Tag Archives: Learning2

Changing the Way We Approach Professional Development

Lately, I have been reading a lot about adult education and the ways to make Professional Development really effective. And collecting articles in a Flipboard magazine. There are some really great articles out there!

We’ve all been there, sitting in those meetings, with our eyes rolling back in our heads, wondering why in the world we’re being forced to endure such torture. Whether someone is reading a PowerPoint to you or telling you how to use Google Docs instead of Word, we’ve all found ourselves in the position where we felt our time was being wasted.

And for a teacher, time is everything.

flickr photo by Sean MacEntee https://flickr.com/photos/smemon/5281453002 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

So much is asked of teachers who already have so little time.

As someone responsible for providing some professional development to our staff, I continue to look for ways to ensure that the opportunities I have are well planned to meet the needs of our staff.

I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including my own.

I’ve read about the importance of the choice in adult learning and for them to be in control of their learning.

Earlier in the year we tried “speedgeeking” for the first time. Everyone was really happy with the experience and though it was really valuable PD. We’re planning on this happening again next year, at least twice with Technology topics, but maybe also using it with other subject areas.

One thing that makes speedgeeking great is the opportunity for our teachers to teach each other. More teachers can and should share their knowledge with others. We all think that what we’re doing is not exciting enough to share and quite simply, we’re just wrong. Each school has so many great resources within the building (the TEACHERS) that really can and should be used!

Last week, we took a page from the Learning2 playbook and offered an “un-meeting” instead of our standard faculty meeting. One of the elements of Learning2 are un-conference sessions that are determined by the participants during the conference. There is no set expert or agenda. The group that shows up determines how they will spend their time with that topic.

Our meetings are held on Wednesdays, so on Monday morning I emailed out a Google Doc with directions for adding ideas that the teachers were interested in learning about or talking about in a group. Once ideas were added, teachers could vote on the topics.

Wednesday afternoon I counted all the votes and picked 6 topics that appeared to have some interest. I assigned each topic a room.

Before heading off into the topics, we met in a large group just to discuss the overall idea of the “un-meeting.” We talked about how each group might go about getting started and what to do if no one in the group felt like an expert.

I also borrowed an idea from the Eduro learning team that Kim Cofino posted about where they asked everyone to think about the feelings you have when you are forced to learn something versus when you learn about things that you are passionate about.


I wanted to get everyone on the same page in terms of recognizing their choice in the “un-meeting.” Their choice of topic, their choice to be an active participant, their choice to be fully present.



After the meeting, we asked each group to share back some of their discussion on a Padlet so that you could see what happened in other groups and that the learning was available to those who had some other commitment.

We also did a short survey to gather some feedback.

Here’s what we learned:

feedback 1

Overall, it appears that most everyone felt their group was productive, which is good. With some of the topics that had been voted on I was a little concerned it might just be a session of complaints.

And no one wants to sit through that!

We also asked teachers to write one new thing they learned. Here are some of their responses.


I thought some of the comments were really thoughtful, in recognition of there being possibilities to explore new ideas and learn to work together more.


Since I organized the “un-meeting” it was important to me to have an understanding if my explanations and structure made sense to everyone else.


Clearly, the idea for choice did resonate with the teachers. I think that the smaller group size and informal setting was something that allowed more people to participate in a meaningful way and that made a difference in the success of the time spent.


I also asked for suggestions for improvement. Beyond the idea that the teachers would be really happy to see prosecco show up for the “un-meetings”, the most commonly mentioned thought was about following up on the content discussed. I think this is especially true because two of the meetings involved topics that affect the whole elementary, the schedule and the units of study. And it makes sense that those groups would want to know that the time they took discussing and developing ideas was heard by all and thought about in planning for next year. This is something for me to connect with our principal about and see what would be the best strategy to take those ideas and discussions into consideration.

There is also a bit of interest in there being more structure to the “un-meeting.” I think that this is something that we look to because we’re so used to having everyone tell us what to do and how to do it. We need to continue to challenge ourselves to build our own learning and find comfort in the lack of structure. This is difficult, even for me, but I think it is the path to take. For ourselves as learners, and for our students.


Has your school explored different formats of Professional Development? What strategies have you found that are effective? I’d love to hear your ideas!

My Full Circle Moment.

Learning2 was recently held for the first time in Europe.

I was lucky enough to work with my Director of Technology, Stephen Reiach, to organize and host this conference at our school.

And, for me, having this conference happen, at my school, was the completion of something I’d had my eye on for a long time.

You see, close to three years ago, I started campaigning to bring #learning2 to Europe and ASM.



So picking Jeff up from the airport was really a full circle moment for me.


#fullcircle Caitlin and me with Jeff. ASM's 2 CoETaIL graduates.

Caitlin and me with Jeff.
ASM’s 2 CoETaIL graduates.

I’m still high on all the emotions that have been a part of this conference.

I had a chance to work with some amazing people. The Learning2 Leaders we selected simply blew my mind. They were all so personable, warm and friendly. I have such great memories from our week together.

omg. these people. #thebest

omg. these people. #thebest

I’m ready to do it all again.

Ok, maybe without dealing with the hotels and buses.

Some #learning2 lessons learned…

  • The pink shirt crew was so amazing. I mean, really. I’m thankful for all the kind feedback our team received. We worked hard and I think it paid off.
  • I want to be Paula’s shadow, following her around, soaking up all her amazing-ness and warmth. Since Paula is at UWCSEA and both Tricia and Jocelyn are headed there next year, it must be a great place to work and learn. Keeping that one on my radar.
  • A good hotel three years ago might not be a good hotel now.
  • Strong wifi keeps everyone happy.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. I should have done this more.
  • Probably don’t ask to do a Learning2 talk while you are the conference organizer. This was close to being the one thing that nearly sent me over the edge. I’m proud of the talk I gave, but it was a lot to ask of myself at that moment.
me. on stage. #terrifying

me. on stage. #terrifying

  • If Simon is around, be sure to have plenty of coffee and prosecco on hand.
  • Mark is completely incapable of a normal photo.
  • Keeping a beard free of food and bits is a tough job, one I learned from watching Marcello eating gelato. (If you haven’t met this guy, you must!) #coetailoriginalonlinecohort
  • Student workshops and speakers are the best! I mean, have you seen Scintilla’s talk? But be selective in choosing your speakers and presenters. Jeff’s wise words of wisdom for identifying speakers included, “You almost have to pick the kid that school doesn’t work for.”
  • People drink a lot of COFFEE. Our security guard sure spent a lot of time at the coffee stand. Or was that because of the girl serving the coffee. Hmmmm.
  • Everyone loved the chocolatier and his chocolates, especially our Filippo!

Things I learned, but really already knew:

  • Learning2 is an amazing conference.

If you didn’t make it to Learning2.016 in Milan this year, mark your calendars for Warsaw next April.

You won’t want to miss it!

Did you love the music at Learning2? DJ Panther, two of the awesome pink shirt crew, put together these tunes, which I’ll link below!

Playlist 1

Playlist 2

Were you at Learning2 in Milan? Favorite moment? Or take away?

Learning 2.015 Manila

Last week I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend Learning2 at the International School of Manila.

Almost a week has gone by and I’m still wow’ed by the thoughts running through my head.

What’s at the top of the list?

Sam Sherratt’s talk on breaking free from the molds that we all find ourselves stuck in: schedules, what a ‘teacher’ is, the school itself. He drew all his own visuals (I think in the Paper app for iPad) and they were amazing.

And I’m still thinking about what he said.

And thinking about how I can break free of the molds around me.

It makes me think that moving to Asia to work isn’t a bad idea.


Listening to both Jeff and Kim speak is always a highlight. They are both so passionate about education and the direction we should be heading.

Kim focused on rethinking our perceptions of social media in a classroom and allowing our students to use those platforms to share their learning. She says, “We can empower our students to build communities around ideas that matter to make a difference in our world today.”


Jeff questioned, “What do we need to replace because it’s 2015?” He went on to wonder why any 2nd grader is learning about maps on paper, since no one uses that format any longer. It’s a really good question. Shouldn’t we be teaching the students how to navigate Google Maps on the devices so that they are learning the modality they’ll use in real life?


Towards the end of his talk he mentioned the idea that all international schools want to be a “leading” school, but also ask for the research behind a new idea he might present. Jeff stipulated that leading schools don’t follow the research, they create it.

I had never looked at it like that before.

But it is so true.

And thought provoking.

I wonder how many school directors will take the time to really think about that idea.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the conference was the role the students played. They were active in several workshops I attended and two high school students lead a workshop on Makey Makeys that I was blown away by. High school students leading a room full of teachers. They had great visuals and plenty of hands-on activities.


Many adults could take a few lessons from these students.

And now, I sit in my desk in Milan, exactly six months in advance of the Learning2 conference in Milan.

It’s going to be awesome!

But there’s still a long way to go between here and awesomeness!

Time to get back to work!


We hope you’ll join us for Learning2 in Milan April 7-9, 2016!