Sunday, June 30, 2019

Learning Never Stops

Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” – Abigail Adams

How do you make, not find, the time to learn and get better? Often the number one impediment in this area is fitting it into our busy schedules.  Trust me; I get it.  There never seems to be enough time in the day to do what needs to be done both personally and professionally.  The only piece of advice I can give you that has worked for me is to take a critical lens to how you currently use your time and try to carve out at least fifteen minutes a day. Easier said than done, right? The best course of action is the focus on the “what if” instead of the “yeah but” aspect when it comes to time.  If it’s important to you, then you will find a way. If not, then you will make an excuse. 

In a perfect world, your organization, school, or district provides not only the time but also relevant options of which you want to be a part.  Even though this is a great start, there have to be other associated elements to make it a valuable and worthwhile endeavor.  One-and-done events might get everyone pumped up and excited, but what comes next?  The same can be said about drive-by professional development. Like change, learning is a process, not an event. There should always be a long-term plan following any keynote or workshop. When it is all said and done, the best experiences are ongoing and job-embedded so that the needed support, application into practice, feedback, and accountability for growth lead to actual changes to teaching, learning, and leadership. These elements also go a long way to scaling both practices and initiatives. 

So, what does meaningful professional learning look like? Take a look at the image below from Sylvia Duckworth to see what educators really value and think about what needs to change in your school or district. 



Let me now get back to the time issue that kicked off this post. I really dig the quote from Abigail Adams as it applies to both formal and informal pathways. It is essential to acknowledge that learning can happen by chance, but when it comes to professional improvement, seeking out opportunities to grow is what actually results in changes to practice.  Making the time is only one piece of the puzzle.  The other is ensuring what has been learned leads to improvements in teaching, learning, and leadership.  

For the purposes of this post, let’s put aside more traditional pathways that are either provided to educators or ones that are sought out, such as conferences and workshops. The digital world now provides all of us access to some fantastic opportunities. Here are some no-cost (or relatively low-cost) options.

Webinars

Improved bandwidth and increased access to technology have helped learning through webinars gain in popularity.  Many publishers and professional organizations offer these free of charge to their membership.  While every webinar is broadcast live at a set time, what makes them very appealing is that they are archived for convenient viewing.  The ability to stop and restart compensates for many of the challenges educators face when it comes to making the time to learn.  Some providers even make certificates of completion available.  I highly suggest you take a look at edWeb as they have been a leader in this space for many years. 

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Social media allows any educator to learn anytime, anywhere, with anyone they want. Access to resources, ideas, strategies, feedback, and conversation as well as the ability to ask and answer questions is readily accessible with an array of devices.  Herein lies the power of a PLN. It is like a human-generated search engine on steroids that is at your beck and call. You select how much time to dedicate, who to connect with, and what tools to use. It’s all about YOU! To learn more about creating or improving a PLN, click HERE.




Book Studies 

Reading is such a critical aspect of one’s personal and professional growth.  I have yet to meet an educator who does not see the value in reading to improve his or her craft. Whereas the other two options are no-cost, engaging in a book study means you have to front some cash for the book.  Many organizations, schools, and districts will participate in a book study throughout a period of time, typically focusing on a chapter or two a week. Technology tools such as Voxer, Twitter, Instagram, and live video platforms have now afforded people from all over the world to read and learn together. 

Nowadays, many books come with study guides to assist both individuals and groups reflect upon the ideas and strategies presented as well as to develop action plans for implementation. In the updated edition of Digital Leadership, I included the book study right into the text to better serve educators.  At the end of each chapter, you will find a series of discussion and reflection questions to not only push one’s thinking but also to be cognizant of applying what has been learned. If you or your group uses Digital Leadership for a book study, let me know, and I will participate digitally as best I can. You can either share the hashtag (#) or invite me into the Voxer group for asynchronous participation. I am also willing to video conference at the end of the study to answer any questions. Just let me know!

Learning should never stop, and the ideal way to grow is choosing a pathway(s) that works best for you. 

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