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Monday, February 16, 2015

How Do You Make Professional Learning Visible?

No one person in any organization can do all the work. It takes effort and share by all to lead an organization forward.

Today there are so many learning opportunities out there--opportunities such as conferences, edcamps, webinars, chats, blogs and more that serve to forward an organization in amazing ways. The truth is, however, that no one person can take part in all of these events. Therefore, I believe it's advantageous for systems of learning to create and distribute a weekly professional learning newsletter.

Professionals who attend learning events would have the responsibility to contribute to the newsletter regularly or occasionally dependent on the learning event they are writing about. For example, if you attended ISTE with a team you and the team would create a write-up. On the other hand, if you participate in #edchat weekly, you might add a sentence or two with links about the #edchat topic and highlights each week.

A good way to do this may be to have a weekly online, inclusive newsletter that highlights system-wide learning. The protocol could be that those who attend professional learning events are required to write a one-paragraph description of the event's highlights alone or with others who attended the event. The description could include links to the event's resources and more detailed write-ups. When it comes to local learning events, the in-house presenter would have the responsibility of highlighting the event in the newsletter for all. And, for weekly events such as chats and admin/curriculum meetings, a point person would be chosen for each event, and that person would add a sentence or two and links about the event each week.

This newsletter would result in greater, collective professional knowledge and increased share. It would be one way to build a strong community of educators as "lead learners" throughout all grade levels and subject areas of a learning organization.

This system of professional learning could start by creating a short-list of "must-attend" events. That list would be shared with the faculty who in return could add other events to the list. Then in late summer, the list would be shared with the faculty, and then educators could sign up for the events that match their needs and interest. Money would also be set aside for events that rise up throughout the year.

I can imagine the title of this initiative as something like "Learn to Lead: Professional Learning Exchange."  Then I imagine that the weekly newsletter would be broken up into the following categories: Conferences-Edcamps-Courses, In-House Professional Learning Events, Webinars, #chats, Books/Articles, Other, and Future Events. Contributors, both teachers and leaders from all grade levels/subject areas, would add their write-ups or notice of new, upcoming events to a Google doc and that Google doc would be transferred to a website page each week. That page would be shared with all faculty on the same day each week. Perhaps a leader of learning for the system would write a short paragraph introduction each week and look over the newsletter before publishing. That leader could vary from role to role, or position to position each week giving all leaders a chance to contribute.

A weekly share like this would create greater common language, shared knowledge, mutual quest, and deeper conversation in a learning organization. This kind of weekly professional share would make "teacher as learner" visible and inspire educators to get involved in learning in ways that make a difference to their professional work. Educators and leaders would learn from each other. The website of newsletters would also serve to present the "learning story" of the organization each year which in turn could serve as a reflection document for summer goal/vision setting meetings.

The system I work for created a similar system of share related to school system and community events. The newsletter is well organized, pleasing to look at, regular, and informative. It has served to share learning and recreational opportunities to all in the learning community in ways that invite participation. I think that newsletter is a good model for a professional learning newsletter.

I would look forward to receiving a system-wide professional learning newsletter each week. It would help me to understand the learning and focus of my colleagues, boost my professional foundation, and help me know the broader learning/teaching community better.

Do you have a professional learning newsletter in your organization? If so, what does it look like? How is it distributed? What are the advantages of this regular share? I think this is an idea with potential, and I look forward to thinking about this with greater depth in the days to come.