What are my #FacilitatorGoals?

 I recently (re)heard the cliche "write the book you want to read," and that sparked my idea of my goal to "Design the PD that I want to attend." 

Rabbit-hole: I wanted to find who authored the book quote, and it's most often attributed to Toni Morrison, but there are many others who shared similar sentiments.

As I wrapped up my first post-2020 summer of providing face-to-face professional learning, and because I attended several events for my own learning, I wanted to reflect on my learning preferences to rethink and refine my own practices.

Refining PD Design

I have numerous models and frameworks in mind during my PD design process (many based on the book The Art of Gathering) and the purpose of this post is to document my big goals of an ideal PD session.

During the past couple of years, I've really scrutinized elements of workshops, webinars, and events I attended that met (or did not meet) my PD expectations.

I hope that by reflecting on my own preferences and creating this list will help me refine how I design professional learning. 

illustration with hands crafting; text "#FacilitatorGoals - design the PD I would want to attend." upper right, colorful lightbulb idcon

My #FacilitatorGoals

I believe a skillful facilitator: 
  • knows who the participants are;
  • establishes session goals and a purpose and articulates those goals;
  • utilizes activities and protocols that engage the learners and allow meaning-making;
  • includes storytelling elements/structures;
  • builds a safe, inclusive learning community; 
  • recognizes attendees’ preferences may differ from their own;
  • allows time and space for collaboration, reflections, and processing;
  • identifies the best format for the delivery of the material;
  • ensures session resources are accessible and professional;
  • considers the question “What’s the best use of our synchronous time?” 
  • shares relevant, timely (research-based) information;
  • pinpoints ways that learners can immediately apply the new learning;
  • integrates technology in meaningful ways to support the learning;
  • considers the “container” for session resources and curated materials; 
  • provides opportunities to extend the learning experience.

Earlier in the pandemic-times, I wrote about my mistakes about learning preferences. I now think that the bottom-line is all about providing choice

From the previous post, if I'm somehow "required" to provide a tool-based, presentation-style webinar (my least favorite type of session) if I design with this goal list in mind, I can create a meaningful learning experience - even a webinar about a digital tool - that I would like to attend.

What would you add to this list of #FacilitatorGoals? And if you're in one of my professional learning sessions and you do not see me incorporating one of these ideals, please provide that feedback!

Always learning and refining.


Purposeful PD: Launching the Learning (Take 2!)


As mentioned multiple times in my posts, I'm constantly reflecting on ideas from Priya Parker's The Art of Gathering to upgrade my professional learning sessions, meetings, and personal gatherings.

For today's reflections, I share a more structured approach to the way I begin, or as Priya calls it, the launch. (i.e. How to "Begin with a Bang" - take 2!)

I recently collaborated with a new friend who had not heard about The Art of Gathering, and when I tried to explain this information to her, I realized it was a LOT; thus, this post!

The Launch

Title box: Launching the Learning  People icon and text: People: Introduce self; Connect to participants via check-in; Participants connect Magnifying glass icon and text: Purpose: Share session -INGs; Share session goals/standards addressed  Info icon and text: Logistics: Share session "flow"; Share norms/community agreements; (Possibly) links to resources Lower right: colorful lightbulb icon and @kklaster
Launching the Learning

In The Art of Gathering, Priya inspires us to find ways to honor and awe our guests.

Your opening needs to be a kind of pleasant shock therapy. It should grab people. And in grabbing them, it should both awe the guests and honor them. It must plant in them the paradoxical feeling of being totally welcomed and deeply grateful to be there.
I feel the suggestion of honoring and awing guests is a very tall order during a quick webinar about formative assessments with Google Forms, but I'm working on it! 😜

So here's my session flow to launch a PD session (as of August 2022):


I say hello, check on the participants, and often have participants connect to one another.

  • My intro is typically very short. When I need to establish some quick credibility, I share my number of years of teaching (starting year 33! πŸŽ‰) or mention teaching math or working as an instructional coach. 
  • I frequently share or mention my connection to the material, i.e. if it's a session about podcasts, I share my favorite podcasts.
  • Since 2020 (and moving forward), I often begin with a sincere thank you to the participants as a way to honor them and their time.
  • Especially since the pandemic, I check on the participants' state of being. The check-in might be a "share your day" in the form of a GIF, put a word in the chat, or fist-to-five how are you.
  • For a face-to-face session, I provide a couple of minutes for participants to meet their neighbors. I include a prompt (e.g. share something you've recently learned), a timer, and play a bit of background music. (Shout out to my friend Laura for the music addition. In case the participants are new to each other, the music provides a bit of buffer in a quiet room.)
  • When connecting during virtual events, I provide discussion prompts for the breakout room and include a suggestion for who starts the conversation, e.g. the person with the shortest name begins the conversation.

My Personal People Pet-Peeves: 

These opinions are for my own preferences, and I realize others' views may differ!
  • Even if it's a recurring meeting, and I've sent a pre-email, I still introduce myself. I don't want to assume that everyone knows who I am. I recently attended a meeting where there were a lot of new people, and the speakers did not introduce themselves, nor were their names listed on the agenda. I felt newer employees did not feel a sense of belonging or connection in that meeting.
  • In my PD sessions, I do not share my degrees, colleges, family, pets, a collage of photos of summer vacations, ways I drink coffee, favorite restaurants, etc. (unless it is truly connected to the content of the session.)
  •  At a district conference this summer, at the end of the day, a participant said, "Thank you for providing time to meet our neighbors. This session is the first one where I've been asked to do that." 😱 The collaboration aspect is my favorite part of this type of event, and how disappointing that wasn't encouraged throughout the day.
  • I want to collaborate with session attendees, but I want it to be authentic. If there is an ice-breaker, I want to understand the purpose and how that activity will move the learning forward and connect to the rest of the session objectives. During the past few weeks, I saw a lot of buzz on teacher Twitter about the dreaded back-to-school ice breakers. I agree, and my session attendees will not be lining up by making animal noises. 😳


Using -INGs to clarify a meeting or session purpose continues to be a solid approach for me. 

Since that original post, I still love using icons from The Noun Project, but now I know that for my work to be more accessible, I add text to describe each of the icons.

decorative slide with title "Today's Focused -INGs." Three icons: book+website, people connected in a triangle, lightbulb; text under each icon is learning, connecting, reflecting
Slide showing session -INGs (for a webinar on Burnout)

Depending on the session, I might also share more details about session objectives or learning outcomes. I always link the PD session to ISTE Standards (and those related to the teacher evaluation system) but I may not spend much time on these during the session. 

Takeaways from AoG book club members:

This summer, I facilitated my fourth iteration of an Art of Gathering book club, and the session participants provided additional insight to ideas from the book.

Chapter 1 of the book is all about the importance of establishing the purpose of your gathering, and I appreciated these reflections:
  • One participant plans to develop "core" -INGs for her PLCs meetings, but then specify for each meeting which of the -INGs were to be used OR create an additional -ING for a particular meeting.
    • I facilitated a group that met quarterly, and our -INGs were problem-solving, networking, and learning. For our May meetup, we added "celebrating" as an additional session purpose.
    • Several participants are adding the meeting/session purpose to the top of an agenda or as Slide #1 in a presentation. I think that's a terrific reminder to keep a focus as the meeting designer and it helps establish and communicate a WHY.


    And now it's time to provide session logistics. Some of the information might be communicated in a pre-email, but the logistics I typically share are the session norms and the agenda "flow." 


    I still have mixed feelings about explicity stating norms, and I've been a participant where I've found the session rules very off-putting. (I'm still quite stunned when I hear "put away your devices," but that has happened, even this year. πŸ™„)  I want to respect adult learners and model best practices, but I think there's a fine line with sharing session norms.

    Even though we're used to webinar world, I always include a Slide to share the norm "Cameras are your choice," and I think it's important to explicity share that option.

    I'm still wondering the best verbiage to use for session norms, and I would love suggestions. Community agreements? Commitments? In 2021, I had the privilege of learning from Katrice Quitter who called our norms the day's Ethos, which I loved.

    My friend Julianna and I adapted the AVID A-E-I-O-U norms to create our "Road Rules" for a multi-day workshop. The theme was a PD journey, so we connected all ideas to a road trip.

    Decorative slide with text: Community Road Rules - DRIVE Develop your own methods. Respect diverse views. Integrate new information. Vocalize feedback. Engage fully. ✨ h/t AVID’s AEIOU Guidelines


    Another shout-out goes to Laura for her examples of a session timeline or flow, and I've started adapting and sharing that work as part of my logistics. Laura even includes her session -INGs as part of the timeline, and I've worked to #AdmireAndAcquire that idea, too.

    My script sounds something like this: "We have three parts to today's session: first we'll do ABC, then DEF, and then XYZ." I will show a Slide with these points, and I utilize an animation to emphasize each separate step in our journey.


    One of the benefits of this 3-step approach of people, purpose, logistics is that it reduces my cognitive load because I'm no longer wondering about the order of my session/meeting opening.

    If I'm facilitating a 50-minute webinar, I can accomplish all of these objectives in 5 minutes. If I'm leading an academy or longer session, I can expand any of the sections based on the needs of the work. For example, if the session is highly collaborative and is over an extended period of time, I definitely want to expand the People section to give participants more of an opportunity to connect. In this instance, I might also start the people (and logistics) in some of the pre-work materials, too. 

    My next wondering: how do I convey this same type of information in an asynchronous, self-directed session? πŸ€” I know educators are now looking for more online learning opportunities, and I think the people, purpose, logistics flow still applies, but I need more practice with designing asynchronous courses.

    Additional Ideas

    Here are a few of my other posts related to The Art of Gathering:

    In what ways do you start your PD sessions? What else is important for the beginning of the session?

    I'm always ready to launch into learning!


    I'm Taking Better Breaks to Beat Burnout

    Know anyone who might be experiencing some form of burnout? πŸ™‹πŸ»‍♀️

    Burnout Background

    I started curating information about burnout in the fall of 2020 after hearing BrenΓ© Brown's podcast interview with Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski about their book Burnout. In the spring of 2022, burnout seemed to be the theme of the season, and since I compiled so much information, I thought I would organize and share some of the resources here. 

    One key idea I've heard in recent months is that precision of language is important when discussing burnout. Burnout is a continuum, rather than on or off. Burnout is commonly associated with overwork, although a lack of fairness, poor relationships, or a failure to meet values may also lead to burnout.

    This article from the Headspace team references research that identifies three subtypes of burnout: frenetic, under-challenged, and worn-out. Each burnout subtype manifests itself in different ways: profound emotional and/or physical exhaustion; feelings of lack of professional efficacy, i.e. feelings that work doesn't matter; and feelings of negativity or cynicism.

    I also now know these burnout "consequences" correspond to categories in Christina Maslach's Burnout Inventory. (Here's a simple assessment.) 

    Breaks to Beat Burnout

    Last year, this video appeared on my Headspace meditation app, and the idea of taking different types of breaks to curtail exhaustion from burnout was a small, concrete, manageable step for me.

    In the video, Dr. Yousef describes each type of break:

    • macro (at least one day off a month);
    • meso (at least a couple of hours of true downtime each week);
    • micro (a few minutes each day to breathe, recharge, or move).

    After watching this video, I decided to get intentional about my breaks. I gathered my resources and now have a three-step plan for my breaks. I also found quotes from additional books that supported these ideas. 

    By the way, my favorite tool from the past year is Readwise, which captures highlights from my Kindle books, so this tool helped me quickly find all of the quotes relevant to burnout!

    Taking better breaks. Do it for yourself, icon of phone with no symbol, icon of clipboard and check list. Text: “take the break.” “Step away from the screens.” “Have a plan.”
    3 Steps for Taking Better Breaks

    Step 1: Take the break!

    I often feel like my to-do list is overwhelming, and there's no time for breaks, but now I know that break-taking is essential.

    Eve Rodsky in Finding Your Unicorn Space implores,

    If we want to avoid burning out, we each have to find time to step back; cultivate our curiosities, interests, and passions; and remember who we are apart from our jobs and our family roles.

    In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown says,

    If you believe being overly busy and overextended is evidence of productivity, then you probably believe that creating space to explore, think, and reflect should be kept to a minimum. Yet these very activities are the antidote to the nonessential busyness that infects so many of us. 

    Step 2: Step away from screens. 

    It's easy to think that I'm taking a break from a project by checking email or scrolling Twitter, but now I know that's not a true break.

    From Annie Murphy Paul's book The Extended Mind

    We imagine that we’re replenishing the brain’s depleted resources when we spend our breaks doing something that feels different from work—scrolling through Twitter, checking the news, looking at Facebook. The problem is that such activities engage the same brain regions and draw down the same mental capital we use to do our cognition-centric jobs. We resume our duties just as frazzled as before the pause, and maybe more so.

    Step 3: Have a plan for breaks.

    I need to know what to do during my breaks so I don't return to the habit of mindless scrolling (or continuing my work.) 

    I love this entire article from Anne-Laure Le Cunff from Ness Labs, and she offers five different possibilities to help make the most of work breaks. These ideas could work for micro or meso breaks:

    1. breathe
    2. socialize
    3. get into nature
    4. move
    5. create

    This quote comes from The Power of Fun by Catherine Price, and she shares fantastic categories for planning for breaks, whether they're micro, meso, or macro.

    ...think about my leisure time—whether with screens or without—as falling into three categories: connection, creation, and consumption. (I call these the three c’s.) Then I ask myself which of these feel the most enjoyable, nourishing, or satisfying—and in what doses.

    I've been working for several months to be more intentional about my breaks, and it seems to be helping. (At least I'm not glued to my device for so many hours of the day!) My go-to micro-break now is a movement break, which often means a single lap around the building. My meso breaks are often consumption (reading for fun) or connections (coffee with a friend), but I'm also working on more creative outlets, such as learning calligraphy. For macro breaks, I'm fortunate to have vacation days, and I'm using my days.

    So what about you? Do you think taking intentional breaks might help with burnout symptoms of exhaustion?

    Additional resources and ideas from:


    Purposeful PD: Primed for Learning

    Preparing Your Participants

    As mentioned in several other Purposeful PD posts, my new "textbook" for designing professional learning sessions is The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. Priya's notion that the event begins at the moment of discovery and her quote below inform my thinking about how to prepare participants for the learning experience.

    The opening, whether intentionally designed or not, signals to guests what to expect from the experience.

    In chapter 5 of the book, Priya explains three concepts about preparing for the gathering: priming (planting seeds for the gathering), ushering (providing a transition time as guests walk into the doors), and launching (beginning the session with a bang). In this post, I'm refining my thinking about an idea from this chapter, priming

    Primed Before the Session

    Description and Audience

    When I heard Priya's phrase "moment of discovery," the first change I made was to refine my session descriptions. Many people find my PD sessions via our organization's event catalog, and before Art of Gathering, I never put too much thought into that description. Even though our registration system is a bit clunky, I now take the time to add more details, enhance the formatting, and specify the audience and level of expertise required for the session (which is a nod to her chapter, Close Doors).


    Priya suggests naming as priming, and creating session titles is an area of growth for me. But what a difference between sessions called "Workshops" vs "Visioning Labs!" Changing the name of the session or meeting can provide an entirely different feeling for the event. One example and minor tweak I made was when asked to lead our team's yearly book study (over The Art of Gathering!) I changed the title from a book study to a book club, just to provide a little more friendly feel to this work.

    Pre-Emails as Invitations

    In my post about ways to extend the learning, I shared my ideas and possible content in pre-emails. I didn't reference The Art of Gathering in that post, but the pre-emails certainly utilize the concept of priming participants for the learning. And now I'm even more intentional in those pre-emails and think of them as session invitations. In addition, my favorite collaborator friend Laura started the practice of including a session slide in her pre- and post-emails (similar to this Tweet) as yet another way to prime the participants. From these pre-emails, our attendees see a preview of the slides, plus the image makes the email more eye-catching and demonstrates the intentionality of the message. In addition, in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman states "...you experience greater cognitive ease in perceiving a word you have seen earlier, and it is this sense of ease that gives you the impression of familiarity." If participants have seen a glimpse of the session content and a preview of your slides, they may have a sense of familiarity when they arrive at the session.

    Primed at the Beginning of the Session

    A similar idea about the importance of priming comes from the learning sciences. In the book, Stop Talking, Start Influencing, the author Jared Cooney Horvath shares priming as a learning strategy, so I'm now combining ideas about what I understand from The Art of Gathering to the cognitive scientist's view of priming. In the book, he shares these different types of priming:

    • concept priming activates facts to guide new incoming information;
    • expectancy priming activates expectations to guide how others understand various conditions;
    • strategy priming activates procedures to guide how people perform future tasks.

    First impressions count. 

    I related to the example in the book when Dr. Horvath explained what happened when he wore a suit and tie to work with little learners. (The littles saw him as an authority figure and hesitated to respond, an example of expectancy priming.) I've sometimes felt a bit over-dressed during presentations, especially when presenting in the summer on an offsite campus. Most participants are in summer gear, and I'm in my work clothes, which may have led to stilted beginnings. I now realize that might be a result of expectancy priming, so I can work to create a more casual vibe, even while staying in the dress code.

    Recently, my friend Laura and I presented in a high school auditorium, and we were set up on stage. Right before we began, Laura suggested we move off-stage, and I thought that tweak made a difference because it lessened the formality of the session by closing the distance between the participants and us.

    In addition, is expectancy priming in effect when I continue to wear a mask and the rest of the audience is unmasked? 

    First strategies count.

    These next ideas about priming relate more to Priya's idea of launching a gathering, but I now understand the importance and power of the first moments of a session. Because of the pandemic, I've realized the value of participant check-ins, and that tracks with priming, too. Dr. Horvath shares that recent associations (i.e. what happens right before the PD session begins) impact how people take in and remember new information. Participants enter the session thinking about stressors at home or work, a long commute, lengthy to-do lists, etc. To help mitigate these "recent associations," I start my PD sessions by recognizing the people in the room. I may start with sincerely thanking the group and acknowledging the difficulties. I typically include some type of SEL check-ins, we may set intentions, perform a "brain-dump," or create permissions slips for the learning experience. I want to set the stage (concept priming) so that attendees can be in their best frame of mind for the learning experience.

    In addition, Dr. Horvath writes, "The first strategy we activate can influence how others interpret and tackle future tasks." For my PD sessions, that means if I want participants to collaborate throughout the session, I ask them to immediately say hello in the Zoom chat or talk their neighbor. When we're using a digital document (HyperDoc, collaborative Slides, thought-catcher, etc.) I get the participants typing in that document ASAP. For a recent webinar, we wanted participants to unmute their mics and talk throughout the session (the usual norm is to mute mics) so at the beginning of the session, we broke the script with strategy priming and asked them to all unmute at once and say hello! 

    Priming before the event (detailed session description, sending a pre-email/invitation) may take a little extra time, but I believe planting those seeds are terrific ways to prepare participants for the learning.

    Priming at the beginning of the session (the initial strategies) only required a few agenda adjustments and a bit more intentionality. I typically included these types of activities in my session, but activating the learning at the beginning guides participants to a richer learning experience.

    Impact on Learners

    A new friend, Jen Wood, provided more insight into the power of priming. Jen suggested that priming may help create a safe learning space and lessen stress levels before the event even begins. If learners are introverts, new to the area or roles, unsure about the content, or in any other way feeling a bit unsure about the learning, with a little priming, I can help ease all participants into the learning experience. A thoughtful session description and an intentionally crafted pre-email may shed light on the presenter's personality, provide information and logistical details, and help the attendee feel more at home before they even walk into the building. 🀯 I thought of priming through a "setting the stage" lens, but this observation and insight are grounded in empathy, and I love this interpretation of priming.

    I continue to reflect on and refine my ideas about priming and the concepts in The Art of Gathering. I strive to intentionally design my sessions and prime my participants in meaningful ways, and I hope these actions "signal to them what to expect from the experience." 

    There are certainly no limits on learning about best practices for providing professional learning, and I welcome your thoughts, strategies, and feedback!


    Purposeful PD: Timing is Everything

    Because of the pandemic and all of the virtual learning experiences, I feel that one of the most important questions I've asked this year is "What's the best use of our synchronous time?" This question is one that I will keep at the forefront of my brain post-pandemic, too.

    I don't often share specific tools here, but one of my favorite finds during the pandemic is the Chrome extension called Slides Timer. This extension creates a minimal count down, count up, or current time on Google Slides. I can change the fonts, sizes, and locations, so the timer matches my presentation, and it's very unobtrusive. 

    So that extension sounds fine, and using timers is a good productivity tip, but after reflecting and chatting with friends, those simple timers are a whole lot more. 

    Generous Authority

    I've written multiple times about the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, and one of the chapters that really stretched my thinking was "Don't be a Chill Host." Previously, I wanted my sessions to be conversational, more informal, and laid back. (oops!) Rather than chill, Priya uses the phrase generous authority to describe the hosting goal. What I've learned during the pandemic (and after participating in many webinars) is that timers help me achieve a bit more generous authority.

    "Purposeful PD, Timing is everything" and a yellow circle with an hour glass icon in the center; right side, top: icon of person pointing at screen "for the presenter," underneath are 5 icons to represent an audience, "for the audience"
    Timers keep us all on track!

    Timers keep me on track.

    Because I constantly remind myself "What's the best use of synchronous time?" and because the professional learning sessions I facilitate are now typically 1-hour or less, rather than a 3- or 6-hour session, every single minute counts. I admit I can talk a bit too long, especially when chatting about a topic I love, so if I add a timer to one of my "teach-piece" slides, it is a prominent reminder for me to not ramble on about my subject.

    My friend Laura and I co-facilitated a particular session, and we had one bit of input where we provided exactly 5-minutes of teaching, so we used Slides Timer. We each shared for about 2.5 minutes and moved on. The timer definitely kept me on track, and in a 50-minute webinar, sticking to that tight timing allowed us to accomplish all of our session goals. 

    Timers keep participants on track.

    Another component of generous authority is to protect and equalize your guests, or in my case, session participants. If I want to call on three participants from the group discussion, and each person has 1-minute to speak, a timer is important. (Has anyone else been in a webinar where 1-2 people dominate the conversation?) For this example, I would create 3 separate slides, each with a 1-minute timer. The timers help protect the "guests" from overly-chatty participants.

    If I want each person to give a 30-second introduction, I would create a Slide with a 30-second timer and duplicate it for all participants. Now, all participants are equalized and have that 30-seconds timer and a visible cue when their time is up.

    If I want participants to spend 3-minutes reflecting and planning next steps, I add a timer to the slides. If we're taking a 5-minute stretch break, I add a timer to the slides. The participants can check their own work and progress, and a visible timer on the screen really helps in a fast-paced session.

    Reducing Cognitive Load

    My friend Dede recently shared the brilliant insight that using Slides Timer reduces the cognitive load for both her and her session participants. 🀯 For one of her highly interactive, 2-day, face-to-face session, Dede had Slides Timers throughout her presentation, and she always had them in the same place on her Slides. Her session had many group activities, each with a different length of time. So instead of looking for her phone each time, remembering to set the timer, and setting a new time length, the timers were built into the slides, so that was one less thing she, as the facilitator, had to worry about!

    She said she saw the participants looking up at the screen throughout the activities, checking how much time they had left for their tasks. They didn't have to assign a time-keeper role, they didn't need to check the times on the phone; they just looked at the presentation screen. It was one less thing for the participants to worry about, too! In addition, I'm sure it was a way to build in trust because if Dede said the participants had 10 minutes to work on a task, they knew she would give them precisely 10 minutes.

    Other Tips for the Slides Timer

    Laura, Dede, and I have a few pro tips about using Slides Timer:
    • Laura and I duplicate our Slides and add the actual timer, <<7:00->> for example, on the second slide. The timer begins as soon as I advance to that timer Slide, so I set up the activity on the first slide, and as the activity begins, I advance to the next Slide with the actual timer. Participants can still see all of the directions and info, and I add the timer to any spare space on the Slide.
    • Dede's tip, especially if there are a lot of activities, all with different time lengths, is to add a tiny reminder on the first slide of the upcoming activity length to reduce cognitive load. "For the next activity, you'll have [checks the bottom of the slide] 7 minutes to complete the tasks listed..."
    Slide 1: tiny reminder at the bottom of the slide

    Slide 2: timer in edit mode 

    Slide 2: timer in present mode
    • The Slides Timer count up/down begins as soon as I advance the Slide. To reset the timer, I have to escape the presentation, and then present again.
    • As far as I can tell, the Slides Timer extension does not work in Slides preview mode or "Publish to the web" mode.  
    • Because of the << >> symbols and other formatting, it's a challenge to get the timer perfectly aligned. I've only used the timer in a text box, but I recently read that adding the timer to a shape works, so that might help with the formatting. 
    • The timer does not include sound; it's just a visual reminder.

    There are many ways to include and embed timers, but the Slides Timer extension is my current favorite since I use Google Slides for my presentations. In what other ways can we use Slides Timer to make the best use of our synchronous time, host with generous authority, and reduce cognitive load? It's a true win for designing professional learning when a small Chrome extension, like Slides Timer, can truly enhance my purposeful PD!


    Purposeful PD: Knowing Me, Knowing You

    Over the past few years, I've been reflecting on my own learning preferences, which leads me to consider how I design professional learning for others.

    (Yes, the ABBA song "Knowing Me Knowing You" inspired the title of this post, but these reflections aren't too much about a breakup! Feel free to listen to the song as you read along. πŸ˜„)

    I first shared the Elements of Powerful Learning Design in this post in 2019, and because of the pandemic, I changed my views about using video and YouTube for learning. In this post, I reflected on what I learned during 2020 related to designing professional learning.

    Bottom line: preferences change. I'm writing this post in August, which means the beginning of a new school year, so I think it's a good time to think again about my own learning preferences and how I might use these understandings to design purposeful professional development for others.

    In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching (mentioned many times in this blog) Gayle created these categories as the Elements of Powerful Learning Design: time, place, medium, and socialness.

    Elements of Powerful Learning Design from The New Pillars of Modern Teaching. Icons indicate time, place, medium, and socialness

    Knowing me: reflecting on my own learning preferences 

    As you read, I encourage you to grab a sticky note and reflect on your own learning preferences because, like me, your preferences may have changed during the pandemic. 

    Here are a few questions to reflect on your own preferences. (Answer on your sticky note!)
    1. How much time do you like to spend learning? Do you like short bursts of time, like TikTok videos, quick blog posts, or fast-paced Twitter chats? Or do you prefer extended conferences or courses or long-form reads? What is your ideal time of day to learn? Are you an owl (evening person) or a lark (morning person)? My time preferences remain the same as pre-pandemic; I look for longer stretches of learning held early in the day.
    2. In what place do you want to learn? The place could mean online or face-to-face. It could also mean in a classroom, coffee shop, or on a couch. This area is one that really changed for me during 2020-'21. I used to prefer a more "formal" setting, but now I want to learn at home, on my couch. 
    3. What is your preferred learning medium? I feel this category is the one we think about first (text, audio, video, images) but it's not the only category. I still rate myself as a text-first kind of person, and I'm now consuming a lot more books than in recent years. I still love to find small learning nuggets from listening to podcasts. But because of the pandemic, I also have a new appreciation for videos, especially when I can change the video speed.
    4. What level of socialness do you need in your learning experiences? My preference has always been to work with one or two thinking partners, and this category was the one that was sometimes absent during the pandemic. I knew (from my love for the online course #ClassyGraphics) that virtual, asynchronous collaboration worked for me. And from 2020-'21, I learned that I can collaborate via Zoom just as well (or almost as well) as face-to-face. I noticed the lack of socialness during multi-day, online events. I hopped from one virtual session to the next, participated somewhat in the chats, but I missed session debriefs, hallway conversations, or other types of post-event sharing. (Note to self: embed socialness into future online events!)
    If you understood your own learning preferences prior to 2020, did anything change this year? Which one of the preferences is your priority when you design your own learning? For me (and maybe that's because of pandemic times) I'm willing to choose a social learning event, even if the time and medium do not meet my preferences. 

    Knowing you: designing purposeful professional learning for others

    As I wrote in the previous learning preferences posts, I know that when I created professional learning for others, I sometimes leaned into designing for my own preferences. I think that strategy is OK-ish because I want to develop PD that I would want to attend. 

    What makes understanding the four elements of learning design (time, place, medium, and socialness) powerful is when I design PD with these categories in mind, I create opportunities for choice and voice

    One of the "wins" for our organization in 2020-'21 was that the consultants created many sessions in a variety of formats. During the past summer, our participants could learn by attending 1-hour webinars, 3- or 6- hour live sessions; short asynchronous sessions, long self-paced online classes, and collaborative book studies. Our participants had so much choice with the time of day and length of time of their sessions. They could attend in virtual or "real" places. In all sessions, the socialness varied, from collaborating in the Zoom chat or breakout rooms to working in small groups when face-to-face. For medium, our sessions across the organization included (original and found) content from videos, podcasts, books, blogs, and tweets. Participants also had options in their output, i.e. how they demonstrated their learning. 

    If my sessions did not meet others' preferences, I was not too worried because there were so many other formats and choices available. But designing professional learning to meet the needs of my audience is an area of growth for me, and by capturing these reflections, I hope I'm more cognizant of when my own preferences overtake the PD sessions I create.

    One solution comes from my friend Julianna, who is an Instructional Designer on my team. She (mostly) creates online courses, and before she begins designing a new course, she develops a "character" for the class, i.e. a typical course participant, and keeps that educator in mind as she designs the work. 

    Another adjustment I've made is to be more transparent in the session description about the purpose, expectations, and format of the session. (This idea comes from concepts in the book The Art of Gathering.) At the beginning of the pandemic, I know participants left the session as soon as I opened Zoom breakout rooms because they were not feeling social...and that's OK! As Priya Parker discusses in her book, the event begins "at the moment of discovery," which for me means when someone reads the session description. I now include phrases like "collaborate in breakout rooms," or "independently reflect on resources" to give potential participants a better idea of what's in store for the session. 

    And that type of information helps others take ownership of their own learning, too!

    Informed to Transform

    During the start of the pandemic in 2020, my colleague Laura and I created a podcast series called From Triage to Transformation, and we considered how learning might be transformed post-pandemic. Here's one episode where the focus was learning design for educators.

    We analyze our own favorite learning experiences based on time, place, medium, and socialness, and in this episode, Laura asks,
    How do we take our best learning experiences to inform and transform the design of what we're building?
    When I understand my own preferences (knowing me) I am able to broaden my scope of how I design for others (knowing you).

    Always learning.


    Purposeful PD: How can I extend the learning experience?

    Several years ago, I became part of a committee that developed a new framework for how our service center "does" professional learning. (By the way, my director Craig gave me the book The New Pillars of Modern Teaching to help prepare for this committee work, and that book completely changed how I think about teaching and learning. nbd πŸ˜‰ Many of my recent blog posts include some connection to Pillars.)

    From that committee work, we developed our organization's Professional Learning Model (PLM). At the core of our PLM are seven "Design Essentials," and these elements should be part of every one of our professional learning experiences (or meetings): application, choice, collaboration, critical thinking, curation, extension, and feedback. Choice (design), curation, and feedback are also from The New Pillars.

    My teammates and I embraced utilizing our PLM, but it has not completely caught on center-wide YET. We're now working on the updated version of our PLM, named the PLM+ (a la Disney+). Because of the pandemic, we're also including what the elements now look like in both face-to-face and virtual learning experiences.

    One of our Design Essentials that I've focused on this year is extension. We know that "drive-by PD," and "one-and-done PD" does not work, so extension helps address the question:

    How might we increase the amount of time participants are engaging with content?

    This year, in Zoom and webinar-worlds, my addendum to this question is "What's the best use of our synchronous time?" This question led me to ask what learning can happen prior to or post the face-to-face PD session? Pre-pandemic, I typically had some ideas for pre- and post- PD, but this year provided the opportunity to be more intentional about my strategies and ways to extend the learning.

    When we first started Zoom-ing, I created a little video to show how to use the chat, join breakout rooms, and rename yourself in Zoom, and I sent that in a pre-email. After sessions, I typically sent a follow-up email that includes the link to the slide deck, just in case someone missed it or didn't bookmark it during the webinar. As we became more familiar with Zoom, and as my pre- and post-work became more intentional, I realized the tasks fell into one of these four categories: logistics, community building, content, and information gathering.

    Pre-and Post-[Purposeful] PD: logistics, community building, content, information gathering
    Pre- and Post- work might fall into these categories


    Depending on the complexity of pre-work tasks, I send emails 1 - 3 days prior to my professional learning sessions. Because my webinar sessions are rarely over 1-hour, I want our face-to-face time to be as meaningful as possible. I also understand the demand of educators' lives, especially now, so the pre-work tasks typically consist of small activities such as post an idea on a Jamboard, download an app, watch this video (<5 minutes). For a recent session about curation, I asked participants to watch a little video that described our definition and details about curation. During our face-to-face session, we didn't need to reiterate that definition in much detail; instead, we spent time collaborating and sharing ideas. 

    Here are a few ideas for each of the four categories for Pre-PD:

    • logistics: schedule, location; how to navigate technology; clarify the agenda and audience
    • community building: presenter's welcome (video or text); participants' welcomes (collaborative slides, Flipgrid, Twitter hashtag)
    • content: watch a video or read an article; reflect on a teaching practice; bring a lesson or assessment
    • information gathering: needs assessment; readiness assessment; "inclusify-ing," such as asking for name pronunciation, pronouns, and a favorite song
    Here's an example of a recent pre-email. Which of the categories above did I include?

    Pre-email example


    After the professional learning experience, I hope participants keep thinking about the session, and I want to ensure they have access to session materials. Possible ideas for what I send in post emails:

    • logistics: link to slides/recording, certificate, subsequent sessions
    • community building: a platform to continue networking (hashtag, discussion board)
    • content: share evidence of implementation or reflections (possibly for additional "credit")
    • information gathering: provide additional curated resources or allow participants to share more resources; feedback surveys
    Here's a post-email. Is this too much information for after a session? (I'm still working on "How do I know this practice is effective?")
    Post-email example

    Extending the learning doesn't completely alleviate the one-and-done PD problem, and in a future post, I'll address ideas to help the learning transfer. Taking care of a tiny bit of work prior to and after the session allows me to focus on the best use of synchronous time. 

    Are there more effective ways to extend the learning beyond face-to-face time? Will any of these practices transfer to classrooms? (These ideas really remind me of the original flipped classroom methods.) What else can professional learning designers do to ensure the learning is not an example of drive-by PD?

    Always learning about extending (and transforming) professional learning... πŸ€”


    Purposeful PD: Begin with a Bang

    I recently reflected on my journey as a professional learning facilitator, so after one full year of remote learning, 

    I can now admit that I am completely obsessed with improving how I design professional learning experiences.

    In previous posts, I shared reflections on my learning preferences and developing my PD session's purpose in the form of -INGs, and now I'm working to strengthen how I begin my professional learning sessions. 

    I have a lot of experience planning professional learning, but hearing Gayle Allen's Curious Minds podcast interview with Priya Parker made me realize I had a lot of growing to do. This episode was released in 2018, so I've been working on these upgrades for almost three years! I'm now completely obsessed with Priya's book, The Art of Gathering. The examples in her book range from dinner parties, to corporate boardrooms, to city-wide events, and I feel I can apply most of her ideas to educational settings, specifically PD sessions, whether they're virtual or face-to-face events. (By the way, Priya says a gathering occurs any time three or more people come together with a purpose. A gathering is time-bound and has a beginning, middle, and end. So a PD session definitely qualifies as a gathering.)

    A story from Gayle's interview that really struck me was about Priya's chapter, Never Start a Funeral with Logistics. Here's that clip of the interview: 

    As soon as I heard that story, I thought YIKES. How many times have I started my session with a list of norms and logistics? Once I knew better, I could easily do better, and now I start my meetings with purpose. The "How to Start" ideas tend to fall into one of these categories.

    Purposeful PD: begin with a bang (icon for a map and starting point) goals (target icon), recognitions (award ribbon icon) SEL check in (emoji icons), community building (people together icon)
    How I want to begin my PD sessions

    Instead of logistics, I want to begin a professional learning session (or meeting) with one or more of the following ideas:


    • Share an essential question, session goals, or -INGs.
    • Provide learning outcomes.
    • Offer a connected standard/objective. (A favorite co-planner, Laura, and I frequently frame our sessions around a standard from the ISTE Standard for Educators.)


    • Toast the group (raise a coffee mug!) for the occasion. Shout out to my friend Erika who started our #CoffeeEDU this way.
    • Recognize the participants for their time, engagement, and willingness to learn and grow.
    • Acknowledge a significant date, work, or state of mind of the group.

    SEL Check-Ins:

    • Provide an opportunity for an emotional check-in.
      • Ideas might be something simple, like a fist-to-five ranking, or silly, like "Choose your Vibe" according to the GIFs shown on this slide.
      • Use a tool like the Courageous Conversations Compass, which my colleague Chris expertly used during our DEI team meeting on January 6, 2021, after the riots at the Capitol. 
    • Breathe, meditate, or facilitate another mindfulness activity.
      • After the summer protests, my fabulous colleague Nancy started her Monday morning PD session with a gratitude mindfulness activity, and it was the perfect way to begin the week after the tumultuous weekend throughout the country.

    Community Building:

    • Allow participants to try a quick collaborative activity. Gary Hirsch shared this idea for the virtual world: ask participants to share something in the chat and then "steal each other's ideas."
    • Complete a tiny icebreaker (in the chat or breakout room, if virtual).
    • Create a virtual space for attendees to connect prior to the session. Use tools like collaborative Slides, Flipgrid, or Padlet; start a discussion prompt in an LMS; or share using a session hashtag.
    • Play music. I've had several facilitators ask in a pre-survey to share a favorite walk-up song. They created playlists of all participants' favorites and used this music for session breaks and transitions. 
      • Two side-notes: I've always enjoyed listening to music when I'm in face-to-face sessions, and I have many playlists for my own PD workshops, but I really don't enjoy music during webinars. I wonder why? Also, I'm always wondering about copyright issues with playing music...
    I've learned my lesson about how to start a PD session or meeting, but I always know there is room for growth! What are your examples of the best ways to begin a PD session? What makes you feel connected to the content, the community, and the presenter? How else can I begin PD sessions with a bang?

    Always learning about professional learning...


    Purposeful PD: What are the -INGs of your PD session (or classroom)?

    Because of the one-year "milestone" of the pandemic, and now with a bit more hope around the corner, I've been reflecting a lot about what happens moving forward. I don't want to have the TTWWADI (that's the way we've always done it) mindset. I feel like I've learned so much this past year, and I want to continue moving forward with my work, especially in the way I design professional learning experiences. "I used to think there were only a few ways to deliver PD, but now I think the sky is the limit!" I've also said many times this year that even though it's my 31st year as an educator, I've felt like a new teacher during most of 2020 - 2021. 😬

    One practice that worked both pre-pandemic and during remote learning experiences is the idea of determining the verbs or the -INGs (gerunds, i.e. verbals for my grammar nerd friends πŸ€“) of each PD session, conference, or even meeting. I wonder if I can make this idea even stronger or more impactful? 

    I originally discovered the idea of learning space verbs from Dr. Robert Dillon, co-author of the book The  Space. A couple of years ago, our ESC buildings underwent huge renovations, and we now have a beautiful conference center, presentation rooms, flexible seating, and advanced technology. Some employees wondered what happened if they designed PD sessions that utilized these new spaces and tools, but then they presented their work in a different building that was not equipped with such updates?

    Here's why the session verbs are so useful: if I determine what I want my participants to do, such as collaborate, reflect, and explore [digital tools], then I design activities so those actions occur regardless of the space.

    Dr. Dillon's notions were floating in my mind, but this design idea really struck a chord after listening to this podcast interview with Kat Holmes and her work on the power of inclusive design. Kat's work is all about accessibility, inclusivity, and UDL. One of her ideas is to "provide diversity in ways to participate." In the podcast episode, she shares ideas about designing with -INGs in mind, and she provides an example of designing a playground. What are the most important -INGs that might happen on a playground? Maybe connecting, exploring, and even climbing...and then how can you design experiences around these -INGs?

    I took her idea of designing with -INGs in mind, and now it's a regular part of my PD session design process.  

    Creating PD Session -INGs

    Marker board with a lot of text just to demonstrate lists of items
    Brainstorming our session -INGs
    In 2019, two other consultants and I collaborated on a Sketchnoting Across the Curriculum session. Here's part of the marker board from our initial brainstorming meeting, and we jotted down possible -INGs that we wanted for our participants. (green list) From the long list, we narrowed our -INGs to six.

    Once we established our -INGs, we used these actions as a lens for every part of our session design. When we created an activity, it had to address at least one of our -INGs. As we continued to design the session, we also noticed subtleties like, "One of our -INGs is 'modeling,' but we used clip art for this slide. If we want to model our sketchnoting, we need to replace that clip art with our own sketches."

    Here's the finished view of our slide, and our -INGs became our session goals.

    Today's Goals and 6 icons that represent Modeling, Drawing, Risk-taking, Collaborating, Synthesizing, Sense-Making
    Modeling, Drawing, Risk-taking, Synthesizing, Collaborating, Sense-Making

    The beauty of well-crafted -INGs is that these goals and activities seem to work both face-to-face and remotely! My friends and I held our original sketchnoting sessions as 6-hour face-to-face sessions, but we were able to use the same -INGs in our revamped asynchronous online session this summer. We had to modify some of the activities, of course, but we created ways to design with these actions in mind.

    For my 1-hour webinars, I typically design with three -INGs in mind. I've written quite a bit about my love for curation, and for a recent curation session, I kept struggling to land on the -INGs. My brilliant colleague Nancy said, "They should be the same as curation goals: scanning, sense-making, and sharing!" Duh! 

    Today's goals and icons for scanning, sense-making, and sharing
    Scanning, Sense-Making, Sharing

    For PD sessions, I regularly use The Noun Project to find icons for my words and share a quick slide to explain these -INGs as session goals. (I pay for a Noun Project subscription because I like the ability to customize the colors of the icons.) I use these words to critically evaluate my session activities, such as "An important session -ING is 'collaborating,' but I didn't leave space in my agenda for breakout rooms or other types of collaboration." Oops, time to change the agenda! When we return to face-to-face sessions, an -ING of collaborating might mean moving tables to be able to work in small groups, AND creating digital collaborative spaces, such as a backchannel.

    And for the classroom?

    I've now been out of the classroom for 5 years 😒, but I imagine this idea of -INGs would be powerful for both face-to-face and remote experiences. I would also want my students to choose their words. For my Student Council leadership class, I hope the words might have been collaborating, serving, leading, reflecting, and organizing. For my math classes, I think discovering, evaluating, connecting, sharing, and reflecting might be excellent choices.

    My practice of determining -INGs has served me well during the pandemic (and prior to COVID), and I will continue this process and will continue sharing it with others. But is there a way to make the -ING ideas even stronger? I wonder what -INGs might have more of an impact on my session design and activities? Are these -INGs improving inclusivity in my sessions?

    Always learning and reflecting on professional learning...


    I used to think _____________, but now I think ________.

    I can't believe it's been a whole year since the world changed. 

    Many of my favorite podcasts and PLN friends recently shared reflections, questions, and prompts to reminisce on this past year, and since I'm doing a #safeathomespringbreak, I thought it would be worthwhile to spend time reflecting, too. In addition, I received my first vaccine dose on Saturday (3/13/21) so I'm feeling especially grateful and reflective today.

    I must acknowledge how fortunate I am with my health and my family's health and well-being. I know it's a privilege that I have been able to work safely at home, that I can have groceries delivered, and that I have the technology to stay connected to friends and family. 

    My Pre-Pandemic Timeline:

    One of my resolutions for 2020 was to journal at least three times a week, so I have quite an accurate record of my feelings leading up to the pandemic declaration. I want to put all of this information in one place so I'll have a record of what happened.
    • February 29, 2020: Attended an #edcamp, and one of my friends told the story of her son trying to get out of Rome and his study-abroad program. Italy was shutting down because of COVID-19.
    • March 6: Helped run our whole Staff Learning Day, and we started our spring break at the end of the day. I remember my shock when South by Southwest canceled that evening. 
    • March 7: Flew to Portland, Oregon with my work friend, Arynn. We talked a little about "the virus," and we packed extra hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes for the flight. We saw a few masks at the airport.
    • March 8: Met #botjoy artist Gary Hirsch! We all hugged hello. (When we saw him before we left on 3/10, we elbow-bumped goodbye.)
    • March 9 - 11: Enjoyed an amazing time on our mural tour and loved being in PDX. We continued to use a lot of hand sanitizer, but it was not a fearful time.
    • March 11: Flight home, and we definitely saw more masks at the airport. Started hearing about closings: schools, districts, events. The NBA suspended its season.
    • March 12: Some of our first districts started closing and extending their spring breaks. Kristin called and asked me to start a website (or something) to begin curating resources for educators. Twitter exploded with resources.
    • March 13: the US declared a national state of emergency, which was fitting for a Friday the 13th. I remember my "COVID-dreams," started that weekend. I kept waking up thinking I was feverish or with a sore throat, believing I caught something on the trip to Portland.
    • March 16: Returned to work, and what a fearful place it was. Districts were closing all over, and we didn't know what to do, so we kept working on a website of resources. Many of us were in a large open space, sharing details about how to get the work on the remote learning website when the government declared to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
    • March 17: Worked from home and started curating resources. Our director told us mid-afternoon that we HAD to start presenting Zoom webinars tomorrow. We had no presentations, no materials, and little knowledge of Zoom. The team of six of us figured out what to present, and then we went to work. I was so thankful that I helped facilitate #EdChangeGlobal in 2018, and I knew something about Zoom, but I had never facilitated a webinar on my own. We weren't able to advertise until about 4:00 PM that day, and we shared via social media. 
    • March 18: 10 AM, I kicked off our entire "Emergency Remote Learning" webinar series with a brand new session, Mindsets of Remote Learning. And it's been the webinar/Zoom life for me ever since that day. 
    Thinking back to those days still makes me agitated and makes my heart race! I seriously can't believe it's been a year. Somewhere within that week, we first canceled our #CoffeeEDU and then re-vamped it to be an online meetup, so this Saturday's event will be a one-year celebration of resilience and gratitude.

    I used to think...

    One of my favorite Visible Thinking routines is to respond to the prompt "I used to think ... but now I think ..." (My students even tried something similar, and I documented one example on my old class blog in 2012!) That sentence starter has been useful as I've worked on my personal reflections for the year.

    For our team book study this semester, our Director chose A Beautiful Constraint, which is apropos for the year, right? 😳 My first "reflection" activity today was to create a "year in numbers" graphic to highlight the work I've accomplished despite the year of constraints. This year, I've "reached" more educators and created more content than in my combined past 5 years at R10! 

    I used to think there were only a few ways to deliver PD, but now I think the sky is the limit! 

    Our teams at the ESC have been so creative with their professional learning sessions, innovative solutions to reach educators, inventive formats, structures, and delivery methods, and I'm so impressed with what my colleagues designed and facilitated this year! Our team's first two weeks of the emergency remote webinars was an incredible achievement, and I'm still so proud of our work. We reached thousands of educators in a few days' time, and I think (hope!) we helped alleviate some of the enormous stress.

    With synchronous and asynchronous learning, nano-courses to lengthy online courses, facilitated learning to independent explorations, I hope we continue to design and deliver a multitude of session types and formats. As I mentioned in my last post, I also learned so much about my own preferences and the types of learning experiences that I want to participate in, and it's wonderful to have so many choices available.

    Understanding the many ways to "do" PD has been a highlight and a huge area of growth for me this year. In addition, I'm on a committee at work to help design a professional learning model for our service center, so PD has been at the forefront of my mind all year. My next goal, however, is to find ways to really help that learning transfer and stick.

    This week, I plan to continue to reflect on the past year. It certainly has been a time of learning for me, and I want to continue developing my ideas about PD and growing into a better designer and facilitator. 

    Always learning about professional learning.

    PS: My 2020 spring break trip to Portland was one of the best trips. I couldn't think of a better way to spend my last pre-pandemic days. Here are a few photos of the #botjoy mural tour.


    Don't make my mistakes about learner preferences!

    My very first day of working safely at home was March 17, 2020. I think it's very symmetrical πŸ€“ that my very first (limited-staff) day "back" in the office is August 17, 2020. During the past 5 months, I know most educators have been working non-stop, so I'm grateful to take time this morning to reflect on a few things I've learned during our time of emergency remote teaching and learning.

    What I've learned about my own learning preferences...

    • A typical webinar is not my preferred way to learn. If I'm not engaged in activities, connecting with others, or at least utilizing the chat, then just send the recording for me to watch at my own convenience (and possibly speed up the presentation and pause as needed.)
    • I have participated in large-ish online, asynchronous courses where the instructor designed the class so we became a collaborative community of learners. My summer MOOC experience with thousands of participants is not collaborative, so in the future, I must create that community myself.
    • It takes a lot of effort and intentionality to design an effective online course. (h/t to my favorite instructional designer, Julianna!) Watch a 3- to 5- minute video, post a reflection on a discussion board and repeat 50 times does not work for me.
    • I'm obsessed with ideas in the book The Art of Gathering, so if we gather, I want a purpose, an agenda, and a plan.

    And what that means about others' preferences...

    At one point during the summer, I was hesitant to offer a series of tool-based webinars. Show-and-tell presentations are my least favorite ways to learn; however, as my colleagues reminded me, others benefit from this type of live stand-and-deliver type of presentation. Some educators appreciate the anonymity of courses with thousands of participants, and/or they find ways to connect with smaller cohorts within the larger group. I realize many colleagues prefer the casual, organic conversations that arise when you hold a meeting for open discussions.

    I allowed my own preferences to dictate how I designed professional development sessions and meetings. I limited myself because of my limited preferences. And I can't believe I fell for that mistake!

    I've written about learning profiles, I've presented about differentiation and learning profiles, and I've shared extensively about learner preferences, as explained in The New Pillars of Modern Teaching. (Here's one post about that subject, and it explains preferences in terms of time, place, medium, and socialness.) 

    Bottom line: I need to remember to design for other people's preferences, not just my own. Just because I prefer reading the text, doesn't mean everyone enjoys that same style. I want collaboration and connections, but others may prefer independent work. Not everyone is comfortable being a fearless clicker, so how can I include a bit more scaffolding within my PD sessions? 

    One small solution.

    Last week, these tweets inspired me, and I had the pleasure of working with a former colleague on her first lesson plans, so I'm putting all of these fabulous ideas together, and I'm relating everything to learner preferences: 

    My friend wanted to give her students options for content input. She had a video ready to share, but the session had to be synchronous. I shared the first tweet about all of the different possibilities for breakout rooms by learner preference, and she loved that idea! This lesson will be her first "official" lesson, after several other introductory and community building meetings, but she considered limiting the breakout rooms to two choices, rather than three or more. (The second tweet about the importance of routines and practice applies to juniors and seniors, too!) 

    1 Teacher Led: Teacher walks through process with students; 2 Independent - Students watch video, etc. on their own (headphones);3 Collaborative - Students work together, explore the resources together

    She's fortunate because she is allowed to use Zoom and breakout rooms, and all of her students have the same device, so they can practice together changing their names to include a 1, 2, or 3, all based on their room preference. She will stay in the main Zoom room, and others who want to stay with her do not move to a breakout room. I know there are a lot of ifs in place for this activity, but I think it's a great start and a way to recognize how we can manage our preferences in remote settings. 

    The same idea can kind of apply to face-to-face and hybrid models, too. When we're back to a face-to-face environment (that allows a bit of movement in the classroom) if the content is curated and designed for students to access it independently, they could have the same options within one class: small groups and workshops that are teacher-led; students learning and exploring resources independently; students discovering ideas by collaborating, or at least chatting while they worked. 

    Side note: In our region, I'm suggesting that educators prepare for remote experiences because I foresee the remote learning dates to be extended, plus it allows planning for student absences, teacher absences, tech troubles, etc. So if the plan is for remote and asynchronous learning, I feel it will be easier to transition to other formats. 

    I think this strategy will definitely work for PD sessions, and I can't wait to see what adult learners think about this addition of some choice in how they access the content.

    A little more about learning preferences.

    Last spring, a teammate and I created a podcast series called From Triage to Transformation, and we considered what learning might look like in the fall. Here's one episode where the focus is learning design for students, which is really all about learner preferences.

    We recorded these episodes in April - May 2020, and I wonder how many of these transformational ideas can work in our current realities? 

    During our summer of 2020, what did you discover about your own learning preferences? How can this information apply to your own classrooms, teams, or PD sessions? 

    Always learning, even remotely. 
    Wishing educators all the best for this new school year.