Active Learning with TPACK Modell

10 Things Your Professional Learning Partners Should Want to Tell You

Active Learning with TPACK Modell

This post was originally published for Getting Smart here.

I have been thinking about the way things are in the world of professional development. Thinking about all those things I have learned to say. Thinking about the questions I have learned to ask. Thinking about the assumptions I have learned can not be assumed. Thinking about the realities of planning, implementing, and improving professional learning for educators.

As we all work together to do better for students, educators are establishing professional learning relationships with partners to hold each other to high standards. Here are 10 things your professional learning partners should want to tell you:

1. We want professional learning to look like what we hope to see in our classrooms.

So, why does professional learning not look more like what we hope to see in the classroom? Why do we often find an expert on pedagogy standing at the front of the room, between a dimly lit projector and screen, trying to disseminate information to participants from a poorly designed, often outdated PowerPoint?

We want professional learning to reflect the strategies, practices, and tools we hope to incorporate into teaching and learning. So, give us time and space to explore a framework like TPACK and teachers will quite literally become active models of the TPACK venn diagram as they discuss their experiences with the intersection of technology, pedagogy, and content.

Learning is messy. We need space, we need to change around the room and stack chairs and… wait for it….we need to laugh and play.

Hexagonal Thinking in action during Professional Learning

2. We want to give educators voice and choice when it comes to their learning.

What if we ask educators what they are interested in learning? Then, we must listen to the answer and support educators with whatever they need to pursue that learning. What if every teacher had their own IEP? What if we pair what teachers want to know (interest) with what they needed to know (metrics)?

Professional Learning Give Educators Voice & Choice

What if we developed a culture where learning and growth was not only expected and encouraged, but passionately pursued by everyone on campus? Can you imagine teachers beating down the door to buy tickets to a PD session? Why is that such a funny image? Instead, the most mentally taxing moments of a PD day may be spent fantasizing about all the places they would rather be.

Let’s start by letting go of some control, loosening the reins, and treating educators like professionals.

3. The details really do matter.

It is 2015 my friends. Wifi is not optional. Relevant sites should not be blocked.. Surveys should not take ten steps to get to. Please don’t piss off my participants right before they do the survey; you are messing with my data. And holy guacamole, please don’t make my teachers sit in chairs that are  not proportioned adequately for the adult derriere. The learning space should be reflective of the expectations and value placed on interaction and thinking. Say no to rows!

How about a moment to decompress before after school PD? While we are at it, can we all agree to avoid PD right before spring break? Right after a big standardized test (as in the afternoon after actively monitoring a high stakes test)? I know, I didn’t think I had to voice that as a request either, but that one is a true story.

Professional Learning Metacognition and Collaboration

4. We want the administrators to stay and be a part of the learning.

We know you are quite busy, but we really do wish you would stay and model the dispositions of a mindful learner for your staff.

It is more than your proximity, although that can be helpful for determined distractors. We want your mind. We want you to model, as Ron Ritchhart says, “Who you are as a thinker.” Your actions, your participation, your questions will either encourage or impede the culture of thinking on your campus. Back us up (if we deserve to be backed up), provide context for why you brought us in, make connections, and set the expectations for the rest of the group to make the most of our time together.

Visible Thinking in action during co-teach

5. We want to show this is more than theory.

Research shows that we typically lose people at the implementation stage, although I think many times it is even sooner (if people are grading papers and cutting lamination during your session). There must be an intentional balance between the comprehension (I get it) and implementation (I can do it) of pedagogical theory in the learning design.

So, please give us an opportunity to show this really works within your specific context: your students (yes even that one), your infrastructure, your curriculum. Let us into your classrooms where the rubber really meets the road. Let’s co-teach, model, coach, right there and work out all the little kinks along the way. Let’s build in time for reflection and planning the next steps so we keep moving forward.

And, I’ll go you one further: Let’s involve students and ask them what works and what does not. Lots of tools, resources, and strategies hyperbolically promise engagement. Let’s ask the students what is engaging and allow them to become part of the lesson building and professional learning ecosystem.

Professional Learning Building Capacity

6. We would rather build capacity than dependence.

We want to be an extension of your team, your thought partners, your collaborators, but primarily we want to support the growth of your team. We are driven by impact and we want to make lots of it. When we focus on empowering you and your team we know at some point we may work ourselves out of a job in your district, but shouldn’t that be a goal on some level? Help us look for opportunities to develop capacities over focusing on deficits.

7. We want your honest opinion.

Life’s too short to be passive aggressive and to gossip. If something isn’t working, just tell us. Let’s make it better. Tell us what you think, from the start. Let’s model the type of open communication we hope to see with our teachers, administrators, students and parents and keep the drama level down. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Let’s design the feedback loop with everyone in the loop and plan for regular check points to reflect on progress. We believe in the growth mindset. We want to change. We know there is always room to improve.

8. We want learning to be about creation not consumption.Professional Learning Creation over Consumption

I am still at a loss for why so many learning opportunities for educators are designed to be sit and get. We know better. People learn by creating, doing, playing, struggling, persevering. Period.

We talk about the dangers of spoon feeding students information, assistance, and answers—what about educators? Why is it suddenly acceptable to spoon feed them information, a scripted curriculum in a can, and mandated execution of whatever pet projects the powers that be deem necessary (all to be uprooted the next year before their effects could even be analyzed)? Take away the creativity and agency from teaching that should provide intellectual stimulation and fulfillment and we might end up losing anyone who craves that.

9. We want to play the long game when it comes to involvement and impact.

It is easy to conduct what Greg Garner calls Seagull PD: Just swoop in, disseminate information, and swoop out, leaving some rather unfortunate remains behind. It is harder to do the intentional thinking, problem solving, and strategic planning required to be a part of the long term plan.

One size does not fit all, and just changing that title slide does not count as customization. Sometimes you do have to reinvent the wheel, when the vehicle requires it. Business folks may ask how we can scale such customization. We are more interested in teacher development and inspiration than a perfectly replicable business model.

10. We want to try new things.

Just because your district always has two PD days a year in the cafeteria with the whole staff does not mean it needs to stay that way. Should two days a year be the only time to plan for the growth of our teachers and other leaders anyway? PD should not be about just putting a check in the checkbox.

Hexagonal Thinking & Sketchnoting During Keynote Session

We believe in a posture of experimentation. What if administrators became the substitute teachers once a month (or more) so teachers could have a day to plan, collaborate, share best practices, and learn?  What effective learning might take place for administrators too, facing the challenges of the classroom head on? What if common planning time was a priority in the schedule, not an afterthought? A posture of experimentation allows us the freedom to create.

Posture of Experimentation in Professional Learning  Fishing for Cause & EffectWhere can we find those little bits of time and opportunities to build up our educators? Help us model the posture of experimentation by both encouraging and supporting our desire to try new things. We will not stumble upon innovation if we just keep doing the same things. Let’s fight the status quo, design professional learning where teachers don’t even think of bringing papers to grade and laminate to cut, learning where teachers can explore, create, and find meaning that impacts their students and ignites their desire to grow.

So, may we all be brave. May we say the things that need to be said. May we hold each other to the highest standards. And may we diligently set each other up for success, because the outcomes of professional learning ultimately impact more than the hours they take up. It’s really all about our kids.

Make & Do

When I was a child I had one of those sets of children’s encyclopedias. My colorful set had 15 different books, from World & Space and Places to Know, to Stories & Poems and About Me–there was much to explore. However, the pages of one were significantly more worn and tattered than the rest. There was always one missing on the shelf, tucked away in my backpack, covered in paper-mache as I attempted to read the instructions on creating my own piñata or tossed in the grass, open to the page with design plans on constructing a backyard fortress.

Make and Do.

There was something motivating about this book. Simple ideas for a craft or project with pictures and step by step instructions. Then you just make and/or do it! It was broken down, manageable, inspiring. When you looked at the beautiful finished piñata, the colorful materials and seemingly easy steps you thought to yourself–I can do that! And then you did.

The cooking industry has adopted the same philosophy.  Ree Drumound aka the Pioneer Woman went from homeschooling mom to blog & now Food Network sensation by taking true step by step pictures of a recipe that were artistic, authentic & enticing. The pictures provide a helpful guide so I can see what blanching green beans actually looks like and I can know right at my point of failure if my Three Cheese Macaroni doesn’t emulate hers.

Now, of course you can learn to do just about anything online from how to get soft, wavy curls like Lauren Conrad to how to have creative ideas.

What does all this have to do with iPads, tablets and the edtech tools, apps and resources that can make them so potent? Well, when I visit schools and work with educators I constantly see, hear & feel the need for TIME to explore these edtech tools; time to make connections between the content/curriculum and the possibilities for implementation. Yet, in many PD sessions and even innovative conferences I see presenters and trainers trying to disseminate so much information, so many different apps to try, web 2.0 tools to share… that we miss the chance to Make & Do something with that time.

I know it’s hard and I am absolutely guilty of this myself as a deliverer of professional development. I know there are logistical challenges & what ifs that abound: what if the internet doesn’t work right, what if the tool doesn’t work right even though I tried it a thousand times, what if some people don’t get it and I spend so much time trying to help them I can’t get to all my cool tools, what if I don’t tell them enough???

I get it…I do… But I think we need to really consider the need for changing the PD model and providing meaningful time for participants to explore and actually create something with the edtech tools we espouse. We often discuss the need for the teacher to become more of a facilitator in the classroom: Let’s model it in our PD sessions and presentations.

So, here are some areas I am going to try and focus on as I create new PD opportunities for the districts I work with.

10 Strategies for EdTech Make & Do PD

1. Give Time

Give educators time (lots of it) to create meaningful products and/or fully test and explore edtech tools.

2. Full experience

Allow educators to fully experience the tool just as students would. Create a sample lesson, use the tool throughout session if applicable, have willing participants demonstrate and be their sample student. See a perfect example of the power of getting into character in this video of Tammy Worcester and Kevin Honeycutt imitating student and teacher at ISTE 2012– captured by the incredible app curator (and much more) Lisa Johnson of TechChef4u.

3. Provide Resources

Provide step by step instructions, with pictures and notes if possible. Create an iBook with resources and instructions  Well designed resources to refer back to will increase the ease of implementing in their own classrooms. (Snapguides, Symbaloo, EdCanvas, Listly, iBooks)

4. Integration Ideas

Make connections for possible integration ideas for these tools. A short list could be included in resources as a springboard for their own ideas. Add educator feedback and ideas from sessions to future sessions, citing teacher who provided the feedback.

5. Authentic Examples

When possible, find real examples of ways the edtech tool is being used in the classroom and share. (Twitter, blogs, your PLN)

6.  Make it their own

Provide opportunities and spaces for participants to make their own connections and customize the session for their own needs. Provide resources to take their own notes, make their own graphic organizer, construct a list of resources they want to try, create a list of goals to complete following session, etc. (Popplet, Wallwisher, EdCanvas, Listly)

7. Connect with Peers

Allow open communication and encourage participation not only between you and participants but between participants. I often learn just as much, if not more, from the fellow participants at Edtech conferences who are willing to connect with me. Use a backchannel like TodaysMeet to post twitter names or hashtags to follow or blog links to store for later and read each other’s work. Add to your PLN throughout the session. (Twitter, TodaysMeet, Collaborative tools)

8. Share & Publish

Share products created in sessions, even if they aren’t complete. Create opportunities to publish then or later amongst the group and highlight educators making it happen! (Blogs, Wikis, Pinterest, almost anywhere)

9. Model best practices

Training on the flipped classroom? Try it out. Training on Brain Research Based teaching or Effective Questioning Strategies….use appropriate wait time and other strategies you are teaching.

10. Play (A.K.A. Disguised Learning)

Teaching is hard. Let them play and enjoy the time. Explore edtech tools in low pressure, fun environments.  Play bingo or other games with relevant themes or integrated learning opportunities. Imagine if our teachers looked forward to our PD opportunities! (– random name picker for prizes, Bingo Baker for iPad/electronic bingo,  Blabberize, Sock Puppets, etc).

Hoping to provide helpful resources for educators as I grow and learn from those around me!


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