Professional Development: Training, Planning, and Sharing

On Wednesday I was once again at the Laguna Beach Unified School District to work with teachers involved in their Tablet PC pilot program. I found the experience worth reflecting on for three reasons.

First, like the Palm Springs Tech Plan, this project has been an opportunity for me to use a wiki for collaboration over a longer period of time (as opposed to in support of a specific workshop). You can find the agendas, links, and session notes from each of our workshops and sharing sessions at http://k12tablet.wikispaces.com.

Given the shortage of “Tablet PC in Education” resources I found prior to beginning this project, I want to be sure as many people know about this wiki as possible – so that others might benefit from it, and so that we might benefit from their contributions. Unfortunately, like many of the wikis I use for workshops, this one has been largely created and maintained by me. Partly, though, this is because we are meeting face-to-face every month and I want to take advantage of that opportunity rather than forcing the use of an online tool. Still, the running record of our work together (especially the PDF notes of our sessions) is something I appreciate. If you have any suggestions for improving this resource (or its use), please leave a comment here – or at the wiki.

Second, I think it is noteworthy that when Victor Guthrie, the technology director at the district, ordered the workshops, he did not order a hands-on training for each session. He asked for every other session to be a shorter “sharing session” during which the participants would share challenges and best practices. The value of this has been apparent at each of our three sharing sessions. Victor and his staff have been able to be more responsive to the teacher’s needs, and innovations have had an opportunity to propagate between classrooms and even between sites. I’ve been amazed at how many problems were solved merely by one teacher bringing up an issue, and another responding right away “oh, just do X.” At this point I think the notes from these sessions are probably the most powerful product of the program (and the best information available at the wiki, even if some of it is in my chicken-scratch handwriting). The interesting thing is, we could have used even more of this SHARING time. The teachers are still requesting more time to absorb and apply the things they have learned.

So the third thing that made last week’s meeting blog-worthy for me was that when we discussed the topic for the final three-hour hands-on workshop scheduled for next month, the participants asked not for more training, but for time to develop lessons and units using what they’ve already learned this year (and admittedly we’ve thrown a lot at them during the first three workshops). This is the first time I’ll be formally facilitating a “lesson planning” session (though I’ve done “hybrid” workshops in which participants were trained and then had time to create). As I’ve begun thinking about how to best structure the session, I’ve realized this might be a formula that would make a good professional development rule of thumb: training, sharing, and planing.

What if when preparing professional development we planned to spend only a third of our time on training, a third on sharing, and a third on planning? This could work for planning a series of workshops, or for planning a particular workshop.
Maybe the elements should not necessarily be in that order. Perhaps it should be: Training, Planning, and Sharing.

In any case, the Laguna Beach teachers not in the pilot program (and teachers in other districts, for that matter) are also often asking for repeat workshops or part II workshops or simple lesson planning time… for topics such as blogging and podcasting, for example. Perhaps the next time I book a series of workshops will be an opportunity to apply this new rule of thumb.

The wiki, of course, would seem to fall under the “sharing” part of the plan, but could really be used to facilitate all three of these elements.

I look forward to trying this out. In the meantime, if any of you have any comments, I’d love to hear from you. :)

2 Responses to “Professional Development: Training, Planning, and Sharing”

  1. J.D. Williams Says:

    Just giving teachers time to digest and work on new material should be a huge part of professional development.

    In my district we have half-days every Friday. Friday afternoon is suppose to be geared towards PD for about 3 hours. Every Friday tends to be about a 2 hr staff meeting then an hour of IEP, grade level, or performance pay meetings (Or seeing the same power point presentation on Thinking Maps that I’ve seen 4 times this year). Sometimes I feel like asking “When are we going to get to work in our classrooms? The district recruiter told me 2 years ago that Fridays would be time to “catch up” and innovate.”

    We do get to work in our classrooms about once a month. That day seems to coincide with the day IT decides network maintenance will shut down the network.

    I’m on spring break right now and happy. It means I can sit at home, catch up on reading blogs, and prepare for the next two weeks before state standardized testing. I can find those innovations I want to implement. Go on a trip for spring break? I’m in Arizona. People come here for spring break. (I keep telling myself that as I sit inside and work .. haha)

  2. Mark Wagner Says:

    J.D.,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. (It’s good to have you commenting here). I’m sorry to hear about the “loss” of your time for catching up an innovating. It’s admirable that you insist on making that time anyway, though it’s sad (and probably not sustainable – at anything more than an individual level) that it is coming out of your spring break.

    Keep up the good work, but take care of yourself, too. :)

    -Mark