Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Professional Development in Schools

Professional development at school is something that I have been considering a lot lately. I am called upon to professionally develop my faculty as a Head Teacher, I have been asked to speak at various professional development conferences and workshops across the last couple of years and have attended quite a few myself. Lately I am plagued with thoughts about what makes for effective PD in technology. I have read these blog posts recently which really brought some ideas to the forefront:

Professional Development and the Modern Teacher tells the story of some successful and unsuccessful PD for a staff member and offers some advice for PD for the modern teacher, including utilising the KISS principle, making time for reflection and more importantly, making time for play:

Everyone needs some time to let loose and play. The fact is, often, in PD there is not enough time for play. Time isn’t taken for play. There is usually some time to mimic but not really play. Teachers who are learning new tech skills as part of PD desire more time to just get in and play. Not during the actual PD but afterwards. Teachers need to have time to go back to their classrooms and get their hands dirty. But they need that support of the trainer. We have to be available and offer follow-ups and 1-on-1’s. We can’t send our teachers back to the classroom with some new skill and not check on them or simply follow-up. Would we do that to our kids? Doubt it. Why do that with teachers.

Over and over again, we seem to use old methods of information transmission and this is not overly successful.  Teaching technology and its integration into education comes with a requirement for “play and make” time in order for teachers to be able to integrate the technology fairly quickly (or at all!) after the PD, and this just does not seem to get built into the professional learning time allocated to staff. Listening to staff after PD, their number one complaint is about not getting time to play and make stuff with what they just learned and their number one comment is that they are going to go away and play with it.  What if we embedded play into our PD? While the PD would take longer, maybe it would result in a more successful takeup?

This next blog post: The Way of the Workshop explores the nature of the workshop in education and implemented some new ideas which worked successfully, including cohort groupings that led to a shared experience, application of learning to create a product, breakout sessions and time to talk. This post showed me examples of how to put the idea of “play” into professional development. In the final thoughts section, there are some gems for all of us, but in particular these five jumped out at me:

  • Make sure the project is based on something that can actually be used in the classroom (not just an excuse to try new tools) following a sound curriculum planning process.
  • Continue to utilize a variety of presentation styles and media formats (some direct presenting is good, some videos are good, some hands-on is good – mix and match throughout the workshop).
  • Model, model, model – if you say something works well in the classroom, do it in the workshop just the way you would in the classroom.
  • Plan for sharing time, but make sure it’s in small groups to keep the environment safe, rather than in front of everyone.
  • Make sure workshops are voluntary, if not, make sure they’re during the regular work day.
  • The same blogger, Kim Cofino, also blogged about SpeedGeeking:

    Basically, SpeedGeeking is just like Speed Dating – a way to quickly introduce people to a wide variety of new ideas in a short amount of time. We decided to have 12 four-minute SpeedGeeking sessions split into 2 groups (one group has six sessions, the other group has the other six sessions). This way, we could make the most of our limited time, enable as many teachers to share their successful experiences as possible, keep the group sizes limited, and ensure that not every teacher saw the exact same sessions (so they are encouraged to keep talking about what they saw after the meeting).

    The sessions were run by teachers who are currently working with the software and were able to directly link the technology to education. Afterwards, teachers shared about what sparked their interest. This is a fascinating way to share a large number of ideas quickly, enabling teachers to be exposed to ideas and then choose which ones they would be interested in learning more about.

    I also read Bianca’s Blog post about what she has been doing at her school for some DER teacher development and stole her idea (see my previous post) to put together a “lunch and learn” program of my own. In some ways, though, this feels like more of the same old transmission model as there won’t really be time in a lunch break to both teach and play for long. Bianca has added in sharing and discussion sessions and I had some great comments on the post with other suggestions. At a recent HT Conference some colleagues and I were talking about the “ideal” conference: a keynote speaker for inspiration, some workshops for learning then an afternoon to play, discuss, share – with “experts” around to help out.

    As the DER leader at my school for at least one more term, I am asking myself how I can be a leader of DER and not just a manager. So far, I have smoothly managed roll out and now the stocktake process is underway. But is that enough? That is only good management and there is more to leadership than that. So now I am asking myself, what can I do to lead the integration of technology in the school? I have been avidly following the 31 Days to be a better Educational Technology Leader series of blog posts by Terry Freedman and loving the combination of practical suggestions and philosophical discussion.

    I have decided to discuss all this information with my principal so I have printed out the relevant blog posts for use in our discussion. I am going to be tabling the “lunch and learn” idea, Darcy’s great Cool Online Tools for students which I would like to teach to Year 10 at the end of 2010 but also to the teachers – most of whom do not know about these tools either, and what all this looks like at our school for the next three Staff Development Days this year.  I have lots of ideas, but I really want to discuss them rather than just think about them now. Most importantly, will be answering the question how do we incorporate Quality Teaching into our Virtual Learning Environment? (Moodle) or How do we do QT in our VLE? More on this next week after I have that conversation with the principal!


    June 15, 2010 - Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER) | ,


    1. Thanks for kind words. It’s interesting for me because I wrote the series for (would-be) leaders of educational technology, so I’m interested to learn which aspects you found useful and relevant as a Head of English.

      How did discussion with Principal go?

      Thx for link to Darcy’s cool tools, which I’ve bookmarked, as there were some there I hadn’t come across before.

      Comment by Terry Freedman | July 5, 2010 | Reply

      • I think now that any leader in education also falls into the role of educational technology leader in some ways. I have a faculty that need to be guided in their quest for technology integration and I need to be both the one who models, leads and inspires as well as the solver of the practical problems sometimes inherent in the integration of technology. Your series was very clear about the WHY behind the practical solutions that you offered, which made it possible to apply different solutions to suit my situation.

        The conversation with the principal went very well 🙂 We are starting the Friday lunch and learns and we have modified the Staff Development Day plans for the first day of next term to be less “show and tell” style and more workshop. We are also looking at trying out a speedgeeking session in our Term 4 Staff Development Days at the end of the year. Darcy’s Cool Tools will be introduced to staff in small chunks across this semester, and we will be teaching them to Year 10 after their School Certificate exams in Term 4, in preparation for either their senior schooling or the workforce.

        Both the principal and one of our deputy principals are now reading your 31 Days series to get some ideas for smoother integration and higher uptake of technology use. Thanks for a great resource!

        Comment by mgiddins | July 5, 2010 | Reply

    2. Great! Thx for the information, and for passing my stuff on. I’ve bookmarked your article for a closer read when it’s a more sensible time (it’s coming up to 1 am where I live!). I’m interested in ideas like lunch and learns and the others that you featured here. Thx for collating such good ideas.


      Comment by Terry Freedman | July 5, 2010 | Reply

    3. Hello again. I’ve written about this post here:

      Comment by Terry Freedman | July 7, 2010 | Reply

    4. […] might work in getting teachers engaged. There are some very useful points made in the post entitled Professional Development in Schools: Listening to staff after PD, their number one complaint is about not getting time to play and make […]

      Pingback by Professional Development in Schools | MirandaNet Consultancy | May 11, 2011 | Reply

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