Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Hands on Professional Development is Best

Professional Development workshops should be fun and engaging for the attendees. Just as teachers want students to be excited about learning and not dread coming class, one does not want faculty thinking "I have to attend this workshop today. Ugh."  A hands on activity with tools that can be used across subjects will keep participants engaged and may result in teachers having a Eureka! moment in which they see a way to use these tools in class. There is a comfort level that comes with being in a room full of people learning something new at the same time. Attendees peek over at the next person's screen and say "Hey, what's that?" and before you know it, people are collaborating and talking about what works best for them.

We presented a Google Apps for Education workshop earlier this year for our faculty and instead of providing an introduction to setting up a class web site and sending them on their way with a link to a printed or video tutorial, we invited everyone to bring their laptops and build their site right there in the workshop. We created a demo site and used each of the page templates to demonstrate the different types of pages and how they might be used. Before we knew it, several teachers had created workable web sites that with a few finishing touches, would be ready for prime time. 

As the session moved on, more and more teachers became comfortable with trying new things. Their willingness to experiment was in large part due to the support system that was sitting right there with them. Several asked about creating a class calendar and no sooner did we show them how to set it up, many of them followed suit and put the calendar into the home page of their site. What made us very happy was the fact that no one was watching the clock and ready to rush out once the session was over. Some stayed behind to finish up the site or ask questions about the different ways they could communicate information. When we held a follow up session a month later, nearly all of the attendees returned and a few new faces showed up as well.