Earlier this year, I was honoured to work with some some administrators at the New Frontiers School Board in Chateauguay, Quebec who were willing to take a risk. They handed over the control for their staffs’ professional development to…well, to their staff!
Not only that but they documented the risk-taking, which I find both courageous and generous. My favourite parts are when teachers describe what they got out of the experience. So here is a video of the day and once you finish watching it, continue reading below to find out how this day came about. The video was filmed by Chris Alsop of Captura Video and coordinated by Chuck Halliday of the NFSB.
How it started
A group of us, RECIT consultants, local and external consultants, centre directors, and school board directors and coordinators, got together to plan a service PED day – traditionally a time when everyone involved in NFSB Continuing Education – teachers (Academic and Vocational), office staff, technicians, maintenance staff, EVERYONE – gather to attend workshops on various subjects. This time, we weren’t going to offer workshops and they weren’t going to separate the participants by job description. We were going to facilitate a day of participant-centered and participant-directed conversation about connecting with diverse learners, whatever your role.
PD that just makes sense
It made so much sense to do this. As one of the administrators pointed out – we ask our teachers to differentiate learning for their students, to create student-centered classrooms…shouldn’t we be doing the same for our staff?
They decided to model the day on an EdCamp style of PD, which is essentially an un-conference. That is, a conference that has no set agenda ….
but is basically a space for like-minded people to get together to talk about the things that are important to them. Whoever attends, defines the agenda in the morning ….
(by the way – just an aside – Avi and I have decided that the post-it is our technology of choice this year.)
Making the shift
I was thrilled with the day! Energy levels were high and there was a buzz of conversation throughout the centre. Was it perfect? Did every single participant get what they needed out of the PED day? No, probably not. But it was a perfect start. We are so used to attending workshops where we sit and listen so making the shift to participant-driven PD takes practice!
It’s a shift for consultants as well as participants. Instead of presenting a workshop about how to collaborate online, we designed a workshop where the participants were asked to document their learning with collaborative, cloud-based tools. It is hard for a consultant to let go of the PowerPoint! In fact, there were no presentations beyond a short intro to the day and a photo montage summary at the end of the day. Instead, it was a day of conversation-based PD.
So where was the technology, guys????
It was a pervasive and seamless part of the process but it was not centre stage. We modeled using technology for collaboration (Google Drive for session notes), extrapolating data (Word clouds based on session notes), and generating instant artifacts of the day’s events for the closing session (slide show of images and word clouds from the sessions). Most importantly, we got out of the way and allowed the community the space to talk about what matters most to them.
So basically, this is what consultants do while the staff do all of the work…
Not a bad gig, eh?
So, what’s next?
You’ll have to wait and see… Looks to me like there are some high expectations, though!
Quick edit – Avi wrote about our first follow up session to this day here: Tackling absenteeism through technology and we are doing our next follow up session in January. The idea that the work we do with teachers is based on their conversations, their preoccupations is more important to me than you can know.
I have been teaching and consulting - from primary school through adult education - since 1996. Currently an education consultant with la Commission scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles in Montreal, Quebec, I believe that sharing our stories is the key to getting better together.