Professional Development in my experience has typically been met with a similar response as hearing the dentist say "You need a root canal." Or maybe the mechanic comes back to the waiting room to tell you there is some bad news and it is going to cost you. Or on the day you plan on being in the computer lab, you hear the announcement over the PA - "The internet is down and we don't have any idea how long." Okay so I am guessing by now you are understanding the message.
This is how PD has been in the past. This year my school has made strides to re-imagine Professional Development. Our first full day of PD I was asked to share some of my ideas because a few of my colleagues were beginning to see my growth through collaboration via Twitter. I was honored to share some of my experiences and tried to share with them the power of collaborative thinking. I left them with a message from Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) and his book Teach Like a Pirate - "Do you have any lessons that you could sell tickets to?" I think I have created just a couple this year so far, but these are ones that I had been working on from this summer. I need to continue to work and grow to make this a regular part of my teaching practice. I say this because the question creates a pretty lofty goal. It is a challenge, and it is intimidating. I also mention it because of the experiences that I had this weekend that I will share in a moment.
Yesterday, October 19th I attended edcampgb and was able to meet in person a colleague I have grown to know and learn from over the past few months. Josh Gauthier (@mrgfactoftheday) who teaches in a district only a half an hour away. It was great to meet him, but it was an incredible learning experience. Josh wrote a post about his experience, please read about it here.
For those who haven't been to an edcamp, they are amazing experiences. The premise behind them is there is no leader, no keynote speaker, no prescribed sessions. It is up to those present to propose and run the sessions. The video presentation below helps to explain the process. I almost forgot, edcamps are free to attend, the only thing is, you have to give up your time and talents to participate.
My learning at edcampgb was a new and exciting experience. The first session is one that I proposed about how we can celebrate and share our successes in our classrooms. I wanted to hear how others were connecting their classrooms to parents and the community. I shared some that I had learned from, Paul Solarz (@paulsolarz) who has an incredible site full of ideas of lessons his students have created or participated in. There are many others and I don't want to slight anyone, but Paul's site was the inspiration for adding classroom happenings to my site.
As teachers shared ideas, we talked about how to help students connect to classroom content and keep up when absent. I started using Remind 101 this year, and many teachers use that. Some use google calendars to help students keep track. I use google docs that are linked in my website that include daily activities and assignment due dates. These also include directions for the assignments that are linked to separate google docs. This idea I stole from Reuben Hoffman (@reubenhoffman).
After this session, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. We had just started BYOD this year, and I wanted to learn more about this, but there was also a session on social media, and I wanted to share and learn about ways to connect. When I was deciding where to go, Ben Hommerding (@bhommerding) was passing someone in the hall and mentioned BYOD and no one had shown up for it. I heard this conversation from behind, and spun around to say, I would love to hear more about BYOD, so the two of us sat down and discussed some great ideas of how to use and engage students. He shared with me his site that has a ton of resources, I have to look up the sites he shared with me, and I will add them later.
He showed me apps, augmented and aurasma both deal with augmented reality. We played around with these and talked about the possibilities. Students could use them to take a virtual field trip in the Roman Colosseum or other places recreated through Google Sketchup. We walked through Camp Randal home of the Wisconsin Badgers with our time.
We discussed google hangouts new features. I am still trying to figure it out, but they added the ability to text and even make calls using a number you create, so you can connect with parents or students without giving out your personal phone number.
Ben also is the proud owner of Google Glass. He presented to the entire group about the technology before the session that I sat down one on one with him, and I was excited to get the opportunity to try those things out. However when sitting down one on one, I never even thought about asking him to try them on. So I missed my opportunity. That is until I made a final plea -- begging actually on Twitter during our final session of the day. As we were wrapping things up, Ben came up to me and offered me an opportunity to try them out. They were pretty amazing. But alas another missed opportunity, like so many other people of the day who got their pictures taken wearing them, the thought eluded me to chronicle this experience. I was so caught up in the learning that I didn't think about documenting what might have been the only time I will ever get to wear a pair of Google Glass.
The last session of the day was about Teaching Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. Josh Gauthier started the conversation, explaining the basics of the book. The room was backed with teachers. We began tweeting and sharing ideas, and as the conversation continued, there were more and more mentions of Dave Burgess in the posts. Dave jumped into our conversation, and he might have been at a conference in California at the time himself, but he started connecting with teachers sitting around me. As the conversation continued, Dave offered a prize to be handed out to someone in our group for participating in a great conversation not so much about his book, but about the ideas contained within. The principles for changing education by building relationships and connecting learning to the students through great lessons and experiences.
This leads me back to my district. I received the agenda for this coming Friday's PD day, and in it they included a "Ticket" Lesson. They heard my challenge during my PD day presentation a few weeks ago, and they are building on that mission. We are trying to create better experiences for our students through better learning experiences and professional development for our teachers. I am very excited to see the changes to our PD.
My final thought is to give a few shout outs to amazing educators who have embraced educational change and are creating innovative ways of helping teachers learn and grow. The first is Ryan McLane (@McLane_Ryan) who created a Teach Like a Pirate day at his school. The video is below. He also started Social Studies Teach Like a Pirate Chat #sstlap and asked me to moderate it last week Thursday at 8 PM CST. I am hoping to continue helping this chat move forward sharing and growing.
Another all star for changing the format of PD is Arin Kress (@ArinKress) who created a flipped PD experience by connecting to teachers around the world through skype. You can read about her experience on her blog post here. She as able to connect to some ground breaking educators who shared their experiences. The format of the PD day is revolutionary to the world of education. Please read her blog, share your ideas, fight for change in how we learn and grow as educators.