Experimenting with Flipped PD

The PD process has been a thorn in my side for many years. I am always thinking about ways to make the learning experience more interactive and meaningful for my teachers. I’ve read books and participated in webinars on how to energize PD. I’m currently going through a coaching program to gain even more insight on working with teachers. I’ve scoured the internet over the past few years on ways to take the “boring” out of PD. And like so many of the teachers I work with, I’ve become much smarter about what works and what doesn’t in PD – but my “students” remain disengaged and frustrated.

It’s not that I don’t want to change. But the process of training is a challenge, especially in a school building. I hear what others are saying about best practices and ways to improve, but my reality is a lot different. My sessions often get “bumped” for more pressing needs like state testing, schoolwide intitiatives, mixups with the PD calendar for the month…and while I recognize that things happen, it creates an atmosphere of only training on “need to know” info like posting grades, gathering test data, and the latest district software instead of doing and sharing the fun things I want to do like technology coaching, collaborating on projects, and co-teaching classes.

After lots of experimentation and a few epic fails, I think I’ve stumbled upon a possible win for next year. I plan to “flip” our technology staff development by providing our staff with an online platformtrampoline-trick-jumping-boy-salto-bounce-flip

I have built a Digital Learning PD website using Weebly. (I’ll talk more about why I chose that in a later post). It’s still a work in progress, but I think it will allow for the flexibility we need to get the “meat” of our topics ahead of time so that we can use PD time for “dessert”.

After creating the frame for my site, I began with our first lesson called OneNote 101. I created a simple lesson online – an intro, an online tutorial, and 3 tasks – and required the teachers to respond in our OneNote Staff Notebook (read more about that in this post). Here’s what I’ve learned so far –

  • Provide clear instructions. The first time I sent out the info in a generalized email, I was so excited to see their progress. I checked that staff notebook every hour, eager to see the waves of genius and inspiration that my PD had inspired. Day One – nothing. Day Two – nothing. I realized later that since the OneNote link was first, most teachers stopped reading there and once they opened it, were confused about what to do next. My instructions made perfect sense to me, but they were written from the instructor’s point of view – not the participants.
  • Teachers need a “why”. The most common feedback I received went something like this: “I know a little about OneNote. I’ve always thought of it as something you use to plan vacations, or do stuff at home. I’m trying to understand how this fits with my classes.” To help with this, I added a Why? Section to each tutorial along with estimated times and the general overview. I’m hoping that this will help with the big picture so that they can move forward with actually completing the assignment.
  • Spell out the expectations.   If there’s no reason to do it, it won’t get done. This is true for kids, and as I found out, for teachers as well. I had to explain they wouldn’t get credit for attending that week’s PD session until they finished the task. I’m hoping this will encourage them to get it done.

I’m sure I’ll have more lessons as we complete this experiment. Have you tried “flipping” your professional development? How’s it working for ya?