Monday, November 17, 2014

Professional Learning at #gfedchat live: No money, No agenda, NO PROBLEM

Sometimes wonderful learning opportunities happen when ideas are allowed to percolate, transpire, and come to fruition.  The idea I am referring to is the #gfedchat live event on Saturday, November 15th at South Middle School in Grand Forks.  This “unconference-type” professional learning opportunity was planned in two weeks and did not need money or an agenda.  Here is a summary of how this event came to be:
Jodi Dodson on October 27, 2014 at wrote:
Brainstorming....I want to have a mini “ed-camp” for 6th grade teachers.  I would like it to be on a Saturday.  Where could we have this?  Thoughts?  We have no built in time from the district, so we want to create our own time.  We could include tech partners that want to come.  Starting small....looking to go BIG!
Carla Haaven on October 28, 2014 wrote:
Sally, Jodi, and myself would like to host a "edcamp" event at South.  Sally came to me last week after our Monday's #gfedchat.  Jodi talked to me today so we started brainstorming for Nov 15.
Joel Schleicher writes:
Yes and Yes.  I'm in full support.  Let's talk some more and let me know what I can do to help.
Jodi Dodson writes:
WHAHOO!!!!!!!  I am so excited!  Carla and Sally came up with a great name for it and my calendar is clear!  #gfedchat-live.  I can't wait to work out the details!  My heart is happy....much needed today. Thanks!  

Recently, I have thought more about framing decisions and discussions from the “Yes, and…” and “Why not” perspectives.  (Check out the following blog post by Scott McLeod: From ‘yes, but’ to ‘how can we?’ and ‘why not?’  From my perspective, this was an easy “Why, Not” answer. (I’m not even sure why they needed my permission, but they got my full support in return.)  I was excited to attend #gfedchat live as another educator.  The #gfedchat live event was advertised and organized for all area educators and administrators.  The question was, “How many will show up on a Saturday morning?”  All involved agreed that it really didn't matter because those who did show up would be willing participants with a willingness to learn and get better.

At 8:00 am on Saturday, November 15th, educators began filling into the South Middle School library.  There was a positive buzz in the air as 30 or so educators chatted and eagerly waited to get started.  Jodi and Carla outlined the “rules” for the morning and facilitated the the development of session topics.  Here was the schedule that was developed:
Was the event a success? Absolutely! Understanding the success and overall feeling of the event can be captured through the following photos, quotes and tweets.

"Genius hour discussion is really eyeopening and exciting!" (Lorraine O'Shea)

"Read Write for Google. Great job @mgaukler"

"Teachers from GF, EGF, Holy Family learning about Genius Hour, Chrome Extensions, Flipping on a cold Sat morning." (Carla Haaven)

Towards the end of the event, a participant asked the following question: I learned so much this morning from the other educators, will our district professional development ever adopt this type of professional learning?  This question provided anecdotal support for the #gfedchat live event and also highlighted the type of professional learning many teachers are requesting.  I believe we should be considering all professional learning that models the type of learning that should be happening in classrooms; student centered learning vs. teacher centered teaching.  I could sense that the success of the event was based on topic choice instead of a prescribed agenda and the power of sharing and learning from each other.  As the participants left the event, there was positive vibe and many were asking when the next #gfedchat live would be scheduled.  Those who showed up on a Saturday morning to learn and get better provided me with tremendous joy and inspiration.  I was also inspired by Sally Akerlind, Jodi Dodson, and Carla Haaven for taking a risk and organizing a wonderful professional learning opportunity for local educators.  So, when is the next #gfedchat live?

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