Re-energising how we see Professional Development and Professional Learning: Matthew Esterman

27 November 2015

Matthew Esterman is the very emodiment of lifelong learning.
Matthew Esterman is the very emodiment of lifelong learning.

The first thing that you notice about Matthew Esterman is that he is the very embodiment of lifelong learning. Matthew is a high school history teacher, who organises at least one TeachMeet per term, he tweets, he blogs, and he promotes innovative professional learning. Matthew advocates for technology integrated education and he is an alumnus of the Master of Learning Science and Technology degree. Currently, he is getting ready to launch his own app, ELLA.

ELLA is Everybody's Lifelong Learning App and is a platform for individuals and schools to capture not just the "PD" but also the professional learning and growth that occurs because of it. ELLA aims to be a personalised playlist of professional learning depending on "where you are now and where you want to be tomorrow," Esterman says.

The way ELLA works is by bringing together the expertise and resources from all users. If a teacher is looking for anything from a History lesson plan to finding out about a PL courses, the app can be personalised to suit the needs of the user.

ELLA - Everybody's Lifelong Learning App
ELLA - Everybody's Lifelong Learning App

Matthew had the idea for the app back in 2014. With the help of his co-founder Atul Pandey, they set about making the app as easy to use as Facebook. "By setting clear goals, and uploading evidence towards those goals into a social environment," Esterman says, "peers, mentors and coaches can give you formative feedback." In this way, users can see the impact of professional learning as soon as they apply it. They can also track their professional learning using ELLA's dashboard function, which has built in analytics.

"There is quality in professional development currently being offered, but the danger is that most accountability is placed on the event itself; on the brief moment where you (often) sit and listen and tick off the time and the relevant Standards, rather than being on how you then go on to apply it in context," says Esterman. "Professional development without application, reflection and appropriate time and means to do so, is not really development at all."

The philosophy driving Matthew is that education should be something that is owned, as much as possible, by the learner. This is one of the reasons Matthew hosts and attends TeachMeets so regularly. It exposes educators to ideas that interest them and will be of use in their own classrooms.

Matthew fondly recalls one of the TeachMeets where Cameron Paterson delivered a presentation called "Stop Marking." Paterson talked about the plethora of research that undermined the belief that giving grades or marks is a means to learning in itself. In fact, Paterson showed how marking is counter-productive to learning due to the negative psychological and emotional impacts. The presentation advocated that teachers instead offer formative, specific, detailed feedback that helps students build on their strengths and identifies areas that can be improved.

Matthew offers up great advice for recent graduates. "Find a mentor as soon as possible. Even if you don't agree on anything, a good mentor will help you think and become a better educator for it." He also urges everyone to join Twitter. Matthew truly loves Twitter, saying "it can be an amazing place to learn - like a global staffroom - just dip your toe in and gain fantastic resources, meet people from around the world and push the boundaries of the possible."

True to his nature as a lifelong learner, he makes sure to point out that learning doesn't just happen in the classroom. "It's tough out there for new graduates to find a job," says Esterman "Consider non-classroom places like museums, libraries, zoos and other cultural institutions if you can't get a school position right away. It's all great experience!"

You can connect with Matthew on Twitter as @mesterman.