Professional Development 101

I’ve been quiet over the past week or so.  The reason is that last Thursday (4/13) I ran a professional development day at my school.  The topic was blogging, wikis, and podcasting — sorry to steal your book name Will:-).  It was the culmination of much of what I have learned by blogging over the past months, and was what I believe, mostly successful.

The audio and slides will be available in my next post (Dave, being a perfectionist is a bad thing).  The day created a conversation with faculty that was interesting and they were asking good questions about the read/write web technology and how it could fit into their classrooms.  A conversation that could not have happened a few short years ago.

The feedback I have received has been very positive, but the end of the day really bugged me.  The reason — I ended the morning with a discussion about social networking.  Let me explain.  When I originally pitched the professional development day, it was because of the discussion on the ISED-L Listserv on social networking the culminated with this article by Jason Johnson on social networking.  I thought that it was important to have a conversation with our faculty about how to use this technology appropriately and safely.  As I designed the day, I quickly realized that what I really wanted to do was to expose our faculty and staff to read/write web technologies.  Because I pitched it as a day to discuss social networking, I felt as though I had to spend at least 30 minutes speaking about social networking.

As I designed the day with the help of my department and a small committee, I knew that the social networking part of the day could have negative connotations and I moved it to the end of the morning because I did not want to ruin the morning at the beginning.

As I presented I worked on not speaking too quickly through the blogging and wiki material.  We started with Epic 2014, a compelling film about the Internet, Media and their future.  We then had a hands on blogging part of the day that was good until our server crashed (Note to self: Outsource blogging software in the future).  We then had a discussion of how faculty could see using this type of technologies in their classes and I followed that up by giving concrete examples of how other teachers are using blogs, wikis and podcasts in their classrooms.  I think most of them could define and find examples of blogs and wikis after the morning.  I should have listened to my gut and ended there.

I did multiple things that created a foggy end to the day.  I didn’t create a clear switch to the social networking piece — I didn’t define a clear goal of the 30 minutes, and it created a confusing and somewhat negative end to a great morning.

You live and learn, right?  I think that most faculty learned something from the day and the interest to use this type of technology effectively is very important and most got that.  If our goal was to start a conversation, that’s what I did.  And you have to learn from your mistakes, but I do wish that I had gone with my gut and either pulled the social networking piece completely out.  It was necessary, but it should have been a separate topic.

By ending the day on Social Networking, I changed the focus and goal of the morning.  I gave the negative folks the ability to say that this stuff is bad and that they should not use it.  I created fog and confusion where there was curiosity and questions.

I guess I’m writing this because I worked really hard on this learning experience.  I know that this gut feeling that it could have gone better is a good one.  You have to make mistakes to learn, but this was a pretty big forum to make a blurry mistake like this.  I should have left the end out or split it more clearly.  I should have summarized the first part of the day before switching, but in my haste, I didn’t put as much effort into the end of the day that the beginning.  I used fear instead of hopes to end the morning.

Lesson #3 (and most important of all) — I need to do a better job at thanking those who helped me along in the process of getting this presentation together — at the event (I have since sent an email to the school).  If it hadn’t been for my department’s hard work the day would not have been.  So in the future I need to do a better job thanking the important folks in my life.

All I can say is that I’m going to learn from this. Next time it will be better.  The master teachers in the room helped me see my errors, and for that I am grateful.  Thanks to those honest friends.

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