Sunday, 9 November 2014

More than just a FLASH in the pan - professional learning and DEEP impact on teaching and learning

How do you ensure the excitement of learning from a conference, staff meeting, guest speaker or keynote moves beyond the event and gets embedded in your school?   How do you ensure deep impact?

Our school team just returned from BIT14. What a great conference with loads of exposure to new ideas of how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom. Our staff was pumped and their excitement only continued to grow as the the conference continued. Staff came back talking about what they learned, were tweeting out about their learning and even after the conference emailed and called me with their plans for implementation once we got back to our school.

As I sat at home on Friday evening, I started to reflect on our plan to stretch this excitement out to ensure that the knowledge gained at the BIT14 conference has a meaningfully impact at our school. Too often staff excitement that builds while they are immersed in professional learning at  a conference gets quickly eroded away as they return to school and the demands of our job (report cards, lesson plans, student issues, etc) way heavy on our time and we forget about what we have learned. I get it, I was there. So how do we get this learning and excitement to be more than a flash in the pan?

As we were at the conference, we would sit and debrief our learning over breakfast, at lunch and during dinner.  I started the conversation early over how do we bring this back to school, how to ensure our participation at the conference, our excitement and our new leanings has a long-lasting  and meaningful impact on our school.  I brought up the idea of 'first-followers" with our staff.  We discussed their role to bring the other teachers along at our school.  I talked about Derek Shivers' video, Leadership Dancing Guy, as a good example:

While our first followers are the ones that are already won over, it is the 2nd, 3rd and fourth followers who are even more important.  How do we get these staff involved?  For me this question and the answer, is important in stopping the flash in a pan syndrome.  This is our task, myself being the leadership dancing guy and those staff who attended, BIT14, the first followers need to accomplish.

Our Ideas (they are not in any order of significance):

  • Admin Support

Heck our principal approved staff attendance at the conference and is always willing to find creative ways to support staff in their learning.  Our admin team has a highly consultative process and reach out to staff in order to determine their professional learning needs.  Our Principal even wants to try an edcamp style staff meeting.  The support is there, the modelling is there, the direction is there.

  • Professional learning opportunities for all staff

We are hosting a series of connected lunch and learns using Microsoft Lync 2013.  This provides teachers access from their classroom, during their preparation periods or after school.  We took staff input on what they wanted to learn and will provide a series of workshops that are leveled (from noob to expert) in order to meet staff where they are.  We are creating a great collaborative culture where staff can learn from each other.  We have created groups of staff who are exploring Learning Management Systems to ensure they can support all of our staff. We work with our Instructional Technologies Resource Teachers to ensure they are available to directly support staff in their learning and teaching.  We have Professional Learning days, with dedicated teaching with technology time. This is also the same for an early release day as well.

  • Build a SAFE environment for staff

We are encouraging some risk/chance taking for staff.  We are encouraging staff to step out of their comfort zone. We are encouraging them to be creative and look at things from new perspectives.  Staff are supported in these adventures by admin and we have made it clear that while we will have the best intentions things will not always turn out the way we expect.  THAT IS OKAY!

  • Setting of goals for staff:

We have set four goals for first semester for staff to use as a target to shoot for.

  • Shift from focus on Technology to a focus on Teaching and Learning

Good teaching will always be good teaching and this needs to be our focus.  In good teaching the needs of the learner needs to be our focus. We are moving our focus to skills first technology second. We need to provide students with meaningful learning opportunities that engages them in a process of content creation rather than content consumption.

  • Regular and ongoing communication and planning with the Teaching and Learning Committee

This used to be out Technology committee.  Technology cannot be an add on, an extra.  We need to focus on the structure of our learning opportunities for students and to do this our team will meet on an ongoing basis to determine direction and the effectiveness of our efforts.

It is through these efforts that we hope to avoid the flash in the pan phenomenon of professional learning and that our efforts with Teaching and Learning have deep impact on our school.

What are your thoughts and suggestions on ensure deep impact from professional learning?

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