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Embracing Change- A Perspective on Professional Development/Conferences.

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This week is the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) conference and several ideas have been running through my head as I have scanned my RSS feeds and worked on my presentation. As an educational leader and an occasional speaker I want to understand the dynamics of my own learning. The questions I am asking are: Why do I/we attend conferences? Do I/we lead by example? Am I an "Open Educator", whose professional, thinking, learning and reflecting are transparent? How does professional development support and encourage transformation?

I look for the conference experience to be an inspiration and catalyst for change. For me, a conference is most powerful when it creates personal network connections and carries learning beyond the confines of the space and time of the conference.This is critical to effective professional development because isolated talks without reflective conversation rarely produce change. Research by Linda D.Hammond of Stanford tells us that in order for professional development to be effective it must be focused and ongoing (a minimum of 50 hours) to effect change. The same study talks about sending a team to professional development opportunities to reap the full benefit. This can easily be extrapolated to suggest the strong benefit of focused professional networking like Classroom 2.0 on ning or the other personal learning networks. In addition I have come to expect my conference experience to be dynamic and interactive. But what about when it is not interactive and dynamic; can I by my response, by bringing my reflections online make that happen?

What do you look for from professional conferences? What responsibility do we have to use these opportunities and make them effective opportunities for growth? The conference experience certainly goes much deeper than attending sessions because often the conversations are at least as important as the sessions.

The session I am preparing for this particular conference will focus on a 21st century classroom as one that is not about tools but rather is a classroom with very ThinWalls and which emphasizes the pedagogues of connectedness, global awareness, digital literacy,and innovative and critical thinking. I am sure one could argue about this definition but for the sake of focus and clarity the topic had to be limited. The more I delve into the topic however the more convinced I am that a lecture style session can, at best, only skim the top of the waves ( this is not a tech conference and there will be little or no connectivity). Therefore, I struggle with the question of how do we effect change? How do I motivate and entice others to explore these concepts? And how well do I am embody these concepts? Today however I read a great blog post from Ewan McIntosh in Scotland that put it all into perspective. (You really need to read the whole post and watch the video). I can agonize over encouraging and coaxing forth change in myself and others or I can embrace change as dynamic, exciting and engaging. I want the audience to walk away believing that "Change is fascinating, challenging, interesting. Making your [school/classroom] interesting will make people want to work there more and better."

I want to face change and new ideas with these questions and I want all those who attend my session to ask these questions.

"When you're faced with a challenge, a potential outside change, a new idea, ask yourself the following questions, and ask those around you, too:

1. What does this challenge?
2. How can I participate/play?
3. What is the offer in this thought for me? (not if they're right or wrong)
4. Where do these things suggest things are going? and what can I do now?
5. How might engaging with this make [our schools/clasrooms] more interesting [and more effective]?"


[...] my adaptations of content
Barbara Barreda
Picture b Leo Reynolds http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/105283580/

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