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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Professional Development Planners Need Our Help

http://goo.gl/KPWQpo
On Wednesday I was able to sit through (survive) the first day of a three day professional development about literacy.

Thursday morning, prior to walking to the PD,  I put up a post about not being negative and helping teachers instead of being angry with them.

How are these two events connected? Well, I really wanted to write an entire blog post about just how bad the day's PD was. Then I was reconnected with one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs, Blasphemous Rumours, and the line about God having a sick sense of humor.

Oh sure, I could have talked about the exchange that had us all shaking our heads: "Have any of you ever heard of Prezi? It's a way to do presentations. This particular Prezi will be riveting." But I won't.

I could have talked about "sitting and getting" for over 3 hours. But I won't. Nope. Not me. I want to analyze what was done to us today and offer other ways that this PD could have happened. Because I don't complain without offering a solution.

First, whenever you have a 3 hour block of time to present topics, especially dry but important topics, you have to deliver the information in chunks.  And, in between the chunks, there should be time for activity and movement. Just like in working with our students we need to have cooperative group activities that enhance the learning.

Some suggestions: What if tables were given certain parts of the learning and we held a jigsaw with tables presenting what they learned? What if there was a simulation of exploring standards and we used a socrative discussion or a fishbowl of the  process? There are dozens of possibilities for handling this part of the session.

Alternatively, we could have been assigned a reading to have been completed prior to the first day and we could have immediately gotten into groups to discuss what we read and to come up with questions that we still need answered.

What if, instead of not providing wifi, there was a purposeful use of internet sites to help us better understand the point of the learning. And, instead of asking us to share the information we got with our fellow teachers and then asking us to not use our technology, we were given a hashtag and were asked to share our favorite links that we found.

More and more of our teachers are entering classrooms that are 1:1 with chrome books, iPads, or other technology. We are expecting our teachers to use the technology to help our students go deeper with the information provided. We want our classrooms filled with activities and to no longer have our desks in rows. We want instruction differentiated and engaging. We use rules of thumb like "lecture for no more than the the equivalent number of minutes that coincide with the age of the student."

Why then would we expect less of the educators who are presenting material in professional development?  Presenters should be asking us to use technology to help us go deeper with the material. There should be activities and ways to differentiate. And the "sit and git" portion should never be more than 15 or 20 minutes.

In the past 2 years I have been to many professional developments and many conferences and un-conferences. In order of "amount learned" I would put them like this: Educon Philly, NTAC, Edcamps (at multiple sites), Margaret Kilgo's Unpacking the Standard's training, my own district's PD sessions, ISTE, TCEA, and SXSWEdu. Somewhere after that would be the other PD's I have had to attend.

What keeps the first three (Educon, NTAC, Edcamps) above the rest? First, at all three, I can choose what I want to learn. And, if there are multiple sessions at the same time, I can ask someone else to go to the other one and let me know what they learned.  Second, all three of those have a large on line presence. If I'm not in a session I can hear about it by checking my Twitter feed on the hashtag for the event. And the bigger/better known conferences will even have teachers who can't be there, with their own hashtag, such as #noneducon, where information is also flowing. The information is being shared instantaneously.

Where should these larger PD's start? They need to look at the "standards" that they want us to learn. Unpack them and do some backward design. Plan for activities and workshops where teachers can go deeper with the content. Think of ways to provide reflection at various points during the day. Give the teachers an opportunity to teach or lead a discussion on what they've learned. Oh, and make it fun...with food and coffee if possible.

Professional development needs to be done by people who understand proper facilitation of training.  It needs to be handled by people who understand how to teach in the 21st century. It needs to be handled by teachers. 21st century teachers. Because that's what we are, teachers in the 21st century.