Community of Learners

Education Technology Specialist, Portland Public Schools

One responsibility of my job includes supporting staff in my district with professional learning opportunities related to technology. As demands on everyone’s time continue to grow, it’s become obvious to me that a traditional model of professional learning is no longer relevant. In order to meet the diverse range of learning needs, it’s important to continuously innovate and test new ideas. For me, that means creating and offering more self-pacedon-demand  opportunities that staff participate in on their own time, when they are ready for the information. Face-to-face meetups like formal district activities and workshops are still valuable for connecting and learning, and informal options like edcampsteachmeetsPLCsinnovation cafésplaydates  and networking  times give participants voice and choice in their professional development.

Perpetual Learning

As a result of this shifting educational landscape, I encourage educators to become increasingly responsible for their own professional learning. The world of work is constantly changing and as teacher leaders, we must model a new framework of learning for students and colleagues; one that promotes creativity, collaboration, asking curious questions and taking risks. I strive to provide an environment that fosters a culture of perpetual learning  that supports and values growth and the ability to unlearn and relearn knowledge and skills. Such conditions are a necessary foundation for success in today’s world.

I wanted to see this kind of environment in practice with students and visited the classroom of my colleague and friend Mark Hansen, a third grade teacher and technology coach at Lewis Elementary School. During my time working with several classes that morning, the community of learning that Mark has developed with all of his students was very apparent. Lewis is one of five schools this year that are participating in a technology grant that focuses on using Chromebooks in K-3 classrooms to bolster literacy while having access to a variety of webtools.

Learning as Independent Practice

According to Mark Hansen, the particular value of using technology is always inflected by the classroom context. “In some classrooms, the value is really that the kids are able to independently practice some reading and writing skills in an engaging way so that the teacher is freed up to work with smaller groups. In other classrooms, teachers use the apps more as a supplement that students can access from home. I think the more compelling values of student devices are the ways students can use them to create, express and explore.”

Furthermore, what is the value of using technology with kids who can’t yet read or write? “If you are knowledgeable about emergent literacy, then it is readily apparent how creating on  computers deepens, complicates and reinforces literacy knowledge, skills and dispositions. It also involves using many of the strategies that they use in non-computer literacy.” The technology and devices are used to amplify student learning, allowing them to develop necessary skills while also exploring powerful ideas.


Melissa Lim began her career in education as an elementary classroom teacher almost 20 years ago. Melissa is an education technology specialist for Portland Public Schools in Portland, OR and has been with the district for 16 years. In her current role, she provides professional learning opportunities for district staff and teachers and supports educational technology needs. Melissa Lim can be found also at @actionhero Google+ about.me.

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