I am a member of a small school development team in my school. We meet about once a month, and bring forth pedagogical development ideas for the whole staff. We had our first meeting of the new school year yesterday, and decided that our main focus area this year would be 'new learning environments'. Tha plan is that we will look into the many opportunities of web and project based learning, among other things.
No sooner was this decided than colleagues started talking about the need for training. What training courses or seminars are available, where and how much do they cost? Which of us will have the chance to go? Will the school pay for it? It was taken for granted that training would mean travelling somewhere as a physically present participant.
How about webinars online, I suggested cautiously. Surprisingly, none of my colleagues were very much aware of this opportunity! I have found global teaching webinars very enlightening myself although, I have to admit, I am still quite a beginner in that field. The last one I participated in a little bit, was the 2010 Reform Symposium in July.
Webinars are a great way to virtually meet, or at least listen to, enthusiastic educators from around the world - all in the comfort of your own armchair at home, if you want to. Once you get a bit more comfortable with the format (an Elluminate session, for example), you will be able to get more involved with the interaction and get much more out of it than just by listening passively. And if you can't make the schedule, the sessions will usually be recorded and uploaded on a website to be listened to later, at a more convenient time.
In no way am I writing off traditional training altogether. There is still a need for carismatic speakers, who know how to inspire masses of people when heard and seen live, in person. I also believe that getting a breather away from a hectic working schedule, and networking in real life also play an important role in teachers' lives every now and then. But for the most part, why get involved in all the wasted time in travel when you can just as well lern many things online, more time- and cost-effectively?
My point to my colleagues was that to develop new learning environments, we need to have first-hand experience of new types of learning ourselves! One problem for us is that there is relatively few opportunities on offer in Finnish. It will also be a challenge to inform and motivate teachers about the benefits compared to old-style training. It takes a lot of self-directedness from teachers to seek out these opportunities, often in their own time. It is no wonder that our students wait to be spoon-fed by others if we teachers expect the same.