American librarian, John Cotton Dana once said “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” This is one of the main things that has separated teaching from other profession’s for me – the need to be a lifelong learner if you want to be considered an expert.
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
I find learning to be exciting and challenging and the ability to transfer it into improved practice and outcomes is exhilarating. This is also the case in school leadership. As a school leader I believe it is even more imperative to be a lifelong learner – to embrace that being a professional means you are continually improving.
With this in mind I sought a new learning challenge at the end of 2017. I have toyed with the idea of completing my Masters but to be honest many of the Masters’ programs on offer didn’t entice me or I felt wouldn’t value add to what I did. However, at the beginning of 2017 I was fortunate enough to be asked to provide feedback on a Micro Masters course for MIT – Launching Innovation in Schools and dipped my toe in University of Michigan’s Leading Ambitious Teaching and Learning course.
Late last year I saw an invite come through to undertake two of UM’s Micro Masters courses – Designing & Leading Learning Systems and Improvement Science in Education. I have to admit I was apprehensive because in the past I have found online learning challenging. I enjoy the social aspect of learning – conversations, discussion and feedback, however, have found that it can be missing when learning online. It can be challenging to find the vested interest to allocate the time and energy needed to complete courses. Anyway after some deliberation I decided to fork out some $$$ and enroll.
*I will be honest being a die-hard “Fab Five” (famous UM Basketball team) fan as a teenager did play a factor in enrolling. Still holding out that UM might offer me a basketball scholarship…
I jumped into the first lesson of the Designing & Leading course and reached the task component that required you to form/join a team and complete a task related to the content. It is at this point that my perception of online learning began to be transformed. The “learning gods” must have been smiling down on me because I ended up forming a team with three educators from North America who were passionate, professional and personable.
Rather than communicate through online chats and discussion boards we organised a video hook-up through Google Meet and from our first discussion it was obvious that I had struck collaboration gold! It was an added bonus that two members of the team were undertaking the post-graduate course and could elaborate and provide more depth on lesson topics. We added an extra Aussie along the way and the Dream Team had been formed.
From there the collaboration, conversation and feedback flowed freely. I knew from course outlines that the topics and content would be relevant but it was the team dialogue and collaborative development of weekly tasks that has proved invaluable. My team has provided the motivation and inspiration to undertake the learning to ensure I make valuable contributions to the team .
At times when I am juggling work and home priorities it is the commitment to the team that pushes me to make time to complete the course work. I have found it ironic that as I learn more about learning systems and improvement that our team has become it’s own system – an interdependent group of people and processes working together towards a common purpose.