REFLECTION AND REVELATIONS OF A FACILITATOR

As a reflective person and a model learner, I would like to be transparent with my thoughts and challenges from a facilitators perspective.    Usually, I like to be quite private about my reflections as I am a rather private person, however I believe that by being transparent, and by modeling reflective skills – I can support others and they can support my journey too! 

The last two days I have had the fortunate experience of co-facilitating our first “Digital Pedagogy Leaders Community” 2 day practicum – the foundation for the ongoing Community of Practice that we hope to achieve with these leaders, in our region – the first stage of a program or idea that has been a dream of mine for quite some time.

Our overarching aim is to enable Digital Leaders to lead personalised professional learning to support and enhance teachers’ confidence and competence in digital pedagogy.

The specific learning intentions for our foundation practicum were to:

·         Establish a community of digital and human resources for digital skill support

·         Develop a toolkit of professional learning strategies to enable personalised professional learning choices for our staff members

·         Build a shared understanding of effective eLearning

·         Develop a highly productive and beneficial professional learning community that is sustainable.

My initial thought is whether we as a group need to consider if the learning intentions were appropriate for our needs.  Were there other learning intentions that the members needed to fulfil their own individual goals as a Digital Leader.  One of the participants contributed a valuable reflection – we initially asked the group to identify 3 goals for themselves as a Digital Leader.  At the end of the practicum, this participant suggested that the 3 goals may have been more beneficial if one was for the Digital Leader as an individual, one from the perspective of the school and one from the perspective of the community- something we need to take on board next time, and draw on to further enhance the success for the Digital Leader.

Establish a community of digital and human resources for digital skill support

The online community established this presence, however, little detail was given during the practicum to this learning intention.  Interestingly, through the Visual Perceptions activity, individuals grouped themselves into priority areas to focus on, post practicum and one of the groups focus is to work together to develop and strategies for supporting reluctant teachers.  Interestingly, I created an “INFOHUB” to establish this presence in the community but I didn’t give the group a purpose for using it, or even making them aware of it.. Something to consider next time or was it not necessary?

Develop a toolkit of professional learning strategies to enable personalised professional learning choices for our staff members

We considered a few activities to support this learning.  The “Iceberg View” of professional learning gave the participants an opportunity to explore professional approaches they were interested in and to contribute to a collaborative wiki space to record their findings.  The activity started with a ‘framework’ for considering the individual learning needs of teachers – a way to identify just how they perceive and use digital technologies and what professional learning might support their needs.  A range of scenarios were presented to ‘test’ the framework.  We had also planned to model a peer coaching process and to unpack the concept of the ‘dialogue we use’.  However, a change in plans we chose not to do this activity, but rather follow up with it.

Build a shared understanding of effective eLearning

This was rather a broad learning intention and encompassed consideration to teachers beliefs about learners and the learning process.  The “21st century artefact” activity was amazing – using videos to stimulate thoughts and discussion – each group (organized into phases of learning) created a 21st century learner artefact.  My co-facilitator recorded these presentations and this was a real buzz for me personally, each group presented an amazing artefact, and really delved into who students are, what their needs are – within the context of the phase (early, middle, senior).  The ‘artefact’ was a simple idea (thanks Joan Dalton once again) – but the conversations produced through the process were the real success here.   We also attempted another activity (or should I say risked.. because it was a first timer) where we viewed examples of digital pedagogy through the lens of the Productive Pedagogies.  Most of the participants had not really engaged with the Productive Pedagogies before, so this could have presented as a ‘nothing’ activity – however…..  the purpose was for the teachers to engage in dialogue about pedagogy through analysis of teacher practice.  Previously we have used the lens of ICT eg. Whether it is standalone, integrated or integral – why did we ever do that when we keep saying that it’s all about pedagogy??  Anyway…  moving on – each group analysed the examples of teaching practice and were able to articulate the pedagogy – the learning and teaching approaches that were evident – great stuff again!  I wonder now… do the above activities help our Digital Leaders in recognizing effective learning and teaching with digital technologies sufficiently enough to be able to mentor their colleagues?

Develop a highly productive and beneficial professional learning community that is sustainable.

I think I can honestly say that this learning intention was a major focus with the group, and only the future will really tell of its success.  BUT I do believe that an amazing community of professionals engaged with each other in a trusting, professional and beneficial way.  Activities that I believe helped to develop this included the “My Story” activity.  Each teacher shared their own professional journey with another and introduced their other to the remainder of the group.  Once again, grouping in phases gave people the opportunity to make connections with others who had something in common.    We played with the concept of using Twitter as a backchannel – some enjoyed the opportunity, but it didn’t suit everybody.  The personality types (MBTI) and Johari Window activities gave people the opportunity to be open and reflective and to recognize and celebrate differences.  The Visual Perceptions activity (Lissa had seen this at a previous workshop) so once again, we took something and took a risk within our context – major major success I believe!  Everybody really engaged with the visual stimulus, and found ways to identify what elements they desired for our successful learning community.  Two scribers amazingly recorded the key points that the individuals presented.  From there the group were able to identify priority areas, and self-organise groups that would focus on their priority area or area of expertise.  What I particularly liked about this activity was the way that groups focused so quickly on their identified area, and produced ideas, an area for collaboration, strategies, sharing of knowledge to assist the group with moving forward – real action!

SUCCESSES I perceived:

·         The energy and motivation in the group is high!  Very dedicated group of professionals that we’re fortunate to have in our region;

·         A range of expertise, leadership qualities that worked well together, great norms for the group – all were valued and felt safe to participate;

·         The confirmation that as leaders we need to build capacity and to celebrate all staff within our school;

·         Collective Wisdom – drawing on the collective wisdom of the members of the group to create a sustainable highly productive community…..  I think that we did that well, through open and focused discussions, and supporting activities.  Our norms included “non judgement” and this was evident in the group, no judgements were made and a general feeling of celebrating every little success was worthwhile;

·         Focussed professional dialogue is one of the most beneficial forms of professional learning – it really enabled us to reflect, develop ideas and create new ones

CHALLENGES for me to support this program:

·         To continue the enthusiasm and energy of the group – ongoing community of practice;

·         To ensure that individual needs are met (while a group consensus is felt, have we really measured the success for each individual – perhaps our follow up evaluation will allow this);

·         The focus groups have chosen to create collaborative spaces in the online community – how do we manage the online community so that it is useful to each of the members.  Each member has instructor rights – so the community belongs to all of its members.   If all members are to create new folders, new menu items, how do we ensure that it will be a resource that is easy to navigate and continue to grow as other groups come along?

·         How do we (regional perspective) continue to build relationships with these schools- including the Digital Leader and their administration team, to best support their vision and priorities. 

·         The Smart Classrooms PD Framework – while this is debatable, it is a driver and it is also a measure of success for some schools – how do we think big picture while addressing what is perceived as a systemic requirement?

That’s a rather lengthy reflection… and I could probably ramble for longer.. however, time to move on and action in other areas.  I look forward to revisiting my reflection in a few months to see what is the same, what is different – and discuss the amazing journey of our community as it unfolds – once we have some formal evaluation from the group too!