Teachers must spend time collaborating, sharing experiences, and reflecting about what they are learning to assure deep, rich professional growth. Those who participate in long-term professional learning projects participate in and establish ways to collaborate, share, and reflect when meeting face to face. Equally important, are effective ways to do the same when some of their project time is spent isolated from colleagues, working in their own classrooms.
At AIMS we have been learning how to best keep participants in our long-term projects connected in between face-to-face meetings. Currently we are facilitating a year-long support project with rural educators in the state of Florida. The goals of the project are for teachers to deepen their content knowledge in mathematics, help them increase/improve student learning, and to expand their teaching practices. These Florida educators attend four six-hour face-to-face workshops and engage with AIMS’ content-rich, conceptually-based, grade-span specific mathematics tasks. They also extend their learning by being part of an online Professional Learning Community (PLC) during the project. While online, participants read, think, collaborate, and write reflections about the AIMS tasks they have done with their students. They are also encouraged to reflect on professional journal articles.
The online piece of this year-long professional learning model is the component that weaves everything together. Participants are able to read and communicate between face-to-face sessions and learn from one another, as well as have a space to post their own reflective comments and to receive feedback. Kathleen and Alan Landon helped us pioneer this online venture last year. They are our online facilitators who keep the online PLC connected and monitored. They read all of the posts from the Florida participants, offering questions or comments that help participants grow through the process. Without ever seeing their faces, participants are receiving incredible value from Kathleen and Alan’s expertise.
At AIMS we are working to make long-term professional learning projects the best they can be. Including an online PLC in this project has been beneficial and worth our efforts. We will continue to use it as an essential component of every long-term professional learning opportunity we offer. Technology allows for great advancements and teacher support during implementation of new practices is now possible, no matter where in the world we are working with educators.
What experiences have you had with an online forum to make professional growth even more effective?