Professional Development Opinion

Are You Learning With Blinders On?

By Learning Forward — August 14, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Tracy Crow

In our day-to-day lives, the Internet makes locating what we need so straightforward. Need a new winter jacket? Just check boxes that limit selections to your size, preferred colors, and ideal temperature range, then hit search to find what is just right for you. You can use the same kinds of search tools to find a hotel room in Manhattan or the love of your life.

By and large, using data and algorithms to identify choices that meet our needs is both efficient and effective. This certainly applies to professional learning. The Data standard in Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning describes how multiple forms of student, educator, and system data help educators make wise decisions about professional learning, and data are essential in the cycle of continuous improvement.

However, we also need to make room for the unexpected. If we enter every learning opportunity with blinders on, seeing only what we intended to find when we set out on a learning journey, what compelling new idea might be just beyond view?

Conferences or other large-scale gatherings are wonderful opportunities to create learning pathways based on what we need. Strands and topic choices home in on sessions that meet our learning goals. Yet conferences are also great opportunities to bump into answers to questions we didn’t even think to ask.

Keynote speeches, for example, are designed to inspire people with a range of needs and levels of experience. Networking opportunities can seat us next to a stranger who has done something amazing.

It is possible to court serendipity, the lucky break that we weren’t looking for, whether at conferences, in everyday life, or on the Internet. Here are some suggestions for putting yourself in the best position to stumble across buried treasure:

Sit next to someone new every chance you get. Even when you attend events with a learning team and are eager to corral what you’re learning, look beyond your inner circle to invite the unexpected. Make time for your learning team at home.

Read or learn outside your typical circles. This might mean reading a business management book instead of an education leadership title, or picking up a magazine about science discoveries. Every now and then, choosing a learning option based on a gut feeling can yield a new way of seeing an old puzzle.

Take reflection time when you’ve had a spark of inspiration. Whether your inspiration came from a speaker, a hallway conversation, or a profound quote in a Twitter chat, don’t lose the feeling you had the moment you heard it. Make a note or plan a follow-up to keep that spark lit.

Let yourself wander off track a bit. While no one has time for significant distractions, meandering a bit off course -- whether to follow an intriguing link online or wandering into a session on a new topic -- can expose us to new thinking, possibly the very idea that helps us solve a tough problem.

Seeking the unsought isn’t at odds with a good learning plan -- it’s a matter of staying open to new possibilities. How will you stay open to serendipity? After all, no one experienced love at first sight through a series of checkboxes.

This post appears in the August issue of JSD.

Tracy Crow Director of Communications, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Professional Development Opinion Developing Success Criteria With PD Participants to Engage in Deeper Learning
Success criteria show educators how we believe they will be successful at the end of a lesson. Let's involve them in the process.
5 min read
Professional Development Opinion 4 Essential Elements Needed Right Now to Engage in Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching is growing, but there are some important elements to consider before anyone engages in a coaching relationship.
6 min read
shutterstock 1586195833
Professional Development Return of the In-Person Edu-Conference: Elementary Principals' Group to Meet in Chicago
Registration for the organization's first in-person conference since the pandemic started is keeping apace with that of previous years.
4 min read
Abstract blurred image of attendees in seminar room or conference hall and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. new normal life concept.
Pratchaya/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Professional Development Some Kids Had a 'Choppy' K-12 Experience This Year. ISTE Will Explore Solutions
Big themes at this year's online-only ed-tech conference will include acceleration and finding K-12's way in a new, more virtual world.
2 min read
Image of a student working on a computer from home.