Last week, I had the great opportunity to brainstorm with Sergio Villegas over some fantastic Mexican food. Sergio works with Napa Learns and is the king of many things #eduawesome. Mostly, our chat centered around professional development design and adult learning. As we explored our various experiences, we both realized that all of our adult learning success hinged on something common: social constructs.
Our reflections and shared stories led us to realize that we both enjoyed attending professional learning because we genuinely enjoyed the people that helped us to uncover tangible ideas. It wasn't about the content at all. And while I believe this is antithetical to the ways we normally think about learning, I believe that's exactly the point.
So, I'm going to share my initial thoughts about the 4 Pillars of Socially Designed Professional Development. Generally, I believe Socially Designed PD has fewer controlled, concrete outcomes but much greater levels of empowerment and engagement. As I say with most things, socially designed PD is only one component of a balanced professional learning diet!
I have more research to do and more conversations to have, but here's where my thinking has landed.
Pillar 1: Strategic Recruitment
Who are the right people to learn about this topic? Newbies? Veterans? Both? Do we need subject area experts? Think tanks? Carefully curating the people in attendance at the PD event (whether it's face to face or virtual) is the first component of Socially Constructed PD Design. This can be done through conversation, email, websites and Twitter. The key here is to make sure that you identify the people you need and let them know they're critical to the success of the conversation.
Pillar 2: Interaction-Centered Ethos
Every activity, event, or communication around a Socially Construction Professional Development event should invite interaction. It may be as simple as arranging chairs in circles or as complex as setting up a series of Google Hangouts on Air with virtual backchannels. Whatever the medium, make sure people know that interaction is considered key to success.
Pillar 3: White Space
Socially Constructed Professional Development events must have white space. White space is loosely defined as time when people can mingle and chat. This means that there should be breakfasts, long lunches, and after parties integrated throughout Socially Constructed Professional Development. And while these activities might seem counterintuitive, the social bonding that happens during these activities often increases the "long tail" of learning and collaboration for participants.
Pillar 4: Long Tail Options
One of the hallmarks of successful professional development is that people continue to engage with the ideas long after a learning event has ended. Perhaps they make connections to their classrooms, experiment with a new practice, or continue to reflect on blogs or other social media outlets. In any case, well designed Socially Constructed Professional Development provides attendees with many "long tail options" to consider the conversation. It might be a hashtag, a series of meetups, or a Google Hangout. Whatever the case, the learner is encouraged to continue the conversation beyond the event itself. Learning is viewed as time/event independent.
Ok- that's what I'm thinking. Did I miss anything? What do you think?
Thanks for starting this conversation, Sergio.