Every year, I organize a conference just for the teaching staff of Pickerington Local School District. I begin this three years ago, when I heard an outcry from teachers about being forced to sit in professional development sessions that had no significance to them. So I modeled this conference in a way that teachers can choose their own learning paths and have the choice of what they need or what works for their classroom.
In the past we have brought in a keynote speaker and had four different breakout sessions. In 2015 we had Dave Burgess and in 2016 we had Kevin Honeycutt as the keynote speaker. This year’s version of the conference we had Eric Sheninger as our keynote presenter and two breakout sessions, additionally we showed the entire staff the educational documentary “Most Likely to Succeed.” Our goal of the conference was to get teachers thinking differently about education. I know from my teaching career, I would find something that I thought worked and I would stick with it year after year. But is that truly the best for education and best for kids. The kids change from years to year, shouldn’t education change as well. Also, teaching is complicated and time-consuming, so there is very little time to think outside of the box. This was the goal to think about what and how can be done differently.
Eric’s Keynote was titled “Bring the Awe Back to Teaching.” Eric’s message was one of innovation and what does innovation look like. He started out with showing the changes in technology and how they have affected our daily lives. Eric talked about the awe in teaching and learning, he showed this youtube video about awe. Eric also discussed integrating technology into teaching and learning. One of his messages I believe is drastically important and often overlooked by technology directors; “Unless you get the instructional design right, technology can only increase the speed & certainty of failure.” I completely believe that pedagogy must come first, technology is a tool to enhance and engaged teaching and learning.
Eric also introduced us to numerous technology tools, the one I liked the best is Menti Meter, which is a tool to get instant feedback from our classroom or audience. Eric polled the 750 members in the audience and we instantly had a word cloud that showed the room’s definition of innovation.
Eric definitely set the tone for the conference and certainly gave us ideas of how to think differently.
One of the parts I love about the conference is that we ask our staff to use Twitter to share and curate their learning. Also, teachers can earn college credit if they tweet 64 times during the conference and complete a few other simple tasks. This allows us to have a huge collection of tweets that teachers can share what they have learned throughout the sessions.
We had so much tweeting going on that we were trending #2 in the Columbus location only to the inauguration. Top #PLSDu tweets
After the keynote we had two breakout sessions that included session from technology integration to stress management to literacy strategies to impact of cultural awareness. Over 75% of the sessions were led by PLSD staff members.
After lunch, we showed the entire staff the educational documentary “Most Likely to Succeed.” The video raises the questions of how should education change as more and more technology begins to take over jobs. Does this generation of students need a different type of education than the past generations?
The video showed High Tech High, a high school in San Diego that has adopted a drastically different model of education. High Tech High is a school that is fully integrated and very much project based learning strategies. After the video, teachers were divided into different groups to debrief their thoughts about the video.
The main goal of the conference was to give educators a few different perspectives on different ways of teaching. Eric talked a lot of blended learning and integrating technology. Breakout sessions talked about many classroom strategies. And Most Likely to Succeed talked about project based learning.
Hopefully, everyone that attended the conference found 1 or 2 things that they can take back and use to improve teaching and learning. The best teachers/leaders are the ones that are always learning themselves and making modifications to improve their craft.
I feel this type of professional development, of offering numerous sessions, makes the day relevant and worthwhile to all staff members.
We are looking forward to next year’s conference on January 19th, 2018 with our keynote speaker George Couros.