Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Identifying the Secret Sauce - PD at a personal level

In January, I asked nine teachers to speak about their personal journeys with iPads in the classroom to our faculty and administration one day, and to 24 visiting teachers two days later. To help them frame their thinking and to prevent duplication, I gave the challenge to reflect on their experiences and come up with a “mantra” that they find guides them and find an example from their teaching to explain it. We brainstormed a fun photo to go with the mantra, and made a trailer for our presentation:

By identifying our mantra, sharing our plans, and brainstorming the photo, we crystallized our thinking and assured that no one would be speaking on the same topic, at least not from the same perspective.  Each teacher was allowed up to three slides, and I talked to each one about their plans. That was all the practice we got! The loose organization coupled with the clarity of focus the mantras brought meant we were able to share a huge range of experience both succinctly and enthusiastically in a relatively short amount of time. Once the presentations were over, I sent around a message asking them to start framing their next mantra, the one that pushes them to the next level.

After the talk, the head of my department asked, “So, what’s the secret sauce? It can’t just be the conversations, or the presentations. If it’s really working, there must be something more.” His comment made me consider the whole structure of our iPad implementation, and realize that there are multiple factors contributing to this increasingly successful mixture. Here is a list that, while not a recipe, adds up to our current success and the enthusiasm for innovation and risk-taking at our school:
  • Share our journeys with each other: We need to hear from others like ourselves, to find someone who speaks to you where you are. This helps comfort level and supports you to continue your journey. Our teachers are learning to embrace their place in the journey, and support each other to not get stuck there.
  • Mantras -Read, discuss, attend workshops/conferences - identify where you are in the process of integrating tech and go with it. When you are comfortable with it, find your new challenge and take it to the next level
  • Reflect and evaluate through blog posts on our collaborative blog. Read each other’s thoughts and follow it up with conversation. I frequently nudge people to post, or to write about something and I am invariably amazed and impressed by what they write!
  • Support each other - create small groups of seekers that support, share and listen to each other. There might be different groupings at every school - grade level, or interest level, or subject level - or just compatibility
  • Hold bi-weekly or monthly sessions with the Tech Coordinator, or whoever is in charge of tech at the school, to share successes, failures, questions, and get encouragement
  • iPad Weekly report – Have the teachers keep track of their uses of the iPad in a weekly report. This is helpful long-term data to help evaluate the program, but it also makes teachers self-aware and reflective on a weekly basis. Teachers see each other’s reports and get a sense of what is going on around them, which helps them find resources and follow up with each other.

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