We’ve accomplished a lot in that time (roughly 35 courses/groups, lots of learning, great connections and conversations with both teachers and students, the beginnings of a community), and it seems like a good time to think about what we’ve done and learned and where we might go from here.
Here are some things I’ve learned:
- Learning is social. Community is everything. (And the NWP community is awesome.)
- Peer learning works best when it is designed by the group, not instituted from the top down.
- Some topics lend themselves more to peer learning than others.
- A defined start and end time seems to encourage participation, and shorter courses that can then spin off into more in-depth explorations work well.
- Diverse groups are richer.
- Groups with teachers and students are powerful. (And as in my f2f experiences, students often drive the innovation in formal educational environments.)
Here are some things I still don’t know:
- How do you encourage self-direction and agency in professionals who don’t feel that currently? (We had a whole group just to explore this.)
- Is formal credit/recognition (whether stipends, graduate credit, CEUs, etc.) of this professional learning necessary or desirable?
- What can be done to begin to move this into more formal environments? (I love the energy of all “opt in” self-directed learners, but it would be a big win to get some schools to think about adopting this as a model for professional learning.)
- How do you sustain this (both in terms of participants and in terms of facilitation)?
- How do you measure success?
- How big is big enough?
And so from all that, here are some thoughts about future directions. First, I don’t want to compromise the core values of openness, authenticity, learner-centeredness by anything we do. Second, I want to continue to build the rich community we’ve started and to expand and involve others. In order to be authentic and learner-centric, having community members set the learning agenda seems critical.
On the sustainability front, I believe that we need some amount of funding to provide continued facilitation and infrastructure for this work, especially if it is to grow. I also know that K-12 schools spend a lot of money on professional development (not all of it resulting in high yields). Perhaps there is a creative way to bridge these two things for everyone’s benefit.
At any rate, if you have thoughts or ideas about the future of the School of Ed, let me know. We’re always open to new course/group ideas, new participants, new facilitators, etc. And especially, we’re on look out for a couple schools who might be interested in trying this model of professional learning with their teachers.
We are gearing up for an exciting summer at the P2PU School of Ed. (In case you’ve missed it, this initiative is all about free, open, peer-centered professional development for K-12 teachers).
Here is what we are planning for June and July. If you’d like to participate, please sign up. We’re also looking for co-facilitators for new groups and are always eager to get suggestions for new offerings.
PhET Simulations for Science and Math
Description: PhET simulations are designed to provide an open exploratory environment that can be used in many different educational settings. In this three week course, you will learn about how the sims are designed, will examine some best practices for use, and will explore/create lessons you can use with your students.
Dates: July 9-29, 2012
Global Dialog: International and Comparative Perspectives on Education
Description: This 1-month seminar is for educators, learners and parents who are keen to discuss and compare education systems from around the world. The course is divided into 4 modules each containing 1 or 2 short online videos, an optional reading, online asynchronous discussions and an optional synchronous discussion (via Skype) around the following topics: global definitions of learning and education, cross-country education borrowing and lending, educating the whole person, and creating sustainable education systems.
Dates: June 4 – July 1, 2012
ePortfolios for Teachers
Description: A group to explore the use and development of online portfolios as a personal learning tool for teachers. We’ll look at what purpose portfolios can serve, different tools for assembling an online portfolio, what kinds of artifacts can be collected, and how more formal credit might be tied to portfolios. Participants will have an opportunity to begin building an eportfolio if they choose.
Dates: July 9-29, 2012
Making Writing and Literacy Learning Connections
Description: If “digital” is how we write, share, and participate today and into the future, what does that mean for the teaching of writing and for learning?
Join a National Writing Project study group as we explore these questions together through our own experiences and those of the NWP Digital Is community. Each week we’ll focus on a different aspect of inquiry and practice related to writing, teaching and connected learning.
Dates: July 9-29, 2012
Syndicated Education in Distributed Learning Environments
Description: In education, schools create coherence based on ‘Conceptual Orientation’ (i.e. sense making), illustrating how theories and knowledge are related. Following the emerging trend of Distributed Learning Environments used in Networked Learning, teachers also need to include ‘Spatial Orientation’ (i.e. way finding) to answer questions like: Where do I find useful Learning Resources (i.e. salience)? How are these resources interconnected (i.e. pattern recognition)? What is the underlying message (i.e. trajectory)? During this course, you will create, deliver and manage an educational event that aggregates the latest work from participants within the cohort into one location. This allows Peer-to-Peer (P2P) learning and keep the work they do in their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE).
Dates: June 25-July 14, 2012
Reimagining Developmental/Basic English Curriculum
Description: A design charrette for teachers, developers, content experts, and interested others to share, explore and create transformative practices, essential content and skills necessary for student success in college. This course, produced in collaboration with the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC), will take a systems approach to examining current content, standards and assessments, invite thought leaders/practitioners to discuss emergent trends in curriculum redesign, collaboratively explore transformative approaches and the role of digital and social media, and technology, to improve access and success for any student needing remediation.
Dates: July 9-20, 2012
Curating Our Digital Lives
We curate our digital lives each and every day. How can we use curation tools, techniques and practices to support ourselves in our own learning and support youth as they engage in academic learning and production? Join this three-week-long discussion, facilitated in collaboration with the National Writing Project, to share your thoughts and to hear from others.
Dates: July 9-29, 2012
Wondering what P2PU is all about? Here’s a short video intro.
New School of Ed courses on P2PU are beginning March 5. Sign up now!
What We’re Planning for 2012
We are planning two new launches of courses for 2012:
- Spring courses beginning March 5 (to coincide with Open Ed week)
- Summer courses beginning in June
Stay tuned to the site for more details. We are currently planning spring courses on empowering your personal learning, digital literacy, global classroom collaborations, creating great multimedia, and finding grants for arts education (a collaboration with high school teachers and students).
If you are interested in participating or facilitating a course, let us know.
What We Learned in the Pilot
We like to think of the P2PU platform as a kind of a laboratory where you can try different things in online peer learning and see how they work. We learned a lot at the School of Ed last year! Here are some of the highlights and lessons learned from our pilot phase.
- What we did
- Developed and ran seven great courses between Sept. and Nov., 2011
- Had a total of 163 participants and 233 followers in these courses
We greatly appreciate the support of the Hewlett Foundation in this work.
- What we learned
- Interest in these courses was very high, and we had a diverse group of participants, including international and non-educators, all of whom helped enrich the conversations.
- Great facilitators help make great courses.
- Asynchronous discussion among the groups (through posts on P2PU) was the favored method of participation. Participation level in online posts was much higher than other activity options (webinars, projects, etc.).
- Participation peaked in the first couple weeks of the courses and fell off after week 3.
- Time for teachers is limited, and this sometimes limited participation. [We are considering doing some much shorter, discussion-focused groups this year to engage more people with limited time.]
- Some participants did not understand or were not prepared for online peer learning. [We are excite about a new "Empower Your Own Personal Learning" course for this year.]
- Some topics are well-suited for online learning but do not lend themselves as well to peer collaboration. (Fortunately, on P2PU, there is room for both.)
- There are pros and cons to pursuing formal credit for courses like these. (We didn’t offer credit for our pilot courses and are still gnawing on these issues.)
Community is so important to peer learning, and we need you as we move into our next phase. If you are interested in being involved, please let us know!
This is a guest post from Harry Brake, an Assistant Librarian and Media Specialist at the American School Foundation in Mexico City. Harry participated in two P2PU courses this year. He is also a NaNoWriMo winner for 2011.
Spending more time with students out of the classroom in Delaware as an educator was an investment not many teachers are willing to make. However, here I am, six years later, after teaching in Delaware for those six, and seeing the very first student I had in those six years getting married, being successful, and being able to use some of the time I provided to help her achieve success. It is true you do not hear the successes, or sometimes see the successes until years later. I remember clearly the teachers that were out the door at the bell. Funny, I remember the students I spent those long hours with after the bell putting together the yearbook, creating a community garden, helping fill out scholarship applications, writing grants for projects we would attend, and that was just a few projects that began the – teaching student how to write grants.
Moving to Mexico started out as a rebellion against all the things I disagree with in education. I sacrificed the very students that helped motivate me to go into the classroom day after day, for the opportunity to be free from state testing, administration rigor that added to the course load, and be more free to help struggling students. When I came across P2PU, I did not think this would be something students could be a part of, let alone would be. However, as I sat there, now an Assistant Librarian in the Upper School Library at the American School Foundation in Mexico City, I was surrounded by student aides (cadets as they are called in Mexico), asking me what I needed them to do. They watched me respond to various articles on line, and often experimenting with programs such as Todaysmeet.com, wikis and other ventures into 2.0 tools I was unsure of, yet they knew. As we collaborated on the “Using Web 2.0 and Social Media to Encourage Deeper Learning” class together, since several members had to drop out, the new students in Mexico became my support group, and became interested in helping me answer from a teacher’s perspective, as well as from a student’s.
One specific example became the Nano site. I found that students in my school were doing Nano too, and when they found out I posted in an area on P2PU encouraging others, they all of a sudden thought I was a “cool” teacher for doing Nano too! On a deeper level, creating a toolkit as a final project for the P2PU course on 2.0 tools, I had the idea of students creating videos out of the library, representing the library, as a project using tools under 2.0 that would instruct others. All of a sudden, students were looking over my shoulders in P2PU encouraged that I was involving them in a project, an “adult project” that they could also help advise and be a part of. When I gave them credit in the toolkit part of the wiki, you would have thought they won Publisher’s Clearing House. It was empowering students to empower the educator. Students created a video on how to check out laptops from a portable cart, for teachers and students, in three days, and it is top notch quality made. The motivation? To be represented in my Wiki project and to receive credit from individuals on a larger plane. It was easy to see I was getting more out of my free P2PU course than similar teachers that were enrolled in Master’s courses. They often questioned what I was working on that involved the students. Was I getting paid? Let me say this, the best internships, jobs, and educational resources I have received have been free, providing priceless relationships with educators from all over the world, communication with some of the most creative students that reminded me why I wanted to be involved in education, while opening my mind to possibilities that existed beyond the initial course or activity I was involved in.
P2PU does not rely on the value of credit, monetary awards, or lauding your efforts in front of a stadium.Finding a way to provide information that YOU can give others in the form of conventions, presentations, and involvement for other educators makes P2PU NOT a one stop educational fix. One course in P2PU allows you to create other ideas, other plans, other projects that build on the first. This is worth so much more when students can be a part of the process. Never in P2PU has it stated or implied students could not help active educators out in thought, planning, or projects. In doing so, I found I had the strongest motivation to participate in more classes, create more classes, and work with students in their medium, technology, in forming classes in P2PU that strengthen education with the very students that are needy for something different. P2PU is certainly about peers among other peers, just don’t be surprised if some of those peers represent a younger generation than yourself. :)
The Global Education Conference is a fantastic free, online event going on all this week.
On Thursday, Nov. 17 at 11:00am Eastern Standard Time, Anna and Chris Batchelder and I will be presenting a session on the P2PU School of Ed.
You can tune in to our session here on Thurs. Hope to see you online!
I’ve mostly been too consumed with the pilot of the P2PU School of Ed to think much about what comes next, but here are two interesting things that have bubbled to the surface.
First, the idea to remix an open math textbook into an interactive Moodle course (and perhaps more) has been spun off into a whole new P2PU seminar group. This will start Dec. 1 so if you are interested, please join us.
Secondly, we’ve been bouncing around some ideas for different course (learning group?) formats. One idea has been to do some shorter courses that are largely driven by conversation. These groups could have the potential to have a greater number of participants and then might lead to some longer, deeper learning experiences. Possibly project- or challenge-based?
In a conversation with Bud the Teacher the other day, we brainstormed this a bit. Bud suggested the idea of having some smaller groups actually design these projects or challenges — perhaps a sort of online maker faires for teachers.
So how exactly do you assemble a course/group to build something of their own design without first knowing what that thing they are building is?
Perhaps this grows out of one of those shorter, discussion-driven groups, perhaps even a “massive” one (100+ people). So say, as an example, you have a two week group to explore the question — What could a classroom based on something other than a textbook or a canned curriculum look like?
Spend two weeks discussing and exploring and see what grows out of it. Perhaps some small groups coalesce around some ideas or projects, and they spin off into more in-depth attempts to build something together.
What do you think? Sound interesting? Have ideas for other good questions to explore? Want to play along?
Here’s a short presentation on some of the best sources for open-licensed clip art, photos, sound effects, music, and video that I did for our P2PU course on OER in the classroom.
The strongest participation by far in all of the P2PU School of Ed courses is happening in the discussions. (Fortuitous that we chose this logo graphic, huh? :)
There are lots of posts, comments, questions back and forth, etc. Clearly, this is where engagement is happening in these groups. This is not a surprise if you see learning as a primarily social endeavor.
And so I am reflecting on whether deep learning can occur primarily, or even solely, as a result of short format conversations.
My first gut reaction, I must say, is no. I think you need other resources as well…reading, writing, depth.
But then I think about Twitter. While I initially thought it was a bit of a waste of time, I know count it as my #1 source for professional learning. The conversations I have there are amazing. Granted, it’s not all 140 character bits. It’s also links to readings, videos, and web sites. It’s blog posts. It’s photos. And sometimes, it’s invitations to jump off and have a “real conversation” on Skype or even f2f.
So…perhaps this is a new way for me to think about designing a peer learning experience. Perhaps it could be designed as a series of very active, short discussions that then lead to deeper learning experiences. Readings, writing, activities, etc. that grow out of the discussions.
This requires a lot of rethinking, in terms of format, audience, tools, and most probably course (group) topics. I’m going to think about an idea or two in this vein to try out in January. Any ideas or willing collaborators? ;)
We are approaching the mid-point of the first few P2PU School of Ed courses, and I’ve been reflecting a lot on the experience so far, but not writing much so here goes.
A lot of good things are happening. We have a large group of diverse participants involved in peer learning. We’ve assembled a ton of high quality, open-licensed, sharable professional development content and resources. We’re having webinars with guest experts that are fostering discussion and learning. There have been some great moments of sharing and learning with some dedicated teachers.
The nuts and bolts of course participation always fascinate to me. Like every other online course I’ve been involved in, participation appears to be trending downward at about week 3. I hate seeing all the energy and excitement of the first couple weeks wane like this. We had a webinar about online professional development this week, and coordinators of other programs expressed the same results, which doesn’t make it any easier to take.
In the past, this prompted me to think about 2 or 3 week long courses, as well as more of a rolling enrollment approach, but for School of Ed we chose not to do either of these. (We do have one four-week course, but it is just beginning.) It seems very difficult to me to foster deeper learning or community building in 2 or 3 weeks, particularly with folks constantly coming and going. Perhaps this is a lack of creativity on my part. Perhaps the course topics could be rethought in a way that 2-3 week study groups work. (More on this in a future post.)
Another interesting data point is that participation in these courses has been very strong in online discussions, but much less strong around hands on activities, projects, or readings.
A note on readings — we tried to keep readings to a minimum because it isn’t the focus of the School of Ed. (“It’s about connecting, collaborating, and creating, not just reading or studying.”) Still, there is a baseline of reading that seems necessary to learn about something.
And yet, it seems that many folks are not reading the course content. I am concluding this based on a variety of data points, including time-on-page metrics, the fact that folks are asking questions that are covered in the readings, and other anecdotal data showing a lack of having been through the content.
This phenomenon is not unique to P2pU courses — I see it in other online courses I’m involved in and in a variety of other interactions I have. I would venture that the vast majority of emails I send aren’t read in full. I know this because I often get replies with questions that were answered in the original email.
I feel a bit like a stuffy old pundit saying “people don’t read any more these days.” :(
I’ll do a separate post on the discussion frenzy, how it plays into all this, and how it might be leveraged.