Depending on whether your staff would prefer a half day pro-d or a full day pro-d arrange presenters. To avoid overwhelming your audience I think it’s best to stick to two presentations for a morning session, and three for an all day session with more opportunities to discuss and play around with new tools as a team.
While the teaching/learning is taking place make sure to capture the moment with both pictures and short video clips to represent the various stages of the process.
The “meat” of the pro-d will of course be the teacher-led lessons, but there are a few other key components that I believe will help to better engage the learners, as well as help foster and build a sense of community.
During the lessons make sure to structure opportunities for partnered conversations, and group sharing. Many of us do this in our classrooms, but it is important to keep in mind good teaching practices are always good practices regardless of the age of the learner. ‘Talk is an important means by which we communicate and build social relationships, and it plays a crucial role in learning’ (Primary National Strategy, 2003). Talking provides an opportunity to forge new relationships, while also helping verbal learners solidify new information.
Schedule in brain breaks! Opportunities to do activities that may be seemingly unrelated to the pro-d, however these activities should tackle some of the relationship and community building goals that maybe aren’t explicitly addressed. “Our brains are designed to learn short bursts of information followed by time to process the information. We need time for memory formation and for ‘settling.’ Evidence suggests that time spent not learning new content is very important.” (Jensen, 2003)
Walk and talk – After the first lesson and some playing around with the new technology provide the group with a scheduled relaxing activity, like a walk and talk. This brain break will do two things, 1.) give staff a chance to connect on a personal level, whether they’re talking about the morning lesson, or their personal lives they are talking, and connecting and building that support network! Chances are, they will be connecting about the morning and what a great way to solidify learning than talking about it with a partner!
Coffee Break – Provide coffee, tea and a few snacks in a specific location (could be another classroom, or the room you are working in). By having organized treats you will keep your group together during the break therefore providing an opportunity to connect and discuss unstructured.
Partner Challenges – Divide the group into partners or teams and play a silly game for prizes similar to something you would do in your classroom; trivia questions, a mind puzzle, or even indoor obstacle/relay course races could be fun. I like to steal bits from games like Scattergories, Slang Teasers, or Cranium (hum that tune, act like a star). Any activity that can be done in 15-20 minutes and that gets the group interacting, working together and laughing will work. Brain break suggestions? Leave them below!
At the end of every pro-d ask the group to reflect upon the day and the content. Reflections can be written, or captured conversation in the form of a video diary (hey – more footage for your summary!), or voice memos. The way you decide to organize the reflection is up to you, however I feel that the reflection process is something that should be documented in hard copy so that our learning and experiences can be called upon at any time during the process, while also providing a concrete version of our journey of learning. “… reflecting on work enhances its meaning. Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning. We foster our own growth when we control our learning, so some reflection is best done alone. Reflection is also enhanced, however, when we ponder our learning with others.” (Costa & Bena, 2008)
After the individual reflections I would encourage a group conversation where those who are comfortable can share their thoughts on the day’s events, and the group could discuss where they might like to go next time. The reflection wrap-up may also be a good place to offer methods for the group to connect in-between now and the next session: blog, white board talk, email. As well as to remind everyone that resources from today’s lesson as well as a recap will be posted on the blog for easy access to all.
At the end of each session it is important to have your own reflection: How did it go? What will you try differently next time? Were there any leads for next month’s Shop Talk? What problems arose, can you troubleshoot to avoid similar issues next time?
Review the pictures and videos and reflections (written, verbal, or video) and create short thirty-sixty second video summary of the day. If your school does morning announcements over the television like we do at our school, I would encourage you to post your clip for the whole school to see. I think it is important that the students know their teachers are lifelong learners and they get a chance to see what we did with our pro-d day. By sharing the video there is also a certain amount of accountability that the group takes on to continue as leaders and learners, and perhaps even some accountability or pressure put on the staff who didn’t attend to come and be a part of something great with your colleagues for the next pro-d. Heck, a little peer pressure never hurt anyone! (Joking!) However, in some cases peer pressure can push us to strive to be better and if we are putting that pressure for positive changes out there perhaps it will create a change in the right direction.