Learning is a social phenomenon, and teacher professional development is gradually being re-shaped to reflect this (as suggested by, for example, Reinhardt, & Mletzko, 2011). In this post I describe an approach that would, I hope, support teachers in their professional development that recognises the potential of growing their own personal learning networks. At the same time they were encouraged to use a variety of BYOD devices and be introduced to QR codes.
I facilitate a cluster of schools on the West Coast of Te Waipounamu. One of the first things that we do is work together to complete the eLearning Planning Framework, and this helps the schools and the teachers set some professional learning and development (PLD) goals, develop plans and and encourages school self-review. One key benefit is that the process, which includes completion and analysis of the results, often leads the teachers to set goals that include the development of sustainable professional learning and the nurturing of a Personal Learning Network.
A vehicle for achieving this goal is encouraging teachers to join and participate in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN).
I thought I would try a new approach this year when introducing the VLN, that of modelling self directed learning, utilising mobile devices and using a new tool that some had not heard of before.
This is what I trialled….
The teachers in my cluster have teacher inquiries generally focused around raising achievement of targeted learners, typically around the reading, writing, and mathematics. So, firstly, I had a think about the kinds of teacher inquiries that teachers had already started. I then looked to the VLN for groups that best supported those inquiries, and made a list of a dozen or so groups that would best spark interest.
I used QR Stuff to make colourful QR codes for each of the groups, just to look pretty. These were printed on bright sheets of paper so they would stand out and pinned to the staff room walls. QR Codes are Quick Response Codes that are read by a device similarly to a bar code but instead of basic information such as price they can lead to web pages. If you would like to know more about using QR codes there are a series of support articles on my Edublog.
In preparation for the session, teachers from the cluster of schools came to the workshop armed with a mobile device – Chromebook, iPad, Android phone, iPhone or one of the newly acquired Microsoft Surface Tablets. They also brought their laptop for later.
At the beginning of the session we discussed the ‘WHY’ of the activity. The participants scanned the numbered QR codes from around the walls, recorded which group the QR code pointed to, and noted on a piece of paper what they might learn from joining each of the groups.
Because the Surface Tablets were new to us all, I had pre-installed QR Scanner 8 QR code reader on them so there was a back up plan. I had trialled a couple of scanners for the Surface Tablet before finding one that was best able to read the codes. Three of the schools also had one-to-one Chromebook Classes, so we used the Google Web App Scan QR to read the codes from the Chromebooks.
It was interesting to watch as people worked it out for themselves how to get the job done with minimal support. Some chose to work together, some independently, and some in groups. There was movement, discussion, and conversation as they moved about scanning the codes.
Once people had scanned all of the codes, people moved to their laptops to access the Google Presentation, looking to the number of the QR code they had scanned, and a link to the corresponding VLN group.
Participants then joined the VLN, updated their profiles, and joined the groups that would best support them with their professional learning and teacher inquiries. Some people joined quite a number of groups, and others, fewer — the choice was theirs. People used their laptops to join the VLN because it is simpler to join from a laptop where participants are more likely to have images to use as avatars, and also to record their passwords for the VLN if not signing in through their school Google account.
All the resources from the day were added into the new West Coast Cluster group on the VLN because one of the school leaders wanted to go back to her staff and replicate the session with her own school.
I thought the workshop worked well because it modelled some of practices that we promote with all learners in a modern learning environment. These include:
- learning new things in new ways
- personalising learning
- developing a personal learning network
- using a variety of devices and tools to support learning
- movement, discussion, and cross-school conversation and links
- building capability and sustainability.
I now need to follow up with the teachers to encourage and ascertain how both the teacher inquiries and VLN professional learning is progressing.
We would love to hear back how you have tried to personalise learning for the PLD you have lead or how you might adapt an idea like this for your class.
Resources for you to use and adapt:
Reinhardt, W., & Mletzko, C. (2011). Awareness in Learning Networks. In W. Reinhardt, & T. D. Ullmann (Eds.), 1st Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Personal Learning Environments (pp. 12-20) , PLE 2011 Conference, UK.