I’m so excited to see how this project goes.

Our school is preparing for a group of teachers to head off on a learning expedition. They’re off to Lima to participate in the AASSA Educators Conference 2016, Looking for Learning.  I’m staying here. My goal next week is to help be the conduit for which we bring back to our school the energy and excitement about the learning at the conference, as well as the learning it self.  We had considered the oft heard feedback after conferences, “There’s a lot of great energy and learning at the conference, but then it fades quickly after returning from the conference.” Maybe we could change that.

The Goals13_free_psd_download__connect_with_people_by_websonica-d6q15xj

  • Bringing the learning by our teachers at the conference back home to our school. How do we
    keep the momentum going? How do we maximize our time and money spent? 
  • Help teachers learn to document their reflections on professional learning. How do we help teachers make this part of their routine? 
  • Bring awareness to teachers both at home and at the conference of the value of connecting with other teachers via social media. How do we make the tools easily accessible to them.

The Challenges

  • Our teachers back home are in the middle of the next round of reporting; grades, comments, etc. They’re feeling pressed for time. How do we help them see value in participating?  
  • Some teachers going on the trip are new to social media. How do we introduce them to tools in a way that is fun, interesting, and accessible?  

The Plan


Many colored straws thrown on top of each otherAfter last year’s trip to Innovate 2015 at Graded in Brazil,  we had short workshops delivered by teachers that attended the conference. These workshops, or sips of professional learning are best described as our internal teachers teaching teachers mini-conference. Teachers who attended the conference were expected to deliver a presentation of what they learned, and our staff chose between the available workshops  during an afternoon. They were short and helped engage teachers to new ideas, but we knew we wanted to do more.  With that as our start, we introduced a few new ideas.

Professional Learning Ambassadors

Go team!

Every participating teacher reviews the conference workshop schedule and thinks about the workshops that would be of interest. Then the participants think strategically, with their respective subject/grade level teams to decide on 1 or 2 workshops that will benefit the team. They’ll think about the specific questions they might have, or specific resources they need and have a plan for how the learning will come back to the team.

Everyone Tweets

We wanted to get teachers connected to Twitter, and social media in general. Conferences are always a Tweet storm of energy and excitement. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other teachers. We’ve asked them to commit to one Tweet per workshop using the tag #LearnInCommunity as well as the Looking for Learning #L4LAASSA. We hope they have fun and do more.

Everyone reflects

maxresdefaultWe wanted to encourage an opportunity for reflection at the end of each day of the conference. Conferences are full-on the entire time. You typically go through dinner, and are exhausted by the time you are back at the hotel and in bed. It’s also a great time to socialize with teachers from other schools. With that in mind, we asked our participants for a minimum of a singular reflection for the entire conference, but we encouraged them to do more. We gave them options and examples of easy to use tools to reflect on their learning, and emphasized that the reflections didn’t have to be a dissertation, rather a thought or question about an idea in education. These were the options we offered:

  • Post a reflection to WeLearInCommunity, our Collaborative Professional Learning Portfolio.  We guessed this might be where most teachers would feel comfortable. 
  • Schedule a live stream on Periscope and share a short video reflection live to our team back home in Quito. We like this tool because it’s easy, interactive, and automatically records for viewing later. I hope to schedule the live stream and invite teachers to participate. 
  • Use the app 1 Second Everyday in Freestyle mode to collect super-brief reflections throughout the day to quickly stitch together into a short video and share with the team . We hope to see teachers post the final video to Facebook or Tweet it. We included this more for the fun, perspective shift. I’m curious to see if this tool can go beyond that. 
  • Record an audio reflection using Soundcloud to share with the team at the end of the day. While not quite live, SoundCloud does make it fast an easy to share an audio reflection and comment at a specific moment in time. It’s a great tool for interacting with audio as the medium. 
  • Use Lucidchart to create a mind map of the workshop.  Our Associate Principal, and general rock star, Brett Olson, suggested mind mapping  and I love the idea. It would be great to see what this looks like.  
  • Suggest another way to reflect and share, Instagram? Skype call? We encouraged teaches to reflect in a way they wanted and to make suggestions. 

We also wanted to find a way to encourage more reflection throughout the entire conference, while finding a balance for teachers with a full schedule. So, we asked teachers to Power Up their reflection.

Power Ups

Are you humming the tune?

Power Ups are optional “challenges” to get more value and fun from the process of reflection and documentation of that reflection. We came up with two, but would love to hear ideas for more.


  • Include a teacher from another school in your reflection, including some way of -contacting the teacher – Twitter handle, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus profile etc. If you are doing a video reflection, for example, you might include them in the video and reflect together for a couple of minutes over dinner. If you choose a written reflection, you might mention some insight the teacher shared in the workshop. We thought this would encourage that other teacher to read our teacher’s blog, and hopefully foster a connection between the other teacher and maybe the other school. 
  • Include a connection to any one of our current initiatives.  For example, if a workshop has particular implications for our BYOD program, you might mention the connection and why it is important. We thought this would help teachers connect for specific initiatives at school

More Fun

To encourage daily reflections, and to have some fun, we created tiny incentives .  I promised our traveling teachers

  • a bag of Vélez coffee for a single reflection, plus a power up
  • a bottle of wine for daily reflections with at least one power up

I know what the word is on extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. I truly believe teachers will follow through on the reflections because they recognize the potential for their growth in the process. Not because they really want the coffee. However, I also think it’s worth a bit of fun to encourage taking the extra step and giving some recognition for it. What do you think?

Catalog and amplify

The last step in the process is to gather all the reflections in a central space. We’ve recently begun prototyping We Learn In Community, our  Collaborative Professional Learning Portfolio.  It’s been a great start. That’s where I become conduit. I’ll monitor the stream coming from the conference and re-post reflections, links, etc to the collaborative portfolio. This way we can keep that learning here at school.

So, now the fun begins.

We help teachers learn to use the tools before they leave. Then we wait for their tweets, streams and ideas, and share them with the home team.  I can’t wait to get started!

Your Thoughts?

How are you bring learning back to you school from conferences and PD?  What ideas do you have to encourage teachers to reflect and document their professional learning? What experience do you have in helping teachers learn about social media tools? What would you do different about what we’re trying? Comment below.


Image Credits

  • Networking –  http://orig11.deviantart.net/7940/f/2013/284/6/2/13_free_psd_download__connect_with_people_by_websonica-d6q15xj.jpg
  • Teamwork – https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/1384952210
  • Reflection – https://i.ytimg.com/vi/bgv2eMPDL9I/maxresdefault.jpg
  • Power Ups – https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7236/7244932116_7ec3b7f95c_c.jpg

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