encourage them to continue problem solving.
9. Conclude with a "Now What" discussion of how they can apply their experience to their future learning and to their teaching.

Have you tried anything like this with teachers? Did it work for you? Have you experienced this kind of professional development (perhaps in another context)? Do you have any suggestions or advice? I'm going to try this out in the spring. I welcome your thoughts and ideas!

Image Citation: hidden side's, "tuffo." Flickr. 08 Feb 2006. 4 Jan 2008 .
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