Professional Development for a Global Audience

Global Education Conference

It was an honour to be a guest in Amy Hollinger‘s session on Professional Development for a Global Audience at the 2013 Global Education Conference. Amy is the Director of Professional Development for Global Online Academy and was my co-teacher in a recent online professional development course for teachers: Introduction to Online Learning Environments.

One of the things we talked about today was dealing with some of the challenges that get in the way of developing solid connections with people in online environments. It’s harder to do when you don’t have the cues provided by seeing faces and reading body language in a face-to-face situation.  Ideas that we discussed to personalize and humanize online connections included sharing personal details to learn more about each other’s context. This included simple things like sharing pictures of family, pets and where we live; showing on a map our geographic locations; and using icebreakers to uncover common interests and


Sharing online is not necessarily comfortable for everyone. Modeling what and how to share, and suggesting common areas of interest can make it a little easier. We set up a Google+ Community for our course to help build connections and foster a professional learning community for participants.  Themes that emerged in our class discussions flowed into categories for ongoing threads on Google+.

Learning how to learn in an online environment is experiential–sometimes you just need to experience it to understand it! I hope the participants in our course got a taste of some of what is possible.



Social media


Week One 1:1 Snapshot - Not everything needs to be done differently

I was very interested to read the article in the Atlantic: Social Media’s Slow Slog Into the Ivory Towers of Academia. Aside from tackling the digital ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’ concept, the article touches on the question of whether educators should teach ‘about’ social media or use it as a strategy in instructional design.

Social media creates an opportunity to change this outlook — whether through, as Rheingold says, deprogramming students in the way they learn by using the tools available to them, or by throwing them out into the business world, via internships, armed with theories of social media.

So while he’s talking specifically about post secondary education, much of the discussion applies to the high school context. One of the points I think the article presented nicely is what the generation of educators that currently bridge the two ‘ages’ (analog and digital) has to offer.

Another set of issues stemming from the notions of “digital native” is the lack of critical literacy…. “We have on our hands the last generation of educators who do remember life before these tools, and so therefore, we have an opportunity to teach some critical literacy that these students may not get otherwise,” Smith-Robbins says.

In our high school we have a lot of change going on because of the shift to 1:1. I hope that while in our state of flux we can create and foster an environment that supports innovation, experimentation and risk-taking to work out ‘what works’. That means tinkering and collaborating; both students and teachers.

One of the ways to approach critical literacy is by changing the pedagogy. Rheingold, who is at the forefront of the social media classroom, believes in collaborative learning. Rheingold puts the onus on the students to learn not just from him, but from each other. Instructors can serve as a facilitator, but the student has to want to be there, process that information, and use that information in a productive way.

I believe student voice will be invaluable in the process of change in our school and for that matter globally too.