By Cyndee Perkins
The easy part about writing professional development courses for teachers over the last two years was deciding on eight relevant topics and giving them catchy titles (What’s All the Hype about Skype?, Goodbye Index Cards; Hello PowerPoint™, Design your own PLN … 140 Characters At a Time, etc.)
The actual writing wasn’t so easy! The writers struggled because they were teachers at heart, not trainers; they were excited about the topics, wanted to explain, give the background and context, and share their thought-processes. But we were producing skill-based “how to” training, and we went back to basics.
First we considered the characteristics of the adult learner. Just because the audience is a group of great teachers, doesn’t mean that the audience is a group of great learners! If you’re writing any PD courses or conducting any workshops, keep in mind that adults:
- Need to know the relevance of participating in a class. Why am I here instead of someplace else?
- Want acknowledgement and credit for life experience. Don’t tell me what I already know!
- Like to discuss, and are restless during lectures. I’m ahead of you, and let me tell you why!
- May be fearful to explore and discover. Please, just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!
After thinking about teacher schedules, we developed some easy-to-follow parameters:
- Each course is four hours (offered in one-two-four hour segments)
- First two hours are spent experimenting with new technology skills using project-based learning; second two hours are spent creating a new project – a teaching tool designed for immediate use in the classroom
- At least 50 percent of the time is spent in hands-on technology activity and the other 50 percent in discussion and sharing. (No lectures, no “I’m the leader. Look at me” on the part of the trainer.)
- Have quality take-home materials for the participants to continue building their skills independently
- Include concrete objectives and “proof of learning” to qualify for CEU’s
Now how to get the courses into the hands of the teachers?
In-service meetings can be easily offered on school-release days, at staff meetings, or in “back-to-school” time slots when teachers are already on site.
Online courses mean easy access for the teachers who can learn at home in sweats with coffee at hand.
Conference sessions mean camaraderie and great interaction/discussion with peers in large groups.
All in all, birthing the courses was painful, but like real childbirth, we are determined that the end result will be worth the time and trouble!