The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Monday, November 28, 2005

No More....Staff Development

David Warlick's recent post, OK, No More Staff Development created much discussion as it should have. David provided a set of provocative guidelines for a new vision of professional development, one centered on an individual teachers personal growth, and supportive of a new self-development infrastructure. His basic tenets are as follows:

They need to strive for a school environment where teachers:

  • Have the time to reflect and retool (at least three hours a day),
  • Have ready access to local and global ideas and resources that are logically and socially indexed,
  • Have the skills to research, evaluate, collaborate, remix, and implement new tools and techniques (contemporary literacy),
  • Are part of an ongoing professional conversation where the expressed purpose is to provoke change (adapt),
  • Leave the school from time to time to have their heads turned by new experiences,
  • Share what they and their students are doing with what they teach and learn — their information products and relics of learning become an explicit and irresistibly interwoven part of the school’s culture.


In my school district, tenured teachers have the opportunity to design their own staff development (or we could call them self-development) plans. This is done in accordance with our District's set of professional standards and is done in concert with a building administrator, typically a department chair. Teachers can select 1 or 2 year versions, and in doing so, the traditional classroom evaluation by an administrator does not occur (unless it's part of the plan). So, in our district, a tenured teacher does have the opportunity to develop a plan that could incorporate many of David's ideas. However, embedded within David's description is a heavy reliance on the various technology tools that many of us use on a daily basis to connect with information and with each other's ideas. Not many of the teachers in my district would be comfortable with tagging, blogs, aggregators, del.icio.us and wiki technology (hey, isn't it my job to teach them-or is it?) . Many of them do not even know these tools even exist or how to use them in combination. To support David's vision of self-development, we absolutely need to help teachers understand the relationship of these tools to self-learning, so that self-learning can occur. That's right-more staff development...but just to jump start the process of self-learning.

So, I have a challenge. We have a district-wide professional development day on January 27, 2006. We'll have three sessions, with a number of courses ranging from technology courses to special education courses to cooperative learning. Each session is 1.5 hours in length. Each course, in some way, is tied to school board goals. I'll admit it-this is a very traditional one-shot day replicated across the country many times over. It's the only day we have to be together as a district-a problem in itself but not the point of this challenge.

Given that day, and the amount of time, how could this day be restructured to provide the support for developing a self-development infrastructure, as identified by David? What does it look like?

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