By Krista Moroder
“… so, in conclusion, you can provide personalized learning opportunities for your students right now! You can build a blended learning environment to support anytime-everywhere learning! You can track student growth through portfolios! And you can support a growth mindset by encouraging students to reflect on their journey and set personal goals!
“Thank you for listening. Also, I was told to inform everyone that this session counts as two hours towards the required twelve hours of in-district professional development. Please make sure you sign out when you leave. Thanks!”
Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?
Think about the BEST learning experiences you’ve had recently. I can almost guarantee that some of those experiences were self-directed. Maybe you read a really inspiring blog post or book … maybe you engaged in an inspiring #edchat on a Sunday night … maybe you took time out at a conference to share your ideas with some colleagues … and maybe you went to an EdCamp and learned from your peers.
Did those learning experiences count as professional development?
In most districts, they probably didn’t. Here’s the problem: we’re encouraging personalized learning for students, but then we’re turning around and telling teachers that their learning only counts if they are sitting in the traditional four walls of classroom. That is so ridiculous that it is almost laughable.
If we really believe that education should be learner-driven, then we need to model that with ALL of our learners – including our teachers.
I’m including more information about the “Personalized Learning Plan” portfolio that all of the 270-plus teachers in my district are using. I’m really proud of my district for taking this on. After a few long discussions, everyone agreed that teachers should be responsible for choosing and tracking their own professional development — and we built a portfolio to help support that directive. The portfolios took less than a week to deploy across the entire district, and we’ve already had great feedback from staff (see image to the right).
I’m including a video about what the features of this portfolio include- as well as a description of each of the pages. If you’d like to download the template, you can do so by requesting a copy.
When you visit that link, you’ll notice that the portfolio is tied to a much larger project — the Ed Tech Challenge. This portfolio is only one piece of a much bigger professional development plan we’ve been working on for the last year in collaboration with a few other districts. You’re welcome to learn more about the entire project (or just the portfolio) by watching all of the videos in the “District Signup” pages.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE PERSONALIZED LEARNING PLAN
1) THE TOOL WE CHOSE – GOOGLE SITES
We built this template using Google Sites so our teachers don’t have to learn another tool- we recently secured 100% adoption of faculty websites using Google Sites as well. That consistency has paid off- we also have teachers collaborating on student portfolios (similar template), tracking team meetings using Google Sites, and building “digital bins” of curriculum resources. What we’ve realized over the last year is that organizing digital content online is just as important as organizing a physical environment (such as color-coding and labeling bins in a classroom)- and providing teachers with that support is essential to increasing the adoption of digital tools.
2) HOW THE PORTFOLIOS ARE SHARED
Because these portfolios are in Google Sites, teachers can easily keep their portfolios private and share them with only the people who need access to them. In our district, those people are their Administrator and/or Director of Learning. A “Director of Learning” is a content expert administrator- so we have a K-12 Social Studies Director, K-12 Math Director, etcetera… (I’m the “Director of Learning” for the Library Media Science / Technology program). Those directors are expected to coach, lead, and provide feedback to their teachers (so our principals aren’t expected to evaluate 50+ teachers in content areas they may not have experience with).
3) WHAT THE PORTFOLIO INCLUDES
Here are some of the pages in that portfolio:
- Goal Setting – A place where the teacher can record goals for each year. I sat down with my six library media specialists and we discussed our team goals and individual goals before we filled this out (some of the goals included achieving Google Certified Trainer status, increasing adoption of student portfolios, etc.)
- Journal – A place where teachers can record thoughts and reflections every time they complete professional development. The general discussion we have is: “Professional development is anything that develops you as professional. Connect what you learned to your goals and how it will help you enhance student learning.”
- Activity Listing – A simple list so teachers can quickly view a snapshot of everything they’ve added to the portfolio. Each time a teacher wants to add an item, a customized form pops up- so they can standardize the data they add to the list (ex: Date, Time, Title of PD, Link to Journal Entry, etc.).
- Review – We also included a place for portfolio reviewers to add comments and feedback (although they can do this at the bottom of every page as well). This may also be a place where they can add walkthrough observations, professional feedback, etc.
- Pre-Created Journal Prompts for the Ed Tech Challenge – One of the last things we included was pre-created journal prompts that relate to the online technology integration course we developed (www.edtechchallenge.com). There really is no other reason for those additional pages other than the fact that we wanted to add a plug to remind teachers that the course existed for their use.