March Madness PD

As someone who engages in a lot of Professional Development (PD) activities – delivering and receiving, one of the overarching gripes I hear is that no one wants to be “talked at”. And, I have to say, I agree. In the hopes of combatting this, I have delivered PD that mimicked how a student would do it, so teachers could understand the activity from a student perspective, and still the griping continues. I’m not here to solve all the problems of Professional Development practice; however, I would like to affect change where I can.

In my role as Instructional Technology Coach, I want to encourage as much learning as possible without the dreaded feeling of it being ‘one more thing’ for teachers to do. The learning should not only encompass new tech, but also how that tech integrates effectively with instruction. I love PD activities that involve teachers being able to choose what tasks they want to complete, throwing in some self-pacing, and always giving out prizes. Who doesn’t love being rewarded for hard work?

Doing these types of activities with the teachers I work with is doubly advantageous for me. What do I mean? Not only do teachers get to try new tech-y things, but it also opens the door to build relationships with teachers who may not normally reach out to me. Building relationships with my teachers is extremely important to how successful I can be in my role.

I titled this blog “March Madness PD” and you’re probably wondering at this point how March Madness has anything to do with PD. I’m getting to it, I promise. First, let me give you two examples of how I have done some of these PD activities in the past and then I’ll show you the March Madness PD I am launching for my staff next month.

A few years ago, my District was in its second year of 1:1 implementation. I wanted a way to expose teachers to a variety of resources and tech tools along with developing their technical skills along the way. I introduced TECH BINGO. There was a start and end date but in between those dates, they could “make” BINGO as many times as they wanted and continue to earn prizes. Tech BINGO was completely voluntary and I even created a teacher success wall where I added each teacher’s name to the wall for each completed BINGO.

We included an accountability piece where teachers had to post evidence of task completion into a discussion board. There were two reasons we included the accountability component.

  1. We felt it was important to ensure fidelity in the learning.
  2. The hope was that once teachers posted in the discussion board, others would see what they were posting and it would create an organic share-out of what people were doing in their classrooms.

There is a reason that different squares are red, green, and yellow. I was intentional about where each activity was placed on the board. There was never an option for someone to complete only easy tasks to make BINGO. Each of the colors represented a challenge level: red = difficult, yellow = medium, and green = easy. Now, each of us may have our own version of what each level should be, but I created this with my set of teachers in mind. Just as we would create an activity in class with our sets of students in mind.

Last year, with the craziness of pandemic teaching in full swing, a colleague and I co-created an LMS-focused activity without the built-in accountability piece. The LMS our District uses is Blackboard. We used the month of February and Valentine’s Day to provide an opportunity for teachers to explore Blackboard more in depth. We shared 20 Blackboard Tips You’ll Fall in Love With.

We released the information weekly throughout the month of February to highlight the best features of Blackboard. What is great about this, is that it has been a year since we did this activity and we can continue to use it and reference it. The presentation is also available for all teachers at any time and it’s a great resource for newly hired teachers.

This takes me into the reason for the season – March Madness season. I love college basketball and always see the brackets floating around during March for things like a bracket of favorite books, songs, tech, etc. I wanted a way to incorporate March Madness, brackets, and friendly competition with teachers for instruction and learning purposes. As a result, I am launching Tech Madness on March 11th.

The Home page of the Tech Madness Google Site has FAQs if you want to explore how this will work. Tech Madness is completely voluntary for teachers but we are encouraging everyone to participate. Tasks range from posting on Twitter to creating student projects in Book Creator. We included accountability with this activity for the same reasons we did for Tech BINGO – fidelity and the opportunity to learn from our colleagues.

Feel free to join me and my teachers as we complete brackets to win individual and team prizes. While you won’t be able to submit your evidence of learning to our slides, I encourage you to post your Tech-y task completions to social media with the tag #techmadnessna. Follow me on social media to join in the fun of Tech Madness.

My goal is to provide engaging learning activities for my teachers in the hope that they don’t even realize they are participating in Professional Development. The teachers I work with are great people and I can’t wait to see the results of Tech Madness. If even one teachers tries one new thing, I feel like I’ve won. I encourage those of you who provide PD to try out Tech Madness with your staff and let me know how it goes.

Let’s go Pitt! #H2P

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