My First Attempt to Have an Active Learning PD Session

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Posted by Mr. Kruse | Posted in PD, Reflection | Posted on February 28, 2011

Today I led a professional development session on Google Docs. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to present this material because I only had 50 minutes and all the teachers would be logging into their school Google account for the first time so we had to deal with that and I knew from past experience that this would take awhile. While I was mulling over whether I should just create short videos on how to do things or whether I should lead the entire group along at the same pace, I read a blog post by Jeff Utecht that was entitled Becoming and Active Learner. This post inspired me to try something new with my PD and not just do a sit and get session where I have everyone follow along with me which is what I usually did. I really wanted the teachers to take responsibility for their own learning.

I started out my session by doing a quick overview of what Google Docs is and some examples of how I have used it in my teaching in the past. Then I explained that I wanted them that I was not going to give them any tutorials on using Google Docs, instead I shared a Google Doc that had some links to resources that others have already created. I also had to explain that not all the links would work here at school since some of the videos were on YouTube and our district blocks it for everyone. Once people got logged in they would ask: “Now what do we do?” I had anticipated that question and simply responded, “Whatever you want to do.” Some people just sat there and stared at the screen for awhile, others immediately began creating documents and shared them with others to see how it all worked and yet others just looked at the resources that I had provided them. I just kept walking around and answering questions and talking with teachers about their ideas on how they could use it in their classrooms. The next thing you know, the teachers are up out of their seats showing others where to find things like the share button or how to rename the document and no one was asking for a step-by-step guide. It was amazing! These are the same teachers that I had to create 2 step tutorials on how to run windows updates on their computers.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that every teacher was on task and really learning something about Google Docs. There were a few that were on different websites or were just talking to their neighbor and not really actively participating. There was even one teacher that didn’t even log into the computer because she doesn’t know how to keyboard without looking at the keys and the student computers we were using only have the ‘F’ and ‘J’ keys in the correct position, every other key is the wrong letter to help them learn to keyboard and look at the screen not their hands. But for the most part, everyone seemed to actively participate and learn something useful. They were sharing ideas with each other and asking me for suggestions which I took to be a very good sign.

As always, there are things that I would have changed about the session. I would have given them their exact usernames instead of just telling them the protocol that I used. I would have asked for more time. I would have had them share out what they learned during the closing. And I’m sure I’ll think of other ways to improve but for my first time in using this type of format I think it went really well. I was afraid that most of the teachers would just sit there and want me to show them how to do everything but they didn’t, they really impressed me with their ability to learn on their own and I will definitely try this format again in future PD sessions. Hopefully, at least one teacher will think about using this format in their own classroom in the next few weeks!

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