“Sandbox Time” – The Style of PD Teachers Deserve

This morning I worked with some teachers at an area school around the topic of Google Sites with a little YouTube and other Google Apps for Education topics sprinkled in. It was straightforward for me, something I’ve done a lot and rather enjoy doing – teaching teachers and administrators about Google Apps for Education. Speaking to the power of connectedness and rethinking what teaching and learning should look like in 2015. After a comment I received from a teacher when the workshop was over, I finally decided to blog about my style of facilitating professional development. I feel kind of silly blogging about it because it seems rather obvious to incorporate “sandbox time” into adult learning, however, I’m discovering it’s not so obvious to other PD facilitators.

What is “sandbox time”? Simply put, it’s giving the group time to play. Time to explore, talk, and get comfortable. Time to discover and create new ideas.

sand castle
https://www.flickr.com/people/sis/

Teachers love to learn about new tech tools. All of us in the edtech world do. We want to (or should want to) stay on top of the latest and greatest; to explore new ideas for teaching and learning with technology. If we really want teachers to move forward, however, we should be sticking to the old adage of “less is more”. As long as you’re moving yourself forward professionally, who cares if it’s only 1 or 2 things that you get really good at? I’d rather be really comfortable with just one or two things, yet we still see sessions at conferences and workshops titled, “60 ____ in 60 minutes” and so on. This is something I remind teachers often – don’t get hung up on how fast or how much you’re moving forward, the point is to move forward!

Back to “sandbox time”. I format my workshops with this component being the most important part in my opinion. I share a little bit, give sandbox time, share a little more to build upon what we did earlier, then more “sandbox time”. Kind of like shampoo directions except it’s for facilitating professional development. One more than one occasion I have had a teacher come and say to me afterwards (as I did today) how much they appreciated me formatting the learning experience this way. The thought I usually have to myself around this is something like, “Why would I make you listen to me talk for 3 hours nonstop and cram as much down your throats as possible?!”. This isn’t an acceptable format for learning; for teachers or students.

If you’re providing professional learning opportunities to teachers and you want the learning to be meaningful and increase teacher comfort, especially around technology integration, try incorporating “sandbox time” into your next conference session or workshop! Teachers will feel more comfortable applying their learning and they’ll appreciate the departure from the routine ‘sit and get’ method!

Why Forward Movement Matters

If you think about the staggering amount of edtech services out there, coupled with the numerous types of devices, it can feel pretty overwhelming to most people. We go to edcamps, conferences, webinars, etc. and get filled up with so many new ideas and resources but we don’t know where to start. Have you ever had either of these feelings?

Looking at it through the workshop facilitator/presenter lens, I’m just not into trying to cover 60 tools in 60 minutes or whatever other catchy title there is for it. That’s just not my style. I think we (leaders, presenters, etc.) need to keep this in mind when sharing with the intent of moving teachers forward with technology integration. The last thing I ever want to do is see someone get overwhelmed with too many choices. I will tell people this that I’m meeting with or presenting to on whatever the topic may be; especially if our time together is pretty limited.  I’ve seen the look on teachers’ faces that shows their brain has been flooded and they don’t know what to do next. Like I said, there’s so many options out there for us and our students. I’d rather only share 3 ideas with you to dive into and pick from, and you try 1 of them and get really good at it. The old adage of ‘less is more’ most definitely rings true with technology integration.

Even so, when trying to get teachers to focus their learning with incorporating technology, there is often an unnecessary urgency. Here are some of the commonalities I’ve heard teachers say:

“I want to try this, this, and this and have my students using all of them within the next week.” (too much at once)

“Yeah but Mr. ‘teacher down the hall’ is having his students using Hangouts, coding, and robotics.” (feeling the need to compete)

“I’m only doing ____ right now in my class, which I know isn’t much.” (feeling that what they’re doing is inadequate)

Here’s how I always respond to these type of statements: the point is not to see how fast you can move forward, or how many new ideas you can move forward with at once, the point is to just move forward! Forward movement matters! If you’re embracing new ideas by trying them, refining them, and trying them again then don’t discredit yourself. You’re in a learner first mindset and that is huge!

I decided to explore my creative side again by using Canva (my newest learning adventure) to recreate a quote that I love to share with teachers I’m speaking to. I tried to find the original source of the quote but all I could turn up was that the author is ‘unknown’.

It's not about being the best...

 

 

Creating More Lollipop Moments

This video from TEDx Toronto has really been resonating with me lately. It has me thinking about the kinds of learning experiences we create for our students. The relationships we build with our students. And also the learning experiences we create for teachers and the necessity of strong relationships there too. The video is about 6 minutes. It’s worth that watch. I’ve got some more thoughts on the other side.

Yes, You’re a Leader

Stop thinking that you don’t have something to share. That you don’t have insight to offer into making education better; whether that be at the district or school level. Or that no one can learn from you. We’re all leaders when it comes to the business of making teaching and learning better for our students. To existing district and school leaders: are you tapping into the full potential of the leaders you have around you every day? Are you giving opportunity to the people within your organization develop their leadership capacity?

So, what might this look like? It could look like sharing at a faculty meeting, joining in a chat on Twitter to share your expertise, joining a Google Hangout, joining a Google+ community, leading a conversation at an edcamp, or writing a blog post. Some are more comfortable with certain mediums than others. We need to be ok with this and allow it to count as professional growth.

Spreading the Love

Who makes your life better? Who makes you a better teacher? There’s no denying the power of words. No matter how they’re delivered to us. Sean Williams and I had a brief discussion about this on Twitter the other night:

You will never know all the people you have impacted in your lifetime. Chances are good someone has impacted you in some way. Have you taken the time to tell them?

Change the World

We have all experienced our own “lollipop” moments. We all have likely even been the creator of some whether we remember it or not. The power of sharing these moments with those that gave them to us I truly believe has the ability to change the world. It comes down to letting people know they matter. I think about this all the time when I think about the wonderful people I’ve become connected to in online and offline spaces. It regularly blows me away! I am working on being better about telling people who 1) I am thankful for them and 2) that they’re having a huge impact because of what they’re doing and in turn sharing about it, and 3) that I really appreciate it.

Think about the collective power that’s out there already. Now think about if we worked more to tell people they matter, tap into their genius, and help them find the best outlet to share it. Just imagine what could happen!