Should the Key Competencies be integrated into teacher professional learning?

10191190673_2cba7027f9_zI’ve been working on a workshop for use in a school around integrating the key competencies (KCs) into learning using digital technologies. This got me thinking about whether I should be purposefully considering the KCs in regards to teacher professional learning.

Question: Should the Key Competencies be integrated into teacher professional learning?

  • Are the KCs only relevant to school age students?
  • As a lifelong learner, shouldn’t I also be wanting to continue to develop these competencies in myself?

The Key Competencies page from the New Zealand Curriculum website states (emphasis mine):

People use these competencies to live, learn, work, and contribute as active members of their communities. More complex than skills, the competencies draw also on knowledge, attitudes, and values in ways that lead to action. They are not separate or stand-alone. They are the key to learning in every learning area.

The competencies continue to develop over time, shaped by interactions with people, places, ideas, and things.

Let’s take a look at the KCs… (all quotes below from Key Competencies page on NZC website)

Thinking

Thinking is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas. These processes can be applied to purposes such as developing understanding, making decisions, shaping actions, or constructing knowledge. Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency.

In teacher professional learning, I don’t want teachers to take everything at face value. I want them to think, to question, to critically examine what is being suggested/demonstrated. I want them to question their own ideas, beliefs, philosophies and practices. It sounds obvious, but teachers have got to continue thinking critically. It’s a part of growing professionally.

Using language, symbols, and texts

Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning of the codes in which knowledge is expressed. Languages and symbols are systems for representing and communicating information, experiences, and ideas. People use languages and symbols to produce texts of all kinds: written, oral/aural, and visual; informative and imaginative; informal and formal; mathematical, scientific, and technological.

Teachers do this daily. Not only do they support students to make meaning of the codes expressed in learning material, they also have to interpret the codes given through student body language, sometimes jumbled ideas/questions and more. In teacher professional learning it’s important for teachers to be able to make meaning of what is being shared within their own contexts for their particular group of students and their needs.

Managing self

This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners. It is integral to self-assessment.

If I’m running a teacher professional development workshop it is usually made quickly clear to me those teachers who don’t have a “can-do” attitude (at least towards the digital technology I’m using/introducing). They are nervous, and quite honestly, some of them don’t appear to see themselves as capable learners. Until now, I’ve always considered this as simply a lack of confidence but perhaps it’s more than that? It makes me wonder what I can do to help teachers manage themselves and boost their self-motivation.

Relating to others

Relating to others is about interacting effectively with a diverse range of people in a variety of contexts. This competency includes the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas.

Going into different schools is straight away putting myself in front of a “diverse range of people in a variety of contexts”. So I can see this important to me. For teachers in those settings, I guess I make that context change. Our teachers though will always have a diverse range of people in front of them and (at least) each year will have a different range of people as classes change. While the context might seem the same each year (it’s their classroom after all), the fact their is a new range of students means that the context will change. Those students have different needs and it’s so important that teachers continue to be able to relate to others.

Participating and contributing

This competency is about being actively involved in communities. Communities include family, wh?nau, and school and those based, for example, on a common interest or culture. They may be drawn together for purposes such as learning, work, celebration, or recreation. They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity to contribute appropriately as a group member, to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.

This is big for me. When in a teacher professional learning situation it is quite important that those in the room are able and willing to participate and contribute otherwise the session can fall flat very quickly. Yes, there is a need for good facilitation, but the active involvement is also critical. It’s also important that teachers don’t wall themselves off in their classroom but become involved in their school community both on campus and with the wider community. Being actively involved in subject associations, as well as professional learning networks (PLN) is so important to help ensure we continue to be lifelong learners and continue to think and question what we (and others) are doing for our students. How can we grow effectively without making those connections to others?

My challenge

So now the challenge to myself is to ensure that I purposefully consider how the KCs can be integrated into the professional learning workshops I facilitate. I need to think about how I am helping those I’m working with grow professionally.

 

Image source: Flickr – Denise Krebs CC BY 2.0

24-7 professional learning

connectionOne of the most exciting things that has happened over the past couple of years in New Zealand education, in my opinion, is the uprising of professional learning that is occurring online.

The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) is an online community of practice space which was launched in 2011. Since then the VLN has grown to a community of over 15000 teachers. Many teachers have benefited from the conversations, sharing, questioning, learning and professionalism that has gone on since it’s inception. Many students will have also benefited from the sharings on the VLN as well—they just won’t know it!

Even more exciting in my mind is the growth of Twitter amongst New Zealand educators. The amount of quality professional discussion that goes on in this forum is unquantifiable as it occurs at all hours of the day and night! Teachers are wanting to do much more for their students and as a result they are using their time (if there is such a thing for teachers) to learn more; to grow professionally; and to share what they are doing.

In October 2012, Danielle Myburgh launched #edchatNZ to get teachers talking regularly on specific topics. #edchatNZ occurs on Thursday at 8:30pm every fortnight and has been a huge, growing success. As more NZ teachers take to Twitter, #edchatNZ gets bigger and bigger. While it can be a challenge to keep up with the incredible conversation at times, the sharing and learning that goes on is both inspiring and exciting.

Following on from the success of #edchatNZ, two new chats were instigated and kicked off only last night (the other Thursday in the fortnight)—#engchatNZ (kicked off I believe by Alex Le Long) and #scichatNZ (Matt Nicoll). The first of both of these chats were a success with I believe over 400 tweets made in both of them! These are our educators—committed to lifelong learning and the best for the children of New Zealand!

While a lot of this professional learning is happening online, there has also been an increase of teacher-led/organised face-to-face PD going on as a result! Danielle Myburgh and her awesome crew are about to host the first #edchatNZ conference almost 2 years since the launch of the first Twitter #edchatNZ discussion evening. Just last weekend I was following the Educamp Auckland hashtag trying to keep up with the goings on at the face-to-face meetup of awesome educators (who were certainly not all from Auckland)! Following the discussion kept me quite busy on a Saturday morning and I had to remind myself that my wife wasn’t home and I needed to check on the kids!

It’s exciting to see teachers wanting to keep learning during their time. It’s certainly not exclusive either. Recently Ngatea Primary School decided to try to get whanau involved in Twitter chats by launching #ptchatNZ. This chat is to encourage the wider school community to get involved and is certainly not exclusive to Ngatea Primary School. Principal Neil Fraser and DP Karla Hull are keen to get this discussion going throughout the country!

If you haven’t gotten involved in the great professional learning that is going on constantly in New Zealand, then jump in and give it a go! Join the VLN and/or get involved in the amazing #edchatNZ Twitter community. If you’re not sure about how to get started on Twitter go to the #edchatNZ site for info.

Online community management PLD

association-152746_150Over the past 5 weeks I’ve taken part in an online PLD course run by Jane Hart of Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies. The course focused on Online Community Management. I took part in this course to help develop my understanding and skills for my role as Enabling e-Learning Facilitator within the Virtual Learning Network (VLN).

I didn’t learn a huge amount from the course—a fair bit is common sense—but it was well put together with some good tips. I’ve also gone into a well-established community so some of it was not overly relevant to me at this stage. This is not to say it won’t be useful in the future.

The course was organised into 5 parts, one for each week:

  1. Planning
  2. Launching
  3. Maintaining
  4. Measuring
  5. Community Managers Role

This post highlights the key takeaways for me from each of the 5 parts.

 

Planning

When planning an online community the number one most important thing to consider is purpose

Don’t set up a community just to have a community. A community must have a purpose and it must have a clear focus. The focus of a community might change over time as needs are met and new needs arise.

The other thing that a community needs is a common interest.

Richard Millington from The Online Community Guide wrote,

We don’t create that strong common interest.

That interest must already exist. That interest must be strong. That interest must be common (shared by a number of people). People should be keen to discuss that interest in their spare time.

We cannot force people into being interested in something that they’re not.

 

Launching

While I’ve tried to consider ways to launch an online community before, I hadn’t realised how important the planning of this step is both in regards to when a community is launched and also how it is launched. We looked at 3 types of launches—soft, viral and official.

With a soft launch the platform needs to be set up and a small number of (willing) users brought into the site to get things going. These users can get some discussions going, for example, but also can test functionality and make suggestions to improve the space before inviting others into the community space.

A viral launch starts of in a similar way to the soft launch, but then viral marketing is used to grow the community. A strategy needs to be set up that encourages users to pass on the message about the community to others in order for it to grow.

An official launch requires everything in the site to be set up, ready to go, and then announce the community site in an official way. This could be, for example, a face-to-face kickoff session or an email out to potential users.

One person from Everest University Online organised a flash mob as their official launch!

 

Maintaining

This was the week I was most looking forward to. How to maintain an online community. Within here, 50+ suggestions were given to help keep a community vibrant. It was interesting to read through these suggestions (from 3 different blog posts) and see how many the VLN community which I had recently been given the role of Facilitator in were already doing thanks to it’s current and previous facilitators!

Some of the suggestions that are already used include:

  • member of the week/month
  • news round-up
  • host live events (webinars/forums)

A couple of things I would like to consider doing are:

  • Member interviews – it could be both interesting and useful to read/watch an interview with various members. It gives an opportunity to make further connections and grow your PLN.
  • Guest columnists/bloggers – although this can happen already, specifically inviting people (members or others) to write about a topic relevant to the community opens up opportunity for further discussions. This of course means that facilitators or community managers need to know their membership well and have a wide network to invite from.

 

Measuring

For me, a successful community is one in which the members are seen to be regularly engaging through meaningful, relevant (to the purpose/focus of the community) dialogue. Of course that’s not always enough. At a management level, numbers often matter. While the number of members in a community is often what is looked at, if you want more useful numbers you could consider:

  • how many posts have been made over the past month
  • how many new members
  • number of active members
  • number of different conversations
  • length of average posts (short “I agree” posts don’t often add to the conversation)

A study by Jakob Nielsen (2006) was considered in which he found that user participation tends to follow similar rules in different communities. The 90-9-1 rule is where 90% of the community are lurkers/listeners; 9% are intermittent contributors and 1% are heavy contributors. Flipping this around: 90% of postings come from 1% of users!

Recent studies have shown that now it is closer to a 70-20-10 rule (and the terminology has changed slightly). 70% lurkers/listeners; 20% commenters; 10% creators.

This type of ratio/rule could be looked at as a way to determine the success of a community. Decide on the ratio you want to aim for and measure according to this.

 

Community Managers Role

Whether you call them a manager, facilitator, guide, mentor or other name, the community manager wears many hats. It reminds me a lot of online teachers (well, any teacher to some degree) who have to be teachers, parents (at times), social workers, counsellors, tech experts and more.

Rather than list all the roles of a community manager it’s easier to simply finish this post with this brilliant infographic that sums it all up.

Inside the Mind of a Community Manager