What are ways adults can (and already do) learn from each other? How can we think differently about how teachers can develop their craft and be recognized for their expertise? Especially in the profession of teaching, what of value goes unacknowledged that can instead be visualized, celebrated, and professionalized? After very rapid design/development this past spring and a limited introduction this summer, YouPD.org (beta) has been a useful exploration of these questions through real world application of some hypotheses.
YouPD.org is a peer-driven professional development community, questing together for what works. Noticing the numbers of teachers seeking out other teachers and resources online, as well as the large gaps in understanding how to effectively engage in virtual and blended learning, we wondered how a platform could better support that need and community. The site mimics a lot of the ways learning and professional development occurs in the coding and tech communities — often self-directed, open-sourced, and peer-supported. It also tries to integrate some of the positive dynamics of social networks and social incentives. Part crowd-sourcing and part crowd-supporting, YouPD’s iterative development is attempting to figure out a few ideas: 1) how to bubble-up teachers’ unique and valuable bottom-up knowledge in way that goes beyond just trading lesson plans, 2) how to motivate through social recognition both individual and community professional growth, 3) how to design meaningful challenges to facilitate teachers in pushing themselves and each other further, 4) if facilitating blended learning for students requires teachers to first experience blended learning themselves, 5) how to enable an authentic, peer-led community.
On YouPD.org you can do three main things: 1) Post or watch hacks — in this context a short 3-5 minute video or screencast explaining how you creatively solved a problem that you think others might benefit from trying as well, 2) Take badge-earning challenges that facilitate steps to developing a skill and outcome goal, 3) Participate in the peer community — giving feedback on others’ hacks, recommending a hack, tagging content, visiting other teachers who inspire you, going to a Blender/physical meetup, etc.
Micro-actions on the site add to an individual’s “Cred Quotient” and earn points as Learners, Sharers, Influencers, and Collaborators. The “Cred Quotient” is visible on individuals’ profile pages. In addition to the community spaces, the individual profile acts as both an organizing tool (e.g. to find saved “playlists” of hacks, contributions, challenge badges) and potentially, in the future, a professionally valued portfolio of sorts.
As opposed to top-down, district-defined PD needs, YouPD is experimenting with ways for teachers to define their own learning needs, help solve each other’s learning needs, and be recognized for that personal growth and professional community. From a research perspective, as participation grows, it’s also a data-driven way to begin to see and understand aggregate patterns in what teachers are interested in learning (hacks they are clicking on and/or creating), which can potentially inform where and how to invest more resources.
Many questions and challenges remain as this site is further introduced, but some promising anecdotes are emerging of peer connections being forged. See a snapshot of features not covered in this post through this short prezi, or visit the site.