Continual professional development

Once upon a time……

CPD or PD was all about either inviting an educational expert into your school or about sending your staff to an event, a PD session, at which an educational expert would present.   Your teachers would then, hopefully at the conclusion of the session, have new ideas, concepts or approaches which they had added to their teachers toolbox.

Since then improved teacher training, professional standards, etc. have helped to improve the general quality of teaching however this is based on an education system which itself has changed.   By the time improvements were made, the needs which these improvements were meant to address, had changed.     In addition the students we teach have changed, as has the world in which we teach, the technology we use to teach and the pace of change is not slowing.  If anything it is quickening.

So the old style CPD session no longer delivers what is needed.   The experts cannot keep ahead of changes.   Too many CPD sessions involve teachers hunting for the single idea of note, which would save the session from falling into the category of being a waste of time.  So where do we look to for the solution?

Could it be that teachers can no longer wait for the solutions, the professional development to come to them.   Could it be that, now as things are changing so fast, that they need to go looking for their own solutions.   But where do you look?

An article sent to me by a colleague suggested that one possible answer was twitter (   It provides access to people all over the world providing ideas and thoughts which can be quickly accessed and reviewed.   It provides 24/7 access to CPD opportunities.    In a tweet I recently read an educator agreed with the above stating he had learned  more from teach meets and twitter than he had ever learned  in traditional professional development sessions.        I suspect we could add Google to this, as well as Facebook.

So why is this the case?    I liken it to the concept of cloud funding; using the cloud, the Internet, to allow people to fund a idea or project.  Using the cloud to deliver CPD gives us access to a wider volume of people with more varied experience and differing perceptions and conceptual models.    The only issue is that the delivery model differs.   It is not the passive approach of listening to a so called expert or doing activities in a training session.   It is a personal activity.   You decide on what and when.   You explore the information available, disregarding that which you feel should be disregarded while exploring that which you feel is of value.   It is interactive, inviting others to contribute, discuss and share.   It is social as it involves groups of people albeit not sat in a room together.   It is dynamic as the content, information and ideas available are always been supplemented, complemented, contrasted, evaluated and revised.   At no point does it stop.  But it relies on you to be motivated to get involved rather than waiting for the next PD session to come along, hoping that something good will be included.

So why have PD sessions?  Maybe we should focus more on asking teachers: How are you developing yourself as a professional?



Bring back the magic!

For some years I have observed the argument within some education systems regarding whether it is qualifications or experience that teachers need to have before successfully gaining employment.   Many systems now require a Masters degree before a candidate will be considered, even when the candidate might have years and years of experience as a teachers.    What is important?

I had always sat on the Experience side of the fence, in that an experienced practitioner had a more developed set of teacher tools at their disposal.   Being in the classroom for a longer period allowed for more professional learning.   Now I am not ignoring the fact that some practitioners may end up stuck in their ways, however I believe most teachers, as professionals, would continue to develop from their continued experiences in the class with students.    How can studies in a university and a piece of paper compare with this?

I was quite happy in this belief until a colleague raised the issue of Qualification/Experience versus passion.   His comment grouped qualifications and experience together as opposed to seperate, against a passionate practitioner.   How could I agrue with this?      How can any number of years or number of pieces of paper compete against a person, passionate about what they do, about teaching and learning, about education?

Then I heard a gentleman from Google Education presenting at GESS 2013.   He mentioned making learning “magical”.   The term “magical” seems to match with my colleagues idea of “passion” but possibly building on it in terms of it being “magical” for the teacher and students.     I remember a comment I heard some year ago, that an Outstanding lesson “was one students will always remember”.    Isn’t this what teaching is all about, not about  Lesson Objectives on display on the board, 2 activities, a starter and a plenary; the checklist drive lesson?   Not dependent on whether the teacher has a Masters or 20 years of experience.   Teaching is all about a passion for supporting students to learn by making learning “magical”.

When was your last “magical” lesson?


iPads in Education: 2010s Answer to the IWB

Over the last 2 days I have had the opportunity of attending the GESS and GEF conferences where a number of speakers have presented their ideas and thoughts at to the integration of technology into learning and teaching.

As I was walking away from the conference venue I noticed the number of exhibitors using iPads to show off their software, apps, hardware, etc.   It then dawned on me that over the 2 days I had heard an unusual number of the speakers outlining the benefits of iPads in learning.    iPads had clearly made their mark on the conference yet thinking back to the presentations on the “benefits” of using these devices, all I could remember was anecdotal comments on the benefits or results from student satisfaction surveys.    Now I do believe that there are specific positive applications and uses for iPads however the generalised “benefits” provided did not strike me as being significant evidence as to the impact or “benefit” of using iPads.    The lack of evidence is made all the more stiking when you consider the costs of the devices, associated infrastructure, training, etc.     It was at this point I suddenly remembered another device which was heralded as having significant impact on learners without ever producing much in the way of solid evidence……

It was in the 1990’s that the Interactive Whiteboard first made its appearance.   The 90s and even 00’s were filled with advances in software and hardware, and claims of engaging learners and impacting on learning, yet little solid evidence exists as to the general impact of IWBs on learning.   Yes, I will admit some specific studies exist for a given subject, in a given school, with certain students, however these studies are that narrow in focus, that it is not appropriate to consider their positive results as an indcation of the impact of IWBs in learning in general.   So over 20 years later and after so much fanfare and there is still limited evidence as to the benefits of IWBs on learning in general.     Even stranger still is the fact that shows like GESS continue to feature such a large number of IWB providers.

So could it be that the iPad is the IWB of 2010s?    Promising so much, but delivering very little.   Even less when you consider the cost, or “Added Value”.