The social nature of professional development
I've put up some slides from the conference keynote I gave at the International Society for Teacher Education Annual Conference, a gathering of higher education tutors and lecturers from around the world. The theme, looking into the social nature of professional development, went down well considering it was a real graveyard slot.
To do this, however, I think we also need to seriously look at the nature of our conference delivery, in the same way as the bloggalites (socialites who blog) at US national education conference, NECC, have been saying.
Organising conferences around social (i.e. people's) interests, instead of around a programme of perceived need is the way I have organised conferences for the past two years, both unconferences and those which have carried quite significant funding. They've all been well received by those on them thanks to the opportunity they have had to learn from each other.
However, away from the conference scene it's also important to make sure that our online and blended support maintains that social presence. The modern languages project I've been working on for the past two years, the Modern Foreign Languages Environment, has not only good, current content based around the hows of teaching and learning, but also a relatively busy forum. It makes it one of the top three websites run at Learning and Teaching Scotland.
But a far greater coup has been the development of empowering tools for MFL teachers across the country. We've now got close to 150 MFL bloggers acting as nodes on our blogging network, on both long- and short-term projects, sharing everything as they go: techniques, strategies, resources, links, students' work, case studies. Add to that the 1001 members of the forum and we've got a fairly constant stream of great material to share with others.
When people ask how the MFLE stays so current with so many new contributions on such a regular basis it's this final point that provides the short, simple and, ultimately, social answer.