The Educator's PLN

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I have long been a guest blogger for Edutopia, which has been both a challenge and an honor. I have always found it challenging to be provocative in promoting change in education in a blog post, while remaining positive in tone. That overriding positive tone however is one constant in Edutopia posts that engenders loyalty, trust and a reliance from about a million followers who want to know more about education. To have my work read and appreciated by that vast audience is a great honor.

In September of 2014 I wrote, Educating Parents About Education, a post supporting the idea that we need to better educate parents about education in order to have them engaged as advocates and not adversaries for much of the needed changes in education in regard to methodology, pedagogy and technology. I would strongly suggest you read it in conjunction with this current post.

With the rapid pace of change driven by technology, it is difficult for educators to keep up with everything, so it must be almost impossible for most parents who are far less exposed to education and all of its change and innovation. Without exposure and some acceptance of this change, we all must fall back on our own education experiences that are, for most of us, steeped in the 20th Century. Public education is a common experience for most Americans, which is why so many people often feel that they have the answers to how to fix what they perceive as a broken system. This is true of many educators as well as parents.

The real common thread at least in my experience however is that we do not know what it is, that we do not know. We all need to be better educated, if we are to be better educators for our children. This then goes beyond prioritizing professional development for the education staff. It means involving parents to come along in large measure on the educational journey we wish to take their children. We need to do this because a 21stcentury education should look very different from their 20thCentury experience. In order to effectively change the system we first need to change the culture.

Educators and parents are adult learners. They have life experience and personal goals to attain. They are to be respected for who they are, as well as what they bring to the table. We should not bore them with dry lectures, poorly presented on Power Point. We should not expect to razzle-dazzle them with bells and whistles on the latest tools of technology. Presenting mounds of data without real context will be wasted. We need to engage Parents and educators in conversations about learning: What is it, and how do we get kids to attain it? Conversation is the best tool for collaboration, which is the basis for adult learning.

The Edcamp model of instruction for professional development seems to fit the bill for the needs of both educators and parents. It is the most innovative form of PD that has become a movement on a global scale, yet many have yet to discover it. I guess for parents we might refer to PD as Parental Development. All Edcamp topic sessions are based on conversation and not lecture. Anyone can pose a topic for discussion. Each session needs one person to lead the discussion. These session leaders fall into two categories: Those who know about a given topic and want to share, and those who want to know about a given topic and want to share.

Parents would have the ability to address topics that they are most concerned with. Teachers could pose topics that parents should be aware of. Many parents might not even know what to ask about. Individual educators might not be well enough versed in certain areas, but through conversation others stronger in those areas can fill in the gaps. Individually we may be smart, but collectively we are even smarter.

This Edcamp model will get parents and educators talking about learning. We can explain and explore topics like: student voice, problem based learning, open source learning, the flipped class, collaborative learning, design learning, the maker movement, coding, digital literacy, digital citizenship, social media, the stress on the family from unneeded homework, necessity or lack of it for textbooks in our education system. I could go on but these are my topics. The very folks who need the discussion need to personalize their topics. That is the key, personalizing the learning for those who need to know.

There is a need to expand our teaching to people who affect the individual cultures of our individual schools. Parents serve better as allies than they do as school adversaries. If we want their support in affecting change and innovation, we should make sure they understand about what we are asking. In this century we are all learners. It has become essential if we are to survive the rapid rate of change that is moving us all along.

Support educating parents about education and watch the culture of your school begin to change. Watch for a change in the parent support. Look for a change in the educators in your school. Most of all look for a change in students when parents who get it support them.

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