Redefining Professional Development at CIPLC: Ed Camp, Play Dates, and Twitter By: Bonnie McAuley Colegio Internacional Puerto la Cruz
Professional development is taking an interesting turn for educators in the 21st century and we are embracing it at Colegio Internacional Puerto la Cruz (CIPLC). With an increased focus on technology and digital literacy for students, we are redefining the content and format of professional development for our staff. EdCamp, PlayDates, and Twitter chats are some of the models we have been exploring here at CIPLC.
I experienced EdCamp for the first time last year at our annual EVAC conference at CIPLC in Venezuela. EdCamp is a professional developmental model that is basically the opposite of a typical conference, which is planned and organized months in advance. EdCamp is often called the “unconference”. On the day of EdCamp educators gather together and make notes of topics that they would like to either “teach” to someone else or “learn” about from someone else. A few leaders organize the notes into categories, assign spaces and individuals select a topic and move to the area. At that point the magic begins. Educators begin to collaborate and teach and learn from one another. They define their agendas and make the content relevant. Once you are in a group, you can decide if the topic is what you’d like to learn. If the conversation or discussion is not meeting your needs, you are free to move to another area to discuss a different topic.
The application of the EdCamp model for professional development has significant implications on teachers and on student learning. Educators are self-directing their professional development and allowing “choice” is creating a commitment and “buy-in” that is not always possible with traditional models. When teachers commit to their learning they are more likely to follow through and apply their learning to increase student achievement. The EdCamp model is providing opportunities for teacher to share their expertise too. The model is indirectly fostering teacher leaders to emerge and share their own expertise. It affords teachers the opportunity to experience the power of self-directed learning, especially in relation to applying learning to new contexts. Now teachers are utilizing EdCamps with their students. I recently implemented an EdCamp with my 3rd grade students at CIPLC and the results were incredible. Students emerged as presenters and teachers. Student groups gathered together to share in relevant learning experiences that were meaningful for them.
Another trend in educator professional development is the emergence of the “playdate”. Our inspirational Technology Coach, Yau-Jau Ku, recently organized a playdate for our staff at CIPLC. The Playdate model was developed as a result of not having time to fully explore the new technology that we’re introduced to at conferences. Oftentimes, we leave a conference full of new knowledge and a list overflowing with new apps, programs and skills to try out. However, once we return to the “real world” many of us lack the time and support to actually try out all of these new tools. A playdate brings educators together to “play” with new technology tools.
Playdates are impacting student learning in myriad ways. Educators are receiving time to explore in order to confidently transform their lessons and provide students with the most cutting-edge strategies for learning. Playdates provide educators with time in a low-risk atmosphere to build their confidence. Technology experts and novices alike all need time for exploration. Playdates are basically cost-free and enjoyable because you’re challenging yourself with new learning. Even more, they are impacting students learning because teachers are feeling confident in introducing new applications that they have experienced during their playdate.
Twitter is another powerful professional development tool that we are utilizing at CIPLC. It is a tool that I have been using for the past several years and it has revolutionized my teaching. For those who have not been introduced to the twittersphere, I’ll take a moment to explain. In the simplest terms, Twitter is a social-networking tool that connects you to others. Educators on twitter are connecting with other educators to share new learning ideas, advice, best practices, and support one another. Many educators will post tweets with links to articles, photographs, websites, or videos on educational topics. Many teachers are engaging in chats on twitter that are organized around specific topics and set for specific times. One of the most amazing parts of Twitter is that now most attendees and presenters at educational conferences are tweeting and sharing all the resources from the conferences. You don’t even need to attend a conference to gather resources because they are all being tweeted out by the attendees.
We know that to properly prepare our students for the future we must begin to look at our teaching and instruction in new ways. At CIPLC our teachers are learners engaged in ongoing professional development. Edcamps, Twitter, and Playdates are just a few examples of those on-demand and relevant professional development models for teachers in the 21st century. Collaborate, tweet, and play.