The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

Teacher as Facilitator: A 21st Century Perspective

It all starts with a question

As an administrator, my professional development/learning goals are driven by asking - what can I do to make our school the BEST learning environment for our students and teachers?
Practice what you preach

It has always been my philosophy as an administrator to lead by example, and not ask teachers or students to do anything I have not done, or am willing to do.  One of my goals as an administrator has been to always maintain a presence in the classroom as a teacher/learner and not forget where I came from!  I have attempted to do this through having our new teachers evaluate my teaching (Supporting New Teachers), visiting classrooms (Hunger GamesWhat I learned from Kids Today) and becoming a student for a day (Back to School).  
Most recently I had the opportunity to teach a college level course to professional educators.  Our school district has an outstanding partnership with Endicott College, MA that allows educators in the district to teach approved courses to other educators for college credit.  I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to sharpen my skills as a teacher, share my experiences and model my teaching methods and philosophies.  The course was titled "Building your Professional Learning Network" and the syllabus can be found here Building your PLN Syllabus
Class philosophy

Although the major goal of this class was to share the power of Social Media with other educators, this blog post will focus on my attempt to model the teacher as facilitator.  My teacher as facilitator model had a few basic premises, which I shared with the students on day 1:
  • I don't have all the answers!
  • You will have time to play!
  • No Homework! 
  • We will share!

I don't have all the answers!

I believe the days of the teacher as sole knowledge provider are over.  Students have access to unlimited content via the Internet and through online collaboration.  Let's be honest with our students and admit day one that we don't have all the answers, but will provide important questions and guide them in finding answers.  In our class I surrounded myself with SuperStar educators to assist me.  Acknowledging I was not an expert, I reached out to other educators on twitter to assist me in facilitating our class.  The response was outstanding!  I would like to personally thank each one our guests for taking the time to make us BETTER! I also highly recommend following each of them on twitter.
  • NASSP Digital Principal's of the Year @NMHS_Principal and @BHSPrincipal skyped in! Each principal shared experiences and answered ALL our questions. 
  • East Bridgewater HS, MA Principal @Ebhsprincipal2 joined us in person to share his experiences on twitter, followed by an extensive question and answer session.
  • National Presenter & #sschat Co-founder (along w/ @Ron_Peck@Gregkulowiec joined us in person. During Greg's presentation @ShawnMcCusker and @shfarnsworth skyped in - 3 exceptional educators sharing in one session was amazing.
  • @teach2connect joined us via skype with an elementary & middle school perspective on web 2.0 tools for the classroom. Sarah responded to a tweet I sent out and volunteered to join us-now that's collaboration at its finest!
  • Plymouth North HS, MA teacher @MsClancy_PNHS joined us in person to share how she used IPAD's with her students - great ideas! 
  • Plymouth North HS, MA administrator @kevinefarrell50 joined us in person to discuss the state of education and the role of social media.  Mr. Farrell also stopped by informally to chat with us on other occasions - excellent personal touch!
  • Administrators and personal PLN friends @Mccoyderek @Mrbernia @SamFancera and@DocSig joined us for a google hangout.  We had technical difficulties on our end and were not able to meet.  These educational leaders showed their true colors by waiting nearly 30 minutes for our class and then made the best of a bad situation by connecting with each other- thanks gentlemen, you are my role models!
Offering the students in our class the experience, enthusiasm and knowledge these professionals provided was something that enhanced their learning.  It is also something we should be doing with our students in our classrooms.

You will have time to Play!

It is important to me that students have time to explore, innovate and to have fun in school!  The concept of FedEx time first came to me after reading @DanielPink's book Drive.  For an in depth understanding of FedEx time and how it can be used in education check out @Mrwejr's excellent post Fed Ex Time.  I substituted the concept of "FedEx" time with "Play" time because I think students, no matter their age, associate play with fun.  It was amazing to me how well the class responded to play time.  Allowing students time in class to work on something they are passionate about produces higher quality work. 
No Homework!

The issue of homework is complex and controversial.  I love discussing it with educators, parents and students.  I believe that we should rename homework "homelearning" and that our goal should be to make it optional, but so interesting to students that they all do it.  That was my goal for this class.  I never once assigned homework, but am happy to report that students in our class admitted that they did more work from home in this class than any previous class they took that assigned it :)

We will Share!

Assessment is an integral part of education.  It helps educators identify where each student is with their learning and allows us opportunities to adjust and improve our teaching.  My goal for our class was to give each student the opportunity to chose their own final project and share it with their classmates.  The only requirements were that it was something that would stretch their learning and improve their professional practice.  In my previous classes I had very structured criteria for final projects and found that it limited autonomy.  To alleviate any anxiety that is associated with the terms "final" and "project", I substituted "final project" with "shared learning".  The final student presentations were nothing short of remarkable!  They shared with me at our final meeting that the success of their presentations was due to their ability to play, exposure to a variety of professional perspectives and the autonomy to direct their own learning.  
It all ends with a question
 I would be interested in your response to the following questions:

  1. What is your vision of teacher as facilitator? 
  2. Can these concepts be used with our students? If so, how are you using them in your classes?

Meet our Class
It is important to note that the 12 educators taking this course had little or no experience with Twitter or social media.  There growth has motivated and inspired me.  I commend them for their bravery to challenge themselves and taking risks.  I would highly recommend you follow these educators on twitter and make them part of your PLN.  The ultimate compliment I can give them is that I have learned as much from them as they have from me.  
@rufus1152 Teacher Valuation  "This course has the potential to tap into the richest treasures the staff of Plymouth educators can offer, sharing and learning from each other, as well as the world - resulting in tremendous benefits to our students"
@ringdom206 Math Love  "This course has given me the tools to share ideas from like-minded professionals from all over the world, not just from across the hall.  Harnessing the power of social media will re-energize your practice in ways you can not yet imagine.  You'll be so relieved to hear this is a "no homework" class, but believe me, you'll be doing homework because you want to, not because you have to!"
@Laurias  "Making new professional connections within our own school system was wonderful. I know most of us will now keep in touch through Twitter. We all learned so much from each other! Also being a part of Twitter is an amazing experience. There are so many professionals out there to share ideas with. My favorite thing about Twitter is being a part of a specific group of teachers that I chose, to learn and share with." @Modspedtchr Education Blog for Special Education Teachers
@ModSPEDTchr  "I am so excited about all I have learned.  I no longer feel isolated as a special education teacher.  The world has opened up to me.  I can't believe all the resources available."
@2ndGradeIBES Ms. McGinnis' Classroom Blog  "I enjoyed everything about this class!  I am on twitter and have my own blog now-I can't believe it!"

@jm28soccer Worldly View  Building My PLN Prezi  "I enjoyed the exposure to new ideas in technology and the time to be creative and productive."  
@pach226 Glogster Presentation  "I was amazed at the skype sessions we had during this course.  They provided so much material to explore and grow personally and professionally.  I also enjoyed all the new tools that I may use in my classroom - livebinder, twitter, tubechop, etc."
@delmannj Adelmannia!  "I am very excited about my new blog and would love to share it with other math teachers"
@MarkPkelleher MCAS Bootcamp  "I enjoyed using skype, twitter chats and videos I can use for lesson planning"
@snowballtruffle   "I loved the opportunity to work at my own pace and to grow from where I started, although it might be different than my peers.  Twitter is the easiest and quickest way to communicate once you learn how to use it properly."
@techeng7 Chilleytech  "I enjoyed watching the changes in my fellow teachers and myself towards technology"

@psmsrn The School Health Connection


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