Friday, April 1, 2016

The Story & Takeaways of Personalized PD #RedbirdPLS

Having just spent a couple days engaged in stimulating conversations and explorations at the Redbird Personalized Learning Symposium, I’m exhausted... but also incredibly excited! Experiencing the mash up of innovative voices from the field, Stanford research, EdCamp PD, and design thinking @ Google is a little like dancing through an all-night learning rave. It’s a lot of learning action! Now that I’ve sat still for a total of two hours, I’m reflecting on the takeaways and trying to put my finger on what made this style of PD so powerful. And more importantly, how can I create this for teachers and students at my school?

There were a lot of sound bytes, videos, snaps, and tweets generating the in-action buzz. Along the way, I heard several that resonated with me. But, taking a look at the whole story via Storify helped me to reflect on the whole experience and pull out what some keys could be to recreating this style of highly engaged learning. Here’s what the story told me...

  1. It starts with excitement & connectivity. People were already pumped to see each other, connect with others and collaborate. The prequel to the learning mattered, and mostly it was excitement about the human connection and collaboration potential.

  1. A relevant, unconventional, and inspirational message can help engage everyone. Who can’t relate to loving kids and Tribe Called Quest? We need to take time to galvanize the whole. Not everyone was with us on Twitter pre-PLS, so having Jason and Matt sharing out the message was essential. But, keeping it brief also respected the goal of engagement and personalization so we could get moving.

  1. Learning involves partnering with amazing folks. In his work with school districts, Jason Green has a wealth of information around personalized and blended learning to share, but he and the Redbird team recognized the importance of passing the mic. Beyond some prominent trailblazers like Catlin Tucker, Dr. Arnetha Ball, Jaime Casap, Kerry Gallagher, and Hadley Ferguson, we heard from each other...everyone had a voice. As I’m thinking about this in my school, I’m left asking, what partners can I engage to take PD to the next level? What partnerships can help us take student learning to the next level. Part of teacher and leader burnout comes from this longstanding notion that we have to create everything. What if we created nothing but experiences through partnerships both within our schools and outside of them?

  1. It’s personalized. There was nothing on that EdCamp board at 9 AM, and as there were many people experiencing EdCamp style PD for the first time, there were some nerves around how it would work...or if it would work. But the magic of letting go of control and trusting in the personalization process was hard to deny as that board filled up and important conversations took place. As we head into PD experiences, how can we create this type of agency and choice for teachers?

  1. It’s creative and inspires even more creativity. At Google, we had some heavy creativity hitting to accomplish on a timer as we traveled through the design thinking process to yield models of the future classrooms. It was about 30 minutes of intense thinking, pushing boundaries, sharing, and trying to somehow develop a model or symbol of the concept. As my team at Table 1 (woot!) discussed an idea to open up courses and learning experiences to students in partner schools and around the world via a learning share, I had the thought...when is the last time I saw such an outcome in a 30 minute learning session in a classroom? We’re talking about #transforminglearning in 30 minutes. And there were so many other examples too, my favorite being the wonderfully creative learning doodles by Kato Nims (@KatoNims129) shared throughout the whole experience.

  1. It’s fun. I’ll admit, I have no idea how I will use my Snapchat account created in the last EdCamp breakout session, but I had a great time bonding with everyone and learning from some Snapchat Jedis. And whether I use it or not, I want to understand it, so the knowledge was so valuable to were the silly pictures. We had fun throughout the experience, whether hopping on bikes at Google, tinkering with playdough, or just goofing off. All this fun and serious learning too.

  1. The outcomes are the start, not the end. When I walked away today, I had a lot of ideas, some in doodles and others scratched out as challenge statements with fragments of a plan. I had a fuzzy vision of what I wanted to do next to continue iterating. When we engage in truly meaningful learning, our outcomes are the most exciting start to a new segment of our journey, not the conclusion. Further, when we start with connectivity, great learning is the start of new, empowering friendships.

For the full story, check out the #redbirdpls storify.