Is It Worth My Time? Learning Differences MOOC Really Is

Whenever I am presented with the opportunity to participate in any form of professional development, the most important question that I ask is this: Is it worth my time?

By “worth my time” I do not mean, Will I enjoy it or is it fun? I do not mean, Do I have a free spot on my calendar? Nor do I mean, Is it a short PD session? What I’m trying to determine by asking that question is whether or not the time I devote to that session, that training, or that course is going to be multiplied (or better still exponentiated) and returned to me so that I, in turn, can give more to my students.

Time is a teacher’s most valuable resource; we can’t get any more of it, and that which we do have seems to disappear more quickly than the hands on the clock indicate that it should. I want to know that the valuable time which I dedicate to edifying myself for my profession is going to have a lasting, meaningful impact on my classroom and each and every individual student in it.

The Learning Differences Massive Open Online Course for Educators, offered by MOOC-Ed, part of NC State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, an Educator Innovator partner, is exactly the kind of professional development opportunity that is worth a teacher’s precious time. From the moment the course begins, light is shed on the most frustrating dark corners of the classroom, and understanding individual learning differences amongst students has an immediate transformative effect on instruction.

Think about how often something like this has happened in your classroom: You’ve planned an awesome, hands-on lesson, and you need to give all of the instructions up front. Thus you begin: “Alright everyone, I need all eyes up here and all ears listening to me. John, Susan, up here. Okay, first… Frank, right here. Okay there are five steps for this learning experience…” You go through all five steps, checking for questions all along the way. Once you’ve finished step five and there are no questions, you go through all five again just to make sure everyone’s got it. You ask, “Everyone good? Thumbs up? Ready?” They nod; they smile, they give you thumbs up all around the room. You say, “Alright, have at it!” Immediately, five students ask, “Wait, what are we doing?” Someone else says, “What’s happening; what’s going on?” You sigh and begin again.

Then you sign up for the Learning Differences MOOC-Ed, and you learn about working memory. You understand that while some students just weren’t paying attention, others in the class may not have a broad enough working memory capacity to listen to, understand, and hold onto five complex steps at once. As a result, the very next day you decide to make a short video, using a screen casting tool demonstrating the five steps. (Making the video only takes as long as explaining the steps.) Instead of explaining the steps to the project multiple times, you simply direct the students to the video, and they can work through the steps at their own pace. Then you can redirect your time to answering specific questions from individual students.

During the Learning Differences MOOC-Ed, you’ll have the benefit of learning with participants from all across the world (in the Fall 2014 offering, 55 countries were represented), exploring concepts related to executive functioning, language, engagement, motivation, working memory, attention, and organization. You’ll look at habits of mind focused toward a diverse learning environment and think about what learning differences mean for the classroom.

The knowledge, skills, and resources offered by The Friday Institute’s Learning Differences MOOC-Ed, without doubt, are worth the time you’ll put into it because you’ll be able to immediately transform your classroom practices, addressing the many needs of your individual students and using what little time you do have so much more effectively.

Here are the details:
What: Sign up
When: Today, the course begins February 9th, 2015.
Who: Anyone and everyone. Join educators from around the world in exploring learning differences.

We hope to see you there!

By Alex Kaulfuss, Ph.D., NBC