Clif Mimms has a series of posts on his blog for new teachers written by guest bloggers. I am extremely pleased he extended an invitation to me to be one of those guests. This is the post I wrote for the series, it is based on my own experience, what I want to share with others is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone in terms of your own teaching and learning.
I believe the one thing I would say to teachers is be open to your own learning and don’t be afraid of not having all the answers. I believe we all should be lifelong learners. In today’s world opportunities abound to stretch our thinking and open ourselves to experiences never before possible. I have had the pleasure and privilege of stretching my own thinking and learning this past year as I have co taught OpenPD with Darren Draper. OpenPD is a professional development opportunity open to anyone with an internet connection and a desire to learn about web 2.0 tools to use in classroom practice as well as in their own learning. Last September Darren wrote this post on his blog explaining the professional development he was going to teach in his school district entitled Social Software in the Classroom. In the post he invited anyone reading, to participate, or to co teach, I was interested and willing to co teach and contacted him. He and I did not know one another, I had used the tools he was planning on teaching, but I had never taught with someone I had never met, never taught online and had never used some of the tools in the way we were envisioning. We wanted to model the tools we would be teaching, so all of our planning for the course, as well as the delivery of the course was done through the use of Skype, Google docs, Wikispaces, and Ustream. Our first session was a disaster; everything that could have gone wrong did, even though we had tested everything ahead of time, and we were pretty confident we could make this happen. I learned so much that first night about my own teaching and what I rely on from those in my classes. You can read my thoughts here and Darren’s here.
The important thing to remember is, we didn’t let any of the challenges stop us, we believe in what we are trying to accomplish, feel it is important and we wanted to continue forward. We also knew it was ok to have those in the class see us struggle to resolve any issue we may encounter while using the tools, just as they may struggle using them in their own classrooms.
We taught the class three times in the 2007-2008 school year, presented together at three different conferences throughout the year and met for the first time in June 2008 at NECC in San Antonio. We have had successes and challenges in all we have done, and sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we plan, but we learn something new every time we teach. We learn from each other, we learn from those who attend, it’s a group effort and one that has been invaluable for me both in my professional as well as personal practice. I owe a great deal to Darren Draper for being forward thinking and willing to take a risk. He took a chance on me, and in turn I took a chance on myself, believing I could step outside of my comfort zone, and be successful in a way I never imaged was possible. As a result of my participation in OpenPD I am passionate about sharing my experiences with others and demonstrating the rich possibilities that exist for all of us, all you need is a willingness to take those first steps into a part of our world that is ever changing. And as an added bonus, in taking those first steps, you have the opportunity to learn from so many, make new friends with people whose lives would never have crossed with yours, without these new tools at our fingertips. My life is richer, not only in terms of my professional learning, but in the friendships that have resulted from my online network.
Please take a look at the video clip we have used as a starting point, also feel free to browse our class wiki and if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them for you.