EdtechRVA Recap: Bite-Sized Professional Development

I’m back again with another EdtechRVA recap! My previous post focused on Getting Interactive with Google Apps, which I highly recommend that you check out if you are a GSuite school! Now onto another session that I thoroughly loved- Bite Sized Professional Development: What Busy Teachers Need for Success. If you are in a position where you must provide professional development to teachers, you know that often it can be hard to find something that “works” for your district. The bad news is that based on all of the different PD sessions I’ve attended at conferences, NO ONE has the right answer to how to make professional development better. Different districts have found methods that work for them, but they are also not a magic band-aid to get high numbers of staff through the doors. Each solution still boasts a low number of attendees in comparison to the number of total staff in the district or school. However, that doesn’t stop these folks from continuing to make headway and find ways to get more professional development to their staff. You certainly shouldn’t quit either. Take the risk and try new things, even if others discourage you based on past experience.

Our presenter this round was Diana Campbell. You can find her on Twitter as well- @dlcamp007. Definitely check her out, especially if you’d like to start conversations on professional development and bounce ideas. Did I mention in previous posts how much I love promoting Twitter?

The session began with a simple poll on PollEverywhere. It focused on the frustrations that teachers faced with PD, and as attendees answered, a word cloud was generated. See for yourself:

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Image credit: Althea Hudson (@altheadespina)

If you’re like me, this word cloud was not something unfamiliar. We’ve seen all of those reasons before. We’ve heard the stories from staff members. We’ve even experienced these ourselves when we attend PD for training. So what is another solution?

Campbell suggested bite-size PD instruction- PD that lasts for only 15-30 minutes and covers one or two items on a topic matter. Take Google Classroom for instance, as a PD instructor, this topic is huge and takes a long time to cover. To actually give a full session on everything takes at least 2 hours. However, in that 2 hours, attendees will experience a brain overload explosion. They will take in so much information that it will overwhelm them and by the time they get back to their classrooms they won’t know where to begin.

Bite-size PD works to avoid that. It is based around research that shows that we can only take in so much information for so long before time is needed to process and work through the new information. Without that time, much of the new information will be lost and forgotten by the time the teacher returns to the classroom. The research also reminded us that we implement this type of practice with our own students, but often we don’t with adults. Though we learn about differentiation for our students, as adults, there’s typically only one size fits all when it comes to professional development sessions.

Based on this, Campbell presented a PD model for bite-sized PD. From my understanding, here are 7 steps to implementing this particular model with any tool:

  1. Demonstrate the tool in action OR if doing a follow-up session review material from previous one.
  2. Explain the benefits/positives of the tool
  3. Explain potential issues and possible solutions
  4. Show 1 or 2 items to get attendees started with the tool
  5. Ask for ideas on how it might be implemented in their classroom
  6. Instructor provides ideas on how to use in classroom
  7. Call for questions

After implementation of the first round, make sure to follow up in a timely fashion. Try jumping from a week to week basis or every other week. Either way, don’t let it go so long that attendees forget what they learned in the first session. Make sure attendees are also aware that they can work 1:1 with the instructor if they feel they need even further instruction.

Once Campbell finished providing the research and her solution, she then showcased her model in action. To me, this was the best part. It’s one thing to simply tell about a PD model, but it’s another thing to implement it entirely. PollEverywhere was her example, and in 15 minutes, she had shown us the tool and the most basic use for it. If she were giving it as an actual professional development session, she would then follow up with another session in another week or so to review the concepts from the first session, and then add one or two more uses to the first. The cycle would continue until she had thoroughly explained the tool.

If you have a chance to see Campbell present this session, definitely attend because if nothing else it will get your gears spinning. It certainly did mine, and I’m ready to redesign the way I do PD at both of my schools for next year. Thanks to Campbell, I have a way to improve and hopefully my staff will find it more to their liking as well.

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