This morning at November Learning’s Building Learning Communities conference, I attended a session hosted by staff from Mettawee Community School . Librarian Kelly Ahfeld worked with her supportive building principal to develop a different kind of professional development. Having found that structured professional development sessions were fun but hadn’t resulted in the kind of pedagogical change they had envisioned, they decided to create a very unstructured kind of professional development that they called an Exploratorium.
Instead of the librarian or administrators deciding in advance what tools teachers needed to know, the teachers identified the tools they had wanted to explore but had not been able to yet. That allowed Kelly some lead time to organize some resources. Then, on Friday afternoon, teachers could leap in, experiment, and explore.
The rules? Yes, even unstructured PD needs a few rules:
- You are in charge.
- You must give it a try.
- Failure is cool.
- At the end of the session, you must share your process (but you don’t have to come up with a formal product to share).
- Prizes! From flash drives to Flip cameras, teachers were urged on to explore with the promise that they could receive a tool that would promote integration in their classroom.
The results were great. Not all tools ended up being implemented (one teacher tried Moodle and found it too cumbersome for what she wanted to accomplish; the principal tried Facebook but didn’t feel she should have a Facebook page given her role), but some were (Skyping Senator Leahy in DC) — and were more successful because they grew out of an authentic teaching/learning need, not out of a perceived need.
Such a simple idea, right? And so easily implementable because the librarian doesn’t have to prepare a big PowerPoint or set of handouts.
How could we implement this in our own schools?
PS – Just a reminder that our blog will be moving to http://blog.schoollibrarymonthly.com on August 5.