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:
- 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?”
- 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.
- Make frequent mention of your Twitter stream, RSS reader, specific bloggers you read. Again, this should not be limited to job specific topics.
- 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.
- 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?).
- Ask students in the halls what they’ve just learned. Ask them what their teachers have just learned.
- Ask teachers and other staff to write reports on their latest vacation, sharing what they learned – and publish them for public consumption.
- Ask teachers to devote one of their classroom bulletin boards to what they are learning, related or unrelated to the classroom.
- 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.
- 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 ————————————–
- Find ways to be playful at your school — and perhaps feel less grown-up. (see Do Grown-ups Learning?)