Unrecognizable Professional Development

I’ve been on one end or the other (receiving or delivering PD) for all of my years in education.  Some of these sessions feel like they just happened yesterday, and some were so forgettable, they simply cannot be retrieved.  I began delivering professional development at the school and district level pretty early on in my teaching career.  I had great mentors, and would typically receive positive feedback from my participants.

So, in all honesty, I was a little defensive when I began hearing that professional development in education is largely ineffective and dreaded by teachers!  Surely they did not mean my sessions!  I added humor…engagement…collaboration…I provided take-aways that could be implemented in classrooms soon after the course ended.  I prepared carefully and managed time well.  Clearly, they were referring to other professional development sessions!  Then two experiences rocked my little PD world: @EdCampBeach and @CCSTechCamp!

I was introduced to the idea of EdCamp through my participation in the North CarolinaEdCampBeach17 Digital Leaders Coaching Network (#NCDLCN), the genius product of the brains of @FridayInstitute.  I was grouped with @jeannietimken, and she invited me to attend her district’s first EdCamp, located near the beautiful beaches of Wilmington, North Carolina.  I attended with a few other newbies from my district, and I fell in love!  I could create a conference session that I wanted to talk about?  I could leave a conversation whenever I wanted?  I could exchange ideas with passionate educators from across the state?  I could dress up in silly costumes for selfies and make things in a traveling Makerspace?  This PD was unrecognizably awesome!

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Fresh out of this experience, I got to be part of a planning team for our district’s first technology camp for teachers.  We picked a camping theme for CCSTechCamp16 and we went wild!  We had photo booths, silly snacks, tech giveaways, and engaging and relevant sessions shared by teachers for teachers.  We had so much fun as organizers, and our participants were shocked!  Teachers are still talking about this learning experience, and as registration opened for CCSTechCamp17 (“Tech a Vacation!”), we surpassed last year’s total registration in mere hours! 

My picture of effective PD is changed forever!  My monthly “training” sessions with K-5 Digital Learning Showcase 17Instructional Coaches are now filled with “unconference” conversations, PLEARN sessions (play and learn), Breakout EDU tasks, and our culminating accomplishment, a Digital Learning Showcase, where coaches, teachers, students, parents, principals and district leaders freely collaborated to celebrate and expand our digital teaching and learning! Our professional development is unrecognizable, and I am on a quest to keep it this way!