Throughout the past month I’ve read a number of case studies and research documents regarding blended learning as a professional development strategy. What I’ve learned is that the trend toward blended learning is a global one. All over the world, professional learning is being presented in non-traditional ways, including formal and informal strategies. These professional learning experiences are not just for educators. They’re being applied to professionals in a variety of fields, from construction to business.
When I created my innovation plan, it was with my colleagues in mind. The teachers I work with have digital devices available in their classrooms every day, but they don’t use them effectively as learning tools. Despite training opportunities and presentations regarding district applications and resources, our teachers are not taking advantage of what the devices or the district are offering.
My innovation plan focuses on a more learner-based, blended learning approach to professional development. Research supports the idea that modeling blended learning as a professional development strategy is an effective way to encourage professionals to use it. That has been a part of my innovation plan all along, so no revisions were needed in that area. I was also reassured through my readings that time is the biggest factor preventing teachers from employing new and innovative strategies in their classrooms. Redesigning their lesson plans and instruction is a time-consuming task, and it’s a risky one for many, who aren’t even sure that their new strategies will get the job done. That our district provides release time for teachers to get comfortable with new strategies and tools remains a key part of my plan as well.
What I did not anticipate from my readings of global learning strategies is the strong focus on collaboration. It seems that trusting in the professionals themselves to determine the topics and schedule of their own learning opportunities is an effective strategy of its own. Allowing them to become more involved in the planning of professional development seems to be a strategy that has ongoing benefits including support, significant and individualized experiences, engaging conversation and participation, and professional feedback. The term “unconference” had a big impact on me and the way I thought of professional development (Bagley, 2017). Getting away from a pre-planned formal presentation and learning conference model and letting teachers determine the topics of discussion and learning allows them to become more involved in their own learning, just like we want our students to do. It communicates a feeling of trust and respect for a district to allow teachers to participate in the planning of professional development. My innovation plan was modified to allow our teachers more informal and collaborative time together. Based on the idea that social influence plays a big role in making change, I am convinced that a discussion among educators about effective innovative strategies and how to use them would be a much better use of time than a pre-arranged presenter-focused lecture.
Bagley, R. (2017). Forbes Welcome. Forbes.com. Retrieved 30 April 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccabagley/2014/08/18/how-unconferences-unleash-innovative-ideas/#5452b226645b