Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Punch of Professional Development

Personalising professional learning to a whole staff is always tricky as 'one size never fits all' yet over the last year I've participated in several forms of professional learning that has catered to a wide group (all at once!). This has taken the form of "smackdowns" and unconference-style learning experiences. Smackdowns are small punches of information where tips, trick, ideas and wonderings are shared. In many cases a Google Presentation is set up and people are invited to create a slide prior to the event, when the event occurs participants must be prepared to get up in front of the audience and share their slide/knowledge. We have used the concept of a smackdown to continue weekly professional learning for our school wide blogging strategy. Each Monday at our morning briefing staff are encouraged to share 2-3 ideas about what they have found out about blogging. This way the learning is coming from the 'just in time' needs of the staff and staff see others taking a lead. The person with the designation of eLeader doesn't always have to be the source of new inspiration, staff can go to others who have shared or tried ideas. Using a smackdown has been a successful option for us - here is our weekly smackdown of growing ideas around blogging: An unconference format has also proven to be effective. This year I have attended the Emerging Leaders unconference called Ignition in the April school holidays, and at the beginning of this term Educamp Auckland using this format too. Usually when you attend a conference you are aware of who is presenting and what workshops are on offer for you to attend, with an unconference attendees turn up to the event and "post-up" workshops they are prepared to share. This way attendees create the professional learning that is to happen based on the needs, wants and ideas of the group of attendees that are in the room. It sources the collective knowledge and wisdom of the many to tailor learning. Lastly, I have found a hybrid approach to the smackdown/unconference and termed the phrase "sparkshop". I recently had the opportunity to organise a professional learning afternoon for our local eLearning network where we had 120 attendees. We started the session with a smackdown and then broke into sparkshops - 20 minutes of inspiration to spark ideas in attendees to go and try in their classrooms before the end of the term. Unlike an unconference where we would have been unsure who would be prepared to share, we approached 8 keen eLearners across the 15 network schools to present. These attendees made their contribution slide to a Google Presentation and then link their sparkshop so that everyone can view the presentations - attendees got to attend 2 sparkshops in our afternoon session. Here is our eLearning network sparkshop presentation: Finally, it's no point attending professional learning without a bias for action. Attendees were asked to fill in a pledge postcard and to record one thing that they will try between attending the eLearning network professional learning smackdown and sparkshops before the end of the term. These were collected and then school leaders will give back out in a few weeks time to see whether attendees have followed through on their pledge. Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini - success is not the work of one, but the work of many.

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