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Students as professional development facilitators

Aspects of Academic Professional DevelopmentImage by hazelowendmc via Flickr

I find Sylvia Martinez (of Gen Yes) inspirational, especially when she speaks about educator professional development. She is keen to suggests that students can

  • work with and support staff and educators to develop skills,
  • provide technical support for educators,
  • develop resources and communicate for schools, and
  • help peers.

She reinforces the message that empowering students and valuing what they have to contribute to learning has no down sides. It is about providing learners with learning purpose, authenticity, and space for them to take responsibility. Scaffolding and guidance are still important, but the students are helped to do something that they are passionate about, and something that enables them to embrace 'citizenship' of learning communities. It's what the students and the teachers do together that counts.

The idea is to build a technology ecology where the student is doing something authentic - giving them real problems to solve - one of which is using technology in schools. So, the mantra is waste nothing, including talent, energy and passion. Students can provide informal technical support, for example drop in sessions for staff. Students need to know something and to take ownership and responsibility, with an increased sense of purpose. It is not just about the technology it is about the philosophy - student-centered and focussed.

There are a lot of young learners and adults who have things to share in the form of ideas and passion. Students care about their education, and rise to the challenge of leading events for teachers. It is worth looking at the Tomaz Lasic 'Catch a teacher day' initiative (Perth). Also, the Media Smart days which were organised by students, where there were student and teacher run workshops on media and technology topics.

Sylvia Martinez emphasises the importance of projects, and the key associated notions of tech support, professional development, and student technology fluency. She suggests that projects are graded by a peer-mentor - this gives different types of young learners opportunities to shine and to show off their talents. I, personally and professionally, can't see a downside...can you?

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Comment by Hazel Owen on April 16, 2010 at 15:24
Absolutely! One of the awesome things about going to conferences is the reaffirmation of things you are trying out, the challenge of your current thinking, and good, solid 'evidence' from around the world of where education is going next - and that it's working!

I would love to think students could be involved in providing PD for teachers. The other person who spoke about this (and gave a couple of really memorable examples was Alan November. He also recognised what a massive shift in education the approach (and associated empowerment of students) would take...
Comment by Jo Gibson on April 16, 2010 at 12:48
Wahoo! Some substance to what I thought I'd dare add into the National Development Plan for the VLNC-Primary...before I saw this! Beautifully current too... Could you consider building this into your VLN-PD work?

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