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Module 4 – Foundations & Principles in the Context of Practice

Assessment – Tracy’s Digital Journal

I approached this assignment with some discomfort, as a past PME course required joining a
Professional Learning Community (PLC) and my experience with doing so left me feeling
unsatisfied. Watson’s reference to a “shared values and vision” and “community” (2014, p. 22)
initially reinforced my uneasiness; many of the PLCs I have found are focused on K-12 learning
levels and I teach in the Ontario College system. In addition, when I hear the term PLC my brain
immediately goes to communities specific to my original profession of public safety
communications, rather than those focused on teaching and learning practices.

The PLC I joined for the previous course is comprised of college educators, but I found it difficult
to develop a sustainable online relationship. It was very much like taking an additional course in
the PME; there were modules, daily activities and interactions, and the perceived time
commitment was overwhelming enough to inhibit me from fully participating. The content in the
daily activities was very technology focused, and while some of the exercises were entertaining,
I had difficulty understanding how they would translate into my classroom practice. Once I had
joined the community, I felt as though I was operating in a silo with minimal interaction from
other group members. Blitz refers to the “five critical dimensions of professional development”
(2013, p. B-1), and three of those dimensions directly relate to the challenges mentioned;
personal motivation to participate, potential for translating the learning into practice and the
quality of group interaction. It was back to the drawing board to find on online PLC that would
engage my own learning, enhance my professional practice and result in a more robust
experience for my students.

You could say the first issue I encountered was figuring out
how to get out of my own way.

Reminding myself that learning is sometimes uncomfortable,


I began investigating some of the suggestions provided in
Module 4. I realized I would have to let go of my
preconceptions and think about the learning opportunities
provided by the online communities as transferable
applications. I considered the first time a colleague showed me the online quiz game Kahoot;
my initial reaction was to discount it as an option for college students, as it seemed geared to a
more elementary level. My colleague convinced me to try it one time and my students loved it;
we use it every week to review and it helps the faculty team to focus on the areas that need
more attention. With this in mind, I began to consider the options that had the most potential to
provide a similar transferability.
I am already active on Twitter where I regularly engage with colleagues in educational and
Canadian Public Safety communities in an effort to stay current with events, procedures and
technologies emerging in both sectors. This platform felt like a natural choice to begin creating
new connections. Rather than limit myself to one interaction, I decided to connect with a few
options in the hopes that casting a wider net will produce a higher likelihood of personal
connection with at least one community.

I chose to follow Jennifer Gonzalez on Twitter and joined her blog site, Cult of Pedagogy.
Primarily, I completely related to her Twitter bio. I want to crush it in the classroom and while I
have not tried CrossFit I would describe myself as a closet athlete. A quick look around her
website shows she is an experienced educator who has developed a variety of resources
including free access blog posts and podcasts, complemented by professional development
courses (for a fee). Blog posts are chunked into general themes like Classroom Management
and Leadership, but also organized using more specific topics such as College Teaching.
Signing up for weekly emails resulted in a free e-book on assessments and access to a
‘members-only’ library of free stuff.

Issues with Connecting


There were no issues in signing
up for the blog site or the weekly
emails. All that was required was
typing in my email address and
clicking submit. Within moments, I
received confirmation and a
welcome email assuring me that
Jennifer’s goal is to connect with
others who are passionate about education. The Cult of Pedagogy website does include an
online store, which caused me to have some skepticism about the level of ‘free sharing’ that
might actually occur.

I feel like this connection will provide me with some very useful information, having already read
the free e-book I received for subscribing to the weekly emails. A suggestion I found particularly
useful involves creating a ‘feedback shorthand legend’ for comments that are often utilized such
as ‘run-on sentence’ or ‘homonym use’. The legend is posted for the students to reference, and
time is saved when marking individual assignments by using the shorthand version of the
feedback.

Mode of Communication and


Opportunity for Leadership

I have started by tweeting links to


some of Jennifer’s blog posts that
resonate most with me. I chose the
post pictured to the right as I relate
this to experiential learning, which
has become a significant focus of
teaching and learning at my
college. Sharing Jennifer’s work
with members of my Twitter
community will be a good avenue in
which to provide leadership and foster new communications with others within the Twitter space
who are passionate about education. My one remaining concern would be that Twitter is often a
one-way mode of communication, and I feel that two-way communication that engages
continued dialogue would be a more effective method of contributing in a leadership role.

Relating the Curricular Practice of the PLC to what we have already learned
Reading through some of Jennifer’s most recent blog posts there is a distinct alignment with the
Learner-Centered approach to teaching. The post I shared on Twitter talks about the author’s
children studying weather systems at school; it is critical of the focus on delivering textbook
information and not supplementing it with drawings or some other physical demonstration to
reinforce the learning. This is supported by Sowell’s reference to “developmental education is
active learning, and genuine, first-hand experiences are the bases of children’s knowledge”
(2005, p. 58). A second entry about reading at an appropriate level discusses the importance of
recognizing that the level is user-dependent. Here is a screen-shot of tips with regards to
common mistakes included in the leveled texts post :

Following a philosophy of Progressivism combined with a Self-Actualized conception of


curriculum, this approach focuses on student interest and uses the teacher as a guide for
inquiry.

Alternative Possibilities for Connecting


While looking for my primary PLC connection, I also began following Cube for Teachers and
Holly Clark on Twitter. I found Holly’s website less user friendly than Jennifer’s, which is why I
stuck with Cult of
Pedagogy for my choice.
However, I did register for
a Flipgrid webinar
occurring November 27
with Holly Clark about
Empowering Gen Z; this
generation makes up the
majority of my program
enrollment and I am
hoping to learn how to
better engage this
generation of learners by
participating in the webinar.

References
Blitz, C. L. (2013). Can online learning communities achieve the goals of traditional professional learning
communities? What the literature says. (REL 2013-003). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education,
Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance,
Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic.

Eisner, E., & Vallance, E. (eds.).(1974). Five conceptions of the curriculum: Their roots and implications
for curriculum planning. In E. Eisner & E. Vallance (Eds.), Conflicting conceptions of curriculum (pp. 1-18).
Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

Gonzalez, J. (2018, October 21). What Are the Best Ways to Use Leveled Texts? Retrieved from
https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/leveled-texts/

Gonzalez, J. (2018, November 4). To learn, Students Need to DO Something. Retrieved from
https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/do-something/

Ornstein, A.C. (1990-1991). Philosophy as a basis for curriculum decisions. High School Journal, 74(2),
pp. 102-109.

Sowell, E. (2005), Sections from Chapter 3, 4, 5. In Curriculum: An Integrative Introduction (3rd ed.). (pp.
52-61, 81-85, 103-106). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Watson, C. (2014, February). Effective professional learning communities? The possibilities for teachers
as agents of change in schools. British Educational Research Journal, 40(1), 18-29.