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10 Ways to Promote Learning Lifestyle in Your School

A Learning Commons ((Lower Columbia College. “Learning Commons.” Flickr. 19 Feb 2009. Web. 19 Jan 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/lowercolumbiacollege/3293381635/>.))

On the 14th, I wrote a blog post (Applying PLN — a Continuing Question for Me), questioning some of my own assumptions about expecting educators to embrace learning practices — cultivating personal learning networks.  I wrote about my feeling stumped by administrators in Colorado last week, wishing that I had the answers to their questions about promoting more relevant learning in their classrooms. In truth, like most of the rest of the session, some excellent ideas came out of the conversation that erupted, after it was revealed that I had no easy answer.  The thrust of the discussion was the culture of the school, and the expectations that the culture places on its members.

So, what does that culture look like?  What do we see in the school and classroom where learning lifestyle pops to mind?  I think that we see is conversation — and not just conversations between teachers and students.  There is a much broader conversation that permiates the entire building and beyond, about new learning and about learning new things.  It is a school that says, out loud,

“We go beyond the basics.”

“Standards are the starting place for what’s exciting here, not the end goal.”

“This is where learners of all ages are not just memeorizing facts and mastering skills — but working with new knowledge, constructing new knowledge, and impacting others through their work.

Here are just a few suggestions for administrators for promoting these conversations:

  1. Hire learners. Ask prospective employees, “Tell me about something that you have learned lately.” “How did you learn it?” “What are you seeking to learn more about right now?”
  2. Open your faculty meetings with something that you’ve just learned – and how you learned it.  It does not have to be about school, instruction, education managements, or the latest theories of learning.
  3. Make frequent mention of your Twitter stream, RSS reader, specific bloggers you read.  Again, this should not be limited to job specific topics.
  4. Share links to specific TED talks or other mini-lectures by interesting and smart people, then share and ask for reactions during faculty meetings, in the halls, or during casual conversations with employees and parents just before the PTO meeting.
  5. Include in the daily announcements, something new and interesting (Did you know that a California power utility has just gotten permission to start buying electricity from outer space?).
  6. Ask students in the halls what they’ve just learned. Ask them what their teachers have just learned.
  7. Ask teachers and other staff to write reports on their latest vacation, sharing what they learned – and publish them for public consumption.
  8. Ask teachers to devote one of their classroom bulletin boards to what they are learning, related or unrelated to the classroom.
  9. Include short articles in the schools newsletter and/or web site about research being conducted by the teachers – again, related or unrelated to the classroom.
  10. Learn what the parents of your students are passionately learning about, and ask them to report (text, video, Skype conversation, or in person to be recorded).
    —————————————- added later ————————————–
  11. Find ways to be playful at your school — and perhaps feel less grown-up. (see Do Grown-ups Learning?)


  • http://www.ncpublicschools.org/distancelearning Gerri Batchelor

    What a great post! Just reading it gave me chills and caused my heart to beat faster.

    This could change ANY school, work, home setting. I know I’d be much more excited about coming to work when I knew I would be asked and would be asking about what is being learned.

    So I’ll spread it around!!

    Thank you for thinking outside the box.


  • http://www.russgoerend.com Russ Goerend

    David, I think I’m going to do #8 this weekend. Great idea!

  • http://bloggingonthebay Bill Gaskins

    Great Post! I agree we need to talk more about how we learn and what we are learning instead of just standards and assessment. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://hadleyjf.wordpress.com Hadley Ferguson

    As a teacher, I love the idea of making a point of starting class with what I have learned, modeling a love of learning and a willingness to take risks and grow. It is all part of leaving the role of All-Knowing and entering into 2.0 learning together.

    I also think that cultivating an interest in learning by asking people what they have learned is a great idea. I learn from my PLN all the time, but rarely ask the question of my peers at school.

    Thanks! I enjoyed the post.

  • http://judiclark.ca Judi Clark

    What awesome ideas. I particularly like the idea of space devoted to what staff is learning about. I have retweeted this free downloads and am also emailing it as an attachment. Imagine! Conversations about learning!
    Thanks so much.

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  • http://www.futura.edublogs.org Carolyn Foote

    What a great, practical post!

    Inspires me as a librarian to create a space in library for teachers to share what they “learn” or are interested in.
    I’m excited about the idea of featuring that!

    (and one for what kids have learned too!)

    Cool cool cool!

  • Jeff Johnson

    I’m glad that we’re talking about school leaders…there have long been pockets of innovation and creativity in our school’s classrooms, succeeding almost in spite of administrator’s reluctance to embrace the potential of new/alternative approaches to teaching and the increasing evidence on what educational strategies positively impact student learning. Principals, superintendents and school board members need to pay attention to lists like this David…thank you for publsihing!

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  • http://www.fbalibrary.blogspot.com Florence Lathrop

    Dave – Thanks for pulling these suggestions together. Next week I will be hosting our Learning Community Meeting in my Library (I’m a librarian); I’m featuring our Web 2.0 services and opportunities. Numbers 2, 3, and 5 will brighten up the presentation.

  • http://educationbysamantha.blogspot.com/ Samantha Mullner

    What a great post! This is really interesting and I am going to bring it up in the Technology Teaching course that I am in right now.

  • http://helenotway.edublogs.org/ helenotway

    As an Assistant Principal in my college responsible for Professional Learning and Student Learning, I thought these ideas were great. Often we ask teachers what they did on the weekend or what they did during the holidays, but not what they learnt. I love these ideas.

    A while ago, I also heard that a principal in his school called himeself the ‘head learner’ and had a sign on his door saying this. Another nice idea.

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      “head learning” — I love it!

  • http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com Vicki Davis

    Kerry Patterson says that promoting change requires us to ascertain the very few vital behaviors and when we do, our biggest problems “topple like a house of cards.” To get technology to the masses, we’re dealing with psychology more than technology. It isn’t about the technology and what it does but rather, about the people using and teaching with the technology and how they FEEL about it.

    It is about finding the focal point (as Brian Tracey says in his book. ;-) To me, you’ve hit upon a focal point — and that is the attitude of promoting life long learning.

  • Deb White

    I am a newly-licensed (but as yet unemployed) secondary science teacher, and recognize that the learning-lifestyle promoters you have so eloquently described capture the characteristics of my “ideal school.” This post provides lots of material for exploration at the end of job interviews when I am asked, “So, do YOU have any questions for us?” Thanks!

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  • http://collegesuccessshow.com Marty Nickison

    I like the suggestions above on how to learn. However, we must not forget that learning should be taught more in school at an early age. We, in America, stifle creativity for the shear reason that most of us can’t relate to it. Education is more about ‘learning one structure and understanding it well’ than ‘here’s what the structure is—how do you see it relevant in other areas of life?’. Learning is a two-way street; others learn because we do. As we grow as givers, we are given back the gift of growth.

    Marty Nickison

  • Jeffrey Sundberg

    The concept of network learners is extremely fascinating and the ideas for how to stimulate a learning environment are particularly inspiring. Although I am a teacher and not an administrator I can certainly relate too many of the principles you suggest to be established for an optimal school environment. The ways in which to promote a learning culture made me begin to wonder what is most important of all when it comes to improving education in this country. I believe that if we can instill our students and colleagues with a love and appreciation for learning, improvements will quickly follow.

    Technology has been changing education over the past several decades. I found it very interesting how important you feel that educational “tweeting” and the use of “blogging”, are now extremely valuable in education. I began to wonder how to safely establish a way of blogging with students in an environment that might be impossible to censor. Is there anyone who has been able to establish a safe environment to blog with students and if so how have you developed these online interactions? I would like to create this type of learning experience for my students and colleagues, but have concerns over the censorship of the blogs. The opportunities associated with network learning are limitless and I am excited to learn more.

  • Caitlin Dennis

    “Hire learners.” I love this one. Who doesn’t want a teacher that isn’t also actively seeking out new and interesting things- not just for their students but for themselves. This is something that I really wan to take to heart. My life should not solely revolve around what my students are learning- I still have so much I want to learn in my life as well!

  • Summer

    Great list. I think we should also make sure that students should be learning from their parents and bring this knowledge back into the classroom. For example, have a student interview a parent on what they have learned this week and then have the student share.

    I also like “Hire Learners.” We teach what we know. If we know how to learn, we can teach it.

  • Andy

    I did something similar to the learning bulletin board idea. I made a board dedicated to what I was reading. I put the top 5 books I have read, and the books that I am currently reading. It has really been a great conversation starter. The students were really interested in my choices when I put up my top 5. Many had seen the Lord of the Rings, and were really interested in the fact that I had read the books. With the board, I was able to create some really good relationships with students, that I don’t think I would have had without it. I think the students also really liked it because we weren’t talking about math, like we were supposed to.

    • Summer

      Students sometimes forget that teachers are human. Have you ever run into one at the grocery store They think you are some type of super hero that is actually buying groceries. To make the connection in your classroom is just what the students want to see. They want to see that their teacher has some of the same likes as they do. It shows them that you can relate.

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
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Raw Materials for the Mind

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