So it’s been a pretty busy month or so for me and professional development. I’ve been doing regular PD through my COETAIL course; a couple of weeks ago, my school did some useful curriculum mapping; and last month, I got to attend Learning 2.011, which I had attended the previous year as well. When I left that conference, my mind was swimming with new ideas and outlooks to bring back and implement in my teaching. It quite literally took a few days before the buzz wore off but I still remained keen to make changes in my teaching to incorporate those new ideas. I spent much of the next few weeks making changes to the units I teach to reflect these new ideas. As this past weekend approached, I was looking forward to my MYP Technology workshop in Hong Kong so that I could take all of the ideas I’d been putting together and hopefully hash them out with more thought into effective curriculum documentation and maybe hear some ideas from other Technology teachers.
If you hadn’t guessed by the previous paragraph, I teach MYP; a program which is often described by outsiders as wishy-washy. While there are certainly things that could be improved, personally, I feel that it’s a fairly progressive program that focuses on getting kids to question and inquire in order to approach and solve problems. It tends to emphasize student initiated learning and encourages risk-taking in learning. Regardless of content or factual information, these are universal skills that serve students well throughout their lives, regardless of what they choose to do and where they chose to do it. So when I got to the workshop and the session trainer began reading off an MYP-provided PowerPoint slideshow, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d somehow gone to the wrong conference. How could an organization which is responsible for a progressive thinking program offer such dull, dry training methods?
As the three day course progressed, despite some efforts by our trainer, Matt Plummer, to make things a little more interesting, the mandated, stagnant approach of the workshop seemed to kill the whole purpose of getting together in person with professional peers. Here we had a classroom full of interesting and interested Technology teachers but the chances to learn and share with each other seemed few and far between. Just when things seemed to be picking up and ideas started to flow, it seemed as though we needed to get back to reading words off a PowerPoint slideshow.
It would have been a more useful for the slideshow to have been a document that participants could read before attending the workshop which would then allow the workshop participants and leader to use their face-to-face time to collaborate, share, and explore new ideas and <GASP!> actually DO something. Like the flipped classroom idea, why not initiate a kind of flipped professional development model where some research and reading is done before the workshop and then, once people have traveled their hundreds or thousands of miles to interact with other teachers, they can actually ‘unpack‘ (a word, we did notice, that the TOK course of the IB Diploma seems to love) the content and delve deeper through sharing of experiences.
[NOTE: From the time I began writing this to the time I finished and published it, I have come across an article about flipped PD by David Truss, that is far more informative than this post. It really does a fine a job of summarizing how I feel about my 'good' PD of late. I recommend you read it.]
I know that I am lucky to work in an international school and, after this weekend, I feel even more lucky about working at NIST. Our school’s focus over the next couple of years is “Walking the Talk.” Overall, I think that my school does quite a good job of walking the talk (or, if you prefer a simplification, leading by example). It’s about time that the MYP start doing the same. If they want to truly encourage an inquiry based teaching system that teaches students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, then it needs to take a like-minded approach in its training of its teachers. Time to ‘walk the talk,’ MYP.