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.

#METC13 Presentation Slides

Here is the link and QR Code for my SlideRocket presentation, “Personalized Professional Development,” from today’s presentation at the Midwest Education Technology Conference in St. Charles, MO. Thanks to all those who attended!


QR code for edcamp site

Here’s the handout that’s on the METC website (has all the links on it) > PerProfDev_Weld

So You’ve Got a PLN – Now What?

In my quest to have everyone personalize their professional development using my 4-step process (Twitter, Curation, Blog, EdCamp) as described here, I’m using the next few posts to really flesh out these steps.  I described the first step, joining Twitter and using it to leverage your PD, in the last post.  The purpose of joining Twitter is to build a global Professional Learning Network, also described by Bill Powers (@MrPowersCMS) in this blog post.

Professional Learning Network

graphic source: http://teachersbox.com/

Although Twitter may limit you to 140 characters, much can be shared and learned in a well-contructed PLN.  Just as in any meaningful relationship, there is give and take; I share what I’ve come across and have found important, and I keep things I find useful that others have shared.  Members of my PLN do the same, and pretty soon, we all have more knowledge, ideas, and a newfound respect for our profession.  Surf your Twitter Home Feed and reply to questions or comment on others’ postings. Take part in hashtag chats that pertain to your interests and watch your resources grow!

In my mind, there are five main ways to maximize the power of your PLN:

1.  Share Ideas & Resources.  My hope for you is that you’re not a lurker.  What’s the point?  Type something!  Share!  I’m sure you’ve written an amazing lesson plan, developed the perfect rubric, or just created a document aligning your current curriculum to the new Common Core.  Be proud and share it!  No one likes to re-invent the alphabet if they don’t have to!

2.  Seek Advice.  Last weekend, a member of my PLN wanted advice on Apple TV vs. the Reflection app.  That was a topic a couple of us had personal knowledge of or resources about.  We shared, and everyone learned something.  Instant gratification.  Awesome.

3. Share Day-to-Day Activities.  Sometimes the most interesting tidbits contributed by members of my PLN include their daily activities.  What did you do during science class today?  How did you resolve a parent issue?  What did the kindergartener say that was just too funny (you know how random they can be)?

4.  Collect Resources.  Much of what is shared by me and members of my PLN on Twitter is assigned a Star and added to my Favorites stream.  Pretty soon, your stream becomes like your email’s Inbox – unregulated, with the earlier entries forgotten.  In my next post, I will share some of the ways I organize all those resources, since CONTENT CURATION is the second step of my plan for Personalized Professional Development.

5.  Connect on a Personal Level.  All work and no play makes for a dull existence.  The ultimate purpose of a PLN is, after all, Professional.  However, just like in a classroom, letting your personality shine through can be a good thing.  Every once in a while, tweet about something funny, something you’re proud of, something meaningful to you.  Who knows, maybe it will earn retweets, follows, and before you know it, you will have sparked a conversation and made a connection with someone across the planet whom you have never met before.

I can honestly state that I am in a better place professionally because of my Professional Learning Network which I have established on Twitter.  I look forward to weekly hashtag chats, I enjoy sharing resources, and as I work through my day, I make mental notes on interesting activities or amusing happenings which can be shared later.  Thanks to all of you already a part of my PLN, and I look forward to expanding it even further and learning even more with my future colleagues.



Personalized Professional Development

When I think of how I can make our school ‘bold’, I want to be able to transform something that is already in place, or introduce something we need.

FACT: We need Professional Development.  FACT: We have no money for it.

So, I need to think big, bold, and out-of-the-box.  Oh, and FREE.

As a result, I’ve come up with a four-step Personalized Professional Development Plan.  It’s free, it’s researched-based, and can be intimately customizable.  It’s what I use for myself, and I call it PPD.  Personalized Professional Development.  PD on steroids, because it includes that follow-up element that makes change of any kind stick.

The steps include:

1. TWITTER.  The ultimate social media that connects like-minded people from all over the world.  Everyone needs to join – as a professional – and start working to develop a Personal Learning Network.  Lurk around some hashtags in your area of teaching.  Follow some people whose tweets you find inspirational, motivational, interesting, or that you just agree with.  These people are the ones who will make up your PLN.  Then start tweeting, retweeting, and connecting with people from all over.  There are millions of teachers just like you!

2. CURATION.  After clicking on all those links that people pass along in twitter, your ‘favorites’ stream gets way too long.  You need a way to organize all those tidbits you saved for future reference.  There are many sites to use.  I would suggest LiveBinders for people new to technology, as they are organized like an actual binder.  There is also ScoopIt! Diigo, Symbaloo, and many others.  I use LiveBinders for topics I would share with others, or that I would definitely want to be able to find at a later date.  Symbaloo is my homepage, as it has all my favorites, my ‘bookmarks’ laid out with their logo in a nice, orderly, Scrabble board-like fashion.  ScoopIt! is used for articles I come across on topics I’m interested in.  Older copies will be relegated to the end of the page where no one goes, however, so some get cross-saved in a LiveBinder.

3.  BLOGGING.  Once their pet topics have been fleshed out with resources, it’s time to start reflecting on these ideas.  To make reflections relevant, they need an audience, or even the potential of one.  Maintaining a blog drives a person to analyze, evaluate, and produce something which can be shared with others.  It’s pretty exciting to have people from around the country (or world!) read and comment on your work, you ideas.

4.  ATTENDING AN EDCAMP.  This may only be possible in for people near a large, urban area which would hold an EdCamp, but truly the pièce de résistance of the whole PPD concept. One of the best experiences I’ve had in the last year (even counting my canoeing vacation!) was attending EdCamp St. Louis, and surrounding myself with energetic, forward-thinking educators.  Nothing energizes like real conversations about a topic in which we are truly invested.

Another hope is that once teachers start to see how an authentic means of educating oneself can be almost addictive, they will start to change how they teach.  Assignments will become individualized and authentic, and students will begin to really build their capacities as life-long learners.

What do you think?  What are the flaws?  What am I missing?  Please share!