Thursday, January 20, 2011

Look out--PD coming!

Tonight's inaugural #isedchat addressed the question: "What does successful professional development look like at your school?"

I missed the chat--7pm with two little kids in the house is just not twitter chat friendly. So, I perused the thread tonight with a goal in mind. What should we do at school for our next scheduled PD time?

Periodically we have a half day for professional development at our school. I've been thinking about our upcoming day for a while now, and here's what I've come up with. This stems in part from the thinking that led to the "why are we teaching this stuff" post.

Now, what with being a fan of stealing, I mean researching, others' ideas, I went looking for someone who'd tried this and blogged about it. Bingo! Lyn Hilt, a K-6 principal in Pennsylvania who blogs at The Principal's Posts gave the teachers at her school time for self directed learning. Not a free day, but a day with purpose and accountability, and autonomy. Her description of how she organized the day inspired me.

Here's part of the email message I wrote to the other deans and the division director:

I've been thinking about this day. Here's what I'd like to propose:

Implementing a form of the Google 20% time. There's been a lot written
about this since Dan Pink mentioned it in Drive and his speech. We
could ask folks ahead of time what they needed to learn more about.
Some groups might naturally emerge. I would work to provide resources
for those who need them. We could also put together a "sit and get" for
those who insist. The big part is that 20% time still has some
accountability. Participants are supposed to DELIVER at the end of
their time. What would that delivery look like at Cannon? I am
thinking the delivery would be in small groups spread throughout campus,
with one of us in each group.

I suggested some reading on the concept of 20% time:

From Dan Pink:

One school leader's experience:

Let's see what they say!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why are we teaching this stuff?

I follow with avid interest the musings and ideas of leaders in the Independent Curriculum Group. The NY Times article about changes to the AP.

Great--I'm reading good stuff. Now what am I going to do about it?? That's the question I'm asking myself. Because if I'm not doing anything about it. . .

On Connected Principals, Dave Truss wrote a brilliant post Less is more. Teach less, learn more. I left a comment and he wrote me back--causing that thrill that happens when a nobody like me gets a comment from someone who is a somebody. DT is the creator of the Brave New World Wide Web Video seen by just about everybody.

In our exchange (I had an exchange w/ Dave Truss!) I thought of something that made me realize it was time to blog. We must be wary of teaching kids that the academic grindstone is the way to ensure life-long success. That is clearly not true for many now. But, to break that grindstone for students, we’ll have to free the teachers first.

What are the essentials?

Give teachers time to collaborate and learn. I can do that. But it isn't just about time. Given time, even good teachers will often fill it with the tasks of teaching rather than expanding their own thinking. "There are so many papers to grade. If I have more time, I can read each draft as well as the final copy to help students be better writers." What do we need besides time? How do we create an expectation of learning and collaborating in that time?

Access to resources that expand teachers' worlds and provide tools for collaboration. I admit it, I'm a professional media junkie. I want to drag more folks into my world. I need to make sure that I'm not neglecting other realms though. Why on earth do teachers have to buy books about learning with their own money? Where are the professional libraries at most schools? How old are the books in them? Do teachers read and discuss books as part of their professional day or is that supposed to be done "on your own time?"

Authentic accountability. What if each teacher set some indicators to show how s/he has grown as a learner at the beginning of the school year and was evaluated with those in mind? Some schools approach teacher evaluation this way, how does it work?

Finally, that 20% time Daniel Pink espouses (see video below). Started (?) by Google, educators have been talking about it. we keep hearing about. Do we give teachers and students 20% time? How about 10%? 5%?