Thursday, September 22, 2016

MSDSC Communities

The Power of Choice

There has been a movement in education over the power of choice. Some call it "Genius Hour" or "twenty percent time" depending on which book/article you have read on the subject. It all came from a concept Google implemented with their employees. They have a block of time where they can explore and create freely on a project. It is powerful to give people choice. 

I was a firm believer in the power of choice in the mid to late 2000s when I was still teaching fourth grade. Many teachers in my school were implementing the workshop model. It always amazed me when I would get a new student from another school district that looked at me in shock when I told them they could read or write about whatever they wanted. I just wanted evidence of their growth as I conferred with them or read their blog. Suddenly reading and writing became more meaningful to the student. Instead of me dictating what they had to do, I was delivering content and strategies in the midst of their own interest. The students had choice in what they read or wrote. I merely pulled the skills from their work.

The podcast that inspired this post is by Tom Whitby on the #EdChat radio show titled: What Makes Professional Development Useful? It really drove me to thinking about a different approach to providing learning opportunities. I do try to differentiate and personalize learning experiences, but through this podcast I realized that I am still trying to drive much of it instead of allowing others to take on a leadership role. I need to allow people to work together toward a common goal. I need to provide more choice. I need to provide more opportunity to lead discussion and drive change.

MSDSC Communities

What I'm going to implement is the idea that teachers would be able to create a topic of interest that they want to pursue in their career. The assumption will be that since I'm the one launching this opportunity, it must be technology oriented. That's not the case at all! A form, linked for my staff here, has been sent to all MSDSC teachers that would be interested in a collaborative online space (Google Plus Community) to share research, plan, and implement awesome adventures in their classroom. In this space, they can share links to resources, videos, images, and bounce ideas off of one another. Collaboration with convenience.

I'm going to include the possibility of earning professional growth points in this endeavor. Teachers can apply for professional growth points by filling out a reflection form and returning it back to me. This requires that they implement their learning experience to the classroom as evidence is required. Of course, part of that requirement is that they share their reflection with their group. This allows for further critiquing and discussion from peers. Who better to get ideas from than the experts right within our own reach? (Listen to some great thoughts about teacher leaders in this podcast.)

Final Thoughts...

My hope is that MSDSC Communities will provide teachers with the convenience and collaboration they crave. For those of you that are teachers, please give your input on the topic. Do you think this will be an effective way to grow professionally? To those of you that are in similar positions as myself, have you ever attempted something like this before? What worked? What didn't? I'm looking for feedback!