Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Student Led PD

Our most recent Faculty Enhancement Opportunity (our version of Faculty Meetings known as the F.E.O.) at #Cantiague was an EPIC one because it featured some of the best professional development we've had all year. Professional development that included choice in sessions - everyone had the opportunity to choose between three different PD sessions where various apps were being featured and basic training was being offered. The choice of PD opportunities wasn't the best part, although it is pretty awesome to give educators choice and voice in their own learning and development. The most awesome part of the experience, at least through my lens, was that the providers of these professional development sessions were our kids. That's right... For the first time ever at #Cantiague our professional development was led by our students... thirteen fifth graders facilitated our staff learning by sharing various apps that they loved using and felt like experts in regards to application!

The idea of student led PD was one that I had been toying with for over a year because the idea of student voice (#StuVoice) is one that I place much value on. Our students are so bright and passionate and knowledgeable and well spoken that it seemed like a no brainer (in my eyes) to have them share their knowledge and expertise with our staff at some point. Unfortunately, it just never came together and I wasn't quite sure what they could "teach" the staff during a PD or F.E.O. session.

Then it hit me during a visit to one of our fifth grade classes. Rande Siper, the classroom teacher, had decided to launch a "Geek Squad" of sorts in her classroom where the students had an opportunity to teach others about various tech resources based on the fact that they had developed a level of expertise with those resources. GENIUS!! That was it... We had to tap into areas where our kids felt like experts and where the information was almost intuitive to them and what better way than some form of technology? Whether it is apps, websites or just different ways to use various mobile devices, our kids are digital natives and have experiences with technology that they could easily share with our staff to help us enhance our craft. Of course, it doesn't just start and end with technology - our kids have many areas of expertise that they could share with the staff to help us get better at our craft in our goal to facilitate meaningful teaching and learning. Our kids are amazing facilitators of learning when given the opportunity to teach... At least I thought so but wasn't sure until we actually provided them with a platform to spotlight their teaching skills. 

So, we finally made it happen this week. Thirteen fifth graders agreed to stay after school (thank you to their amazing families for giving them permission and supporting our staff PD) and work in small groups to spotlight the following six apps for our staff: Educreations, Sticky Notes, Bitmoji, iMovie, Haiku Deck and Near Pod. The children were given time in their classroom to prepare presentations and then had a chance to present to their classmates and refine their presentations. The groups were then paired up and assigned to a room so that each room featured two app presentations by two different groups (3 rooms in total). The staff then had a choice of which presentations they wanted to participate in and went to that room. The staff members were informed in advance about the apps that would be featured and were encouraged to download the apps of interest and bring their devices to the PD sessions so they could be more interactive. Then it finally happened... our kids facilitated their first ever PD sessions and the feedback thus far has been really good. One staff member said it was cute and informative while another said she learned a lot and was impressed by how confident and knowledgeable the children were during their presentations. Several staff members also asked if the students could visit their classrooms and help them teach their students about the resources. Even though I have not heard feedback from everyone at #Cantiague, the initial feedback has been positive and our staff was incredibly receptive and excited about our student led professional development. In fact, since I published this post earlier in the week, I received this email from a teacher truly capturing the essence of the experience...

-I thought it was awesome! I came home and told my family about it and how amazing it was to see the confidence and knowledge base that our children have to share.

- Our children clearly have a deep understanding about the "tools" that they are using. It is easy to say you know about something, but it is a whole other thing to be able to teach it to others.

-I also think of the trust and mutual respect shared by both our children and us. They felt comfortable enough to teach us and we felt that we could open our minds and let ourselves be taught by them.

- I also felt like it totally takes a village and like a super proud mom! The children that were presenting only 5 years ago were in our kindergarten classes. They didn't know their letters. They didn't know their sounds. They weren't able to write. And here they were today teaching us!

-Our students are truly amazing! They are smart, funny, confident, kind, flexible, enthusiastic and happy! 

In the end, I am not sure what the next student led professional development session might look like but one thing is for sure in my mind... our students should not only have voice in their own learning but their voices can be quite valuable in our own learning and professional development as educators!   

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing example of a learning community in action. I can only imagine how this experience is going to inspire students and teachers' future endeavor. I hope we try this at my school.