January 23, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo
Schools around the world have dedicated time and effort to develop online blended learning communities or Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) with varying degrees of success. One of the key challenges most school communities face is not the lack of good ideas from good educators, but the lack of time for creative collaboration. What if online strategies allowed you to “flip” your PLC, forming blended communities that harness great ideas and put them into action? This blog will explore how online tools and strategies can enhance your Professional Learning Community.
From The Flipped classroom to the Flipped Online Blended Learning Community (PLC):
Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of online blended learning in which students watch lectures online and work on problem sets with other students in class. This approach allows teachers to spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom and reverse teaching
Flipped Professional Learning Communities: Flipped PLC’s have the potential to allow for real time collaboration with all the prep-work already completed through strategic material presented online beforehand. This allows schools to really get to the heart of issues during the precious time they have together. One of the important tricks is creating a space for this collaborative to start before and continue after any collaborative time. The online blended learning community provides its participants the time and the distance necessary for critical reflection and nuanced thinking.
Online Blended Learning Community Strategies:
The content below will introduce you to a set of strategies that can be used or may form the rationale for why to form an online blended learning community within your school, department, or work group. This will serve as the initial overview for these strategies. The strategies will be reviewed and considered further in subsequent blog posts.
Strategy 1: Avoiding Professional Development burnout:
How do you offer Professional Development in alternate ways from the full agenda one-hour meeting that keeps teachers out of their classrooms or beyond the end of their exhausting day?
- Push vs. Pull PD: An online community lets teachers go to the information and pull down what they want or need, digest it, and creatively give back. The Email all function pushes agenda, tires out teachers, and gets very little traction. Pull communication is initiated by the teacher at a time and place that they are comfortable and engaged.
- Leveraging Communication Channels: allow members to arrive at meetings informed and ready to discuss. By flipping the agenda a little bit you allow the one hour faculty meeting to gain more ground as opposed to simply presenting information that could have been disclosed before they arrived.
Strategy 2: Ubiquitous community: The convenience store of PD:
Allowing members to access the agenda anytime, anywhere, empowering them to think and take action when it is best for them.
- 24-hour community: Speaks to the ability to have 24-hour coverage for question and answers, a constantly updated resource library, and access to peers.
- Just in time support: Just in time learning or performance support. Delay is decay. Allow hard working teachers to access the standards and policies they need to do their job from anywhere at any time in an online blended learning community.
Strategy 3: Standardization Practices in Online blended learning communities:
How do you guarantee that teacher marking is standardized when you have multiple teachers of one subject or grade level?
- Providing dynamic and enduring standardization practices: Allow teachers to have a plethora of examples year on year for how assessment and feedback worked. Allow new teachers to immediately gain experience from the Veterans teachers from recorded and archived standardization sessions. Avoid suitcase teachers from leaving with all of their wisdom by allowing for easy archiving and sharing.
Strategy 4: Supporting Members on the Fringe
Who has not been invited into the community? Why? What walls have been built that need to be torn down for the sake of transparency and better collective support?
- Access: Create an environment that is inclusive and helps community members who might normally be involved find their voice. Is there a place for you to include parents in the planning process?
Strategy 5: Highlighting teacher initiatives and contributions:
Allowing colleagues to applaud the day-to-day achievements they see in the classroom and the hallway as a means of promoting togetherness and community. With all the hoops that admin and teachers have to jump through these days the amazing accomplishments get lost in the wash.
- Feedback for your teachers: Historically teachers have not received feedback, particularly on their achievements. Colleagues can provide each other with Feedback and support recognizing hard work that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Strategy 6: Gaining Mileage to your Message:
The limits of time create short meetings and hurried agendas. Online blended learning communities allow for further conversation, ideas, and group-think.
- Extending your message: Why do important agendas end with the physical walls of the school building? The use of online PLC environments can extend the conversation, draw out those who might otherwise not participate, and bring home important announcements and policy changes.
In future posts we will explore each of these strategies in greater detail as well as explore the technical functionality and design involved with online blended learning communities.
This post was written by Pamoja Education Faculty Advisor John Willoughby