Tuesday, March 7, 2017

An Innovative Approach to PD

For a little over two years I have been serving as an Instructional Technology Facilitator (ITF) in my school district. This position comes with many different facets, and I have had to learn a multitude of new things from device management through a management system to the best most effective classroom strategies for utilizing devices with students in a 1:1 environment. As I was reading through part one of The Innovator's Mindset, I found so many great quotes and ideas, that I could not possibly use them all. My book is marked up and has many sticky notes, (I like to interact with the text when I read). As I am reading, I am thinking...I am not always in a classroom directly impacting students, but I am always impacting teachers. How can I take the Innovator's Mindset and use it daily in my interactions? How can I encourage teachers to be risk takers, to be thought provoking, to be creators and not just consumers of content? In short, we cannot continue to deliver instruction to teachers the way we always have.

We have to be innovative in our approaches to professional development. If we truly want to see a shift in pedagogy, we have to offer learning experiences for teachers. The key word here is experiences.

Recently, my teammates and I participated in an Edcamp. This is definitely an innovative approach to professional learning. One teammate in particular had been exploring BreakoutEDU and had brought a breakout box and materials so others could participate in an actual breakout, if the opportunity arose. If you are not familiar, Edcamps have no set schedule of sessions, the participants suggest what they would like to discuss and learn more about. BreakoutEDU happened to be one of those topics. During the Breakout "session" my teammate mentioned that she had brought a Breakout activity and she began to lead the group through a breakout experience. To actually experience a breakout was far more engaging than just talking about it, and it allowed the participants to interact with the concept and truly walk away with a vision for the possibilities in their classrooms.

Personalized Professional Development for Teachers
Professional Development for teachers that is delivered or offered in the way teachers are expected to teach is a start to making PD more of an experience. The PD has to be personal and relevant, and allow teachers to explore their own interests instead of mandating what they should "learn". These are all take aways from part one of The Innovator's Mindset. I am going to put a spin on a statement from page 21; "'What is best for this teacher?' Individualizing education and starting with empathy for those we serve is where innovative teaching and learning begins." Teachers need to meet students where they are, but as leaders and coaches, we must meet teachers where they are. "Effective leadership in education is not about moving everyone from one standardized point to the next but moving individuals from their point 'A' to their point 'B' (page 47)."

The innovative idea that I will share comes from The Digital Teaching and Learning Team that I am a part of. We saw a need to offer teacher choice in Professional Development when it came to learning about all of the technology resources that are available. We took an idea that was shared at a local conference, NCTiES (North Carolina Technology in Education Society) #NCTIES15, and made it our own. We spent several hours planning and creating "challenges" and creating a website to house the PD. In the fall of the 2015 school year, the #PDChallenge was born. You can check it out on our #PDChallenge Website. In our first year we had over 1,000 submissions for completed "challenges". You can read more about the #PDChallenge here in one of my previous Blog Posts.

A few key factors that make this professional development innovative:

  • It is, and always has been, a working, live, document. If we see a way to make it better or more effective we change it!
  • It is completely open source. My teammate, +Erin Wolfhope (@ewolfhope), and I have presented this idea several times and have always provided resources and said, "take this and make it your own"! 
  • The participants choose when, how and if they want to use it. 

I understand that some PD has to be mandatory, but I think we can minimize the number of mandatory things and allow teachers to participate in PD that they choose, like #IMMOOC, as a part of their professional learning. We cannot do the same things over and over, and expect different results. At least that is what Einstein thought!

I am very fortunate to have a "boss" who supports innovation, crazy ideas, collaboration and who allows me to fail without fear. FAIL - First Attempt In Learning. Now, what I do with that, and how I grow from this support is up to me.

Kristin Edwards