We all have a little Harry Potter in us (go on, admit it). Haven’t we all dragged our heels on the way to the equivalent of Sprout’s Herbology class but thrilled at the unexpected lessons in transfiguration we pick up from our best friend, Hermione, or from mistakes made while trying to tackle a Boggart in a wardrobe? No? Just me?
Is Harry better off sticking to his dusty books, dutifully preparing for his OWL exams…or is he better to throw caution to the wind, and make the most of all the new learning that his midnight adventures throw at him?
Like Harry, who grabs opportunities to literally learn on the fly, we hear much talk about the value of one’s Personal Learning Network (PLN), of sipping from the river of information that is Twitter, or those online communities that support our “just-in-time” learning.
But is this enough for those of us who are educators in schools, with responsibilities to a community wider than ourselves?
We know, from the excellent Best Evidence Synthesis series (Timperley et al., 2007), that professional learning that makes a difference to students’ learning requires a bit more than a lucky dip in our Twitter stream. It depends on a complex range of variables, such as the context of our learning, the deep content, the notion of challenge (hard if you are stuck in an online Echo Chamber of Secrets;-), the multiple opportunities, and the learning process itself. Just because our lives are moving towards a mobile space where access to information is ubiquitous, doesn’t mean effective professional learning will happen differently.
Or does it?
What if those workshops that we dutifully attend don’t link to our contexts, don’t prepare us for what we must do each day? If Harry had just followed the textbooks, he wouldn’t have learned how to defend himself. Informal, “just-in-time” learning allows us to mediate and facilitate our own learning experiences, negotiate meaning for ourselves, on our own or collaboratively… in situated contexts that have relevance to us every day (Melhuish & Falloon, 2010 http://education2x.otago.ac.nz/cinzs/mod/resource/view.php?id=114).
So how to align the two?