Sunday, July 17, 2016

Re-Imagining In-House PD

     When my career began, I can vividly remember the anguish I felt going into in-house professional development (PD). As the day approached, I would begin to get sick to my stomach, and I think this is a feeling that many of us have shared. So, what exactly caused these in-house PD sessions to be so ineffective? I believe it was the model we used. A one size fits all, sit and get type of PD in which I struggled to find more than one or two items of value. So, how do we move away from the arduous system and begin inspiring participants while distributing leadership among teachers? The answer, hack the status quo of the in-house PD model, give teachers autonomy of instructional learning, grow and distribute instructional leadership among staff, and only bring back the best.
     I love the term hack. Authors and educators all over are hacking leadership, instruction, technology, and now it is our turn, we are hacking professional development. For a brief definition, hacking is when you disrupt a traditional model with innovation. Our hack involves PD that moves away from the one size fits all speaker, presenter model, to a differentiated approach where teachers pick and choose sessions tailored to their particular need for improvement.
     Is it possible to hack traditional school site PD and still maintain a direction or focus? The short answer is yes. For our hack, we will be focused on integrating instructional technology; and as you may already know, there are a ton of instructional technologies on the market. The same could be said if you were implementing more writing, reading, or intervention strategies. Whatever your school needs, there is a hack for that. What is best about our hack, teachers will have their choice between nine different instructional technologies and an opportunity to learn three.
     So, how does this model look? And, how exactly does it give autonomy to teachers? Unlike my early days, I am an absolute PD junky (or nerd according to our secondary curriculum director). So far in 2016 I have attended five conferences, and every (not every other one) conference uses the same model. You listen to a keynote who gives the audience a vision; then you break out into a session of your choice. I love this design! As I get to pick, my engagement grows. Finally, after one of the conferences (EdTech’s Google for Education Summit) the vision came to us. On the car ride back, we asked the question, why can’t our PD look like that? Why can’t we empower our teachers and give them a choice over their learning?
     Our model is very simple; provide the learner with choice, use short segments of intense learning, minimize session attendance for presenter comfort, and GROW INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERS. We will have our district technology specialist deliver a keynote on infusing technology in the classroom and implement Google for Education; then, we will break out into three session segments with six choices during each session segment. The presenters, for example, will teach two of the three sessions, which gives them an opportunity to be a learner to; and, the participants will attend all three.      Each session segment is set for 45 minutes with a 15-minute break in between each session.
Another major benefit of our model is that it empowers the teachers! First, through autonomy of professional learning, the participants get a say what technology they wish to study. I love, love, love this idea. As administrators, we ask our teachers to give students choice and ownership over their learning, and now we can model what we preach. Also empowering is the idea that the participants will be able to learn different technologies as opposed to just one.
     Secondly, our sessions are taught by our teachers, maybe my favorite part! For once our teachers will become the co-instructional leaders on our campus and have a vested interest in the implementation process. This distributed leadership model will allow our teachers to be the experts and the primary source of ongoing training in these areas. As an added element of personalization, each presenter will have data collected from the session sign up process and session attendance recorded at the conclusion of each training. Presenters will have information like the level of participant experience with technology, what the participant hope to gain from the session, and as the session concludes what the participants biggest learning takeaway was.
     Last, and maybe the best quality of this model, our teachers will be bringing back only the “Best of Summer” ideas from various PD. Have you ever sat through a PD that was incredible and wished more had heard that same thing? These inspirational moments will now be brought back to our teachers. Or, look at it this way, every PD has highs and lows. When we assemble teachers from various PDs, and they only bring back the best material, and effectively our staff gets the opportunity hear the best.
     As an administrative staff, we look forward to this hack. I sincerely hope our team becomes more engaged in the learning process; our presenters become instructional leaders, and this model of PD generates a buzz across the district and more.

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