After graduating college twenty years ago, a mentor advised me that “continual and perpetual education is the key to success.” I interpreted that advice as the following: work a few years, take an evening class or two, go to grad school and continue to subscribe to the New York Times, all while pursuing a career in my chosen profession.
As we know, a lot has changed over the last 20 years. The internet and interactive communication—for better and worse—has transformed and disrupted virtually every industry. As we now brace ourselves for a future of AI-enhanced productivity—including robots and self-driving cars—it’s quite possible that most industries as we know them today will be unrecognizable a generation from now.
In this environment, continual and perpetual education is essential. Continuous education requires all of us to discover new ways to learn that are enabled by technology but are also driven by connections that exist in professional learning communities.
Educators who self-organize on Twitter and other social networks to share knowledge, resources and best practices with peers around the world are pioneers in the continuous learning movement. Continuous learning platforms are now emerging that incorporate these always-on, community-based learning opportunities into more formal professional development programs.
Here are five reasons why continuous learning platforms are the future of professional development for educators.
While professional development is a component of some learning management systems, LMSs are most often designed to process administrative tasks including student registration, scheduling and curriculum delivery. Interactions are typically contained within a school or organization, and resource availability is most often determined by administrators with limited opportunities for others to socialize and surface up new information.
No learning management system is predicated on professional development, nor set up to provide collaborative learning opportunities that educators now expect and are finding in other outlets including Twitter Chats, Edcamps and edtech conferences.
These days, many new skills and resources become outdated by the time they are institutionalized in top-down professional development environments. This is why so many educators are attracted to professional learning communities and networks that enable them to share ideas, best practices and new digital technologies including apps, videos and open educational resources.
What better source of advice can there be than from real-time communities of educators who have tried, failed, and iterated upon the very approaches you are considering for your classroom and instruction. Whether it’s through the hundreds of regularly scheduled or slow Twitter Chats for education, weekend and summer Edcamps, or other viral communities spawned from tools like Voxer and Google Hangouts, continuous sources of insight and inspiration are now only a hashtag away.
There are hundreds of thousands of worthy educational applications, videos and digital tools currently accessible via iPad, Chromebook and other connected devices. Educators are organically discovering these through professional learning communities, blogs, conferences and a myriad of other settings. Professional development programs and learning management systems typically limit access to a finite list of top-down, pre-approved resources that are outdated and often uninspiring.
Continuous learning platforms have open resource discovery and curation environments that allow communities of educators to identify compelling resources, and then tag them for subject, grade level, standards and other attributes. Here, there are no limits to what is accessible (outside of blacklisted tools that have no merit in educational settings). As well, communities of educators who are sharing best practices for current, excellent resources inform what becomes surfaced for everyone else accessing them.
Professional development must be predicated upon learning, practice and evidence of impact on student outcomes rather than seat time or a scan of a badge at an education conference. Continuous learning platforms are designed to recognize and showcase how teachers are learning and sharing insight with their students through badging and a suite of credentialing opportunities.
From interactive courses where educator output and student impact is evaluated by a community of peers, to incorporating new resources discovered during a Twitter Chat or Edcamp, to creating a collection of apps, videos and websites to teach a current events topic, continuous learning platforms track, document and advance professional learning in all of its dynamic forms.
Professional learning communities are interconnected. While continuous learning platforms allow any school, district or organization to maintain private communities where educators share resources, ideas and interactive courses, there are always opportunities to connect with other organizations and individuals on the platform that can provide value.
In the 21st century, education must be continual, perpetual and global. Continuous learning platforms are designed to harness all of these connections to power teacher learning and classroom practice in order to achieve better student outcomes across the world.