Tag: PD

Seinfeld PD

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Image source: https://flic.kr/p/9C1u41

For more than a decade, I have been wearing myself out trying to plan the perfect PD session. I have taught on everything from how to save a file to how to build a robot and everything in between. I have done short, 15-minute mini lessons, all-day workshops, multi-day workshops, online courses, webinars, lunch and learns, etc. Something I have to admit, if I am honest, is  that probably only a small percentage of trailblazer attendees left my training and actually permanently changed their teaching practices. It doesn’t matter the enjoyment/engagement level or how amazing my presentation was, That is a cold reality. My success level is probably good for a power-hitting 3rd baseman, but not what I want as an advocate for innovative, effective classroom practices.

Something I have to admit, if I am honest, is  that probably only a small percentage of trailblazer attendees left my training and actually permanently changed their teaching practices.

An epiphany hit me this morning just as my 2nd cup of coffee kicked in. These aren’t the results I want, but I keep sticking with generally the same strategies (Something I constantly rail on with regard to our education system as a whole <slapping my forehead>.). What if I threw away the plans, the scripts? What if I “designed” professional learning about…nothing?  I shared the idea with my Assistant Superintendent, Bill Lewis, who like it and said it sounded like a Seinfeld PD plan. As a huge fan, I immediately stole the name.

What if I threw away the plans, the scripts? What if I “designed” professional learning about…nothing?

Here’s how it works. The goal is for PD to fit the curriculum and the classrooms’ needs as much as possible. So, instead of planning a session on Google Apps or digital storytelling, I will be implementing 3-hour sessions where teachers come with curricula in hand, and we collaboratively find ways that our available technology resources could be used to make the learning more powerful. This is what many of us have done for years on campuses we served–I just want to try it as THE district model for technology PD. There will be elementary and secondary sessions, and maybe sessions for specific subjects/disciplines. If someone suggests a tool for someone else, and we need to do a mini lesson or explore how it works, we will do so. The teachers, however, will drive the tech and the PD. Hopefully, everyone who attends will leave with a new skill or 2, sure, but, more importantly, with actual plans to put the tools to work as best fits their classes. My role will become that of facilitator (Ironically, a role I have advocated that teachers should take for years.). To be honest, sessions could be run and documented (for our district’s accountability purposes) by techno-savvy teachers. I also want to have fun with the setting. Meet at a local coffee shop? Why not?

This is a little bit similar to the so-called “un-conference” approach of events like EdCamp, but it differs in that the learning is even more individualized. It is immediately, directly applied to the teachers’ goals and needs.

Is it too open-ended? Too much teacher control and ownership? Will it even appeal to educators used to having these things planned out for them? I can’t say, at least not yet. I think it will be a success, though, because this will be about ownership over the learning, professional collaboration, and relevance. There are other considerations, such as having a variety of resources ready and waiting, just in case an iPad or a MakeyMakey becomes the tool of learning of the moment. Regardless of these questions, I like change, and I like risk, so I am going to give it a go. I will share my observations and assessments and teachers’ reactions as it moves forward.

PD Scatter-Shooting

In my district, as in many others these days, opportunities for sharing technology-focused PD are very limited. Schedules are

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tight, district PD days are reserved for other training, after school works for some, but not for many, etc. Probably the biggest challenge is the size of my staff…one. I believe it is absolutely necessary, therefore, to focus not on the traditional model of professional development, but instead to squeeze as many learning opportunities into as many times and formats as possible. Realizing that not every staff member is going to attend the in-person workshop or watch the webinar, I’ve taken a sort of scatter-shooting approach, where I’m utilizing a range of tools to get the information to those that need it. I wanted to share what I’m using in hopes it might help others in similar circumstances (most of us). The following resources are among those I’ve been using:

  • Traditional, in-person training. These sessions are led by me or by some fantastically talented teachers and campus technologists. They are in the summer or after school throughout the year, and they are 3- or 6-hours in length. I’ve tried to include a focus on how each technology will be applied in the actual classroom or campus, although I am not 100% satisfied with that process just yet.
  • Newletters (November’s newsletter). I’ve been putting out a monthly newsletter, the Matador Digital Learning Digest. It basically consists of a focus article on some trend or technology, app recommendations, technology research/statistics, news, and a variety of web-based tools. I send this out via the district’s email system and share it on the department website and social networks.
  • Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SeguinDigitalLearning). I probably share more information through FB than any other tool at this point. I share informative articles, useful resources, events, distance learning opportunities, contests, and anything else that I believe can benefit teaching and learning here. This one is slowly gathering followers, and I’m hopeful that it will become a go-to resource while simultaneously demonstrating the great possibilites of social media sites as tools for learning. I’ve got some convincing to do there.
  • Twitter (https://twitter.com/matadoredtech). I use Twitter very much in the same way as I use Facebook, to share resources, learning opportunities, announcements, etc. I’ve been a little surprised at the lack of Twitter users in the district, but my brainwashing has only been happening for a few months, so that will change. I like the idea of using a resource that can be checked in a few seconds on a smart phone, making PD quick, painless, and portable.
  • Blogging. The real purpose of this blog is to teach and share through my rambling reflections. I’ve returned to a previously successful strategy this year by re-inventing the tech challenge that I used a couple of years ago. These are short, narrowly-focused technology lessons accompanied by a simple task to get our folks familiar with the resource and its possibilities. I’m even bribing them, as I’ll be offering prizes through a drawing for participants in the spring.
  • YouTube. Screencasts and other short, instructional videos are a great way to share a concept or start a discussion. I’ll share the link via email, our department web page, in newsletters, on our social media sites, etc.
  • Online courses. At this point we are offering 2 tech courses online, a 3-hour course on Challenge Based Learning/Digital Storytelling and a 6-hour course on iMovie. I’m developing a Google Docs course, as well. We use Moodle for our learning management system. Participation has been pretty limited, but I see signs that more folks might be interested in giving it a try.
  • Podcasts (http://www.spreaker.com/show/mossfreeshow). I’ve just started doing the regular podcasts, and am only up to 4 episodes. I am focusing on a specific topic, such as the most recent episode’s focus on communication. I’m also hoping to include interviews with teachers in the district as often as possible, and to use this as an opportunity to put the spotlight on our folks who are doing powerful, innovative things with technology. I’ll also include interviews with great educators from outside of the district whenever possible, such as a recent interview with Diana Laufenberg.
  • PLCs. This one is in the soon to be implemented state, but it needs to be included. As we move towards a spring implementation of BYOD, I’ve started talking to my BYOD committee about using less formal, after school sessions with groups of interested teachers. I envision that these sessions would take on the form of collegial conversations, discussing and sharing over coffee and snacks. They might occur during planning periods or after school, depending upon participants’ needs and schedules.
  • Webinars. This is one that is in the developmental state. I have used webinars a few times in the past, and participation was pretty good. They are beneficial because of the facts that they can be scheduled at any time, viewed from any place with an Internet-connected computer, and archived for later viewing. I plan to start offering some of these opportunities during the spring.

I’d be curious to hear what other methods and resources are being used for PD in other schools or districts. What have I not listed that has been particularly effective for you?

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