The Sudbury-North Bay Region held their fourth annual eSymposium yesterday at Cambrian College. As I drove home after the event, I thought back on everything and definitely think it was a success.
This year, we decided to narrow the focus for the event to people new or new’ish’ to Desire2Learn’s Brightspace learning environment (or what we’re now calling it the vLE – virtual Learning Environment to keep it simple). This allowed us to build capacity to those who may not have been the innovators or early adopters when the vLE came out four-five years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) Now that the buzz has been getting louder at schools, teachers are realizing that some of their colleagues are using tools such as the vLE that isn’t going away.
The difficult part of organizing such an event is the focus itself and staying the course. From News to Content; to Quizzes and Discussions; to online file submissions (Dropboxes) to ePortfolio; the vLE is such a robust tool that you can easily get intimidated by it. It was important that we didn’t overwhelm teachers but instead directing them to the different options on how you can get started with it.
One of the takeaways for me was at the end of the day at our table in the plenary session, where we concluded as a group/table some of the key highlights that everyone had. To get comfortable with technology in general – whether it be the vLE or other options such as Google Apps for Education, it is important to go deep and not wide: to choose one or two tools to start with, and get good at those before getting too big (wide) too fast. Not only will this be good for students as they learn something new in the classroom, but for teacher as they can get comfortable and confident with technology.
There are so many factors to consider when taking those initial steps of adopting technology in the classroom. Not only is there a learning curve to consider, but there is a dedication level that is needed by everyone when it comes to adopting such new powerful tools such as the vLE or Google Apps, as two examples.
I found this image last spring on Twitter and shared it out to some twitter followers, but it recently emerged last week again through Twitter and/or Google + streams. At first I had to think about it, but it’s so true; students nowadays are so eager to keep up with the latest technology trends that they seek out whatever they need to learn it. Friends and YouTube videos are a good start – and for the most part, that’s all they need.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt that there is a need for professional development at some capacity, especially given that new tools may be so far out there for some that it would like picking up a new language. There is also the reality that some people are more technologically less savvy than others, who wouldn’t even know where to start learning new technologies that are available. This is where at least introductory PD is needed within a school system.
I include this poster to simply make the point that there should not be a dependence on professional development, as we don’t do so at a personal level. If this is the case, then why do we feel the need to at work? I’m sure that if we wanted to learn something new around the house that we wouldn’t sit around and wait until official training was offered; we’d just figure it out (or try at least).
There’s a network of resources out there that would trump any PD. We just need to find it; use it; share it.