Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflections of a PD representative - try not to take it personally...

I typically have a clear and well-thought out purpose for each blog post, however for this blog post I am going to simply reflect on today's professional development session.  I lead a PD session about 7 weeks ago for all of the staff members at my high school on social media and technology integration, and today's session was an extension of the previous session for any teachers interested.  We asked each staff member to choose 3 out of 4 sessions as their PD day choices.  I was excited for this because I had high hopes that lots of people would want to come to my session.  I thought the first PD session earlier this year went well, thus lots of teachers would want to attend my second session.  Unfortunately, my high hopes were quickly extinguished as I watched the Google Doc spreadsheet I created for staff members fill up.

The sessions were filling up quite quickly...however most people were not signing up for my session.  My session was only able to draw about 40 people out of 110, and my session was by far the least popular session.  No matter how you slice this, this was a direct blow to my ego, and frankly to my overall self-esteem.  As difficult as it is, I want to be believe the lack of interest was not because of me, but rather because the content was not applicable.  This leads me to my next concern...

Without doubt I presented the power of Twitter, blogs, and a PLN with passion and heart.  I showed concrete examples of how these tools can be used by educators to grow and develop.  I tried to provide specific examples of how teachers can use these tools in their individual content areas.  I tried to inspire, motivate, encourage, and push these educators to their limits...What could have possibly went wrong?  How would these PD sessions not be a huge success?  What am I missing...?

I am currently in the process of reflecting upon these sessions and my actions.  I must be very clear here...I am not looking for sympathy or a pity party, nor do I want anyone to feel sorry for me.  This is the natural process one must take to improve, to grow, and to evaluate something that has been done.  The process can be long, bumpy, and no fun, but it is essential.

If teachers were turned off by the content being presented in my session, then what could I have done to make it more applicable, and what do I need to do to get people (re)interested?  Did I have too much passion and energy during the first session (we all know people get scared off by crazy people!)?  Did I scare people off by giving them too much at one time (we all know we can only handle so much at one time)?  Were staff members just not ready to embrace these new technological tools (we all know people are hesitant toward change)?  The answers to these questions are eluding me, and as I reflect I seem to be finding more questions without answers.  

I feel strongly about embracing social media (learning) as a powerful tool toward growing and developing as an educator, and as such I want to share this tool with others.  I was fortunate enough to have someone share this information with me, and I firmly believe in "paying it forward."  I just want my colleagues to understand I am not pushing an agenda, nor am I getting any kickbacks for promoting social media as a PD tool.  I just want to help them like I was helped.  Hopefully the more I think and reflect, the sooner I will be able to find some answers.  I wish all of my fellow professional development directors, coordinators, representatives, and any other educator working with PD the best of luck.  We are living in a Brave New World, and as society continues to change, we will be expected to change.  Good luck to all of you.          


  1. I'm the only teacher in my school (district I think) who Tweets. I would guess that if I tried to have a PD session on Twitter and building your PLN, hardly anyone would come unless I was giving out chocolate. :) I know what you mean, about wanting to help others see the beauty of being able to connect to others through a PLN. Twitter is like this great refuge where ideas are shared and new thoughts are inspired. There is no feeling more awful that sharing something you are very passionate about and being met with little to no passion on the other side. We have to believe that things are going to get better.

  2. Thanks for the post, Justin. Like you, I do PD for our district administrators. And, very similarily, PD started with a bang and fizzled. I thought the same as you, that it was me that was the issue. But through the research, and the needs of the individuals, my sessions don't reach everyone. It is my hope that through the web effect, administrators will share ideas they have learned during my sessions and the wealth will increase. It takes time, but don't take it personally. Just reach out to the ones who are interested. They will share the wealth.Cheers,
    Tim Johnson
    Technology Leadership Coordinator
    Medicine Hat Public Schools

  3. Embrace your followers, make them equals, continue to model for them and become a shirtless dancer!

  4. Just keep strong and keep chipping away. Change will happen but it will be slow. Picture yourself as a pebble, drop yourself in water and you will cause ripples. Gradually those ripples will spread. Just keep on promoting your agenda and little by little change will happen.

  5. Great reference to an awesome video @donaldgrimshaw.

  6. Justin,
    Let's just admit it. Compared with the majority of teachers and admin in our schools, our ideas and willingness to explore innovative ways of connecting are kind of crazy. They make people uncomfortable. When we try to explain the benefits of social media, until they actually have personally benefited from using it, no matter how much passion and energy we throw at our audience, it's going to be lost on them.


    Demonstrating how it works for us is the first step, I believe that. But you will always meet resistance from the "We don't have time tos" and the "This is just one more things" and the "The internet is scarys."

    You are definitely on the right track. No one is going to transform their practice without first being introduced to new ideas. You're doing that for your staff, so kudos to you! It's great that you showed concrete examples of how they can use these tools.

    Did you survey your participants after the session? I find that doing so allows me to get a firm grip on my session's pacing- did I go too fast and freak them out? Or did I introduce just enough material so that they felt they could wrap their heads around it? Content- did I share material that actually will benefit them? Or maybe the tools I shared really weren't the best fit for the teachers in my session? Support- did I leave them with enough knowledge to go forth and experiment on their own, knowing that if they need me, I can assist in any way possible?

    I'm running monthly PD sessions for elementary teachers this year, and so far, I'm really excited about what's resulting. I set up a wiki where I introduce the topics for each month, and at the start of the month, they are asked to check out some articles/blog posts and view some relevant videos on the topics. They're asked to set up accounts for whatever tools we'll be working with in our face-to-face meeting before that meeting, so we're ready to jump right in when the time comes. At the end of each month, I offer my support in that I can push into their classrooms and help them set up and use whatever tools we're learning about and help them plan and connect the tech to student learning. We're only in month two, but I had a really good turnout last month, and I'm encouraged about moving forward. This month we're tackling Twitter and the idea of PLN... and I have already gotten feedback that some people are not comfortable with the idea of Twitter and sharing through social media. I'm okay with that- but I do hope they will keep an open mind and see how it has changed my practice. Even if they simply consider the benefits, I have made an impression, as you clearly have, and I am happy with that.

    I also designed our PD with this disclaimer: these are monthly topics that, based on my experience, I believe will be great tools for you to use. BUT- this agenda can change at any time. If you want to go in a different direction, I will go there with you. If individuals or grade level teams want to explore something I wasn't planning on doing, I will find out everything I can about it and how it relates to student learning and we'll go there. Some of my grade level teams really have embraced the collaborative aspect of what we're doing- setting up team Diigo groups and wikis to share ideas, setting up classroom and student blogs... it's so encouraging!

    Continue to share your passions, make it relevant for your teachers, find out what they want/need, and help them get there. It's hard not to take it personally, but we have to recognize that not everyone has transformed into this new type of "learner." Luckily, some of us have, and we can now work to help others move in that direction. Keep fighting the good fight. :)

  7. Hi Justin,
    Think back to the first time you checked out Twitter. I'd like to bet that you thought, "I don't get it." But because of who you are, you kept coming back to it until you did get Twitter. I try to explain the power of having a PLN and using Twitter to others in my building and they don't want to hear it. If I try showing them something that means spending more time on a computer, they want no part of it.

    Look at what you did accomplish - you got 40 people! Wow, I think that is a huge number from one building. Celebrate your success and keep on "preaching" to those who get it.

  8. 40/110 is great. You are deluded by your own enthusiasm for the subject. My suggestion is if you wish to use more social media, to use a natural adoption model. 1st. Professional, 2nd. prosumer, 3rd. average Joe. Henrietta was referring to it as a ripple effect.

    Start with your core of 5 to 10 teachers who have students as de facto cohorts - ie AP classes. Students themselves will evangelize the techniques if asked to. It will be harder to get the math teachers in because they don't think of themselves as communicators.

    Ask yourself about barriers to adoption. Do you use Google school email and common calendaring that includes students? Why exclude students? Do teachers understand broadcast versus inclusion?

  9. To all who have commented...

    I feel so fortunate to have you as a part of my PLN. Educators like yourselves make growing and developing so much easier, and because of your encouragement and inspiration we are able to grow together, no matter what struggles we may experience. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and most importantly thank you for helping me to become a better educator.

  10. Justin

    Got to this post a little late. Nevertheless...did you ever survey the people who attended the first session but not the second. The response could be very interesting. Maybe they feel like you taught the first session so well that they felt like they understood it well enough to move on to a different topic....It would be worth asking.
    keep up the good work!