Right now my brain is obsessed with 21st century professional development and what it looks like. In my last post I suggested that this needs to start with teachers learning how to leverage the power of certain tools to start building a PLN.
I recently came across a post by Kim Cofino called The Next Generation Conference that I think had some more practical insights into what makes for a really successful pro-d event. She suggests that in order for a conference to be exciting, engaging and community-building it needs to include the following:
We need to make conferences more practical, not just hands on training with new tools, but a focus on the actual creation of something that bridges new learning with what you already know, and asks you to create something useful.
I agree completely. I think the trade off is that creating something new and meaningful takes time and often at a conference or training session participants and organisers are focused on filling up the time with as much content as possible. Often when I am at a conference I feel frustrated when 3 sessions I want to attend all happen at the same time and I can’t get to them all. I feel like my role as a participant is to be a gatherer of content. If I was asked to enage in meaningful creation and collaboration at a conference then I think I would get frustrated because I wouldn’t be able to collect as much “stuff”. In order for me to be able to by into a pro-d opportunity that focusses on creation I would need to be prepped to go into the entire process with a different attitude. So how can that happen?
I would love to see a conference where attendees were grouped the first day, and spent the whole conference reconnecting in various formats with a group leader.
All groups could have an ongoing task that lead you through the conference, asking participants to put their new knowledge to work, building on each plenary and presentation session, and then culminating in the production of something practical and useful during a hands on workshop time.
In order to ensure that there was enough cross-pollination across all conference attendees, the group action projects could be structured in such a way that each group is required to interact with members from the other groups in order to complete their project.
I really like this idea beacause it gives the conference/pro-d attendees a framework for thinking about and using their new knowledge. It also spreads out the group/creation process over a longer period and intersperses it with plenary sessions and practical sessions that would make me feel like I was getting my money’s worth out of the event.
Students could do … sessions on how to use new tools or on what they’re doing with technology outside of school, or what they’d like to see in school (imagine that?). What about having students as experts on a panel discussion of what schools should be doing with technology? Or how technology has changed the way they receive, create and distribute information?
This one has gotten me thinking. At my school we have some older students that use technology in incredibly savvy ways (they are linus experts, run their own web servers, jail break their iphones) and they tell us that they don’t see technology being a big part of their schooling because they don’t think we can catch up with them. It would be great to have them involved in helping train and tutor teachers on how to use new tools. This would have two potential benefits: 1) Teachers would become more aware of how these tools are an integral part of many of their student’s lives and 2) It would free up time for more big picture discussions around curriculum and pedagogy.
No matter how much you know about a topic, there is always a need for discussion after an engaging session. After each session, a group leader could facilitate an unconference style discussion, with a focus question or Visible Thinking routine to get people processing the information.
It’s amazing to me that this doesn’t happen more often. In our classrooms we are always talking about Blooms Taxononomy and Constructivism but when it comes to our own learning we often default to the lowest level of Blooms. Maybe it’s because that’s the way many of us were taught and it’s the mode we are the most comfortable with.
Picture by netopNyrop on Flickr