Often I am asked why I tend to continue studying and taking professional training courses. These are questions which puzzle me, because despite the many years I have spent in classrooms, I have always found new ideas to tinker with, new fields of knowledge to explore, and more recently, new tools to integrate in my classroom practices. Educators often stress the need for learners to become autonomous learners, to take control of their learning process, to be active participants in their own learning – but my question is whether educators themselves practice learning autonomy themselves?
Jonah Salsich raises a similar question regarding critical thinking and problem solving:
“If we expect our students to use “critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making” (ISTE student nets 4) and “apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes” (ISTE student nets 1.a), shouldn’t we be able to do the same as teachers? If we can’t apply these skills in our own learning, how can we teach our students to use them?”
Learning is not only something that happens in a classroom or PD session. Participating and continuing to learn is not unique to “21st Century Learning”; those who have personal will to continue expanding their minds have always engaged in learning activities. What is different today is the means to continue developing one’s professional expertise. On the one hand, it is too simplistic to continue stressing how the openness of the internet allows one to learn. Just as teachers cannot really motivate learners, (motivation comes from within the individual and what is left to educators is the chance to stimulate and engage learners’ motivation), educators too have their own responsibility to either be motivated or not.
Professional development doesn’t always have to be formal, organised by others. One can so easily participate in open learning today, that to excuse one’s lack of motivation to learn just does not hold true any longer. There are NINGS, MOOCs, blogs, and so many other sources of information and learning, all free and at one’s finger tips. Learning can be toying around with new digital tools, participating in forums on Twitter and Facebook – both which offer so much to educators in all fields.
In an age where collaboration is key, when innovation stems from information and interaction, how else can educators inspire, guide, facilitate their students’ learning process if they themselves do not engage in continuous professional development, whether formally or informally, if they don’t interact with others? Today’s digital world demands media fluencies, creative fluencies, collaboration fluencies. The only way an educator juggle all these demands is by continuous learning, in small bytes, step by step. If educational transformation is to be effective, educators themselves need to stand up and take the initiative for no one will do it for them. Yes, time is a determining factor; yes, large class, lack of resources, out-dated curriculums and often, non-collegial working environments are all factors which may de-motivate teachers. Nevertheless, with the wealth of knowledge, information and means to learn available, I fail to understand how educators refuse learning necessary skills for today’s world.
My question now is, if you don’t connect, don’t participate in forums and networks to energise your educational outlooks and practices, how do you develop your education practices? How does one keep up-to-date without participating in communities where individuals question and share resources, ideas and reflections? How can educational transformation fall into place without educators setting examples of through their own learning practices? How does one learn without interaction?