Agency and Access: Personalized Professional Learning at Scale

Educators WANT to learn.

As we shift from a culture where learning is provided to a culture where learning is sought, we need to consider how we provide ACCESS to quality learning for our educators.

I watched this play out on Thursday night, as Heather Theijsmeijer, a Renewed Math Strategy Coordinator in Rainbow District School Board, brilliantly led the Northeast Region, and indeed all of Ontario and beyond in a Twitter chat for #notabookstudy – looking at the work by Dr. Cathy Fosnot in the Preface and first chapter of Mathematicians at Work: Constructing Multiplication and Division.

Now to be fair, Heather worked with the SAD Field Team of NE Region to construct the best questions to engage and challenge educators for a full hour, on the evening before Easter weekend during the first Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game.  But the sheer volume of participants and the quality of the responses showed that it was a very successful event.

Heather was exceptionally well organized before the event, with her moderator Tweets composed, sized up, and ready to send out in order. But it was her engagement with every participant and her ability to make everyone feel welcome, while continuing to push thinking, that just made it such an excellent event.  For many, it was their first Twitter chat, and Heather’s demeanour online encouraged everyone to take a risk and engage in a conversation about how we teach math in Ontario.

For me, it was the demonstration that we have the capacity in the north, and in the province, to mobilize learning so that remote, isolated, frantically busy educators can still access quality professional learning on their own time, when it works for them.

This only works when we work openly by default, when experts engage in the open learning, and most importantly, when we build the capacity of educators to lead open learning.

The skills needed to lead open learning must also be highly valued by education leaders.

How often do we even look for these skills when we make hiring decisions?

Three years ago, #OSSEMOOC was created (by OSAPAC) as a way to build those very leadership skills.

If we want to personalize learning at scale for educators in Ontario, we must build the capacity to LEAD that open learning. Harvard Graduate School of Education studied the impact of OSSEMOOC in Ontario.

(OSSEMOOC funding was not renewed, and the project was ended in June, 2016.)

It is the learning from OSSEMOOC that now drives the #notabookstudy work in Northeastern Ontario.

Leaders who practiced writing blogs, running blogging challenges, hosting Twitter events, leading provincial book studies are sharing back what they learned so that Northeastern Ontario can create OPEN, accessible learning for all educators.  There are no passwords.  There is no tracking of logins.  There are no expectations except that quality content will be made available to all, with space to have conversations with other educators as we work to build our understanding of constructivist teaching in mathematics.

When we hand over our online learning to companies, services or outsiders, we never build the capacity of our own educators to openly mobilize our learning in FREE, fully accessible environments.  We continue to be held hostage by the goals of others and the need for added funding.

As education leaders, let’s ensure that every educator in Ontario has access to the learning they need to provide exceptional learning environments for our children, environments where learning is sought by all, and available to all.

Let’s value and cultivate the digital leadership skills of our own educators.



Featured image by on Unsplash


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