Monday, March 19, 2012

Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - F2F Feedback

In my most recent post in my hybrid PD series, Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - Teacher Input I talked about my plans in my next face-to-face meeting with teachers I have been working with for the past four months. My focus was on teacher input and really addressing the needs of the teachers and giving the teachers the control over the content and focus of what we did.
Lesson Four: Provide teachers with a choice in what the professional development focuses on..  Let them choose topics of interest, or topics they are struggling with, or topics they feel will be of benefit to their specific content are or their specific students.  By providing choice, you are allowing teachers control over their learning and the ability to make it personal. This provides a sense of empowerment and motivation.
Things went well for the most part.  We spent some time, as we always do, sharing what they had done in their classrooms with Sketchpad and lessons.  This is such a great way to start our PD sessions - sharing successes, pedagogical strategies with class set up or student arrangements, and specific lessons. Teachers really love hearing how others are doing things in their classrooms and getting ideas on strategies (from classroom management to assessment) that are working and asking others for their input/thoughts/suggestions, especially in areas they are struggling with, whether that be in Sketchpad skills or integration techniques.  We then moved on to topics that had been suggested and requested in the online component - these were focused on specific Sketchpad skills as well as specific content.

What I found happened as we started exploring some of the topics the teachers had selected (transformations and related Sketchpad skills) is that it led many participants to other content connections, which they then wanted to learn about.  The session became what I will refer to as 'fluid' and 'flexible' - a result of the teachers making connections to topics they were planning to teach and wanting to find out how to make Sketchpad work for them right then. So, while my original plan definitely focused on content they had suggested, what occurred in the PD became even more influenced by the teacher input as we started with one thing and then went off in a related direction to something not necessarily planned, but completely relevant.

Participation level during our time together was amazing - fully engaged, questioning, trying new things and really wanting to understand so they could use it the next day or the next week.  In fact, our time went so fast it was actually disappointing to have to end, even though it was late evening!  How often can you say that about a PD?!!

I stand by my lesson focus of Teacher Input - it made a huge impact.  But, what came as a result of that, the constant change of content as we made connections, is something I think those of you out wanting teacher input into PD need to consider. I happen to have quite a bit of experience not only with Sketchpad and the tools, but with the math content, having taught both middle and high school mathematics for over 17 years.  No matter what topic came up as we made varied connections, either I was able to demonstrate and show related skills or others in the class shared what they had done or what they new.  It was a collaborative, changing learning experience.

This stresses for me the importance of creating 'experts' within your own schools and districts who run professional development experiences.  This means teachers or content leaders who can be flexible and can meet the changing needs and demands of teachers as they learn in professional development.  You want folks running PD that know what they are doing, can be flexible and go off on related tangents, can address concerns and topics that come up as they come up - it makes for a much more rewarding experience for everyone. The teachers I am working with are becoming those experts for their school district, and this past face-to-face session demonstrated for me how divergent their thinking and skills have become and how they have really begun to internalize and connect the skills of Sketchpad to the teaching of their content.

For the other posts in this series, click the following links:

Planning for Hybrid PD - Comfort Level and Confidence First
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 1 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 2
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt 1 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 2) - Develop Community and Supportive Environment 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (Part 2) - F2F Feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 2 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - Make it Relevant 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - F2F feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 3 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - Teacher Input

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