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 🤓) 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...