OK, No More Staff Development

Did I say that out loud? Well I did last week, when I met with a group of technology and media educators at a local private school. They are proceeding with a re-write of their technology plan, on the verge of committing to a 1:1 laptop or tablet initiative, and struggling with educators who still believe that using computers relieves students from the opportunity to think.

I pointed out that the biggest linchpin between successful laptop initiatives and unsuccessful ones seems to be staff development, and I mentioned some staff development firms with experience in that sort of thing. But I continued by saying that their goal should not be a staff development plan, but a self-development infrastructure. Actually, I don’t think I called it anything. I’ve become weary of labels that get in the way of thinking outside the box.

They need to strive for a school environment where teachers:

  • Have the time to reflect and retool (at least three hours a day),
  • Have ready access to local and global ideas and resources that are logically and socially indexed,
  • Have the skills to research, evaluate, collaborate, remix, and implement new tools and techniques (contemporary literacy),
  • Are part of an ongoing professional conversation where the expressed purpose is to provoke change (adapt),
  • Leave the school from time to time to have their heads turned by new experiences,
  • Share what they and their students are doing with what they teach and learn — their information products and relics of learning become an explicit and irresistibly interwoven part of the school’s culture.

If we are trying to help our students to become life-long-learners, then this is what teachers should be right now. The question, “Who’s going to teach me to do that?” should be replaced with “I’m going to teach myself to do that!”

So, am I talking myself out of a job? I don’t think so. Good presenters cross-pollinate. Good presenters inspire. Some of us entertain. But we plant seeds. It’s up to good teachers to cultivate those seeds. Information lives without containers now. We need to figure out how to make teaching and learning something that exists outside of containers.

We are attempting to adapt the new information environment to fit our curriculum, when we should be adapting our curriculum to fit the new information environment.

Exactly 2¢ Worth.

21 thoughts on “OK, No More Staff Development”

  1. I agree 100%. However, I don’t see any change in sight as long as the current decision makers are in the position to dictate how educators teach. Right now I see teachers leaving the profession in record numbers because “teaching” has taken a back seat to other duties. Teachers’ plates are too full! Teaching, self-discovery of new techniques, colaboration should be the most important things teachers deal with on a daily basis instead of reports and other administrative duties that get in the way of actual teaching. I know, I know, in a perfect world this would happen. I am afraid we are slipping behind other countries in the education arena. Control needs to be given back to the people who actually know what needs to be done. Education systems by the people and for the people.

  2. That’s what I was alluding to yesterday, that teachers had better have a yen for learning first if they are going to really teach in this environment. More than ever, we need to walk the talk. The problem is they (we) are all products of a system that doesn’t teach us to be learners. And, as you point out, we teach in systems that don’t celebrate or support real, reflective professional learning. (Some don’t even celebrate teaching.) Some of us, for whatever reason, find our way to a lifelong love of learning despite the system. But for many, when asked to think about personal learning environments, it’s like being given the keys without knowing how to drive. This is just another of the fundamental shifts in thinking we’re going to need to make.

    And btw, it’s good to know you’re up with cross pollination… ;0)

  3. David,
    Your list could just as easily be applied to students.
    BTW, my head is still spinning from reading the passionate and honest “Underground History of American Education” (available online here: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/ )
    It’s controversial (meaning it goes a different way from the herd), but it’s analysis of how schooling got to where it is now, and why it has the problems it has, is pretty spot on. It helps explain, for instance, why it is that teachers now have less time then they used to for preparation, reflection and “re-tooling” (you wrote about this in Raw Materials for the Mind), and why the erosion of such time is unstoppable, and part of a much larger, unstoppable juggernaut. It is likely that, despite technological advances, teachers in future will have even less time. The technology can help, but perhaps might be a curse in disguise (like the Davy Safety Lamp was for miners).

  4. Today in our staff meeting we were asked “What does a positive school culture look like?” A teacher came up with time to reflect and another teacher put in time for PD. Not so much large group PD, but personal PD; time to just sit and research, think and learn new things.

    Thank you for this post it has helped to calm my nerves after a meeting today that included this very subject.

  5. David, your post is interesting. I have been struggling with teachers in my school wanting more and more of what Roland Barth calls “sit ‘n git” staff development. A primary teacher told me today in a passing conversation (they all seem like passing conversations lately) that she did not want to spend 2-3 days working with a consultant on a project based learning initiative with follow up from her colleagues and administration. She just wanted to “go to the workshop for one day and find out about project based learning” and then come back to work the next day and be with her kids. Message to me: What I am doing with the kids is more important that continuing to improve.

    I believe that to create an atmosphere of change in a school, a sense of urgency needs to be developed in the community around an idea, concept or initiative. Once that urgency is felt in the community, the feeding of the information becomes one that is self-initiated, self-indulgent and self-reliant. The “consultant” and the “administrator” and the “teacher” are then part of a wave of learning and the children are swept along. What is needed to create this dynamic force is leadership capacity within an organization where ALL employees can pitch in their two cents to make a difference. I see it working and have seen it work. Great post David!

    A coupla halalas are on the table,

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