Monthly Archives: December 2014

Prehistoric PD

Image Credit: eden-saga.com

Image Credit: eden-saga.com

Professional Development (PD) is one of the most important undertakings a school leader can invest in.  The learning experiences we offer our staff should exemplify current-best-practice.  However, the predominant approach to PD remains systemically prehistoric; a pedagogical relic that is frozen in time.

Can we really expect our schools to help students become #FutureReady if we continue to rely upon prehistoric PD? The following five facets of PD have helped our school move to a more effective PD model that supports staff learning in a digital age:

Choice and Voice.  Each year our school plans a series of monthly PD breakout sessions that empower staff with choice and voice.

Pretending that we unilaterally understand the needs of all teachers through obligatory attendance seems antiquated.  This year our PD Chairperson and I talked about making attendance at our monthly PD breakout sessions optional.  In doing so, we are holding ourselves to the highest standard while remaining steadfastly committed to offering responsive PD.  If a staff member elects to participate in an alternate learning activity their professional discernment is honored.  While this is a relatively new endeavor for us, Twitter chats, graduate classes, EdCamps, or blog reading/writing are all fair game.

Power to the People.  Ask your all-star teachers WHAT they want to learn about and HOW they want to learn about it…then make it happen.  Our school collected staff input using an online forum titled, “Empowered Learning.” Staff feedback and forum responses are driving our PD planning this school year.

We occasionally invite outside presenters to facilitate PD sessions, but the truth of the matter is that our teachers possess a wealth of experience and I’d trust them to present on anything they are passionate about.

Make it Count.  Educators are very busy people, and teachers make great sacrifices outside of work to ensure their students are put first.  Aside from the intrinsic value of learning, we strive to offer credit for all PD sessions.  Attendees can register online to receive continuing re-licensure credits through the Minnesota Department of Education.

Never Stop Learning.  If you are comfortable with your approach to planning/leading PD it may be a sign that you need to make some changes.  This can be done by connecting using Web 2.0 tools and investing in digital connections.  It also means that some of the BEST learning an educator can do is literally a click away.  Harness the collaborative potential of Google Hangouts and connect with other experts.  Leverage Twitter to glean new insights and access a plethora of resources and cutting-edge ideas that will ultimately benefit students.  Never stop learning!

Monitor and Adjust. If a staff member approaches me or any other member of our PD team with feedback we listen.  Period.  Last year we offered some asynchronous PD using Moodle forums and research.  We continue to integrate flipped PD when the approach supports essential outcomes.  However, when I miss the mark and plan PD that is too cumbersome or “techie,” I rely on our staff to let me know.

I recently had a teacher approach me and share how impactful some of our PD and collective new learning has been thus far.  She also shared some mild frustration because she was longing for more time to process, collaborate, and share with cross grade-level colleagues about their collective new learning.  She wanted to go deeper into some of the previous PD we’d planned and this required time.  It also required a change of course, so we are now planning to repurpose an upcoming staff meeting to make it 100% collegial collaboration….a deeper dive into previous PD.  Note: I did not schedule an additional meeting…instead we’re altering the agenda for a January staff meeting to be more responsive to staff needs.

Additional Resources:

The PDF below is a dynamic document that reflects the work our PD team has done to create conditions for teachers to collaborate and learn in a more personalized manner.  You can click on the image to download our 2015 PD flyer.

Personalized PD Flyer 2015

Personalized PD Flyer 2015

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I’ll Never Forget

Our teachers have been doing some truly ground-breaking work. The level of innovation and passion in our school is palpable.  We have classrooms participating in Genius Hour, coding, connecting with other schools, 3D printing, green-screen video production, flipped instruction, team teaching, augmented reality, and re-imagining learning spaces. I thought that I had grown accustomed to the general level of “awesomeness” in our school…but I’ll never forget what happened last week.

This past week Mrs. Kirchner’s 4th graders had the chance to take one of our “Mobile MakerSpace” carts for a test spin. The cart was loaded with Circuit-Scribe kits that enabled students to draw their own working circuits.  As you can see from the short video clip below…student engagement was off the charts!

The most inspiring part of the lesson was the process that Mrs. Kirchner used to introduce the new technology to students. Students were assigned partners and given time to experiment, collaborate, and fail. That’s right…FAIL.

They talked about why their circuits were not working, compared notes, wrestled with frustration and tried again. It was beautiful. When the guided inquiry time was over every single group had successfully created their own working circuit from scratch. Students drew the conductive lines themselves and created unique battery configurations to power their projects.

I was fortunate to be a part of the experience and it was absolutely amazing. I’m talking jaw-dropping amazing.  It’s one thing to be issued a science kit full of wires and directions. It’s another to see a group of kids wrestle with failure and overcome it using skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

I will never forget the power of failure in the learning process!

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