Hi everyone, and welcome back to the EdTech Classroom Podcast. Thank you for joining me on this journey. And to all of us here, in this growing EdTech Classroom community, let’s learn and grow together as 21st century educators.
If you’re new here, welcome. I’m a teacher, edtech coach, online business owner, and design thinker. I drink a whole lot of coffee.
And I’m also a big fan of professional development.
I know what you’re thinking… did she just say she’s a fan of professional development?
I know your mind is probably drifting now to images of teachers crammed into a room, nodding along while a speaker talks at them, reading from a slide deck word for word.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am tired of traditional professional development – what I, and others, like to call “sit-and-get.” It just isn’t useful to me as a teacher.
Now, don’t get me wrong – these experts are filled with knowledge. They know a lot about their topics. And I admire their hard work to improve the education system and boost learning outcomes for students across the world. I truly, truly mean that.
Even recently, I’ve been on the participant’s side, staring at the clock longingly until it’s time to go. Even if the presenter is an absolute expert, even if the expert is engaging and exciting, at the end of the day, they don’t know what it’s like to work at my school, with my students, in my classroom.
And, before I start to sound like a huge critique, like a huge Debbie Downer here, I’m getting to the good part.
In summer 2020, we are saying goodbye to sit-and-get PD. That’s right.
We’re flipping the switch.
I’m here to tell you that meaningful, actionable, practical PD exists. And better yet, it’s engaging too. It’s interesting. It’s exciting, and dare I say – life-altering.
I’m not being dramatic here. Actionable PD is life-changing. It’ll change your life as a teacher, and it’ll change the lives of every single student in your classroom. All for the better.
In today’s episode, I’m going to be offering up some suggestions for taking ownership over your own professional development this summer, so you can say goodbye to sit-and-get PD.
Where instead of following a one-size-fits-all model, you are able to craft your own PD experience that meets YOUR needs as an educator, where presenters or teachers or authors show you how to make practical changes to your classroom teaching, allowing you to grow professionally as an educator.
So today I’m going to show you 3 examples of practical, applicable professional development so that you can grow as an educator in a way that makes sense for you. And what better time to grow professionally than now?
Number 1: Micro-credentials
Microcredentials are mini-certifications that teachers receive after completing a series of requirements, usually in the form of an online course. Micro-credentials are focused on helping teachers gain skills and knowledge in a specific area that will then improve their practice as educators to further support their students. Basically, with microcredentials, you take a mini-course online and then get a badge to indicate you’ve earned meaningful skills in this new subject area.
Micro-credentials are pretty straight forward. You can take mini-courses on sites like Udacity, Udemy, and Coursera, all of which offer micro-credential courses. I’m also a big fan of edX, which is a massive open online course (or MOOC) provider created by Harvard and MIT.
I’ll provide some more specific examples of micro-credentials you can take this summer in just a little bit.
So once you sign up for a course – whether it be on one of these websites or another – you then typically can work through the course at your own pace. I like that most micro-credential options are self-paced because it allows you to do professional development on your own time.
You can still go about your everyday life, and squeeze in your micro-credential course when you have time. For example, on my lunch break at school this past year, I took a mini-course to get a micro-credential for some advanced programming language that I’ve always wanted to try.
But as a teacher, you can also do something more practical that you can apply to your teaching practice.
This summer, I’ll be doing a certified educator program when I find pockets of free time… aka some time between watching Netflix and working up the courage to exercise.
In terms of length and pricing, it all really depends. I’ve seen micro-credential programs that occur pretty much in one 6-8hr sitting, and others that occur over the course of several weeks. I’ve seen free options, and I’ve seen options exceeding $1000.
But the ones that I’m discussing today are all free or low cost.
If your school or district has a professional development budget, I’d highly recommend leveraging your micro-credential as something that the school should pay for. Either way, make sure you do your research before purchasing.
We could go into a really in-depth explanation of why micro-credential programs work so well – a lot of this related to motivation theory – but the point, at the end of the day, is that micro-credentials allow you to personalize your own professional learning.
You discover a subject area that you want to become an expert in – and then you get a badge that indicates you have mastered this topic. The concept is simple and effective.
Ideas and Examples:
So let’s look at some examples of micro-credentials that teachers can get this summer. The ones I’m going to show are all edtech-related, but like I said, there are so many different offerings beyond just edtech:
- Become a Google Certified Educator
To become a Google Certified Educator, you will need to have passed a series of exams proving their competence in the use of Google’s education apps. There are two levels for educators to become certified at “Educator Level 1” and “Educator Level 2“.
I really recommend this for teachers who are already using, or are looking to use, Google’s education apps with their students.
- Become a Flipgrid Certified Educator
If you haven’t used Flipgrid with your students, I’d highly recommend you check it out. I’ve used it effectively with students from 2nd grade and beyond. I’ve even used it as a student in a graduate level course.
As a teacher using Flipgrid with your students, you can show your commitment to empowering and amplifying student voice by becoming a Flipgrid Certified Educator. In this micro-credential, you will learn the foundations of Flipgrid and earn your Level 1 Certification.
- Become an Apple Teacher
Apple Teacher is a free professional learning program designed to support and celebrate educators using Apple products for teaching and learning. As an educator you can build skills on iPad and Mac that directly apply to activities with your students and earn recognition in the form of badges.
- Become a Common Sense Educator:
At the time of this recording, applications are closed, but keep it on your radar for next school year because it is such a good one.
Common Sense – the nonprofit behind Common Sense Media and Common Sense Education – offers a micro-credential / recognition program. You can earn a badge that recognizes your commitment to helping students think critically and use technology responsibly to learn, create, and participate. You’ll also build confidence by learning to teach digital citizenship and integrate edtech into your classroom.
Number 2: Masterminds
Masterminds are one of the best professional development opportunities you can have as an educator – and I’m not talking about the board game here… or saying you need to hangout in an evil lair.
Masterminds are totally different from the images that the term might conjure up.
An educator mastermind consists of a small group of people – usually between 4 and 10 educators – who have regular, consistent meetings where they discuss their work, their goals, their problems, and experiences.
These meetings can be weekly or biweekly – or whatever schedule makes the most sense for your group – and you can all really dive deeply into learning about and helping each other with your work as educators.
Masterminds can work in a variety of different ways. I’m going to briefly describe one structure that might work for you, but like I said, there are just tons of different ways to create a mastermind session.
During a typical mastermind meeting, you’ll start off with a few minutes checking in, where educators will share some quick updates about their current wonderings or problems or work.
Then, the model that I’m going to describe today is called the Hot Seat Model. And I know that sounds intimidating, but it’s actually really productive.
In the hot seat model, you have two options. You can either focus on one person for the entire session, or you can focus on each individual for a short amount of time. I definitely prefer the former: focusing on one person for the entire session.
I think this model allows you to take a deep look at that person’s work in a way that is really, really beneficial to everyone. You’ll see similarities between what others are doing, and you might even get inspired by something you’ve never thought about before.
So let’s say you have like 30 minutes or so where you focus on that one person. Once the clock starts, that educator will begin outlining a specific area that they’d really like feedback on. Then, the rest of the group will chime in with ideas.
Some of the most amazing, helpful feedback comes from this model. How often as a teacher do you have 30 minutes to receive feedback on your ideas from teachers just like you?
This is just so invaluable.
Then, for the last few minutes, the group will set goals they hope to accomplish before the following meeting. This is a great way to be held accountable and to make sure you’re meeting your goals.
Teachers need more opportunities to connect with their colleagues. Teaching is an interesting profession – in some ways, you feel like you are surrounded by people all day long, but in other ways, I also feel like I don’t have opportunities to brainstorm with other teachers in the ways that I’d like to.
No matter how new you are to teaching, it’s so important to get feedback, not just from admin, but from your peers too. From people who are down in the trenches in classrooms with you too.
In a mastermind, I don’t necessarily recommend that you join or create a group with educators from your school. In fact, I’d probably recommend the exact opposite. I think it’s really incredible to be able to be part of a mastermind with people outside your community, outside your school, who can offer you a different perspective.
Like I said, it’s important for teachers to give teachers feedback, and I also think it can be important for admin from different schools to give you unbiased feedback too.
Ideas and Examples:
So how do you actually form a mastermind?
Well, you can join a pre-existing one, or you can start your own. It just depends on what you’re looking for, and if you have the opportunity to start your own, I’d say: go for it. Try it.
Now, during this remote learning period, I’m only going to provide some examples of how you can conduct a mastermind online.
First, perhaps the most obvious solution is to conduct your mastermind on Zoom or Google Meet. You can do the traditional session but online instead.
More than that, though, I think you can incorporate some other neat tech tools. For example, you could use a team Padlet to do sticky-note style check-ins at the beginning of the session.
Or, you could use a tool like Jamboard to set your goals at the end of the meeting.
Then, on Zoom or Google Meet, you can share these learnings as a team – popcorn-style mentioning the ones that resonate with you the most. Or the ones you’d like to learn more about.
Second, it seems like a growing number of masterminds are forming within Facebook groups. So many educators out there have their own Facebook groups – I’m actually creating mine shortly and I hope you’ll consider joining – where teachers share ideas and collaborate.
From meeting people through Facebook groups, you are able to form your own smaller masterminds.
What’s cool about forming a mastermind from a Facebook group is that you already know that everyone in the group has something in common – they all are like-minded in that they share the experience of the existing group.
Social media is a great way to meet people, but if you’re struggling to figure out how to join a mastermind, DM me on Instagram. I’ll help put you in touch with teachers.
We can do this together.
Number 3: Book Clubs
It feels almost silly to explain to you guys what a book club is. But, it’s a group formed by teachers who are all reading the same book together. These can be teachers at your school or teachers you’ve met outside of your community.
I love book groups. Some of the most fun times have been sipping on rosé with my girlfriends talking about our love for a book we all read together.
Ok – and maybe Bachelor Mondays too.
But as an educator, your book group doesn’t have to be always strictly focused on education-related books. While I think that’s a great focus, you can expand beyond education.
Because at the end of the day, don’t all topics turn back to education? Educating yourself so you can educate your students, the future leaders of the world.
Maybe this summer you’ll form an anti-racist book group. Then your conversation can focus around – ok what did I learn from this book that I need to make sure I’m applying to my classroom?
Or, maybe you’ll read a book about topics like grief and healing – and then you’ll think – ok now I need to research trauma-informed care practices so that I can better support all students in my class.
Or, maybe you’ll be more traditional, and you’ll read books about education. There are TONS of really, really interesting and exciting books about education and innovation in the classroom.
To name a few, check out:
- Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison
- Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity Through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play by Mitchel Resnick
- What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America by Ted Dintersmith
- Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice by Nathan Maynard and Brad Weinstein
- Thinking at Every Desk: Four Simple Skills to Transform Your Classroom by Derek and Laura Cabrera
If you’re interested in learning more about these books and a few others, listen to episode 1 of the EdTech Classroom podcast where I talk about my summer 2020 book list for teachers.
And, I’m not kidding when I say this – please reach out to me if you want a book recommendation. Especially one related to education. I’ll join your book club. I’ll read with you.
Now, a lot of schools have summer reading books for teachers. And this might come as a shock to those of you who know that I love to read…
But, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of requiring an entire school of teachers to read the same book. It just isn’t realistic.
There are inevitably going to be teachers who don’t want to read the book, and that’s fine. It should probably be optional. Or instead, schools should offer up a list of books that teachers can choose from.
Or, a variety of different mediums – from books to podcasts to articles to TED talks.
As a greater educator community, we are always advocating for student choice, so why don’t we practice that with our teachers too?
And that’s what I think is so great about these book clubs.
They’re optional. Teachers can join or leave whenever they please. If they don’t like the book, ok – no problem – join back next month. Sit this one out.
Or, better yet, decide as a group what book you’ll read. Instead of taking turns picking the book, decide as a collective group. This might be a reason why you should keep your group on the smaller side, but make a joint decision.
No more being asked to read something that just doesn’t apply to you.
Ideas and Examples:
Ok – so how will you form a group? Where will you start? What book will you start out with?
I’m going to leave these questions up to you. It’s your choice.
But here are a few ideas I have in case you really want some advice.
Reach out to your teacher friends. Say you want to take ownership over your own professional development this summer. You want to get into reading. You want to start a casual book club. Will they join you?
You might be surprised at how many people are willing to try something like this – especially now, in a time where many people feel isolated and are looking for more social interaction.
You can make these online and IRL book clubs engaging too. If you live in a place where it’s safe to go out, go to a cute coffee shop and read a book. Have your book club meeting there. Go to a wine bar. Host it in a park.
Or if you’re like me, and you’re still staying at home most days, host your book club online! Make invitations on Canva that include your Zoom link. Make an activity on Flipgrid with a prompt that everyone completes as “homework.”
Get creative. Get reading.
And I have one last final thought before we wrap up this episode… you can also combine a variety of these 3 ideas together.
For example, you could gather a group of teachers to take a micro-course together – almost like a book club for micro-credentials.
This would be a great way to hold each other accountable and to have an even larger, more impactful discussion.
So now you have it. Gone are the days of “sit-and-get” PD.
Now, is the time to learn with and from your peers. Now is the time to brush up on your skills and get a micro-credential.
Now is the time.
When you learn from your peers in a mastermind or a book group… when you learn from authors or teachers in a book or micro-credential course… you can learn at your own pace, about the things that you care about, that you want to learn about, and you can have actual tools to apply in your classroom.
Let’s make professional development fun. Let’s make it practical. Let’s make it applicable. Let’s take ownership over our learning as educators.
And let’s learn and grow together as 21st century educators.
Thank you so much for listening to the EdTech Classroom podcast, and as always, reach out to me. Let’s be friends. You can find me on Instagram @edtechclass or you can email me at email@example.com
I am all about collaborating, and many of the ideas that I presented in this episode are my own, while others have stemmed from ideas that numerous other educators have researched, written about, and even talked about on other podcasts.
You can view this inspiration in the link in this podcast description.
Do you want to collaborate? Let’s do it.
See you next week on Tech Tuesday – bye friends!
Some ideas in the episode are inspired by:
5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves with Karen Johnson at EdSurge
What is an Educator Mastermind and Why Should You Join One? with Jennifer Gonzalez and Daniel Bauer