Ideas worth stealing

A good idea is always worth stealing – and modifying.  Take last Thursday as a case in point.

We always struggle to make professional development days at school engaging.  Too many times we have been reminded as teachers of the sheer torture we put students through each and every day by having a “sit and get” style of presentation, where one person who has been identified as an expert makes a presentation to the whole group on something they might deem as important. Rarely is it engaging, much less relevant.

As we pondered a couple of weeks ago about how to approach this upcoming day, I was reminded by my colleague Kim Cofino at the International School of Bangkok that there are many experts in our midst.  She wrote recently about their staff’s recent experiences with “speed-geeking”, where teachers were exposed to a variety of strategies and tools from a number of staff members over a short period of time.

We decided to take that approach one step further. We based a part of Thursday’s PD sessions on the “speed-dating” model now being used across the globe as a means of meeting potential partners.  It is often said that you can tell pretty quick whether someone is worth the effort.  We were interested if the same could be said for new teaching strategies, tools and projects.

Not having and first-hand knowledge of speed-dating, our model was based purely on perception of a process.  That being said, it worked out pretty well.

We started with Chris Lehmann’s  “Schools We Need” presentation from the IgnitePhilly series.  This was meant to generate some mental juices surrounding the idea of school change and what it could really look like.

Teachers were then broken into groups of two.  A timer was put on the SMART Board and set at six minutes.  Teachers were told they had three minutes to show their partner one new practice, project, assessment, etc. that they have introduced into their classroom in the past year.  They then had three minutes to listen to their colleague’s idea.  Then one rotated to the next table while one stayed.

Teachers were not expected to focus on technology-based ideas.  In fact, they were told that innovation did not have to be centered on their laptops.  That being said, most of the new practices were made possible by teacher laptops and student 1:1 programs.

This was not meant to dig deep into the process or practice.  We felt that, like speed-dating, one would be able to assess pretty quickly if there was anything of interest there for them.  They could follow up at a later date if they wanted more details.  We were looking for two outcomes; teachers would be exposed to six new ideas (we did six rounds in 45 minutes) and teachers received an implicit message that they should be looking at new practices on a continual basis.

Thanks Kim.  I know you won’t mind the remodel.

Technorati tags: technology, education, whipple, learning, Kim Cofino

Photo: img_4042, Uploaded to Flickr on September 7, 2006 by Urban Mixer

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