Ditch the Slideshow: Professional Development for Grownup Kids
The week that connects October to November is always a busy time for educators. These days are packed with grading midterm work, writing report cards, scheduling parent conferences, and moving the curriculum forward. Toss in some tired children who were up late and are riding the Halloween sugar rush, and you have an exhausting week. This is NOT a good time to run faculty professional development….or is it?
One of the first questions I received back in September was, “are you running the coding club?” And soon another question kept nagging at the back of my mind: “Why is coding living in a club?”
As I spent two months watching our teachers teach incredible lessons and engage with students in conversations around problem solving and following directions, I realized that our teachers were already “teaching coding.” They just didn’t realize it. Excited to empower teachers with this epiphany, I booked the next available Friday afternoon.
But that next Friday was November 3rd. And teachers were going to show up TIRED. So we threw out the slideshow PD model, and gathered together our robots, VR googles, and iPads. After a 7 minute intro to computation thinking vocabulary, I let teachers loose to try out our collection of coding activities.
What happened over the next hour was transformational. Teachers who showed up refusing to smile or participate in the opening 7 minutes began dancing with VR glasses, cheering as they leveled up in Kodable, and following one another around with Dash and Dot robots. By the end, it felt like a weekend cookout with friends, instead of a professional development requirement.
With mother nature on our side, we enjoyed some coding exploration and robot driving in the warm autumn sunshine. It was a relaxing way to decompress after a busy week, and enjoy one another’s company. The VR googles were the hit of the afternoon, and I loved hearing faculty help one another solve coding challenges.
At the end of the session, we did a 7 minute recap. I asked each person to write a reaction on a sticky note. This could be a question, comment, or reflection. Some prompts included:
- What did you like/dislike about this afternoon?
- What is a question that you have after this afternoon?
- Where can you amp up the computer science skills you are already teaching?
- What is one new thing you tried this afternoon that you can implement into your classroom?
- What is transformative about the activities we did today? What about them is better than the way we currently teach?
- How did it feel to be a student in this type of learning environment?
As they wrote, I offered the opportunity to read the sticky notes aloud; only a few people wanted to share. Then, I sent everyone off for the weekend!
Professional development should end on high notes,
leaving participants motivated and engaged.
Was there more that I could have asked? Were there conversations I could have had? Absolutely. But professional development should end on high notes, leaving participants motivated and engaged. I have sat through too many sessions where we discuss a topic or admire a problem until there is nothing else to say and zero desire to think anymore about it. It deflates the learning. I would rather teachers leave thinking in positive ways about the topics we covered, and follow up a short time later with further reflection.
After a long week, the best thing we can do is carve out time to play and rest. I am grateful for the smiles and good humor of my colleagues. And I cannot wait to see the exciting ways they incorporate computational thinking skills into their classrooms!
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