The Texas Space Grant Consortium gives teachers a chance to have intensive NASA related professional development during the summers.
I read this and thought about how people like me that train adults should look at adult learners, Maybe there is a something in this for all of us.
Instructional technology trainers must understand the tools that science teachers use in order to better facilitate integration. Science instructional technology is not all about student responders and interactive whiteboards. It is about sensors, models, data loggers, and recorders. —Holt
The Texas Space Grant Consortium gives teachers a chance to have intensive NASA related professional development during the summers.
I have been toying with the idea of having my team do self evaluations of video taped staff development sessions that they conduct. I am not so much interested in their technical know-how, but rather how they come across to the audience.
Here are some ideas I have where they will critique themselves privately watching their presentations, and I will do the same, We then will come together and see how we match, and where there are areas for discussion.
Here is a rough draft of the criteria that they will critique themselves on, ranking themselves on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being low and 5 being high:
The overall purpose of the training and what would be covered was explained to the audience.
The training fit the time allotted.
The trainer was dressed professionally.
Trainer presented and maintained a welcoming attitude toward attendees.
Called on all participants equally.
Praised correct answers.
Encourages incorrectly answered questions to try again.
Allows time for questioned to be answered.
Made eye contact with attendees.
The training flowed logically from beginning to end.
Allowed time for questions.
All attendees were involved in the training.
Watched to make sure audience remained on task.
Broke up / eliminated off task behavior.
Remained on task throughout training.
Provided a space / instructions for trainees to revisit material on their own(online follow-up)
Gauged audience level of knowledge prior to training.
Checked that all attendees were keeping up.
Clarified and or rephrased questions.
Maintained positive attitude throughout the training.
All attendees could see what was being demonstrated.
Summarized main point before emoting on to next point.
Clearly described what was expected of audience.
Clearly described what the training would accomplish.
Demonstrated patience throughout the training.
Avoided the “pinball effect” of mentioning tangental topics during training.
What do you think? Should I add some more, take some off?
Imagine if every person that thought about becoming an artist thought to themselves that there really was no reason to start because so many others had such a great lead on them?
There is no way I can ever catch up with Warhol.
There is no way I can catch up with Gaines or Hockney, or Banksy, or…
Why even start?
Or if every filmmaker thought that there was no way that they could ever be as good as say, a Hitchcock, or Wells, or Coppola.
Or if any would-be author thought that there was no way they could ever be as good as the great authors, so why even try?
Sounds silly doesn’t it?
If Andy Warhol thought he could never catch up to the greats that were before him, then the world would never have sen his genius.
If Steven Speilberg thought that there was no reason to start because Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick were so far ahead of him, we never would have had Shindler’s List, or Saving Private Ryan or even Indiana Jones.
If the late 20th century writers thought that there was no need to begin writing because Fitzgerald and Steinbeck and Hemingway did it all, then we never would have had Catch 22, or To Kill a Mockingbird or even the World According to Garp.
Luckily, creators continue to create with an attitude that they are not blocked by those that came before them, but as Einstein said they stand of the shoulders of those great ones and use them to see farther.
They use the knowledge of the pioneers to push themselves forward.
I recently was in a conversation with a teacher who said something to the effect that she felt paralyzed by technology because “people like me” (meaning nerd and geeks I suppose) were so far ahead of her technically that there was no way she could catch up. It seemed like an uphill battle she was not going to win.
I got to thinking about her and that attitude. I hoped that she didn’t have that same attitude towards her students. After all, why teach those elementary kids when all the high school kids already have the knowledge?
The more I thought about it, the sillier it became in my mind. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was not alone in that attitude? We like to think of educators as lifelong learners, but I wonder how many actually are?
When I was a new teacher back in the times of the dinosaurs, I remember asking a seasoned teacher if he was going to get a Master’s degree.
"Why?" he asked. I have a job, and have had it for years. I have no need for one.
Lifelong learner indeed.
So I suppose he was not alone then, and the teacher I spoke with is not alone now.
How do we get to these folks? How do we show them that just because others are ahead, that is not a reason to give up?
The idea of “Starting with the Why” or showing how this or that technolgoy actually makes their lives better comes to mind, but I think by now that they have thought of every excuse not to use technology.
What would you do? How would you make technology in their classes less intimidating? How woudl you make Professional Development more relevant?
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We have all been there: sitting in a room being forced to listen to some “expert” talk about some strategy or some “latest and greatest” thing that will make all your students pass the test. And we all have groaned when we were forced to do some “activity” that really was just designed to keep us awake until lunch. And we all have started counting the ceiling tiles or started surfing the internet or started checking emails the minute the speaker lost our attention.
And we all have turned to our table mates and began a whispered discussion on how much the speaker was costing the school district and how better we could use the money.
And we all have sat there and prayed that the speaker was mentally somehow on another timezone and would let us all leave an hour or two early. And we glared at the ONE PERSON in the room that actually asked a question at the end of the day when the speaker asked if there were any questions. What a brown-nose!
We have all been there. And we have all thought “what a waste of time.”
But you know what? It doesn’t have to be a waste of time. There are actual things you could do during even the worst professional development that COULD make it meaningful, or at least a little fun. All you need is a internet connected device and a little tech savvy. Here are some ideas to make the bad good:
The first thing you have to do is to have a few tricks up your sleeve so that you can use the tools as the training dictates. Just as you would adjust your teaching to meet the needs of your students, you need to adjust your learning when it comes to boring or bad professional development.
Use these tools as they are called upon:
Tool #1: Check them out
Most trainers have at least some kernel of knowledge or background to get to your district or they would not have been hired (hopefully) in the first place. Most have some kind of digital footprint. Do they have a webspace? A Facebook page? A Twitter account? Find out and surf over to find out their background. I have found that many times the speaker really is qualified to talk on the topic, even though they may not be the best presenter. See if the speaker is qualified to give the PD. Google them. Where were they last week? Where are they headed to? All information you find about the speaker is good to know, and can be used later on when there actually is a meaningful question-and-answer period.
Tool #2: Help them out
If the speaker is qualified to speak, but is struggling, why not help them out? You can be the expert at the table, or the expert in the room that knows all about what this person is speaking about by simply googling about them in finding out what they know. When you see a presenter is struggling to make a point, why not raise your hand and say “I noticed on your website that you said so and so. Does that have to do with what were talking about here? If so how?” You might be the conversational lubricant that this person needs to go from a boring presentation to an exciting one.
Tool #3: Hold a backchannel conversation
Sometimes there is no hope at all for a boring presenter. But even the most boring presenter might occasionally say something interesting. That’s where a good back channel can be useful. Most professional development does not use the back channel, which if you don’t know what back channel is, is simply a conversation that goes on digitally. You can use Twitter, and follow with along with a hashtag (#) that has to do with the training (#boringpresenter), or you can use a service like todaysmeet.com which is a dedicated channel provider. You can hold a conversation about training with colleagues using these back channels. It views improperly you can take even the most unuseful training and make it useful, by sharing web links, by sharing information about what the topic is, by sharing ways that you use in the classroom, and by answering and asking questions that are being addressed in the training. Back channels are powerful tools.
Tool #4: Find the research they cite
Have you ever been in a training where the presenter says something like “the research says” and then they just go on never citing the research that directly talking about? I found a neat way to keep myself occupied and boring trades is actually go online and find the research that they cite. Sometimes the research they site is even more interesting to read that the presented themselves. Occasionally I’ll find that there is no research that the person cited to back up what they’re saying. When that happens I like to call because I don’t like prisoners that are dishonest with their audience. “You said earlier that Dr. Soandso had her paper that was all about this technique that you’re talking about. Can you give me the name of that paper because I can’t find it anywhere in the?” It isn’t rude in my opinion to call a presenter when they are being less than honest with the audience.
Tool #5: Find the people they cite
Speakers are notorious name droppers. “Why just last week I was having dinner with Dr. Lance Soandso and he said such-and-such. Sometimes, the speaker with the least amount of credibility drops the most names. Google the people that they drop. Find out if they’re experts in the field of their actually citing. Again, if someone is being paid to teach, if someone is being asked to show their expertise to a group of educators, then every single thing they say should be up for scrutiny, and it also should be verifiable. If you had a conversation with the President last week, there probably should be some kind of note that you had conversation with the president last week. If you say you had dinner with the leading researcher in brain science, than what you say about brain science better match with the leading researcher said in their book, or in their papers.
Tool #6: Use your imagination to link the presentation to your classroom
Sometimes we’re in presentations where the information is good, the presenter is good, but there’s really no information about how to practically use what they’re saying in the classroom. when the presenter is not giving me practical skills, I will either start looking at other people’s blogs that have used these skills and learn how their incorporating them into their classrooms, or I will start thinking of ways to use them in my classroom and then write up a blog about them. That way I’m sharing the training with colleagues that could not make it, and I’m making an archive for myself when I want to revisit the training.
Tool #7: Share the training
Even the worst training has something that can be shared. Write up a blog entry about what you learn. You can write up a blog entry about how you would’ve done the training you are in charge. You can write up a blog entry about how you’re going to incorporate this into your classroom. you can keep a running commentary going during the training that you’re taking notes. Have you ever seen cover it live? That’s a service that allows for what’s called life blogging of an ev you can keep a running commentary of the training in a series of notes, and then just copy and paste those into a blog entry.
We often tell students that education is what you make of it: if you want to get something out of it you will, if you don’t want to get some you out of it you won’t. I think the same holds true for professional development. If you go in with the attitude that you can learn no matter how bad the training, then I think you can. If you go in with the attitude that you’re not going to learn if the presenter is poor, or the information is dated, or just doesn’t meet your needs, then you won’t get anything out of it. You have to change your mindset and decide that you’re going to get something out of training even if it’s bad. Because you can change the worst training and make it but it requires you to do a little bit more than just sit back passively entertained.