How to Spice Up your School’s PD

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Ron Houtman

I will go ahead and give away the punch line – good PD isn’t really different from good teaching. When we are learning, we deserve the same techniques and innovations we strive to use with our own students. So if you are able to influence decision makers as they are planning your school’s dreaded In-Service Day(s), consider some of the following innovations that we are implementing at our school. If you don’t see a way of changing your current PD situation, see this mini-post about free PD tools or this one about an easy way to build a PLN.


Let Teachers Teach Each Other

The best In-Service sessions at my school are taught by my colleagues. I work with brilliant and talented people and I love to hear about what they are trying with their students. Our Director of Studies started inviting us to teach each other at an In-Service day a couple of years ago and the format has been so popular we have done it during every In-Service day since then. Basically it is organized like a mini-conference with concurrent sessions and we all just choose whatever sounds most interesting. The only problem comes from making tough choices between two or more sessions you wish you could attend.


Share Information about Great PD Experiences

We started a Ning at our In-Service Day last February and it has languished since then, although it gets more use during and after technology workshops. I am trying to get teachers to use the Ning as a place to share all the good stuff we get from conferences, workshops, classes, reading groups, Twitter and so on. I just started using it to help teachers promote their sessions for next week’s In-Service Day, and I hope that presenters will use it to share documents, presentations and other materials when the workshops are over. Having a central location for all the supporting materials of our sessions will also help people who wanted to attend more than one workshop find out what they missed.


Make it Meaningful Even After it is Over

Another benefit of having a central information repository is that it provides an asynchronous forum for continuing the discussions that will surely persist when the workshops are over. Although our school uses Ning, most schools probably have some sort of platform (Moodle, Edmodo, BlackBoard) that can serve this purpose. If all else fails, maybe you can persuade your colleagues to join google+ or you can even facebook if you must! For busy teachers, asynchronous communication forums are the key to continuing the conversation and getting the most meaning out of the PD experience. Nothing is worse than feeling your inspiration evaporate because you have no opportunity to reflect and discuss your ideas. These spaces can be great incubators for interdisciplinary as well as interdivisional collaborations. They can also serve as training grounds for future bloggers; teachers can try it out in a supportive and familiar atmosphere.


Bring in the Students!

This year I am excited that one of our sessions will actually be led by a student! Daniel is a sophomore who sees the beauty and efficiency of Google Apps for education and wants us to switch to that service. He has already made several how-to videos for interested teachers, but now he is taking it live! He is very excited about it, and so are the few of us who are helping him prepare. Our school is particularly supportive of student involvement in most arenas, but to me this really represents the best in progressive education and I am totally excited about it!