As you have experienced yourself it always seems that when it gets busy, it gets really busy. January/February has been (and will be) incredibly busy for me. Part of what I’m doing has had me thinking about educational conferences, and what I like in a conference. Here is an incomplete list, feel free to help me finish it off in the comments thread.
- Expert Keynote Speakers – There should always be a speaker/series of speakers that are experts in their field and engaging speakers – this is a given.
- Choice – I like conferences that have multiple sessions at any given time with accurate descriptions so I can choose what works for me.
- Variety in Format – small group workshops with expert help, large group lectures where you sit and get, and everything in between.
A few weeks ago I had a teacher ask me how I know about ‘every single website’ out there (her words). Obviously I do not know every single site, but when I’m asked to do a presentation on a topic, like say creating cartoons, I look for as many sites as I can find. As a technology consultant, I want to know which sites are favourites of my own and decide which one or two I will recommend to teachers (and for what reasons). So, I usually start with a few go to sites that I’m familiar with, and simply do a “similar” search in google. Works great, and if you do a related/similar search for enough websites, you eventually find (almost) everything.
Tonight’s #edchat and the people involved really had me reflecting on last years work. I’ve been a consultant for just over a year now, and I’m luck enough to be part of a very progressive initiative, partnered with a very progressive co-consultant, Susana. Susana and I are responsible to 13 secondary schools, and we work with teachers to promote 21st Century Literacy Strategies.
A 21st century literacy can mean many things; just one example might be using online discussion boards for a ‘write-around’ instead of doing it on paper in the classroom. The really progressive part of our work comes in the PD model though.
Susana and I started last year off by spending 1/2 a day with 40ish teachers, discussing some new strategies and how they will help with student learning. After this we, the consultants, spent a week residency in each school, working with the 40 teachers. The residency has essentially turned into Susana and I team teaching (planning stage and delivery stage of lessons) with classroom teachers. We engaged in observation of teachers, and teachers observed us. Throughout each lesson there is continuous dialogue between teacher and consultant about how things are going; how it is affecting student learning, and how things could be improved given the chance.
At first I have to admit that teachers were often apprehensive. They looked at the residency as being evaluative of teacher effectiveness. After the first class or two, teachers generally became very comfortable and in most cases quite excited about this new form of PD. The best part is, the learning didn’t stop in their classrooms
After finishing all of the residencies in the thirteen schools, and after providing various other PD sessions at school sites and district PD conferences throughout the year, the 40 teachers were brought back together. In this last session of the year, teachers engaged in dialogue about their learning. Great! Even more professional conversation was happening.
To top this off, we had all of these teachers create wikis about the many strategies used; descriptions how to implement, tips and tricks, where strategies might be useful or not. After just 1 year of implementation of the project we had a wiki library with about 20 pages of wikis each 2-4 print pages long. All this created by teachers, showing their learning and understandings of the year.
These wiki’s will live on long after the initiative is over. Further, about 120 teachers (there are two other teams of consultants just like Susana and myself) now have the know how and desire to keep these wikis alive and updated.
We’re very excited to see what comes after a second year of the project!