Redesigning Professional Development: How to Slay the Sit & Get Dragon

As a technology administrator, I’m excited to attend my next session “Redesigning Professional Development: How to slay the sit and get Dragon!” with Jonathan Werner. You can view his slides here. Providing meaningful professional development that brings quality educators into the modern world is always a challenging task. Jonathan is an amazing tech guru and I’m excited to be here and learn from him.

Jonathan starts it out with a video from a “traditional” classroom where a teacher speaks at the front of the room and students reiterate what she is

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

saying. Whoa… I just had flashbacks to Middle School! Ugh! Sadly, this video looks like it was filmed yesterday not 25 years ago! Jonathan says that we need different ways to pursuing professional development. We need to slay this “sit and get” method of professional development. We shouldn’t be teaching teachers with flawed pedagogy!

Start with something you didn’t know yesterday! This demonstrates that you’re not a repository of knowledge. Thanks David Warlick! Social Media (like Twitter) gives us the power to engage with one another in new ways. It’s a great way to build your PLN (but doesn’t replace face to face interaction). Why is twitter so important to Jonathan? Because he is modeling curation. Anything that he knows, he’s standing on the shoulders of other experts.

Jonathan cites that his partner in crime is metacognito, that helps him to capture his thoughts and pathways. It can be challenging to capture and sort. He hopes that metacognito helps him to know why he is doing what he is doing.

This I Believe

The biggest message Jonathan conveys is that you need to apply pedagogy to your professional development! Think about the way you are teaching teachers! We spend a lot of money and time on professional development that it must be maningful, mindful, and thoughtful. We have an absorption method. We need to reinvent PD!

Jonathan says maybe we should rename it. Call it “Professional Learning” or “Professional Curiosity” – Alison Anderson. Sit and get, FAILS! So what does effective PD look like? “PD is most effective when it is long-term, collaborative, school-based, focused on the learning of all students, and linked to the curricula that teachers have to teach.” – Andrew Miller. It must be with your colleagues and focused on students, related to what you teach. I have certainly sat in ‘left field’ talks and they are rarely helpful.

As a norm, are improvement and growth assumed? Probably not… or on a limited basis. For Jonathan, rethinking PD in conjunction with these ideas has been incredibly helpful. This long term climb up a hill has to have objectives for improvement. Growth must be built into all of your initiatives.

“Are your PD offerings directly connected to your mission statement?” – Hans Mundahl. It’s not about the tool you are using, but the process of growth. It must begin and end with students. What are you doing to benefit your students? That should be the essential question all around. So when someone makes a suggestion, the basic question should be “how does that impact the students?” This can refocus the discussion.

Jonathan of course brings back the point of experiential PD and answer the question “why are you lecturing?” As he says, he’s not trying to train us. Never lecture to train. Also, we’re in lecture 2.0. We have all chosen to walk in and are looking for inspiration. We can also vote with our feet. Also, we can go through his slides and use them as a place for dialogue. In this case, the conversation starter is a monologue.

Consider Your Audience

Think of your teachers as your students. People in your PD sessions are students with various needs methods of learning.

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ALOHA – Apathetic, Late, Openly Hostile, Adopter. AHOLA also gets so much time and energy. However, don’t forget that there are others in the room! Jonathan says that you can let go of your ALOHA. Give the ALOHO the time and energy that they deserve but focus on all of your students. He also says to look at the technophobes around you when you are planning. They may look like ALOHA but they often just feel threatened and intimidated. There are Rock Stars who are super advanced and are often bored in the room (I’ve been that person). There are also insecure learners (he calls them Insecure Ida). They feel intimidated by the tools. There also also the awed receptive learners. They love the content but it seems to have no impact on their learning. Also, there are teacher rock stars. They are great teachers outside of technology. Great teachers are the people who will often be your peer leaders.

So we have a heterogeneous classroom of educators. However, on top of that you need about 50 continuous hours of professional development to change a teacher’s practice. — learning forward.

Norms & Givens

Jonathan says that if you do nothing else, do nothing by yourself. Build a support group! Mine is on Twitter and through ISTE and other prominent tech networks. When you are no longer isolated, you can get help and support. Empower teachers to teach other teachers what they’re doing well. This is a concept supported by Jennie Magiera. You need both carrots and sticks. You need some type of pressure to get teachers to come to you. At my school, we do this by allowing my tech sessions count for professional development credits.

Switch up your PD. Give them different faces, places, types, and times. We need variety. There are different access points and ways to get to the information.

Jonathan also suggests that you bring solutions to administrators. Offer them a pilot or a comprehensive plan. Give them possible improvements. If you know your PD is bad, then stating it won’t improve it. Instead, give them the opportunity to improve, even if it’s a small tweak! If you have to do PD but you have a choice as to what it looks like, then that’s great PD!

He also suggests that you plan for organic growth. Do what you can and allow it to grow. As teachers teach teachers, you will get more rapid change. Create lighthouses on your coastline to empower others.

The Deep end can be Scary

If you’re diving into SAMR, then you know that as you get up to modification and redefinition, you are in the deep end. It can be scary! Gie people smaller dips into the SAMR Pool.

Carl Hooker's SAMR pool http://hookedoninnovation.com/

Carl Hooker’s SAMR pool http://hookedoninnovation.com/

Don’t shove people off of the diving board!

You should also advocate for non-tech options. I know that in my classrooms, people are surprised to find that I’m not all tech all the time. When people see you advocating a hybrid model, and using non-tech tools, it gives your advice greater weight. People know I’m the “tech girl” but that I also advocate for non-tech tools.

You should also be willing to fail publicly. Failure is the best teacher. Freakonomics even advocates it for success! The power isn’t in failing, but it’s in recovery. It could mess up your lesson or it could make it great. You need to be willing to problem solve if necessary. Have the capacity to be seen as someone who can keep going when things don’t quite work out.

Blended Models

If we are going to get rid of “sit and get” what does professional development look like? Per Andrew Miller, it’s “online and self directed and supervised and within your brick and mortar building.”  This may look like a Wiki or a section on your website. Offer them a buffet of options. They can visit what they want when they want.

Jonathan offers about 20 ways to rethink your PD, which I wish I could list here.

Parting Thoughts

Whoever you are, embrace that. Jonathan says that he is a disruptor, but that is not everyone. Figure out what you’re comfortable doing as a change agent and embrace it. So if you’re an improv group do improv PD! Man, I wish I were funny. Also, be willing to fail. Not just fail, but fail epically. If you are willing to look like a jackass, you will be fabulous.

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