I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about professional development. Over the past month I have presented at the DLTV conference, ran an all day workshop on transformative learning to staff from around Victoria and have completed numerous training sessions with staff from my school. After the exhilaration of such challenges, some amazing conversations and plenty of reflection I was left with a few lingering thoughts. So what better way to flesh out my thoughts than to jot them down in a blog post.
“It’s all about the networking”
It wouldn’t be a conference without this line being spouted numerous times. Are conferences merely vessels for networking? Are the sessions just background noise while we chat amongst ourselves or through back channels? For me, yes and hats off to DLTV for providing a conference where you didn’t need to go to a session to be inspired, learn and connect. I spent time in the Games space and the Scootle lounge lost in Lego poetry, discussions with Kynan Robinson about theories of knowledge and listening to Eleni Kyritsis talk about Genius hour. All the while I was hanging out chatting with my good friend Aaron Davis. It seemed the richest conversations happened on the way to a session so sometimes we just kept walking even if that meant we missed out on a session. Sessions can be hit or miss. Looking at the crowd at our session, there were definitely people that would have felt like our session was a hit or a miss. So if the conference is all about the networking and the sessions can be a hit or miss, then what does the conference look like? Can you build a conference around networking or do we need the sessions to amplify the conversation? Is school like this for our students? As usual I’m left with more questions but I would love for some thoughts and feedback from others.
“What are you prepared to give?”
One conversation that really got under my skin was with a colleague who felt she had to justify to the other teachers at her school why she was speaking at DLTV. “Why are you presenting?” “How come they asked you?” “You’ve only been teaching for a few years, what could you share?” This mindset infuriates me. Within a PLN that spans the globe, this teacher is revered but within the walls of her own school she is questioned for speaking out of turn. Her response to the situation was right on the money…”I wasn’t asked, I asked to present!” The best professional development requires giving, whether it be your opinion, your story or your skill. The more that I give to my PLN, the more I grow. Whether it be contributing to the #aussieED chat on Twitter, presenting at a TeachMeet or having a beer and banter at #beerpedagogy, the contributions that I give grow me as a learner. Preparing my perspective for a blog post or planning a workshop helps me to evolve but it also contributes to the evolution of other learners. One of my favourite quotes is “without contribution, we don’t have true collaboration”. In a classroom, we strive to have everyone engage and contribute however, there are times at PD sessions where we simply rock up and sit back. My challenge to you is to throw your hat in the ring. Give your two cents, reach out and connect with other perspectives and challenge your learning. Aaron Davis wrote a great post on whether or not PLN was a verb or noun in your world. Make PLN a verb and like my colleague said, just ASK!