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Wanna Be A Great Teacher? Try Being A Great Learner First.

Hi.  I'm Jennifer.  And I'm addicted to learning.

It's true.


The vast majority of my day is spent learning and then sharing what I've learned with others.  From the wee hours of the morning spent lost in my google reader and twitter feed, to after dinner webinars and late night blog fests and everything in between - my life revolves around learning.   And I never get tired of it.

Which is why I'm super excited to share a couple of online learning opportunities that have me giddy with anticipation.

TLChat: Let's Do The Numbers

First up: in case you missed it, the very first live #tlchat - an online Twitter chat revolving around the #tlchat hashtag - took place on Monday. And it was AWESOME!  Awhile back, I had the chance to write about just how powerful #tlchat is as a professional learning tool, not just for librarians but for all educators who are interested in reading, literacy and inquiry based instruction.  The addition of a live chat to this already awesome resource is just icing on the proverbial cake!  The topic of the first #TLChat Live was "collaboration" and resulted in over 900 tweets chock full of good information.  Like all good Twitter chats the time flew by and the info streamed fast and furious.  Thankfully, librarian rock star, Nikki Robertson wrote a truly comprehensive follow up post for those who were unable to attend.  And, the reigning queen of all things library, Joyce Valenza exported the entire chat into a spreadsheet that I then used to create this infographic.  There are definitely more Live #TLChats in our future, so if you're not already following this truly amazing hashtag, and the incredibly talented educators who use it, now's the time to start!

Second on the list is a professional learning opportunity that represents something new for me, but that I am UBER excited about.  On November 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th, at 7:30pm EST, I'll be leading a series of webinars on "Using Social Media and Mobile Technology to Engage Teens" for ALA TechSource.   This (nearly) week long event will be PACKED full of online and mobile resources that you can put to use in your library right away.  I feel like I've been working on this presentation for YEARS, collecting resources and testing them with learners.  Now, the only thing left to do is share them!  It's gonna be AMAZING.  We'll start our journey talking about today's learners and how technology is only as good as the learning it supports.  Then we'll go through a plethora of social media, web 2.0 and mobile apps that are not only fun but that also help engage kids in meaningful and respectful activities.  And, finally, we'll spend some time exploring how to put these tools to work in your programs and then how to assess if they're really having an impact.  Programming note(s):  This series of workshops is going to be open to librarians of all stripe, so (if you're a school librarian) you'll have the chance to learn from both your public and academic brethren.   That said, if you are a school librarian you'll be happy to know that ALA will provide you with a certificate of completion so that you can earn renewal credit for the hours we spend learning together.  Truly, I'm incredibly proud of this week or learning and I hope you'll join me. It's gonna be super fun.

It's funny, but writing this post reminded me of an experience from my first year as a teacher.  I can remember, distinctly, the first professional development training I was required to attend: a half day session on classroom management.  I showed up at least 30 minutes early, with my notepad, favorite pen and highlighter in hand (remember, I'm old, y'all) totally READY to soak up the learning.  I was so excited to spend some time, among my colleagues, learning stuff that would make me a better teacher.  That bubble was, of course, burst the moment my colleagues started filing in.  No writing implements in hand and having sat through a lot more mandated PD than I had, these grizzled veterans entered the room keenly aware of just how many minutes remained until they could leave.

Needless to say, I learned a lot that day - but none of it was about classroom management.

A lot of years have passed since then (again, I'm old, y'all) and I can't help but be thankful for how far professional development for teachers/librarians has come. If, like me, you are a learning addict, there's literally nothing to stop you from being immersed in learning 24/7.  Mind you, I'm not suggesting that's necessarily the healthiest choice, but it's certainly an option.  What's more, in a lot of cases, the instant access, as needed, just in time, collaborative and social PD that's literally at our fingertips is really, really good stuff.  I've gotten something out of every one of the sessions I've attended and am proud of every one that I've contributed to.  Truly, we've come a long way, baby.

That said, we've still got a long way to go.

Given how significantly technology and social media have impacted pedagogy in the classroom, I have to wonder why so much of the required PD that educators HAVE to attend still looks like the "sit and get" model of years past.  Why are some of us flipping things in the classroom but not in our PD?  If Game Based Learning fires up engagement for kids, when are we going to "level up" learning for our teachers?  And if inquiry based instruction, where learners collaborate to solve big, important problems is good practice for kids, what in the world makes us think that an 86 slide PowerPoint, delivered over 2 hours under the glare of florescent lights, is good practice for adults?  It's like all the great pedagogy we put to use with our students flies out the window when those students are our peers. What's more, I often struggle to understand why, in so many cases, teachers still can't get "credit" for the non traditional, but more authentic, professional learning that takes places through their PLNs. Not that I am suggesting that teachers should only engage in PD for which they get credit, I just wish they could earn said credit for the authentic professional learning experiences that so many are voluntarily, indeed hungrily, participating in.   I'm generalizing, of course, and I know that things are changing, albeit slowly.  Still, I can't help but wonder if some of us are so focused on teaching that we've forgotten how to learn.


Credit or no credit, I hope you'll join me for one or both of the opportunities mentioned above.  Although I probably won't be rocking a notepad and highlighter, I promise to be just as excited (as I was all those years ago) about what we'll learn together.  


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