The Reflection Pool

Jump Start Your PD

Did you wish you could do this at the last meeting or learning session you attended?

Boring Presentation

Maybe you did! Or maybe you just spent most of the time surreptitiously checking your email or texting your friends and family. Maybe you even arranged a “fake call”, so you could get out of the session early.

Time for a reflective question:

Do people ever feel like that in your meetings or learning sessions?

(If you don’t know the answer to this question, ask for some honest feedback. It’s the best way to find out.)

We all know that the problem of boring PD and meetings is a common one.  Many books have been written about it, including Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni, which I recommend. While I can’t fix all your problems in this area (you’ll have to do some hard work on your own), I can share this experience.

The third topic in ETMOOC (Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course) was all about digital storytelling.  Alan Levine, @cogdog, recently presented a session on this topic as part of the course.  In it, he talked about how the energy in a room changes when people are asked to contribute creative ideas or add parts to a story. My brain lit up when this exact thing happened at our latest learning session.

Organizers of ETMOOC had challenged us to experiment with digital storytelling.  Six Word Stories caught my attention immediately. They present a seemingly simple challenge but are difficult to get right. I introduced them to staff at the beginning of the  session and shared Hemingway’s legendary efforts, said to be the genesis of the genre. Then I challenged staff to come up with their own six word stories about school life. Wow! The energy in the room changed. People talked. People collaborated. People scribbled. And there was a lot of laughter.  When we shared our stories, topics ranged from disgruntled rants about our parking lot to inspirational words about newcomer experiences at our school. It was a great way to see what people were thinking about as well as introduce a new teaching idea for a classroom. It also set the stage for the discussions that followed, as staff had had a chance to share something personal and have some fun.

What about you?  At your next session, how can you expand the energy in the room?


7 thoughts on “Jump Start Your PD

  1. Sue, I love this idea of six word stories! I’m going to check out the link for sure. I think that the energy in the room really changes when people have a chance to work and learn together. On Friday, I did a short presentation at our Staff Meeting, and while it started with me talking to the group, I tried to change it quickly to teachers working with the tool (in this case, iPads) to try out some of the suggestions and come up with some of their own. The energy really changed when people could collaborate. I think that we all need this social interaction.

    Sometimes presentations can’t be helped, but I like to try and think like I do with my students: try to include visuals (not everyone is an auditory learner), allow for conversation, and keep the “talking time” short and the “working time” longer. This works well for kids! I think it would work well for adults too.

    Thanks for always getting me thinking!

    1. You said it – the key is social interaction. I’m not sure whether so-called learning styles exist or if they’re just preferences, but everybody needs to try things out to really learn them.

  2. I don’t even think it is just social interaction but more like learning interaction. I’ve been to lots of meetings where I get a chance to talk and generate ideas with others but I don’t always walk away feeling that it was worth my time. The value comes in the learning that is created together – not just downloaded to me by the presenter, and not just in chatting and calling it collaboration. PS I love 6 word stories too – I use them all the time in pd and in classrooms. Good choice!

    1. You are brilliant!That is exactly the distinction I was trying to get at. It’s not just having fun and chatting, it’s constructing something – it’s learning.

  3. Social interaction is absolutely the key– whether it’s 6-word memoirs or sharing great teaching strategies, that’s how we all learn best: working with others! We are trying to ignite these types of professional learning activities in our district, but some folks prefer the easy way– just “sit and get”– because it takes no effort on their part.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Barbara. When I just sit, I sure don’t “git”. How can you have everyone realize the value of social interaction as part of learning?

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