Unique Professional Development Program Launched

It’s been several years in the making, but I’ve finally finished the process of developing a unique approach to District-wide professional development.  It involves monthly challenges and microcredentials, both with the ultimate goal of enabling people to become a Connected Educator.

Four possible badges to earn

Four possible badges to earn

As I wrote to my District in an email this morning:

Certified Staff, Administrators, and Board Members,
With each new mandate and each new set of standards, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  Some days I wonder why I’m still in this profession. 
But then I look to my amazing Professional Learning Network (PLN) of educators from around the world (literally) who are all so positive and see the good in what we do, that I’m recharged and remember why I finally chose education after drifting from job to job throughout my twenties.  It’s because we are the backbone of society – without education, a free democracy cannot exist. 
Since I am a ‘Connected Educator,’ I have access to thousands of teachers’ ideas and resources; I can’t imagine going back to working in the dark, by myself.
Some of you are also Connected Educators, but not very many. I would like to see everyone in this district reap the benefits of establishing your own PLN.  The trick is that, just like our students, every teacher has different needs and comes from a different place, so there is no one-size-fits-all model.  I first started thinking about this in 2012, and came up with the term Personalized Professional Development (PPD).  That blog post became one of my most-read entries, and culminated in a presentation at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference on the same topic.  
Just like in biological evolution when a certain characteristic can appear in completely unrelated populations (like fins for swimming), PPD sprang up all around that year – it’s now a ‘thing’, and a Google search brings up millions of entries.  I firmly believe it’s the best way to grow your professional self, and would like to invite you to a special community.
We are looking for 20 people from District 90 to take part in a Pilot of #OFD90Learns.  
#OFD90Learns is a program where you earn microcredentials. There are two paths:  badges and monthly challenges.  You can choose one or both to work on next year.  I think all your questions will be answered here.  
Remember, this is a Pilot Group of no more than 20.  If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of, click here to accept the invitation and register.  If not, the SIP Committee and I are still planning a great lineup of PD for next year’s SIP Days.  Stay tuned.
If, after you read the Program Description, you still have questions, be sure to ask!
I can’t wait to start.  This is gonna be great!
I welcome any feedback!  Thanks, too, to the many people who have already critiqued, written posts about their own experiences, and presented at #METC16 on their PD programs.  I appreciate you all.

Google Hangouts for Lunchtime PD

The Literacy Coach and I put our deviously creative hats on to come up with a new form of Professional Development.  We developed a semi-monthly, 30-minute session that repeats three times during lunch from 11:00 – 12:30.  So far there have been five dates, and the fifth one which occurred today, was the most successful by far.

The Technology

Photo: roe17.org

Photo: roe17.org

We chose Google Hangouts for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s on everyone’s classroom computer.  It’s also an amazingly simple tool to use, and one that I think the staff could really use, considering we have seven buildings (8 if you count the District Office).  However, it’s a hard concept to demonstrate and fully understand the potential without actually participating.  And goodness knows I already make enough videos that they don’t watch.

The Content

Google Hangouts provides the framework, but the content had to come from elsewhere, and where better to look than other district-wide initiatives.  The Literacy Coach in our district is amazing: 30+ years of elementary teaching experience in all grades, not to mention a growth mindset like nobody has every seen.  She was always trying new styles, techniques, and ideas while in the classroom and hasn’t stopped.  She and I brainstormed about what teachers still weren’t ‘getting’ when it came to Daily 5/CAFE implementation, and also what they might like to learn with PARCC (our annual Common Core Standardized Test) on the horizon.

  • GHO #1 – Classroom Innovation
  • GHO #2 – Vocabulary Instruction
  • GHO #3 – Citing Evidence
  • GHO #4 – Paired Texts
  • GHO #5 – Constructed Responses on PARCC

The Details

Ms. Witkus and I created a Google Doc in advance, and developed an agenda, complete with questions and resources that we could share out through the Chat feature.

We wanted a safe topic for our first one, since we realized people were really going to be learning how to use GHO.  We added Vocab Instruction because a mutual pet peeve is the use of DOL (Daily Oral Language) by the many of the reading teachers, and the fact that some of the vocabulary lists that students learn every week contain words for no apparent reason (but I digress…).

The next three topics cover Common Core skills that seem to be difficult to teach.  Citing evidence correctly at the secondary level is easy, because your school follows a specific format, like MLA or APA.  However, at the elementary level, where citation is introduced, can be more tricky:  how do you know what proper citation for a 3rd grader is compared to a 5th, for example? Paired texts seems easy to accomplish with such websites as ReadWorks, but I think many teachers have a fear of, or don’t like to, create their own material.  Therefore, we thought it beneficial to introduce some online resources for Paired Texts.

Finally, helping kids write Constructed Responses for the PARCC is huge.  As I assist teachers in the computer labs as their practice PARCC with their kiddos, MANY students get to that question, and then write a two- or three-sentence response. Not cool. So, Ms. Witkus shared some lesson ideas to get kids writing daily, especially with responses to informational text (say in science or social studies) that kids finish in 30 – 40 minutes. I then jumped in with a plan to help students actually complete a constructed response, the crux or which was for them to use the scratch paper explicitly allowed in the directions to make an outline at the very least, and an outline with textual evidence source as better yet.

The Reflection

The first two GHOs were held for an hour after school.  I suggested an hour, because Twitter chats generally last that long, and I have been in several that FLY by.  However, attendance seemed low to us, and feedback indicated that many teachers would like to join, but had family obligations after school.  Therefore, we decided to move it to the lunch.  Better, but still not where we would like it.

It seems best if we divide and conquer, too.  If we are in different buildings, and can drum up business in each of THOSE buildings, we have better attendance.

Topics with immediate relevance seem to elicit better attendance as well.

The Future

With every session, more people have experienced GHOs.  At the end of the year, Ms. Witkus and I will look at attendance stats and determine if the Return on Investment was really worth the effort.

Have you ever used Google Hangouts for PD?  I would enjoy reading about your experience.