I take part in a daily twitter chat (#BFC530) in which a group of inspiring educators share ideas and support each other. One day Emmanuel Andres shared this blog post about P.L.A.Y.Dates, a form of professional development that allows teachers to “play” with digital teaching tools and get to know them. I loved the idea and thought it would be great to jumpstart the New Year by setting up a Playdate for our back-to-school workshop in January.
Coordinators from elementary and secondary met with our tech wizard, Eladio, to discuss how we would set it up. We decided to have six stations (each in a different classroom) and, in each, we would present a variety of tools around a given theme. Eladio made QR codes for us so that teachers could scan them with their devices and immediately access the websites we were presenting.
Eladio was giving a workshop in Bolivia, so we decided to start our Playdate with a Mystery Skype session, where they didn’t know where the people they were Skyping with were located. Our group of teachers Skyped with Eladio’s workshop students, asking “yes/no” questions to discover their location. Most of our teachers had never participated in a Mystery Skype and it was great to see them pull out their phones to look up information about South American geography. It became instantly clear that we can learn so much through “play.”
Teachers then went to the various stations and explored the tech tools there. This was completely unstructured – they could go to any room they wanted and spend as much time as they liked at each station. If a tool didn’t interest them, they were free to move on. At each station we had a facilitator who was not necessarily an expert on the digital tools, but was simply someone to help teachers experiment with them.
Center 2 – Making Videos Interactive
Center 4 – Book Creation
Center 6 – Mind mapping
Although I initially thought this was a great idea, the week before the workshop I started to get cold feet. Would it be too disorganized? Would teachers complain that we were wasting their time when they had so much to prepare? Would they think it was silly? I was honestly ready to ask the coordinating team if we should call it off. I spoke to the group about my fears, which they also shared to some extent. The coordinator in charge of coding was sure no one would show up to his session. But we realized that if we ask teachers to take risks in their classroom, we have to be ready to do the same. So, we jumped.
And it was awesome!
We had planned to give teachers about an hour to explore, so they could use the rest of their day to prep their classrooms and work on lesson plans. However, many of them didn’t want to stop and continued to play with the tools for well over two hours. And the feedback we got was incredible. Teachers passed by my office all day long to tell me how much they loved the Playdate. They enjoyed the freedom to explore the tools that interested them most and the chance to share ideas with teachers they don’t normally interact with. One teacher wrote this message:
“To be honest, I am anything but tech savvy. Buuuut… last Wednesday’s Playdate workshop was amazing! I’m always trying to challenge kids with work that allows them to show me what they are capable of and what they’ve been learning along the way. Kids usually do mind mapping and this year I started working with portfolios as well. This workshop gave me the opportunity to learn about new apps and websites that would be helpful to us in our work — not to mention, it also makes our lessons more accessible for our 21st century students. So many exciting mini-lessons to plan! Thanks!”
Thanks for sharing @MrEAndre… we’ll definitely make time for PLAYdates again!