Choice Based PD Can Happen!

by mrsapia


I’ve been involved in education for the past 14 years. I can probably count on one hand how much relevant, meaningful, and purposeful professional development that I participated in. This is beyond sad to me. It was time to turn that sadness into possibilities and set forth on our journey to create relevant PD. 

About three months ago my principal I decided that we wanted to create a professional development focused on purposeful technology integration for our district, where participants had a choice to attend sessions of interest. With the help of our district CIO and our technology professional development leaders, this small idea came to fruition. Our professional development day was modeled after Edcamp,  with some slight variations to it. We titled it “Future Ready.”

How did we do it?

We first created a needs assessment about what staff wanted as a focus in the area of technology integration.

We created a Google form for potential presenters had to fill out in order to be considered to present. The forms were vetted through our professional development committee. This was already a change from professional development that we’ve experienced because generally it’s consultants who are hired from the outside. This started as an organic grassroots professional development from teachers in the classroom. Once we reviewed all the submissions we ended up with 32 total sessions, with some teachers presenting multiple times. Teachers have been craving this form of professional development for years in their voices were finally heard, much to their delight.

My principal and district CIO did an incredible job organizing data into Google sheets and forms to manage the event planning, sign-up, and scheduling.

The day was broken up into 4- 50 minute blocks. Once the schedule was finalized teachers were asked to submit their registration online in advance. To be completely transparent there were some hiccups that came along with Google forms, registering, and lack of automatic email response confirming sessions. But due to the flexibility of awesome teachers in our district this turned out to be a very small problem.

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Rippowam Middle School was the host site for this incredible event. We have four computer labs, chrome books, and participating teachers were encouraged to bring their own devices. Our incredible IT team was on-site to troubleshoot any issues, which were non existent. Our talented art teachers created posters to hang throughout the building, as well as students creating what “Future Ready” meant to them.  There were students who also assisted in helping visiting teachers to find classrooms, as well as participating in green screen video creation sessions.  What’s better than empowering students to become the teacher?!

The day started with opening remarks by our building principal and myself to get the day rolling. Our recurring message was that this day was not about perfection, but about possibilities for technology integration to enhance teaching and learning and creating learning experiences for students in autonomous ways.  My principal was a great model for embracing failure because during his opening remarks he said things did not go as smoothly at he hoped during the signup process.  He acknowledge this openly and I heard people throughout the day really appreciated this type of  honesty.

Unlike many PDs that we’ve attended, besides Edcamp,  you could feel the positive energy in the air from the onset of the event. After each session teachers were walking around smiling. But most importantly they were talking about many of the ideas that they learned during sessions and tools that they can bring to their classroom tomorrow. Old colleagues had opportunities to connect, talk, and share ideas. We encouraged staff on social media to use the #SPSPride hashtag.

Sample Sessions included:

  • Intro to Google Classroom
  • QR Code Hunts
  • Kahoot and Socrative
  • Using Seesaw as a Digital Portfolio
  • Creating a google site
  • Building your PLN using Twitter
  • Google Forms
  • Powerpoint
  • ActivInspire for Beginners
  • Digital Citizenship Roundtable
  • Green Screen Creations
  • Tenmarks in Math
  • Scratch and Coding
  • MakerBot 3D printing

It was an incredible day with perfect weather. It was 68° outside and we had a food truck to serve lunch.  A teacher in our building was the DJ, because what better way to bring people together than with food,music, dancing, and purposeful focused professional development.

Upon completion of the event we received close to 25-30 emails from teachers and central office staff celebrating the accomplishments of all the facilitators and participants.  There is no doubt that planning event of this magnitude takes work but it’s work worth doing. The psychology of choice is an incredible shift from how professional development is mostly presented and should be utilized more often.

Next Steps:

The plan is to host another event in the spring and the hope is that we could get even more teachers on board to present and share with the amazing ways they’re engaging students and parents in their classroom.

This event was about community and celebrated the Stamford Public Schools teachers willingness to take a risk to present with they know works in their classroom in terms of student engagement.  This event is greater than one group of people. It models that when we come together around a focused intention we can empower and push each other. When given choice and what we’d like to learn, inspiration can happen.  This new inspiration can be translated into taking risks and trying out new ways to engage students in the classroom.

At the end of the day it comes down to student learning and adult learning. If teachers can came away with one or two new ideas and a shift in mindset then the day was a complete success. If you’re on the fence about planning an event, I encourage you to take a risk. It’s not about perfection. It’s about possibilities, teacher empowerment, and teamwork.  When the biggest complaint of the day is teachers did not know what sessions to attend, I’d say it was a success. How often does that happen at PD?

Future Ready PD Photos