This past week we held our first Google GAFE Summit in Thunder Bay and the event was a great success. Local and visiting educators were treated to an informative, fast –paced Google experience that left everyone excited to continue learning. Although there were many highlights to discuss in the sessions and keynotes, the one that stands out for me was the admission by one presenter that she did not know the answer to an audience question regarding a specific application. Within an instant a participant spoke out and facilitated as the presenter followed the steps live on screen to solve the issue. At that moment the audience witnessed the true power of collaboration. As a member of that audience I can honestly state that you could detect the sense of relief and awe on the faces of the participants as they realized it is ok to not know the answer or to only have some experience with the GAFE. From that moment on, the collective sense of collaboration as a community of learners was palpable and remained that way for the rest of the weekend. This sense of an open learning community was strengthened by the fact that many of our own TBCDSB staff facilitated presentations in a variety of sessions. Colleagues learning with colleagues; this to me is the ideal form of professional development.
In a recent post by Eric Sheninger titled, Waving Goodbye to Drive-By PD he outlines the key elements in effective, long last professional development. Sheninger describes most professional development sessions as one-stop; one-size fits all attempts to reach all participants with the hope that the key message survives past the actual session. Sheninger goes on to state that the true measure of success for professional development is whether the learning is sustainable based on a number of key factors. I would like to explore these factors as outlined by Sheninger through the lens of the recent TBCDSB GAFE Summit.
First on the list of factors is the idea that PD must be on going and job-embedded Although the summit was a one time event, it was clear that all participants had some background in using the GAFE and had plans to implement their learning into their role immediately. The support offered by the presenters and colleagues is ongoing and serves to establish a community of learning related to the GAFE. It was great to see participants posting messages and revelations on Twitter both during the event and continuing past the initial ‘buzz’ of excitement. This is real, tangible evidence that the learning will not only be sustained but continues to grow. The encouragement and openness from the Google staff to contact them if any questions arose and to generally keep in touch addresses the next key factors that are coaching support and personalization. Each participant has the opportunity to continue their learning from the presenters and colleagues in a manner that meets specific and individual needs. The wealth of experience in the room from colleagues ensures that any question can be explored and a collaborative solution sought and realized. Considering all of the positive comments and calls for more GAFE learning and a thought to make the GAFE Summit an annual event, we have clearly met the ongoing professional development standard outlined by Sheninger.
Sheninger states that long lasting PD is facilitated by people who have done the work and that the PD is directly correlated to professional practice. Our GAFE Summit certainly meets this criterion as all of the presenters; especially our colleagues in the TBCDSB live this work. This makes the learning contextually real and deeply meaningful for the participants. Working alongside colleagues that have varied experience in the GAFE, seeking advice and answers to questions is certainly linked to our practice as 21st Century educators. Furthermore learning the GAFE through colleagues helps address the real challenges educators face in the context of their daily work.
All of this leads to the realization that the TBCDSB GAFE Summit was the ideal professional development as it was contextual, relational, accessible, and most importantly it established an ongoing, learning community that will serve all those using the GAFE in our system. Everyone involved from the presenters to participants, leaders and tech support came away from the TBCDSB GAFE Summit more informed and better positioned to support learning. Everyone is the winner in this scenario especially the students we serve every day.
Eric Sheninger is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader with the International Centre for Leadership in Education ( ICLE). He is also the author of the best selling book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, as well as the work Pillars of Digital Leadership.
A Principal's Reflections [Web log post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://esheninger.blogspot.ca/
Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ericsheninger.com/esheninger/home