In the past week I have experienced two kinds of professional development (PD).
- Presented and Paid to attend a conference put on by a well-known education organization focusing on dyslexia, Conference A
- Presented and attended a free conference organized by educators in one school district, Conference B
It is astounding the difference between these two events!
The conference began with a wonderful keynote, and there appeared to be strong attendance, although found out later that attendance on day one was a little over half of whom had registered. The sessions that followed were sorely disappointing. None of the sessions I attended were conducted by K-12 educators, but rather professionals in related fields and college professors, none directly in the field of dyslexia. Two sessions I attended covered that exact same material, and was to me and others I was with, presented as new content, but for us was 5 year old information. The four of us attending all ended up at sessions that were selling products, without knowing they were going to be such sessions. Sessions were highlighted as strategies, but once there, found it was only if you used their product. One session I sat in on did not even mention dyslexia at all, and was focused on multi-media. The presenter spent an hour on how to use photos to engage students…with so many great multi-media tools available, I had hoped to gain information, not feel way ahead of the curve. My presentation with a colleague was lightly attended…we were the second to last session on the second day…the attendance on day two was at least half or less of the first day. So despite paying for the conference, people were not attending, and were choosing to opt out. I feel their pain and left the conference feeling defeated as an attendee and presenter.
#icon2013 I learned about on Twitter from some fabulous educators I follow. It was a free conference organized by educators that I follow on Twitter and learn from daily. I threw my hat into the ring to present because there was choice to lecture, have hands on, or lead a discussion. Fabulous choices! Each session I attended was lead by a K-12 educator and addressed real time skills, issues or applications. They were talking real life, even if it was to get me to buy an app to engage my students or increase my productivity. There was not the sales pitch but rather the evidence of true application in the field. The information was relevant. All the presentations and conversations were real and applicable directly to the classroom. I was able to connect with and collaborate with educators I regularly “chat” with on Twitter, having great impromptu discussions before and after sessions. I left that conference invigorated and excited. I enjoyed my discussion session with educators dealing with Tech and the LD student and felt I had applied my knowledge to engage with and learn from others. It was real life PD, including the opening and closing sessions which were not top down, but reaching out to engage and entertain attendees as equals.
The Take Away:
The face of PD is changing. The old school way of spending money to attend organizations conferences is not the way to engage in 21st professional learning. It is the real world conferences and discussions created by those in the trenches educators, things like #edcamp ,#eduscape, and #icon2013. Amazingly enough they are usually cost effective or free, so available to a greater pool. Teachers are looking for those tips, tricks and strategies to immediately take away to apply in the classroom, not theory and research studies to contemplate. They want to connect with other educators in real presentations and conversations to impact student engagement and address real time classroom application. I would even pay for those over the scripted old school style.
The world of education is changing and evolving quickly for the 21st Century teacher and learner. PD needs to evolve as well to fit this model and engage educators to join in. Today’s 21st Century educators are learning daily in forums like Twitter, Pinterest and Learnist and PD needs to fit in to meet these new expectations. PD needs to be readily relevant, not discussions of the backstory. I was so engaged in conference B, as I could relate to the educators presenting, and felt the educators I was presenting to could be part of the real life discussion of the topic. I was meeting educators I regularly learn from on Twitter and finding new ones to learn from.
Twitter is the 24-7 source of Professional Development that makes the pay-to-attend conferences seem stuffy and irrelevant, but also leads you to such great planned, engaging PD across the country. Even if you cannot be there, the information shared from educators to educators is astounding. With such continuous learning opportunities, for conferences to be successful, they need to be organized to be real, relevant, and authentic, not forced and antiquated. I commented with a Twitter colleague after the two conferences, my go to now will be ensuring that when I attend future conferences, it will be one that has a hashtag, thus ensuring that it a conference that is working within the confines of #21st Century teaching and learning.
Thank you to my PLN for always being such fabulous sources of inspiration and information. I learn and grow daily . You know who you are.