Sunday, February 6, 2011

Does Professional Development Happen TO Us? January Opportunities

(This post is part 1 of a 3 part reflection.)

Professional Learning
True confessions.  I've always enjoyed professional development.

Yep, I said it.  I enjoy professional development - make that professional learning.  Actually I left my small district over ten years ago and moved to a larger district because I wanted more professional learning opportunities.   You're thinking I'm crazy.  You might be right, but continued learning has always been so important for me.  Teaching has never come easily for me, and I'm always looking for ways to improve my practice.

In the last year, I've been learning the power of the internet for providing professional conversations and learning.  The connections I have developed have been invaluable in shifting my thinking.  I've been trying to find the words to explain the impact these opportunities have had on my thinking and practice, but I am still trying to find the words to articulate the change.

January Collaborative Opportunities
January provided opportunities to participate in two professional development learning opportunities:  The Reform Symposium and The Science Leadership Academy's EduCon 2.3.  These learning opportunities, when considered together, have me rethinking what professional learning should look like as well as the way students are learning in my classroom.  There are so many new possibilities.

In January I participated in:

Reform Symposium 2011
The Reform Symposium was an online learning event taking place on Elluminate organized by Shelly Terrell, Christopher Rogers, Kelly Tenkely, Greta Sandler, Lisa Dabbs, and Melissa Tran.  If you were unable to attend this conference, most sessions are archived and can be found by starting at Meet the Presenters.

If you haven't been able to attend an Elluminate learning session, you want to find the time to do so.  I'm never sure if I'm more amazed by the content being presented, or the ability to have a collaborative conversation around the topic with others in the room during the session.  Elluminate sessions allow collaborators from around the globe to talk together about educational issues.  (Of course, I always love that I get to put voices with some of my colleagues on Twitter.)

In Dr. Gary Brannigan's session, I was able to participate in a discussion about "Maximizing Children's Academic Potential".  Dr. Branningan (@GaryBrannigan) discussed ways to help students effectively use time and energy to learn.  I was intrigued by his discussion of goal setting for students as I've been trying to help my students to do this (Dr. Brannigan also discussed energy/emotional levels, stamina to a task, visualization, self-talk, and organization/time management).

Dr. Alec Couras's (@courosa) keynote session left me wrestling with my own dual online personality (Twitter = professional, Facebook = Personal) and the continued merging of my professional and personal online identity.  What do we share?  What are the implications of what we share online?  Do we have an obligation to be more open about our professional journey?  How do we benefit from this global conversation?

I've also been able to listen Greta Sandler share her thinking about creating a safe learning and environment.  Greta's (@gret) respect for children and learning shines in this discussion.  Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTeach) also shared her professional learning journey with us as she moves toward a more child centered classroom.  Pernille reminds us that we are in charge of our own change.  Remember all of these session archives can be found here.  I'm continuing to visit and revisit these sessions.

EduCon 2.3
I attended EduCon virtually.  (You'll want to stop by this link to find out more about EduCon and follow the posts related to the EduCon experience.  Thanks to Franki Sibberson for sharing this document compiled by Shelley Krause with me.)

There's nothing like "from your couch" professional conversation.  Educon was set up so it could be viewed through a live stream.  This conference really has me rethinking what education should look like, but I'm quite sure the experience was even more powerful if you were in attendance.  Watching from afar was sometimes a challenge as rooms would get full and switching to LiveStream wasn't always easy.  Still I was able to follow conversations, chat on Twitter, and many sessions were quite thoughtful about distance participants.

Watching EduCon sessions was interesting as session leaders (I think they'd be appalled by the term "presenters") led collaborative discussions.  It was obvious from afar that collaboration and conversation were key features of this conference.  It seemed from watching that everyone had an equal voice and everyone had something to say.

From EduCon I was able to join Jon Orech's (@jorech) conversation about Digital Storytelling.  I was interested to hear how this group discussed the definition of digital storytelling (a growing collaborative document about digital writing can be found here), but came away with the powerful message of the importance of story.  Too often we get caught up in using tools and glitz, leaving our STORIES behind.

Diane Cordell (@dmcordell) and Gwenyth Jones (shared their thinking about showing our learning in powerful ways.  You can read more about their thinking at the "tlvirtualcafe".

A special thanks to Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) and Zoe Branigan-Pipe for their collaborative conversation, "Classrooms of Tomorrow (the day of today that is)".  In this discussion of revisioning classrooms, it was decided that classroom itself was a confining word.  In this discussion of learning spaces, Rodd & Zoe so carefully considered participants inside and outside the walls of this room using sites like Scribblar and linking sites through Twitter.  I guess that says a lot about learning beyond classroom walls in and of itself.  You can see each group's vision for classrooms of tomorrow in this post discussing "Learning Spaces of Tomorrow".

So What?
In the upcoming posts I will share my reflections of these two digital opportunities.  How do they have me rethinking professional learning?  How have they impacted the learning in my classroom?

Upcoming Posts:
Post 2 of 3:  Does Professional Development Happen TO Us?  Learning Through Collaboration
Post 3 of 3:  Does Professional Development Happen TO Us?  Action Steps

In a recent #edchat conversation we talked about professional development.  The question was raised, "Does professional development happen to us?".  I'm going to say professional development doesn't happen to anyone.  If educators are not interested in learning, they're not going to learn.  If educators are interested and seeking learning opportunities they will shape learning that fits their needs and take away new ideas.

A few links of interest:
A Few Educon Reflections
Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) shares his take-aways from the event in EduContext.
Franki Sibberson shares her reflections at A Year in Reading.
Kristina Peters' shares changes she is considering.
Chris Lehmann shares a bit about SLA.
Susie Boss continues to grow the conversation.
Elizabeth Peterson shares her take-aways.

A Few RSCON Reflections
Nancy shares her enthusiasm for #RSCON11 here.
Jo Freitag shares links and contacts from #RSCON11 here.
Josh Stumpenhorst shares highlights from the conference here.

Feel free to add your links and highlights to the comments.


  1. Cathy-
    Thank you for sharing your learning and how these "digital experiences" are challenging your thinking and changing you. I too have always enjoyed professional development and your reflections and links have been and continue to be so helpful to me. I am looking forward to your next post in the series.

  2. You make such valid points about professional development. Sometimes I think it is an excuse to get a supply teacher in for the day while you relax at a professional development. Granted, some of them have been really onerous, but other PD's have been so inspirational, and lets face it...every teacher needs inspiration at some point because, after all, isn't that what we are tyring to do for our students?