A fun surprise landed on my doorstep this weekend! The book I co-authored with several educators, Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development, is finally here. I’m really excited to dive into the contributions of the other authors. All in all, the book features seven chapters and a plethora of vignettes written by educators I’ve looked up to for a long time. The icing on the cake is that Principal EL wrote the forward, and the afterward is by Dave Burgess. I feel like a kid in a candy store!
If you’re interested in learning more about the book or ordering a copy please go to my website HERE or click on the picture above. I’m looking forward to many conversations about empowering staff and students through personalized learning experiences. This is going to be awesome!
Feel free to contact me with questions via www.bradgustafson.com as well. Adjusting the course and trajectory of learning in this digitally-connected age is an important conversation to be had.
We believe that our students are at the heart of all we do, and inherent in this reality is the opportunity to further amplify student voice. This school year we’ve had students teach us about Sphero programmable robot droids at a PD breakout session, and we even had kids present to our School Board as part of our site curriculum presentation. Now our students are helping us flip a faculty PD session!
The flipped PD video that’s linked above features students from the principal’s podcast crew that elected to give up one recess period to spend a working lunch with their principal creating a video for us. Teachers are asked to watch the four minute video and reflect on their learning and PD this school year. That’s all that needs to happen prior to our PD session on May 18th. The video provides an overview that will allow us to maximize our time together.
I’m really looking forward to our next PD session. We’re serving up an innovative PD experience using a format made popular by the hit TV show: CHOPPED! Come hungry to collaborate and bring your appetite too! We’ll be using a semi-structured format to facilitate cross grade-level collaboration with a relaxed culinary backdrop.
Our March Madness podcast series started with 16 talented educators willing to share their “take” on a single guiding question. Now we’re down to the Final Four and we need your vote to determine who will be named the “30 Second Take National Champion.” Fasten your seatbelt because the entire Final Four podcast is less than five minutes long.
Click HERE to vote via an anonymous Google form. You can also vote by posting a tweet to the hashtag #30SecondTake.
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.
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.
When we think about leadership we often reflect upon timeless characteristics like integrity, vision, communication and servanthood (Maxwell, 1999). Each of these traits enhances a leader’s ability to deliver on a company mission, brand or promise. However, school leaders are called to prepare students for their future and if we’re truly serving our kids we must embrace a digital leadership lens now! All the charisma and integrity in the world will not provide our students the opportunities made possible in this digital age. We must own the fact that our students are counting on us to lead with integrity while also learning to model and cultivate skills for a digital age. Digital leadership is a non-negotiable.
Did you know that nearly 70 educators from multiple states and countries have all signed up for a personalized PD experience to learn and grow as digital leaders? You can too! We’ve embarked on a year-long “Digital Leadership Challenge” using the 11 challenges below. Each challenge is comprised of three mini-challenges designed to stretch and grow your digital leadership. The challenges were created by several connected educators across the country, and based on Eric Sheninger’s book, Digital Leadership. Consider this journey a PD choose-your-own-adventure!
You can join us by signing up HERE. Begin to interact with the challenges and choose the activities that will help impact your practice. Our kids are counting on us to provide leadership for today!
Sign-up via the shared Google Drive link & feel free to tweet questions to the hashtag #DigiLeadChal
Challenge I: A School Communication Vehicle
Created by Brad Gustafson, Elementary Principal, MN
@GustafsonBrad on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Create a professional Twitter account and follow each of the eleven challenge submitters from this article. Observe how they collaborate with their personal learning network (PLN).
- 2 “Badge” Points: Create a separate school Twitter account strictly for school Tweets. Post one Tweet about your school each week for an entire year. Share pictures and insights about the amazing work being done in your classroom or school.
Challenge 2: Make Your Commute a Learning Experience
Curt Rees, Elementary Principal, WI
@CurtRees on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Subscribe to an educational podcast. There are many platforms to do this, but iTunes, Pod-o-matic, and Stitcher are the most popular. I recommend these fine podcasts: EduAllstars, PrincipalCast, and Techlandia.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Share a podcast you enjoy with your colleagues. Find an interesting episode and then tell your staff what you learned. Model continuous learning by letting them know what you listen to in the car or as you run.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Record your own podcast or videocast for your school community. It doesn’t need a lot of time or production. Take your school newsletter and simply record yourself talking about upcoming events. Audioboo makes it easy to record, upload, and share your voice. YouTube Capture or TouchCast are all you need to send a video to your YouTube channel.
Challenge 3: A Window into your School
Patrick Glynn, Elementary Principal, MN
@GallyGopher on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Establish a Facebook page for your school. Create one Facebook post each week describing student learning in action…and be sure to include photographs!
- 2 “Badge” Points: Market your Facebook page to families and collect 100 “Likes.”
- 3 “Badge” Points: Link your classroom or school’s Facebook page to your school Twitter account using Facebook’s setting options. This will be a huge time saver and it will offer parents a window into your school.
Challenge 4: Public Relations in Overdrive
Jessica Johnson, Elementary Principal, WI
@PrincipalJ on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Start a UStream account at www.ustream.tv and explore how the site works. Read this post or this post to get ideas about what types of school events you might broadcast.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Use your new UStream account to broadcast a school event. Set up the channel ahead of time and add a description. Advertise that the event will be broadcasted and provide your channel’s URL so parents know how to tune in.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Make broadcasting a regular school routine. For example, if you want to increase engagement at PTO meetings, create a school PTO channel that will always broadcast the meetings. Then advertise this. Share this as a tool for teachers to try with their classrooms to engage parents for special events like Readers Theater or other classroom activities.
Challenge 5: A 21st Century Bumper Sticker
Tony Sinanis, Elementary Lead Learner, NY
Joe Sanfelippo, District Superintendent, WI
@TonySinanis & @Joesanfelippofc on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: A twitter account is a wonderful way to tell your school’s story. Create a school or district hashtag and incorporate it into your school tweets. For example, every tweet Tony sends out about his school includes #Cantiague and when Joe tweets about his district he includes #GoCrickets! Tweet pictures of WHAT is happening in your space and explain the HOW and WHY too.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Encourage at least four (4) colleagues to join Twitter to tell the story of their students’ learning. It is imperative that the same hashtag is used throughout your organization to ensure that the brand is understood. When more than one member of the staff begins tweeting the WHATs, HOWs and WHYs of your organization, it becomes clear to the community that the brand promise matches the brand experience.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Provide at least one (1) new way to amplify your students’ voices so they can tell the story of their classroom or school. By doing so we are promoting critical thinking and communication skills while laying the foundation for students who will be college and career ready. Tony started doing video updates using the Touchcast app at #Cantiague. Students from each class are spotlighted every week. Give your students the microphone (or other communication tools) because they are the ones living the WHATs, HOWs, and WHYs of your learning organization. The goal of school branding is making everything about kids; that’s the perfect bumper sticker!
Challenge 6: Learner Engagement in the Fast Lane
Dwight Carter, HS Principal, OH
@Dwight_Carter on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Use TodaysMeet to create an engaging back-channel (real-time online conversation alongside a primary lesson, training, or event) in a class or at a staff meeting. Allow students/staff to post questions during a presentation or text-based discussion. Use the archive of the back-channel to assess learning and plan next steps.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Use at least three (3) monthly staff meetings as a platform for students and staff to share practical ways they integrate web 2.0 tools in the classroom to amplify student voice and increase engagement. Sample web 2.0 tools include Glogster, Edmodo, YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Polleverywhere.com, Socrative, and Facebook.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Use a current multimedia class or create a club to develop four (4) or more student-centered videos or Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that highlight learning experiences at your school. Post them to a school YouTube channel and share the link on your school Twitter and/or Facebook page. Collaborate with a teacher who is passionate about multimedia to guide the student group. Here’s an example!
Challenge 7: Increasing your Social Media Mileage
Dave Zukor, Integration Specialist, MN
@DZukor on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Your class can use Skype or Google Hangout to connect locally with another class somewhere else in your state. Research information about classroom Mystery Skypes to learn about one engaging option.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Have your students work collaboratively online to create a cross-state project with students from another class in the United States. Use Google Docs, Skype, or any online tool.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Use a social media site to reach out to classrooms around the world. Share your learning and build opportunities for your students to collaborate. Start a classroom Twitter account, Google+, or another social media site.
Challenge 8: Fueling the Engine of Reflection
Rafranz Davis, Instructional Technology Specialist, TX
@RafranzDavis on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Create a professional blog site using a blogging tool like Blogger, WordPress or Weebly. Write your first post about what you hope to gain through blogging. Share your first post using a social media tool like Twitter.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Publish one (1) blog post per week for a month. Share reflections about the process, success and failures in your classroom or school. Share each of these posts using a social media tool like Twitter.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Connect with blogs written by other educators. Write six (6) blog postings reflecting on other educators’ posts. Be sure to leave a comment in the original authors’ comment sections listing the URL to your related blog reflection/response. Share each of these posts using a social media tool like Twitter.
Challenge 9: Interstate Professional Development
Daisy Dyer Duerr, PreK – 12 Principal, AR
@DaisyDyerDuerr on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Join #ArkEdChat (Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. CST) or another great Educational Twitter Chat. Participate in online, on-demand, professional learning with educators across the globe through social media.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Participate in an Educational Twitter Chat three (3) weeks in a row; consistency will help build a PLN and give you an understanding of what to expect from the chat’s moderators. Then, introduce two colleagues or “edufriends” to the world of online Twitter Chats for Professional Development.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Administrators: Formulate a plan allowing your teachers to use Educational Twitter Chats for Professional Development; e.g. credit for participation in existing chats or use of stand-alone chats within your school/district. Teachers: Bring an Administrator who has never participated in this type of Social Media Professional Development to an Educational Twitter Chat like #ArkEdChat (Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. CST).
Challenge 10: A Unique Space to Park
Terri Eichholz, Teacher of K – 5 Gifted Students, TX
@TerriEichholz on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Read the book Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager. Then, explore the inventolearn.com website.
- 2 “Badge” Points: Read the following online blog posts: “Make to Learn” by Laura Fleming, “Making a Makerspace” by Robert Provonost, “Making a Makerspace – Two Weeks In” by Robert Provonost, and “Dive into the Maker Movement” by Adam Provost. Then, visit a Maker Fair or Maker Space in your area. One resource for finding local Maker Spaces is:http://makerspace.com/makerspace-directory
- 3 “Badge” Points: With the help of the Makerspace Playbook, and the resources above, identify a space in your school that could be used as a Makerspace, and develop a plan to make it happen! Suggested areas to add Makerspaces include computer labs, Media Centers, empty classrooms, or multi-use areas.
Challenge 11: A Golden Opportunity for our Students
Eric Sheninger, High School Principal, NJ
@NMHS_Principal on Twitter
- 1 “Badge” Point: Leverage your social media connections to form at least one (1) strategic partnership that benefits your school (i.e. pilot Edtech program, unique professional development opportunity, guest speaker, authentic learning experience, donation, etc.).
- 2 “Badge” Points: Form at least two (2) strategic partnerships and write a school Twitter or Facebook post sharing the benefit to your school.
- 3 “Badge” Points: Form at least three strategic partnerships and present at a local, state, or national conference on school initiatives. Write a blog post, media release, or website entry sharing the benefit to your school.
How to Earn Badges
15-29 points earn the Gearing Up Badge: Awarded to Digital Leaders for their collaborative efforts.
30-49 points earn the Road to Relevancy Badge: Awarded to Digital Leaders for outstanding efforts in collaboration and connectivity.
50-66 points earn the Spark Plug Badge: Awarded to Digital Leaders demonstrating innovation & exemplary 21st century practice while serving as agents of change.
Power Plant PD
I’m currently immersed in a doctoral study involving some of the most innovative and effective school leaders in the country. My research is focused on the Professional Development (PD) experiences of elementary principals in a digital age. The process of reviewing hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles and talking to countless practitioners in the field of education has been a deeply reflective exercise. I’ve been convicted of some of my own personal PD leadership failures, and I’m also gaining clarity on what I believe we need to do to create conditions in which teachers are supported in their learning.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that attending a dynamic presentation or well-organized workshop is the gold standard for PD. The traditional PD paradigm espouses that an “expert” in the field can share information about a topic with an audience, and that this transmission of knowledge will increase an audience’s capacity, motivation, etc. We’ve relied on this “Power Plant” approach to PD for several decades. This type of PD may recharge our batteries for a period of time, but it is unlikely to cultivate an educator’s long-term ownership of his/her learning.
“Power Plant PD” may have represented best-practice and sound pedagogy in the past. However, it’s the same approach we are asking our classroom teachers to migrate away from. We want students authentically engaged in relevant learning that includes opportunities to hone 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. To usher in a new learning paradigm the predominant voice in the room must include our students’ voices. Why would principals and PD planners hold themselves to a lesser standard?
The most powerful PD comes when the learner is empowered…not the presenter. Teachers who are empowered are conduits for high-voltage learning. They possess an authentic yearning and fervor for growth that cannot be completely satisfied through traditional presentations.
If we are to foster an ethos in education in which staff learning is truly revered our teachers will no longer be treated like batteries needing a quick recharge. Teachers will be honored as the true “sparks” in our schools and connected with other educators across the globe. A powerful connected-pedagogy will emerge that supports teachers in securing the time and skills needed to collaborate.
In order effectively leverage the student-centric connections made possible by technology including social media, it’s critical that we are engaged in our own digital age learning. Each of us is a digital leader…the only question that remains is, “How effective and relevant are we in this role?” I’d encourage you to check out the Digital Leadership Challenge blog post and sign-up to participate in the personalized mini-challenges using the Google Drive link embedded within. If we don’t walk-the-walk and own our learning how can we expect anyone else to?
Finally, here are four additional PD questions I’m encouraging educational leaders to reflect upon. I’ll be holding myself accountable to the same four questions and encourage you to check back with me. I can’t think of anything more important than empowering the true “sparks” that are working with our students every day. Transforming the PD paradigm is paramount to supporting student learning in the digital age. We need to rethink the very definition of Professional Development; PD can be a conversation, EdChat on Twitter, written reflection on a blog, flipped faculty meeting followed by purposeful face-to-face time, or an asynchronous dialogue via Voxer. We must empower our people!
1.) If the PD and/or staff meetings you plan were optional would your staff still show up?
2.) How might we more effectively model current-best practices in PD; the same practices we’d expect our students to benefit from in the classroom?
3.) Is the topic of failure regularly discussed and modeled? Do staff understand the explicit value of failure in the learning/growth process?
4.) How are we leveraging technology and social media as tools for personalized learning? How are we supporting staff on this journey?