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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Taking steps to make PD fun!

Having fun in PD
Inspired by one of the first #TOSAchat conversations that I participated in on Twitter (Monday evenings at 8pm PST), I decided to focus this year on making professional development (PD) and meetings in my district more personalized and fun. As a classroom teacher, these were priorities-- how could I give students choice in their learning, how could personalize their learning experiences, and how could I make the experience fun and memorable? Why shouldn't I use this same mindset this year as a TOSA (teacher on special assignment) when planning PDs and meetings for adults?

Here are some of the ways that I, and several of my colleagues, have taken steps to change PD in our district:
  • Get the session started with a fun playlist!
    • One of the topics we talked about in TOSAchat was using a fun playlist to get the energy up in the room before beginning a PD... something so simple, but so effective.
    • I've built a couple of fun playlists in YouTube, one made up of contemporary pop music and the other made up of fun 80s pop songs, that I like to play as people are arriving at my PD sessions.
    • Also fun-- holiday themed PD playlists! Thriller and the Monster Mash were big hits during my Halloween week PD!
  • Game time
    • Just because we've grown-up doesn't mean that we don't still like to have fun!
    • My colleagues and I have been trying to incorporate more games into the start of our PDs to help get our teachers up and moving, getting to know each other, and just having a little fun.
    • Some of the games/tools we've incorporated into our PD:
    • Engineering Challenge
      • Blackout Bingo (We use questions that help attendees get to know each other & give out prizes to the top 3 winners)
      • Kahoot! is a fun way to open a PD and build in a little healthy competition (I like making my Kahoot using fun trivia related to the PD session)
      • Mini-engineering challenges (paper tower challenges, Save Fred, Marshmallow Challenge, paper table challenges, and others are great for getting the energy up before a PD)
      • Raffles (We use swag we've collected at various conferences, meeting, and events as giveaways in raffles... have teachers fill out a little ticket as they sign in and close the raffle box at start time... very low prep & everyone likes to win a prize!)
  • Provide Choice & Differentiation
    • Campbell University was one of my favorite changes in PD in my district... a variety of PD options are provided during the day and teachers get to choose 3 sessions that they want to attend
      • Facilitators are a mix of teachers from the district, county office of education trainers, and outside consultants
    • On a smaller scale, my TOSA colleagues and I have been trying to incorporate choice by offering break-out sessions and independent learning opportunities within our PDs... teachers can choose sessions to attend based on interest and need
      • At our Google Apps PDs, we start whole group to explain Google Drive and how it works (those already familiar with Drive are offered a self-directed "advanced" session on Google Extensions and advanced Apps), and then offer break-out
        Blended PD model
        sessions on the standard Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, etc.); teachers get to choose the sessions they want to attend
      • In our "Blended Learning in Math" series, my colleague @LindseyBlass1 and I created a menu of tools (hyperlinked to screencasts and other self-guided instruction) and allowed teachers to choose which tools they wanted to learn about in each session; different levels of learning are offered and we are then freed-up to provide small group and one-on-one support as needed
  • Interactive & Self-Guided Learning
    • Hyperdocs and hyperlinking is a great way to create an interactive & differentiated PD and allow teachers to work at their own pace
    • Hyperlinks for self-guided learning
      • I try to use hyperlinked slide decks or websites to allow teachers the ability to explore tools and ideas while I'm presenting them and/or to guide their own learning
      • As mentioned above, including hyperlinks to more advanced tools or strategies also allows for learners to move ahead at their own pace while I work more with learners needing extra support
      • For more information about using hyperdocs, visit @LHighfill's hyperdocs website
  • Model the Practices you Want Teachers to Try in their Classrooms
    • Design your PD & meetings so that they model the tools and teaching strategies that you want teachers to try in their own classrooms
      • Makerspaces 
        • Fellow TOSA @juliegoo2 and I incorporated a Makerspace into one of our last PDs to get teachers creating, building, and having a little more fun! Teachers & admin were asked to build something that represented their learning that day.
          "Making" at PD
      • Blended/Flipped Learning
        • Use websites, screencasts, Blendspace, Versal, hyperdocs/slides to blend instruction and allow for more individualized learning and one-on-one face time in PD
      • Technology integration
        • If you're going to present tech tools to teachers in a PD, build your PD using those tools so teachers can see how to effectively integrate those tools into instruction
  • Just in time/Independent Learning
    • I worked with our Manager of Technology Integration @HeatherHaggerty to start a website of tutorials for our district so that teachers don't have to attend an entire PD after school or on a weekend to learn how to use specific tech tools. The site includes:
      • Teacher-created screencasts on how to use specific tech tools
      • A section dedicated just to Google tools since we are a GAFE district
      • Examples of teachers in our district using the tech tools so that others can see how to integrate the tool into instruction
      • Links to the blogs and websites that some of our tech integration coaches write
  • Coaching
    • Although we've had district coaches for some time, now, the position seems to look a little different every year. This year we've been lucky enough to spend quite a lot more time at sites and in classrooms than in years past. Our time in classrooms and at sites has been very powerful this year and teachers have been commenting on how much they appreciate our work with them this year in the form of:
      • Site, grade level, and one-on-one PD... TOSAs have been providing individualized PD (based on teacher requests) to sites, grade levels, and individuals
      • Demoing/Modeling lessons... after pitching specific teaching strategies and tools, several teachers have requested demo lessons in their rooms to see the practice in action before taking it on themselves
      • Co-teaching/in-class support... my TOSA colleagues and I have spent a number of hours in classrooms this year just being an "extra body" for teachers as they try something new (having someone there "just in case" has made trying new things a little safer for a number of teachers)
  • Digital Office Hours
    Image courtesy of
    • Something new I'm trying this year is to offer digital office hours via Google Hangouts
    • Although I've only had a few takers so far, those couple of teachers have already expressed gratitude at having us on-call as a resource when they need in-the-moment support
These are just a few of the ways that I'm working with my TOSA team to improve on our current PD practices. I still have a few more ideas on my wish list, and am working with my team and my bosses to see if we can get some of these additional practices up and running, soon (flipped PD, badging systems...). If you have any other suggestions or examples of ways to continue to innovate PD for our teachers, I would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you found something helpful. Hoping others will share some of their ideas as well. This is just a start-- there is definitely more work to be done!

  2. So many good ideas in this post! One thing we did last year in my district was to have a district-wide, tech-centered PD day after the school year ended, very similar to Campbell University. This was a hit, and the timing helped many teachers launch into meaningful collaborative work over the summer that was then shared with all teachers the following school year. We are still working on best ways to share and build upon this type of work, but it's been a good start.

    1. Shelley-- I love this idea! Mostly, the idea around timing of the event. I always struggle to figure out when teachers are more likely to attend an event like that. Held a tech playground event today for 1st time and no one came. Wondering now if trying something the days after school's just got out might work?