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Image attribution: “Connection” by Jerzy Durczak, Flickr. Creative Commons License

A response to The Connected Educator – Chapter One

Moving beyond cooperation to collaboration ….

Jennifer Gonzales wrote about the challenges vs the impetus for open door classrooms and provides a measured and convincing perspective here on her blog. I have been lucky in my work and study to have significant opportunities to truly collaborate with my colleagues and peers and experience structures that have required me to press outside of my comfort zone and play an active role teaching and learning with others, often without the option to shut the door and teach by myself.

My recent school has a team teaching structure, within which teachers worked in collaborative teams to prepare learning experiences for students, facilitate lessons, assess students and evaluate the whole experience. Classroom spaces are open and looking up to find the room filled with visitors is not uncommon.

It is a unique school where these structures are quite new to all involved, and is therefore not without challenges; but in the time I worked in this environment, I found the structure enabled me to learn constantly with and from my colleagues, to develop and refine ideas where discussion and planning invariably led to more interesting learning experiences than I would have planned on my own and genuine, honest evaluation where successes and failures were acknowledged and plans were made for improved future learning experiences.

Last session, the unit Digital Citizenship in Schools (ETL523) included a collaborative group task. Whilst again not without challenges, this assignment gave me a unique opportunity to see the power of multiple perspectives coming together in a digital space to develop and refine meaningful content.

These examples have been invaluable in developing my skills in a post closed door classroom environment, to feel comfortable working alongside my peers in robust processes that are focused on successful learning outcomes.

Collaboration in professional learning and practice ….

This week I have commenced a role as a Technology Coach, where I will be involved in supporting colleagues through the successful integration of technology in their classes. Whilst again, I anticipate there will be challenges, it is exciting to have opportunities to share knowledge, skills and learning to improve learning outcomes.

In a digital context, I have involved myself in a few different educational chats on Twitter, connecting with others from many different backgrounds and sharing resources and ideas. I have found these to be the kind of collaborative conversations that Nussbaum-Beach encourages (2012) – focused on topics of practice, solution-focused, rather than the complaints and negativity that are often too readily shared in many educational circles where teachers are overwhelmed and uncertain of how to move forward.

What’s new and different about learning for 21st century learners?

Learning no longer needs to be focused on remembering existing information, this can be found at the click of a button. More important today are developing skills to think creatively; critical thinking for problem solving; effective, collaborative relationship skills and multiliteracy – the capacity to interpret and apply information from a range of different sources and in various forms. However, learning in a more contemporary style does not just happen and these new focus areas need to be fostered. For example, creativity emerges in the intersections of existing and new knowledge. This intersection may be more readily found when communicating with a less homogeneous group than one’s real world connections. Thus a broad online PLN has the potential to help educators develop creative approaches in their classroom.

Multiliteracy and me ….

I like to believe that I am fostering my own multiliteracy skills through my work, study and professional use of social media. Although I can see that many others are doing an inspirationally better job than I am, my investment in this regard has greatly changed who I am as an educator over recent years. My visual brain enjoys the graphic version of Nussbaum-Beach’s “Day in the Life…” that can be found here.

References

Gonzalez, J. (2013). Open your door: Why we need to see each other teach. Cult of pedagogy http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/open-your-door/.

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). Defining the connected educator. In The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age (pp. 3-24). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Powerful learning practice. (2012). A day in the life of a connected educator – Using social media in 21st century classrooms – infographic. Retrieved from http://plpnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/ditl_infographic.png