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Digitizing Teacher Discussions

Jennie Magiera

In my last post, I talked about Bionic PD: a magical meld of in-person teacher-centered PD sessions and digital professional learning networks and online resources. The thought was that the teacher discussion ignites curiosity and the digital resources sate the curiosity after the discussion is long over. However, this interest-sparking discussion, as well as PD follow-up, can also take place digitally.

Our school has had a 1:1 iPad grant this year, and as part of this grant we needed to collaborate as a PLN to learn about our practice. However, the team was already laden with after school commitments and regular meeting times were not abundant. So, we decided to start our collaboration online. We created a Blogger site on which we all vowed to post weekly. We could write anything from questions about our practice to share a lesson or student work or simply complain about a dysfunctional app. The beauty was that we could log on anytime, anywhere at the convenience of our own schedules.

It took some time to get used to, but eventually the discussion on the blog became fluid and fruitful. We were able to share openly, include pictures and movies and comment on each others' thoughts, questions and work. Additionally, now we have an archive of our "discussions" and learning journeys. This not only serves as a resource to ourselves but also to teachers hoping to hop on the iPad train next year.

We still have to meet in person periodically. About once every few months we get together to have a more traditional conversation, ask questions, share work and take advantage of the flow and spontaneity of being face to face. However, the discussions were more pointed and effective as we had already been "inside" each others' classrooms and minds through the blog on a weekly basis for so many months.

I would also suggest this model as a follow-up for live PD or even virtual sessions. Being together for a handful of hours for professional learning can be great, but so often we leave with a myriad of great ideas to try ... then get caught up in the rest of our "to do" list and never get to them. Giving participants an ongoing virtual space—such as a blog or a Wiki—to continue to collaborate, push and support each other would only extend and enrich that experience.

Our schools are truly beginning to leverage the power of the Internet and ubiquitous technology to empower and improve student learning. They are exploring opportunities for students to collaborate and learn anytime, anywhere. Why shouldn't teachers follow suit?

Jennie Magiera is a 4th and 5th grade math teacher and a technology and mathematics curriculum coach in Chicago Public Schools. A Teacher Leaders Network member, 2012 Chicago Public Schools Tech Innovator of the Year, Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction, and Apple Distinguished Educator, she explores best practices in math pedagogy and technology in her blog, Teaching Like It's 2999, and on Twitter @msmagiera.

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