When I first joined Cohort 21 in the original instalment of the program, I was excited to be reunited with 2 former colleagues in order to collaborate and hear about the amazing things they were doing in their classes. Little did I know, I would be joined by 20+ other people who were also equally motivated to collaborate and learn from one another. If this was the only thing that Cohort 21 did for me, I would say it was money well spent but there is more… so much more!
Cohort 21 focuses on making learning dynamic. In the traditional model, educators were the gatekeepers of the information and we were charged with bestowing this information upon our students. This system no longer meets the needs or desires of today’s learners. The paradigm has and continues to shift and students are asked to think, act, and engage in their learning in more depth. Cohort 21 gives educators the understanding and tools to keep up with best practices, and to help prepare students for their future.
The first set of tools we were introduced to were Twitter, Diigo and Google+. These three things alone allow me to be more self-directed with respect to my professional development. Whether you’re looking for information with respect to Blended Learning or the latest Edtech you can find great articles and resources on Twitter, Diigo & Google+. Not to mention the thousands of educators who participate on Twitter edchats on a weekly basis. It’s impossible to come up empty-handed.
So you’re thinking, well I can easily make accounts for all of those things and they are free, so why Cohort 21? It’s because that’s not all… It’s also about the Professional Learning Network. My Head of Academics likened Cohort 21 to a “Wild Fire”. One representative from schools around the CIS, who is motivated to learn, is thrown into the mix with 20+ others who are all equally motivated and from different backgrounds and disciplines. Coming together for Cohort 21 ignites a spark that is unlike any other PD session out there. Cohort participants have typically attended conferences on a variety of pedagogical approaches and edtech and they all come together for 10 months of sharing and encouraging each other to be the best they can be. I am still in consistent contact with many participants from my year, and I can know that if I have any questions, I can reach out answers. Additionally, if I am looking for inspiration I can always look to see what others are doing via their blog.
As a Cohort21 participant, there is an expectation that you will keep a blog. A commitment to share your learning with the broader community of educators in order to help, inspire, motivate and engage others in using best pedagogical practices and effective Edtech in the classroom. This can be done via your blog, twitter, Diigo and Google+. But something magical happens when writing a blog – reflection. As educators we know that when we connect, engage and reflect, the learning cycle is complete. When I blog, it energizes me, it helps to me to see my learning from another perspective and I generate more ideas from the experience. When members of my PLN comment, my learning is bumped up even more with every comment. I’ll be the first to admit that I neglected my blog last year but upon revisiting it – I found 4 drafts that I am currently tweaking to publish around different experiences from last year. Like all PD, it’s important to make time to do it!
When I joined Cohort 21 in 2012, I realized how much more was out there. If I could sum it up, I would say Cohort21 is in part Klingenstein, GAFE Summit, Cooperative Learning, combined with a wide array of other Edtech tools & pedagogical approaches experienced in a group of supportive, motivated and inspiring growth-minded educators. But it’s not a weekend conference, it’s a year long action research project! We have time to try new things, get feedback, see examples of what others are doing, and try again. Cohort21 is true experiential learning, and whether we meet online via Google Hangouts, or face to face, one thing is certain… we are sharing, learning and growing together.