Thinking Things Through: Collaborative Online Professional Development

Thinking Things Through: Collaborative Online Professional Development

John P. Cuthell (MirandaNet Academy, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-780-5.ch009
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Abstract

One of the most powerful ways of changing our thinking about how we teach and learn is to experience for ourselves the power of collaborative project-based experiential learning. Few teachers have had the opportunity to learn in this way, and this creates barriers for those who want to change their pedagogy. The Oracle Education Foundation’s Project Learning Institute provides teachers with the experience of collaborative project-based learning, using ThinkQuest® to create their own curriculum project. By collaborating with their peers, tutors and mentors, teachers are able to model the projects, environment and experiences they want for their classes through a blended learning experience. This chapter describes the model of continuing professional development and its impact on schools, pedagogies and professional philosophies.
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Introduction: Is Today’S Education Fit For Purpose?

For more than ten years groups of concerned stakeholders have focused on the apparent mis-match between the learning that school systems promote, and the needs of a changing world and its societies (Cuthell, 1998; Dockstader, 1999; Edens, 2000; Cuthell, 2003). Whilst much of the concern has been functionalist and a reaction against globalization, other voices have identified a disjunction between the world of schools, and that of the young people in them.

“Preparing today's youth to succeed in the digital economy requires a new kind of teaching and learning. Skills such as global literacy, computer literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation have become critical in today's increasingly interconnected workforce and society – and technology is the catalyst for bringing these changes into the classroom.” http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/creating-the-21st-century-classroom/

The utilitarian functionalist perspective has been matched by a concern that there is an increasing disjunction between the educational offerings presented to students and their real needs, interests and concerns (Preston, 2004; Trilling, 2005). The agenda that sees the embedding of creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, working with others and other key skills in ICT-rich learning environments often seems to conflict with official prescriptions to specify, increase and test subject content in a desire to raise standards.

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Background

The MirandaNet Fellowship has worked with teachers since 1995 in a bid to effect curriculum change through professional development models based on practice-based (action) research, supported through an online community of practice (Cuthell, 2005; 2006; Cuthell & Preston, 2005; Preston, 2004; Preston et al, 2000). The MirandaNet Fellowship, founded in 1992, is an e-community of practice for international ICT policy makers, teachers, teacher educators, researchers and commercial developers who are passionate about digital technology in teaching and learning and about using technologies to promote cultural understanding and democratic participation. Currently there are over 850 members in 43 countries worldwide. The website, online forums, seminars, workshops and projects run by members are funded by international partner companies and government agencies. (http://www.mirandanet.ac.uk)

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