I have been providing professional development to teachers for almost a decade. During that time, it’s been interesting to witness the different formats that school districts and conference use to structure their professional development. I’ve been told before that my session needs to last 7 hours or been asked what do you think would be a good 90 minute session? Read that again. I’ve been told before that my session needs to last 7 hours or been asked what do you have that would be a good 90 minute session? That’s quite a contrast. As well, I’ve also been a part of conferences that run 50 minute sessions or 2 hour workshops. The last conference I presented at was 5 hours with the presenter and 2 hours of team work time. The majority of the in-district professional development decisions are not based on what learners need or what time the learning needs. From my experience, they are based on teacher contracts and the calendar.
My personal philosophy is work the best I can within these parameters to look at the learning and break it down, like a lesson plan. Then, I dissect and parcel it into the available time/calendar. In my district I offer technology integration sessions that are 30, 60, and 90 minutes in length. Some topics have multiple sessions. For example, Google Forms has a beginner, advanced, and expert level. That equates to a total of four and 1/2 hours, but it can only be taken in 90 minute sessions. Soine & Lumpe (2014) reference a professional development pilot survey (p. 10). Under the topic of duration, “I had time to practice a new skill in my classroom between professional development experiences.” is mentioned. This is exactly the reason that I advocate for 90 minute or less sessions. I want teachers to learn the basics of the tools and the benefits it should have toward students learning, the WHY! Then, I want them to go try it or have me come to their classroom and help them try it out with students. After that, I want them to reflect and bring questions (if possible) to a second session.
Active and engaged learning is another strong professional development characteristic from Soine & Lumpe (2014). The hip happening thing right now is to have teachers be students and experience the student-side of things. I’m guilty of saying this as well. Having teachers “be students” really doesn’t describe the verbs we are looking for in terms of their participation. While I might be splitting hairs here, I don’t think I am. I think it would be better to say they will be actively “problem solving” or “analyzing” during the session. You can insert any powerful active verb you wish. Many educators use the word engage or engaging lately. Can you really picture that outcome? Engage is not on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.
In my proposal to share about Google Expeditions, I considered my audience and timeframe and the fact that I wouldn’t have a follow-up opportunity. An overview of my district’s experience with the software and hardware content knowledge, the why for learning, and the opportunity to navigate the software seemed like a nice fit for an hour time limit. Further, there would be time to model managing the devices and provide tips, as well as question and answer time. These are teacher needs that sometimes get overlooked. In Google Expeditions with Cardboard they are particularly important because students are so excited. Last of all, the collaborative nature of the teacher-led expedition and reflection using Socrative will allow teachers to share with each other what they think are next steps, what they feel are the implications for their classroom, and to explore the Expeditions Catalog.
Karen M. Soine & Andrew Lumpe (2014): Measuring characteristics of teacher professional development, Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development, DOI: 10.1080/13664530.2014.911775
Cholet, D. (2011). Calendar. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/9bUbH3
othree. (2014). Google Cardboard. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/o83BwL