Professional Learning: Teachers are a school’s biggest resource
Personal experiences are often what inspire you to create something. I’m going to share with you a story about my own professional learning which inspired me to develop SPELTAC.
S for Learning is Social
The first thing that I know has always made me learn is the colleagues I work with. I have always been inspired by teachers and my ideas developed from what I saw and heard around me. Particularly after working in secondary for fifteen years and then gaining experience in primary gave me immense insights into how secondary and primary teachers can learn from each other. So I think teachers are a school’s greatest resource when it comes to learning.
Then, through discovering social media and blogging, my learning expanded to learning from teachers globally. Going on a workshop or conference I used to come back invigorated and inspired, lots of new ideas to try out in the classroom, but very soon the real work took over and the learning I did on those workshops wasn’t sustained.
P for Platform that can extend the social and accelerate learning
Until I discovered Twitter and blogging.
I went through a kind of personal cognitive revolution because I discovered that suddenly, through reading about what other educators were doing across the globe I started becoming inspired on a daily basis.
Documenting and reflecting on learning
For a long time I just lurked and read what others were blogging about. Then I dipped my toe in. I started blogging about what I was doing too and discovered that that whole process of reflecting and documenting student learning, made me have new insights about my own learning as well as my students’ learning. The process of documenting my teaching by creating a blogpost about it, made me see the link between what we tell our students to do on a daily basis: to reflect. It made me realize that if we really want to value and learn from each other, we have to put ourselves out there.
When I discovered that people were reading what I blogged about it made me up the ante even more (anyone who teaches writing knows how powerful an audience is!). I discovered that there were many more teachers around the world experiencing the same thing, all getting excited about blogging, connecting and learning. It was exciting to see how whole movements have been created, such as Connected Learning from the MacArthur Foundation.
George Siemens, the father of “Connectivism” explains the value of blogging for education in the following video.
Professional learning and language in learning in international schools: marrying the two
In my career as EAL specialist, I had been on train the trainer courses before and although I learned a lot on these courses, I always felt there was a fundamental thing missing; they did not fully address our international school context. I felt there should be more attention to promoting linguistic diversity, and how language, learning and international mindedness are related. Eithne Gallagher, the author of Equal Right to the Curriculum: Many Languages, One Message, describes why this is so important in the following video:
Additionally, usually these courses were part of a school’s strategic plan for this year, but not next year’s and like many sit- and- get courses, or fly-by visits, they missed that essential element of sustainability. I saw potential in creating a work-based, whole-school collaborative programme in which everyone could learn according to their own needs, teaching area, and back-ground knowledge through new powerful platforms.
Connected Learning and SPELTAC
When I watched the following video- an aha moment came for me when I heard ‘How can we use the capacity of our network resources, our social connections to bring people together who want to learn together?’
SPELTAC is the result of wanting to apply the powerful potion of social media and blogging, reflection, documenting learning and feedback from peers locally and worldwide- to a whole-school professional learning engagement for language across the curriculum.
Languages and cultural backgrounds in schools can and should be used to develop intercultural understanding and respect
International schools are often well -resourced and ahead of developments in education, particularly technology. Language is part of everything we do as educators and it is at the root of all student capacity. Understanding how central it is to learning and how in turn it links to creating international mindedness is something international schools can and should be leading agents of change in.
I leave you with a final thought about how we can use technology to address what is probably the most important aspect of international education, developing bilingually strong literate students! Together we can continue the conversation about how to address the linguistic needs of our students, now farther and faster than ever before with SPELTAC.