Cognitive scientists Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel, along with Peter C. Brown, present evidence in their book Make It Stick that we are all lifelong learners. This is true even as teachers and learners of technology. In today’s society, utilizing and participating in the mass amounts of online learning communities that are available at our fingertips allows educators to remain lifelong learners in their fields as they grow professionally and connect with colleagues. An online learning community can be in the form of social media, blogs, wikis, or podcasts, among many others. Collaborative learning environments allow teachers to “reflect on practice with colleagues, share expertise in a distributed knowledge framework, and build a common understanding of new instructional approaches, standards, and curriculum” (Fulton, Reil, 1999). Participating in learning communities provides the opportunity for continuous professional development that can benefit all educators as they take greater responsibility for their learning.
Celine Provini clarifies in her Education World article that professional learning communities can be online or in person, and are not just groups of teachers sitting around talking. Instead, it is “a process of intensive reflection” where educators can continually learn from each other and give in-depth critical examination of what does and does not work in relation to student achievement. Being able to come together with other teachers to discuss knowledge and skills has been identified as “a critical element” (Fulton, Reil, 1999) of school reform. The communities also give teachers opportunities to take online courses and learn new things. This allows for a continuous process of evolving education, and lifelong learning. An online learning community would allow me, as a current educator, to seek out knowledge and advice from other more experienced teachers, which would give me the opportunity to model for my students that I am still learning and growing as a teacher.
It is important to let our students see that we are seeking out educational growth opportunities. A few ways to do this was presented in an article shared by classmate Jenessa, who shared an article by author Caitlin Tucker, who emphasized the importance of modeling learning growth to our students by embracing new technology and giving students the chance to utilize the same tools and programs, such as Twitter, blogs, and YouTube videos. Tucker showed how as she learns something new, she also has her students experiment with the new technology. She also has her students demonstrate technology uses and ISTE Standards through the use of weekly passion blogs that the students keep updated.
Though Tucker is a teacher of high-school students, many of her practices can be utilized in the 3rd grade classroom. One way I could do this is to implement the use of blogging with my students as one way to teach point-of-view writing. During my unit on Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis, students would pretend to be a child who has just survived one of the major disasters, and would create a blog that would chronicle the events that occur after the event. Or, students could create a fake Twitter account that would allow them to also record the events that happen after the disaster. As a teacher, I could keep a blog that records my lessons, pictures of the lessons that I have taught, with a description of what worked and what didn’t work. I already follow a number of teacher-created blogs that offer this exact information for other educators such as myself. Participating in an online learning community would not only help me grow as an educator as I share the triumphs and challenges of teaching 3rd graders, but would also show my students that I am learning right along with them in regards to digital tools and resources. Additionally, we could learn from each other as we experiment with new material.
Fulton, K. & Riel, M. (1999). Collaborative Online Continuing Education: Professional Development Through Learning Communities. EduTopia. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/professional-development-through-learning-communities
Provini, C. (2012). Best Practices for Professional Learning. Education World. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/best-practices-for-professional-learning-communities.shtml
Tucker, C. (2016). Modeling Lifelong Learning. Educational Leadership, 73(6), 82-84. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar16/vol73/num06/Modeling-Lifelong-Learning.aspx