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Appy Hour: Sharing a PD Practice from Newtown

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Like many of my colleagues in the fraternity of teachers, I've spent a lot of this weekend thinking about and mourning with the families and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

There are many things to observe and discuss in this tragedy, but I thought I'd take a moment to honor and celebrate a little slice of practice that I glimpsed from Sandy Hook. It relates to two of my favorite things: 1) faculty providing professional learning for each other and 2) teachers thinking about how emerging technologies can improve their practice.

Several of my colleagues on Twitter pointed me to the feed of Dawn Hochsprung, the late principal of Sandy Hook Elementary. In it are 100 short messages from an educator who loved her students and her faculty, and who was broadly engaged in local and national discussions about the future of learning and the present shape of education reform. If you want a little peek into the culture of Sandy Hook and the life of a committed educator, take a look. (If you want some help thinking through this new, foreign practice of memorializing social media, this article from my colleague Alice Marwick, "There Isn't Wifi in Heaven," may help you think through it.)

There are lots of great lines and great pictures, but the one that caught my eye was this one (if the picture doesn't render, click the link to see it):

So there they are, first thing in the morning, gathered together in the library around too-small tables, talking to each other about how they can enrich the lives of their students. And the name "Appy Hour" is just the sort of goofy thing that teachers come up with to make it all a little more fun.

Early morning technology PD has a storied history—I often share with educators the example of "Bagels and Laptops," a tradition that Deb Socia started at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot School in Boston, where teachers shared an early morning PD session and some bagels and cream cheese. It's a great format for sharing exemplars, projects, and lesson ideas. I look forward to honoring Sandy Hook in future workshops by sharing their revised name for the format.

So to educators out there experimenting with iPads, I heartily encourage you to borrow this practice from Sandy Hook and hold your own Appy Hours. To all the school leaders out there, I heartily encourage you to borrow from Principal Hochsprung in modeling the use of social media to learn, to share practice, to keep in touch with your community, and to celebrate the learning in your schools.

My heart aches for the families and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School. When I think of them as time goes on, I hope to think not just of their terrible loss, but also of the great work they are doing. In this course of this tragedy, as I grieve alongside the nation for their loss, I'm grateful for a moment to learn from them.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

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