We've all been to the most amazing professional development workshops, conferences, weekends, you name it. The ones that just inspire you when you needed it most, gets you thinking about your classroom in a whole new way and excited to start implementing the many new ideas first thing Monday morning at 9am.
Then reality hits - paperwork, attendance, marking, planning, meetings, field trips, after school activities, did I miss anything? As much as we intend to try out all of our new tricks and share them with the rest of our school community, how often does that really happen when you are faced with all of the normal time consuming components of your job?
What I've learnt about all of those ideas that you get beyond excited about don't usually ever happen. I'm as guilty as anyone and I'm the girl who loves learning new things all the time. While I am learning them, I don't always get the chance to apply them.
So here's my suggestion:
1. Choose a couple of ideas. Just 2 or 3 ideas really that you think you can implement within the next week. They don't even have to be big. When I attended the EdTechTeam Summit in Thailand, I focused on learning what I could about creating websites. It was something I was currently working on for my own personal site so I figured I could build on that. I bookmarked a few resources for selecting colours and creating patterns. I also knew my students would be creating their own sites in about a week's time so it would be something I could show them to do to.
2. Actually do it. In an hour workshop, you don't always get enough time to figure it all out the first time. So spend a little bit of time on your own walking yourself through the steps. Trial and error is a beautiful thing and I find it's when I work best really. I wanted to become better at creating my own colour palettes using some of the website resources I had used in the workshop and also how to create my own patterns from those colour palettes using Colour Lovers. Some steps you remember from doing it in the workshop, others you have to piece together from when you were trying to listen and do at the same time. Eventually, you figure it out.
3. Do it again. Repeating something or trying a different way of doing the same thing really helps to solidify the new skill. I played around and probably created about half a dozen or so of colour palettes and then more than a dozen patterns just for fun. Learning happens through exploration.
4. Go back to that list of 2-3 items you wanted to try and try another one. What else did you love from your workshop? I also liked playing with Google's MyMaps. I had used it before but sometimes you need a friendly reminder of a certain tool before you figure out it's a perfect fit for what's coming next in your unit. For me, that was using it to document different ecosystem imbalances around the world, having students include pictures and
5. Share what you've learnt...even with one person. Knowledge for the sake of your own personal gain is one thing but being able to share with others is just as important. For me, I shared the website design tools with my students immediately. The first time around, I only had them choose a colour palette with 2-3 colours and then create their website banners using those colours. From there, they could customise whatever they could find in the settings.
6. Then share it again. Using what you learnt in a professional development session makes you feel like it was worthwhile. After my students had made their websites for their online courses, I pulled 2 students aside for a project for our Head of Primary. He needed to spruce up a website for a workshop he was running. I had the students create a colour palette and make a banner with the colour palette. After that, I introduced them to how to make a pattern for the background of the site and let them have a go at it.
It didn't stop there though. About another week or so later, I met up with a few of the Year 6 students who were working on their exhibition projects and wanted to make a website as part of their action portion. I walked them through all of the same steps from start to finish but along the way added in how you could change the look by using images as a background or creating colour palettes from an image. In addition, I provided them with more websites and options to customise their sites.
By taking one small focused idea from a professional development workshop, I was able to turn the idea into action through practice and practical application with my students. I am still seeing the aftereffects in my classroom of the workshops I attended a month later. This to me is making meaningful connections and creating an ongoing learning opportunity long after the workshop facilitators are gone.
It's not worth overwhelming yourself and setting yourself up for failure when you say you will do 43 new things by the end of the month based on what you might have learnt in an afternoon, day or weekend. What I've learnt is that you really have to make your professional development experiences work for you.