I had the privilege last week of delivering a keynote to students at Plymouth University at their Onwards and Upwards Conference #onandup. I joined Oliver Quinlan and others in imparting our experiences to the next generation of teachers.
I spoke about Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and although this is something I work on delivering with Partners in Learning, talking about it directly was a different experience for me. I began by discussing my own CPD journey, starting with my work with science in primary schools with bugs and spiders. I illustrated how, as you can imagine, suggesting activities to develop science teaching with tarantulas might not appeal to everybody! ( yes, that is a real tarantula!). I realised it was not the activities I was doing and how I did them, but WHY I did them, the thinking behind their design and the impact they had on learning that was the real value to the professional development of others.
This is one of the fundamental principles of the Partners In Learning programme here in the UK. We encourage educators to be reflective about their practice and to share their thoughts with others through tools such as a Virtual Classroom Tour or Innovids. This encourages teachers to create their own Professional Learning Network / Community (PLN/PLC). Twitter seems the obvious tool to start this, and whilst it is undoubtedly a fantastic tool for CPD, we need to remember that effective CPD has to meet the needs of the individual, and believe it or not, Twitter is not everybody’s social media of choice. In addition there are other just as effective, but different types of CPD sources. Such as your own colleagues, conferences, subject associations, books and the Partners in Learning Network.
The impact of having connections to many different CPD sources and contributing to them was clearly illustrated at the conference. Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) was known by the majority of the audience, some were even actively involved in projects he was leading. His impact through his PLN is immense, he does this, not spending his life engaged online , he does have to teach after all, but by interacting with the different elements in his PLN. As a result others can have access to one of the most innovative, creative and independent thinkers I know.(Why he hasn’t won a National Teaching Award is beyond belief!), but likewise and importantly, he is also learning from them. This is not just happening locally in Plymouth , but globally. Surely this is a measure of the success of a multi resource approach to creating your PLN. Dan illustrates that ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ (excuse the chicken pun) does NOT create an effective PLN.
So if you are asking the question , CPD, is it for me ? The answer is yes, and the good news is you have a vast array of resources to choose from to create a network that is personal to you and meets your own professional development needs.