July 01, 2007

The social nature of professional development

If we can get social learning and thinking into teacher education institutes from Nigeria to the US, from Canada to Korea, then we're onto a winner for our kids.

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.


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It would be nice to get your thoughts around the discussion being had at: better conferences. I think you'll find a lot of agreement with your premise, but I'm not sure that we really know what the alternatives should look like. Thoughts welcome.

Now, this I like.

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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