Learning Forward Conference takeaways


Learning Forward

Sibme as a community building tool for professional growth

Learning Forward 2015’s first general session with Rehema Ellis and Irvin Scott highlighted the importance of celebrating teaching excellence.

Showcase your successes.

As teachers, we have to start using our voices to tell our stories. Brag. The world should know about the successes we’ve had with our students. In speaking about the strides we’ve made with kids in our classrooms, we’re not only letting our colleagues, parents, and the community know what great accomplishments our students have made, but how they’ve made them (i.e., what teachers have done right to get them there). Video is a crucial tool for telling these stories meaningfully and concisely. Rehema used the virally famous PS22 Chorus to illustrate video’s effectiveness at communicating the great work that teachers do with kids.

Sibme’s is incredibly valuable in this regard. Sibme’s Huddles provide a place for teachers to utilize video to share accomplishments. By showing others what we’ve done to guide our students toward academic success, we set examples and model instructional excellence. Alternately, coaches and peers in our Huddles may alert us to something we’ve done superbly, that we may not even have been conscious of.

Build a safe space for sharing.

As Irvin Scott reminded us, professional growth requires three ingredients: vulnerability, community and trust. In order to maximize the impact of feedback and coaching, there is an element of “letting go” that needs to be in the mix. Teachers need to allow themselves to be vulnerable; to teach unencumbered by self-consciousness. It is only with vulnerability that we can truly expect to receive honest input that will help us grow and strengthen professionally.

This trust and vulnerability comes via the third ingredient in our recipe for a safe professional growth space—community. Without community; without the feeling of security, safety, and encouragement that comes with the knowledge that those around you have your best interests at heart and truly care about your development, trust and vulnerability don’t happen. Without community, the recipe doesn’t come together.

We learned about the Teacher Peer Excellence Group Learning Cycle (TPEG), an initiative by Vanderbilt University, the Tennessee Department of Education, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. TPEG builds communities around specific problems of practice or lessons. Teachers work together to address student needs, design curriculum for those students, and then assess the effectiveness of their design so they can adjust it going forward. Teachers who have participated in TPEG are building learning communities that are iterative and innovative as well as designing learning experiences that are storable and shareable. This is ideal when teachers are in the same place and able to meet. But what about when they can’t?

Sibme gives teachers the tools to create their own online communities of trust that create the environment for teachers to feel comfortable being vulnerable. With Sibme, a teacher can decide when to share, how to share, and just who will comprise the online community of support to share with. Because with Sibme, teachers choose their own online communities, these communities become that much more tightly knit and meaningful.

Sibme’s mobile apps LITERALLY put the power in your own hand to build community and share your stories. Sibme is a 21st century solution that allows you to collaborate, learn, and grow professionally anytime and anywhere.

 Time is on our side.

Jim Curran from Cherry Creek Public Schools gave a great presentation on Online Professional Learning. He shared some valuable tools—including Sibme—that can help address the primary barrier to meaningful professional development: a lack of time. In his session, Jim talked about the fact that traditional professional development does not have a lasting impact because teachers don’t have the time to review concepts and master skills when they return to the classroom. Cherry Creek Public Schools’ model puts the power in teachers’ hands to drive their own learning with rich communities of professionals who engage in meaningful conversations about specific ways to teach kids more effectively.

Giving teachers the power to share their strengths and areas for growth allows us to learn from the stories of our trusted colleagues, even if we don’t have time to sit in the same room. Sibme’s time-stamped comments feature allows us to discuss micro-moments in our classrooms that will lead to powerful professional growth, which changes our professional practice, and allows us to design learning experiences around problems of practice that we all share, ultimately impacting student-learning, which, as Rehema Ellis reminded us, is the reason we do what we do in the first place.

We look forward to continuing to learn from outstanding minds like the ones we heard from last week. The future of American education is bright, and we can’t wait to focus our lens on it.


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