The term 2.0 is borrowed from the Internet. Web 1.0, or the early incarnations of the Internet, was a relatively static place. This does not imply that nothing ever changed; obviously people wrote new websites. However, writing websites was a laborious process and it was very difficult to add any kind of real interactivity. A very small percent of people, often considered experts, wrote and updated websites. Everyone else just consumed the information that was available.
Web 2.0 represented a paradigmatic shift towards openness and interactivity. Easy to use, free tools allow anyone who would like to create and maintain a web presence. Most successful websites in every arena allow people to interact meaningfully both with the site and with other users. Web 2.0 is inclusive in the sense that anyone can participate.
A similar trend, which was in fact strongly impacted by Web 2.0, is taking place in professional development. The older model, which was often static and non-participatory, is being supplanted by a more dynamic and inclusive model. While Web 2.0 tools helped make the trend possible, it really reflects a greater shift in the way we do things as educators. As we learn more about how people learn best, we can take those ideas and apply them to our own learning as well as to our students.
In the old model, which I am arbitrarily calling professional development 1.0, the most common form of professional development was simply meeting with people in one’s own building. This should and will not ever go away; there is real value in meeting with the people you know in person who teach the same students or the same content. However, depending on one’s circumstances, this is a very limiting form of development. You become dependent on the skills and experiences of but a few people even in the best of circumstances.
Imagine if you could connect and meet regularly with teachers all over the world: teachers who teach in similar schools, teachers who teach in completely different schools, teachers with conservative and progressive ideologies, teachers from nearly every country on the planet, teachers with expertise in your content area, teachers who are amazing at integrating technology, teachers who are trying something you are interested in. How wonderful and useful would this resource be? In professional development 2.0, this is exactly what educators from all over endeavor to make happen. Through a vibrant global network, educators of all different experiences, skills, and circumstances gather to help each other. One of the best parts is that it does not have to take place during the school day. From North America and South America to Europe to Africa to Asia, there are always dedicated educators available whose whose knowledge we can plug in to and draw from.
Professional literature has always been a means of delving deeply into a specific area to try to learn more and improve. Professional development 2.0 does not try to stop people from reading books; far from it. Rather, professional development 2.0 tries to help provide richer meaning and context. For example, there are numerous online book clubs where educators read the same book and regularly try to determine how to best apply it in their situations.
Professional journals have long been sources of the most current knowledge in the educational field. Unfortunately, they are fairly elitist. The cost a lot of money and most schools and teachers do not have the money to subscribe. An amazing thing is happening today in professional development 2.0. Knowledge and expertise is becoming democratized. Teachers, administrators, and college professors all often publish their thoughts on education, theory, pedagogy, assessment, and more online for free. The dialogue, particularly through commenting, is now 2-way and peoplecan interact with experts. Professional journals are still around and will be for a long time as publishing therein is something many professors have to do to attain tenure; however, they are no longer the only or main source for current ideas.
Lastly, conferences have long been a staple of the educational field. There are two complaints that are often levied at these conferences. First, they are so expensive that it is often prohibitive for the average teacher to attend. Second, the dialogue is often 1 way, through a lecture possibly accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. Teachers are expected to improve by using an outdated learning model with little interaction? It is one of the reasons that many teachers find the networking aspect of conferences to be the most valuable.
Teachers are now taking the idea of networking and putting it forward prominently. Teachers globally are starting free conferences, often termed unconferences, where anyone is allowed to speak and anyone is allowed to freely come. Expertise and knowledge are again democratized and people only attend the sessions in which they find value; there is often extended time and space provided for networking as well.
The shift is definitely moving towards a model that is both interactive and inclusive. I, for one, very much look forward to how professional development will continue to change and evolve.