In the holidays, I went to the ENERGISE conference (A while back, Arnika Macphail asked me if I’d be keen to present at Energise, and I was like ‘hell yeah’. Then she asked if I’d like to co-present with Steve Mouldey, who I had never yet meet in the flesh and I was like ‘HELL YEAH’). Energise had a Educamp feel, so while the presenters were set, it was not about the ‘big names’ and more about the connections, ideas and challenges. While it was acknowledged that Cyclone was behind the conference, the team did a great job of not making it about things to ‘buy’. It was being hosted at Shotover Primary, so it was a good chance to visit a ‘new’ school and gain some insight into how it works. I had an amazing time, caught up with people, meet some new people, learned some new things, got challenged to ensure I was not just using ‘e-learning’ to engage student but to enhance their learning and was challenged around am I doing enough for my students.
Another interesting moment for me was during the ‘drum’ session. We had a really fun and amazing drum session on the second morning of the conference. I was sitting with 4 of my favourite educator peeps and laughed so hard. But it reinforced a funny idea for me. Do we really all need to be in time? Do we really need to be conforming to the same beat? I’ve been told I am reading to much into this type of activity… but I just wonder. So then of course it turned into us being ‘naughty’ and whacking the drum next to us out of time….. do we sometimes need to break those ‘rules’ to start something new?
BUT mostly energise got me thinking we really do need to change how we approach professional learning/development for teachers.
The pondering around changing PD has really stemmed from about 4 sources that were building before the conference, but these really bought it to my attention.
- Presenting with some-one you have never meet
I meet Steve for the first time the night before – drinking warm Sake in a (very nice) Japanese restaurant watching ‘magic’ tricks.
That said, I have ‘talked’ with Steve loads online (As it turned out, this was a great way to introduce our session – a genuine we meet online gag 🙂 )We were given the brief ‘ Creating a STEAMULATING environment’ and were then basically left to our own devices on what to present.
We set up some collaborative docs (funnily enough a MICROSOFT OneNote and the GOOGLE slides…), had a skype and some twitter chats, and it just came together. I think (hope) because we were both open minded, coming from slightly different places and experiences, but willing to let these ideas be shared and compliment each other, rather than drowning each other out.
And despite my nerves, the presentation went pretty well I think. I’m not confident we ‘nailed’ it, but we definitely got some good discussion going, engaged our group, warmed up as it went on, and tried to avoid ‘us telling, them listening. Although we did still fall into the trap of saying what we did…. instead of listening to all the voices
As always with presenting, I benefit enormously by trying to explicitly describe what I am trying to achieve for my learners and myself – it is hard to put into words some times. And having another person to bounce idea off, especially from another school and ‘a different silo’ was especially helpful. So presenting with some-one I had never meet was a completely new experience for me, and I feel I learned loads. Which makes me think about ‘groups’ of teachers going to PLD – do we really get the same benefit if we only really talk to people from our schools rather than pushing ourselves to incorporate different points of views.
The reason I don’t feel I/we nailed it is because I wasn’t sure/confident we meet our learners expectations. Some people seemed to enjoy the discussion, while others seemed to want more from us – I don’t like the term spoon feeding but I do think some teachers expect this at PLD. Which leads into point number
2. What do teachers expect from PD?
The second day of the conference I went to a session that Steve ran on bringing empathy into learning conversations. He talked about how teachers see PLD, and loosely categorised teachers into some PLD stereotypes. As part of this, we were sent to ‘spy on/observe’ other sessions and see what we could see. And the stereotypes were there – Steve had outlined in his talk some in his talk, and I’ve added a couple
the teacher who wants something they can use in their class on monday
the teacher who came for morning tea
the teacher who came to meet and talk to people and build connections but is not really into the sessions
the teacher having an AHA moment
the teacher who obviously doesn’t want to be there
the teacher who is taking so many notes they couldn’t possibly be processing them, it is just verbatim. Will they ever look at those notes again
the teachers tweeting (usually me….)
the teacher catching up on emails.
the teacher obviously in presenter rapture and having a professional crush moment
All of which reinforced times when I have been in PD (honestly, I have been all the teachers above and more) and when I have delivered PD. The stand up the front and talk at people model doesn’t really work. And yet, we are still doing it. Which leads to point 3….
3. Why, oh why, do presenters still sit behind a laptop, sitting at a desk, talking their way through their slides..????
I went to a session like this, and could not cope. The person presenting obviously knew there stuff, and I had a great discussion with them afterwards that almost made up for the presentation. But it was so so so so so hard to sit through that 2 hours of slog. It felt like a slog. Even though I was learning new things, and interested at some points, the rest of the time I switched off.
We have learned that this is not working in our classrooms. Surely we should have learned that it doesn’t work for PLD.
And surely we as teacher should expect and demand more. Which leads me to point 4..
4. Why do ‘some’ teachers still expect PLD on a plate?
This constantly annoys me. I always try and make the most out of any opportunities that are provided to me. So I pay for my own PLD sometimes. I buy books and read them. I read blogs and talk to people. I also apply to different places for funding, and really make an effort to get to free stuff (I will drive to Christchurch for the educamp in Term 3 for example.) I also make use of free PLD on line – there are loads of MOOCs, courses, youtube videos, and of course the microsoft educator community (and the google one).
So I do get a bit pissy when people say to me, oh, you were at another conference. I go to them because I choose to, I often self fund, and I value them. Probably because of this, I have had several awesome opportunities to attend conferences paid for by other people. And if I got to those, I make sure I work every damn minute to get the most out of it for me and for the people attending. It is also why I started scichatNZ (along with Matt and the team) because I was frustrated at the lack of support for Science teachers wanting to break the mould….. and almost talked myself out of a ‘job’ when I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t want there to be subject silo’s….. sigh
So I do get hot and bothered when people attend PLD paid for out of precious school budgets and either 1) don’t get quality or 2) don’t put an effort in. 2 very different problems, but with a similar outcome – professional learning goes on the back burner as too hard, too much time, too expensive for what you get……
Changing the culture around staff professional learning in many schools is a challenge I don’t see going away any time soon, despite the efforts of many outstanding educators out there to change that mould.
So all in all I had an amazing time at Energise, and am really thankful for the opportunity to attend and share. It was definitely a ‘different’ type of teacher conference and I hope we see more of them in the future – I’m already looking forward to energise 2018.