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PLAYDATE: The Future of Professional Development

by Megan Kelly (Colegio Nueva Granada) After presenting at the AASSA conference in São Paolo, I returned to Bogota reinvigorated. I had been inspired by keynotes by Lee Crockett and Jason Ohler, had signed up for Twitter and was building my Personal Learning Network, and had made my first professional presentation (outside the ones I do every day for my sixth graders).

I wanted that feeling of professional growth to continue. Through my new PLN, I learned about PLAYDATE, a new form of professional development, similar to edcamps and unconferences. The first PLAYDATE came about when Jennie Magiera, Sue Gorman, and Autumn Laidler were in a similar situation to mine: returning from a  conference and wanting to explore the new tech tools to which they had been exposed. This desire led to the creation of the first PLAYDATE, with the motto, “Explore the things you’ve never had time to explore.”

Many have followed, and on April 29th, I co-organized, along with Joe Harper, Shawntel Allen, and Mery Tellez, South America’s first PLAYDATE at Colegio Nueva Granada. With the option of twenty different sessions, as well as a “Study Hall” to play with technology that wasn’t being offered elsewhere, the 140 participants had plenty of opportunities to develop their skills. Sessions ranged from a Google basics review to augmented reality to screencasting. It was important for us to offer choice to everyone, so there were seven sessions in Spanish; these were the first sessions to fill up. The facilitators were teachers who are comfortable with a certain tool, but expertise wasn’t required. I presented on Subtext, an online reading app that my classes had used three times. With the participants, I discovered new ways to access the app and brainstormed different activities for our classes. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with multiple participants asking for a repeat PLAYDATE as soon as possible. One review said, “It was awesome”. “Now THIS is how PD should be done.” Another participant wrote, “It was an excellent use of our staff, sharing out all our knowledge of tech and then experience using it.” We are already planning to incorporate a half day PLAYDATE into our August orientation and would like to have student facilitators. Our participants left excited and inspired by the personalized professional development they received. Joe Harper says, “There is no one size fits all for professional development when it comes to technology integration. Educators are expected to reach students through differentiation, the same should be true for teachers’ professional development.” With logistical plan ning and enthusiasm, a PLAYDATE could be part of every AASSA school’s professional development plan. For more information, check out the official PLAYDATE website .

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