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10+ Ways to Promote a Learning Culture in your School (revisited)

Today, I will facilitate a learning session at the TechForum in Atlanta. The session is called Promoting & Supporting PLNs for Professional Development.  The original focus of the session was personal learning networks.  But coming down to the line, I’ve come to wonder if schools and districts could or should promote personal learning networks.  My own notions of the concept have an individual, with specific and shifting problems and goals, crafting and maintaining an array of connections to information resources and other networked learners, generating new knowledge through the conversations that he or she engages in. ..and it’s personal.

I am adjusting my focus away from PLNs and toward techniques for crafting a culture of learning in our schools and other learning environments.

Here are just a few suggestions for administrators for promoting schools that provoke learning in every person who passes through the doors:

  1. Fill your school(s) with learners.While interviewing prospective employees, ask them to  “Tell me about something that you have learned lately.” “How did you learn it?” “What are you seeking to learn more about right now?”  Also ask how they learned it. To what degree and with what proficiency are they utilizing networks.
  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.
  5. Include in the daily announcements, something new and interesting (Did you know that a California power utility has just gotten permission to sell electricity from outer space?).
  6. Ask students in the halls what they’ve just learned and how they learned it, and if they would mind writing something up about it for the school web site.
  7. Plant around the school and especially in the library curious questions that might spark a desire in learners (How many steps does a centipede have to take to travel a foot?  Who was the youngest person to sail around the world?).
  8. Ask teachers and other staff to write reports on their latest vacation, sharing what they learned – and publish them on the school web site.
  9. Ask teachers to devote one of their classroom bulletin boards to what they are learning, related or unrelated to the classroom.
  10. Talk about the role of research in learning and encourage learners and teachers to engage in independent research on topics of personal interest.  Persuade some to submit, for the school web site, multimedia reports about what they’ve learned and how they learned it..
  11. 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).
  12. Plant a mystery in your school with hidden clues that require further research on the part of learners.
  13. Find ways to be playful at your school — and perhaps feel less grown-up. (see Do Grown-ups Learning?)

This is an update of a list I posted a number of months ago.


  • http://bloggingonthebay.org Bill Gaskins

    Thanks for sharing this again. You are right on target if we are going to make real changes in the learning cultures of school. Leadership has to model this from the top!

  • http://millionthsmith.blogspot.com/ Melissa Smith

    I really like the way that this blog turns the attention to highlight what we have learned though sharing our knowledge giving the students, faculty, and parents a chance to become the ones educating in a non traditional form of teaching. Educators are taking a step down from the pulpit and handing over instruction to others. It is a scary feeling, to not be the leader of the instruction, but through ideas listed in this post schools can encourage and motivate others to learn, and give opportunities for those to be recognized for their learning. Ownership of one’s learning is what is important and has always been. This is the deep rooted lesson that teachers should instill in their students.

  • Linda Knappett

    PLNs=more interesting for teachers
    Culture of Learning=your points are salient but your audience is more administrative
    Is this why you changed the topic?

  • http://www.weblogg-ed.com Will Richardson

    Hey David,

    Phillip Schlechty’s book “Leading for Learning: How to Transform Schools into Learning Organizations” is a great, great read on this topic. One snip that I pulled last year is:

    Schools must be transformed from platforms for instruction to platforms for learning, from bureaucracies bent on control to learning organizations aimed at encouraging disciplined inquiry and creativity.

    I think your suggestions here fit well with that frame.

  • Cecile McVittie

    I’m wondering if someone has hacked your Twitter link, because it’s showing up in Spanish with subsequent error message. It’s Spanish in the HTML code.

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  • http://heatherdurnin.com Heather Durnin

    Glad I came across this post as I really enjoyed reading it.
    As teachers, we want our students to be life-long learners, so we better model it!
    Almost a year ago, I started writing a blog. I don’t expect my Gr. 7/8 students to have it in their RSS feed, but I do print off my latest post and stick it on our class bulletin board. Now routine, my kids know it’s always about them, so they head over to read it. Most of the topics I write about are things we’ve learned together as a class. That reminds me that just last week I taught 23 kids at one time how to add the Clustr map to their blogs (they’d been begging!) I could hardly remember how to do it, but we got through it. They know I’m learning with them.
    Your comment about parent involvement has made me realize I should be sending these posts to the parents in my weekly email. After all, it’s their kids I’m writing about! Thanks for the idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boojeebeads Eunice

    I couldn’t agree more on letting the students share their thoughts on the school website is a very healthy practice for both parties. Schools should consider this as a way to engage students.

  • http://whangabrian.blogspot.com/ Brian O’Connell

    Have printed this off and it is on the wall of my office straight in front of me.

    Thanks David

  • Rebecca Hatherley

    This got me thinking.

    Through these deliberate discussions with co-workers, ‘students’, and parents to provoke learning, I like how one can also work into the discussion “what is our/your conception of learning”.

    Not everyone has a similar concept of what learning is, where is takes place, and what causes it to take place; perhaps these discussions will have an effects on how we as educators design for learning.

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  • http://redefineschool.wordpress.com monika hardy

    spot on..

  • Elizabeth

    I loved your post. You hit the nail on the head about promoting a culture that recognizes the value of learning and continuing to do so throughout life. I love the idea of including something to learn in daily announcements – in the foreign language classroom I could use this opportunity to talk about a linguistic or cultural point, for example. It is also a great idea to ask teachers to reserve one bulletin board to keep students abreast of the teacher’s own learning. Not only does it model lifelong learning, it also helps to create rapport in the classroom community. Sometimes, when teachers are willing to let students into their own lives a bit, it can pay serious dividends later. Lastly, I totally love your idea about devoting time during administrative/teacher meetings to this topic of sharing about learning. The teachers in my district are so busy and contained in their own classroom that we rarely make time to talk about these neat learning opportunities (attending conferences, using new resources in the classroom, etc.) unless we specifically devote this time to collaboration. Bravo!

  • http://ictevangelist.com Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist)

    Absolutely spot on – thank you! Will be referring to this again.

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
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