My Extreme Professional Development

Over the past 10 days I have attended multiple, jam-packed professional development events. I’m beginning to think of it in reality show lingo as my extreme professional development experience, because I’ve encountered so many colleagues along with ideas, hands-on strategies, learning theories, and thoughtful approaches, all focused on becoming better teachers, collaborators, and learners in the 21st Century. One over-arching idea applies to all of my activities: learning, unlearning, and relearning are now routine. Anyone not comfortable with these three concepts — connected and in tandem — needs to get acquainted with them ASAP.

I’m reminded of a quote from futurist Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that can not learn, unlearn, and relearn.

My extreme adventure started about 10 days ago when I presented in the Virginia Shenandoah Valley at the Virginia Association of Press Women. I described how technology has transformed the way we all learn and how specific content is now less important than our skill at discovering information, evaluating it, and using it well. The digital content is out there for everyone to find, I told the group. The role of adults and teachers is to ensure that as we teach one area of content we also ensure that children are developing the skills to recognize, evaluate, and use quality information.

I drove home on Saturday and left again on Sunday for the annual AIMS Technology Retreat on the Maryland Eastern Shore.

In St. Michael’s nearly 200 ed tech colleagues met together for three days of camaraderie while also learning more about constructivist education, mobile learning, 21st Century skills, differentiation, personal learning communities, and various other components of our educational technology jobs. Lots of us talked about iPads and program implementation, focusing especially on the schools that have started using these new devices. I also facilitated a session on educating parents about the challenges and responsibilities of raising digital kids. The retreat ended on Tuesday mid-afternoon.

Wednesday through Friday I spent at my school, Georgetown Day, supporting a unique curriculum project — fifth grade traveling biographies. The yearly project began way back in the 20th Century and now has morphed right into the 21st Century as a multi-disciplinary project that combines research, writing, sharing, performing, and a fair amount of technology (I’ll write more on this for a later blog post.). Working with colleagues and students on this project is just another type of professional development.

On Saturday I was off again, attending a terrific workshop on iPads and 1-1 learning at the Flint Hill School in Fairfax, VA. The school has infused iPads into the curriculum and doing it rapidly. For me the highlight of the day was a presentation by three fourth graders who demonstrated how they use applications on their personal iPads. A presentation by Apple Educator Fraser Speirs, from Scotland, was phenomenal.

And then it was back to considering personal learning communities and learning networks — an entire day in Baltimore with colleagues from perhaps a dozen other schools. This was the capstone event of the year-long Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) program with faculty teams from participating schools (I am on a team of six from my school), all of us coming together after a year of online learning, networking, and examining how to become stronger teachers by embracing personal and lifelong learning networks.

Will Richardson, one of the leaders of PLP, summed it up quite neatly, quoting from a new, soon to be published book by Tony Wagner. I’m paraphrasing here.

Today there’s no competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you. …The world cares more about what you can do with what you know.

Professional development does not usually occur this intensively –at least not very often. Back at school this week, as I helped my seventh grade students working on projects in their medialab class .

I stopped for a minute to marvel over the past ten days. At least for a bit, my brain is full.

2 thoughts on “My Extreme Professional Development

  1. This is a terrific post. I feel connected with you already- having just met some folks from Flint Hill, bing a new PLPeep this year, and having lived in your area! The learning curve we’re all on is tremendous and you’re describiing the exciting things happening for you and for many of us. I shared Will’s quote with others as well. It resonates and says it quite succinctly. Thanks for putting it all into words!

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