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Choose Your Own Adventure- PD Edition

I've been wanting to sit down and blog about this one for a LONG time now because it was one of the highlights from this past school year. It happened all the way back in November, so I hope I can capture everything from my memory of the event.

Each school year, we host a few Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) events on each campus. These are primarily planned and organized by the Technology & Innovation team, which on the elementary campus is just me with some input from my tech director. This particular event was hybrid because a number of our teachers were either still displaced or in quarantine, which meant I had to get extra creative.

Challenge #1- Create a hybrid PD experience that's engaging and meaningful.

As with any PD event, I started by listing the goals and objectives:

  1. Give teachers an opportunity to PLAY with equipment that's available.

  2. (Re)Introduce them to the ISTE Student & Educator Standards.

  3. Create a stress-free social environment where they can learn from and with colleagues.

With these in mind, I set out to curate resources for the session. First, stop- the library! I grabbed a collection of professional books about making, coding, innovation, and STEAM that could be used as support for any number of activities and standards I'd be organizing. And then, while I was there, I loaded up on some fantastic kid's books that could be used as read-alouds, genius hour support, exploration centers, or idea sparkers in any class.

I used these nifty posters created by my predecessor, Tanya LeClair, to group equipment, activities and thinking prompts by ISTE Standard and put them around the room as stations. One of the things I love about the standards are their applicability across subjects and grade levels, as well as how nicely they compliment the work of PYP and inquiry... more on that in a later post.

Second stop, the IT room where all the goodies are stored and available for checkout by teachers. Full disclosure- we are extremely fortunate to be a private, non-profit school with a hefty tech budget; I want to acknowledge that this is not a universal luxury even though I believe ALL kiddos and teachers should have this kind of access and choice. That being said, if you are planning a similar event, use what you have- grab some LEGO from a classroom, borrow some loose parts from early years, anything you can use to spark imagination and play. And of course, if you have tech, even more things are possible.

Going through the equipment in the IT room, it occurred to me that many teachers were probably unfamiliar with how all of these gadgets work and many were new to our school, so they might not even know what we have. I figured they might need some in-person, printed or digital instructions to help support and scaffold learning in order to remove barriers to entry. And, as mentioned earlier in this post, the TTT organizing team consists of two people- one of which is my boss who was busy overseeing both campuses, so mostly just me. Time for more creative thinking.

Challenge #2- Provide scaffolds and supports to aid independent inquiry.

I got to work curating some digital (websites, video tutorials, Twitter lists) and printed resources (infographics, QR codes, posters) that could be used at the live event, but that would also be accessible to those who would be attending virtually via Microsoft Teams. Here are a few examples:

Another important component of these stations were the thinking and reflection tasks as a way to engage. This came from spending some time with the new book by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church, The Power of Making Thinking Visible (2020), where they discuss using visible thinking to move from interest to engagement by giving opportunities to a) engage with others, b) engage with ideas, and c) engage in action. More on this book and Ritchhart's powerful keynote at the Toddle TIES summit in a later blog post.

Challenge #3- Find teachers willing to facilitate learning for their colleagues.

It wouldn't really be a TTT without TEACHERS who were willing to TEACH other TEACHERS, so, the final piece of the puzzle was recruitment. Under normal circumstances in a normal school year, this is easy enough to do, but November of 2020 was anything but normal and asking people to do anything more than what they were doing to stay afloat felt, well, awful. Thankfully, I work with some absolute rockstar educators and I'd invested a lot of time building relationships with these people, so getting a few to volunteer wasn't nearly as difficult as expected. I reached out to a handful I thought might be willing and shared with them the survey results of what teachers said they wanted out of PD to see if anything stood out. These sessions would run concurrently with the inquiry stations for those who wanted something more traditional and topic-based. The schedule was shared out a week before the event so people would know what to expect and could ask any questions they had.

In the week leading up to the event, I got to do the fun stuff like order food and raffle prizes, put together a playlist and come up with a fun way to bring the online people into the mix for the event. And for the sake of brevity, I will wrap this up by saying it was a hugely successful event with lots of great feedback from teachers. I will definitely be keeping a lot of these ideas in mind as I start planning the upcoming new staff orientation and faculty week, because guess what?! It's going to be hybrid again with lots of new teachers unable to get their visas in time for the start of school. But that's a topic for a future blog post...

What about you? What kinds of PD have you had success with, especially in a hybrid setting? I'd love to hear what others have done to provide meaningful professional learning for the teachers in their schools.

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