3. Ongoing (The ‘O’ in CHOICE)*
There are times when a brain-dump professional development session or conference can be useful. But we usually need more. We need time to Apply, Practice, and Explore. I call it Going APE! Educators need the time to take the best ideas and figure out how those could be infused into their curriculum with their students. They need to figure out how to tweak, adjust, and make the idea their own. Educators need the support to implement the ideas, reflect on them, ask more questions, and try the technique or method again. They need someone to bounce ideas off of. This could be a formal meeting, a quick email exchange, or an impromptu chat in the hallway to discuss a few questions. It has been my experience that usually teachers need to try an EdTech tool at least three times before they are comfortable enough with it to accurately assess its usefulness. We need to support that process.
The way they do a PLAYDATE would be a fascinating way to do professional development in a district. Teachers and administrators would cherish a day to try out the tools, create something for their classes, figure out the best option for their students, and collaborate with colleagues to enjoy the experience of learning more.
And while I don’t use the terminology of “play,” I understand the concept behind it (and PLAYDATE is a great acronym). To be clear, though, what those outside education may tag as “play,” we as professional educators know to be work. I’m learning for my job. I’m exploring. I’m working. When the research scientist is testing new ideas, she usually says she’s exploring new theories, and trying to expand on existing research. Similarly, I’m exploring and thinking expansively about the new levels of awesome that can be achieved with our students. This is serious work, my friend.
To facilitate the ongoing process of learning, whether it is in a large group, small group, or individual setting, we should try our best to help everyone get what they need when they need it. It never stops. As educators it should be antithetical to us that we have learning happen in a silo, at a site, on a given day only. We know that learning is constant, progressive, and cumulative. We should model that. We can do it by following up with those individuals we introduced something to. A simple email asking how their implementation is going would be a good start. Short meetings to share progress if progress has been made might be warranted. Even in the large group presentations that I do at conferences, I give my Twitter handle and always tell the participants that they get me for life. Let’s keep learning together!
*excerpt from the book Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development