Pedagoo provides a leg-up

18th May 2012 at 01:00
Douglas Blane reports on how the medium for professional learning is having a large impact on teachers

Teachers doing it for themselves is the best kind of CPD, say the organisers of online learning community Pedagoo - "by teachers, for teachers" - which recently celebrated its first birthday.

"The usual kind of CPD - the good practice model - doesn't work as well as you'd want, according to the literature," says Preston Lodge High biology teacher Fearghal Kelly.

"The idea is that you listen to someone who's done something good, then go away and replicate it. But this stuff is not that transferable. Things often don't work well when you try them in your classroom, because you haven't developed them yourself."

So a year ago a small group of teachers set up Pedagoo as a medium for professional learning that would help them learn and develop ideas that did work, says Mr Kelly. "Learning isn't something that's done to you. It's something you do for yourself."

Participating numbers for the three main components of Pedagoo - the blogs, Twitter and TeachMeets - have been growing steadily, says Mr Kelly.

"It might sound controversial for CPD, but it's exactly what we've been saying about learning in the classroom. We shouldn't just be telling kids - we should be active, involved, collaborating in their learning. It's how they learn best - and it's how we learn best. We're all people."

There are a few other collaborative, enquiry-led approaches around, says Mr Kelly. "There's the Learning Rounds. There's EDUtalk podcasting. There's the teacher learning communities being set up in quite a few places. On the whole, though, there isn't a lot that's led by teachers."

The other impetus to developing Pedagoo was the severe panning Curriculum for Excellence had been getting - and still is getting - in the mainstream media.

"There seemed to be a minority of us who were incredibly positive about it," says Mr Kelly. "But we didn't have a voice and we weren't doing anything outside our classrooms."

The tipping point came when education consultant David Cameron commented on Twitter that he was finding huge interest in Curriculum for Excellence "everywhere I am working - except maybe in Scotland."

"That kick-started a massive debate on Twitter that went on for days," says Mr Kelly. "People thought `We can't let this go'. There's clearly a community of us who are incredibly positive. It's working for us, but all we're doing is talking to each other. What else can we do?"

Pedagoo was the outcome, and the community and its activities have been growing steadily since. "At first every blog-post had to be cattle- prodded," says Mr Kelly. "Now they just appear. That's phenomenal. People are doing as we had hoped - using it as a place to pro-actively share and discuss. The stats are going up."

Pedagoo now has an admin team of six teachers with different responsibilities, he says. "A popular recent idea is Pedagoo Friday, where you tweet something great that happened in your classroom that week. Tens of thousands of teachers all over the world are reading those."

"This stuff is messy - hence the name - but with lots of teachers talking and sharing ideas, it's also exciting. There are a lot more people in favour of the new curriculum than we thought and not as many critics as there seemed from the publicity. There are also many in the middle still to be convinced. We don't want to push ideas at people. We do want to share, discuss and build a community."

- www.pedagoo.org

- Recent posts and discussions on the new curriculum and qualifications: bit.lyGNuCuX

- Pedagoo Friday: bit.lyL0Ihxu

- Forthcoming events: bit.lyzQrP21, bit.lyHOxt8T.

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