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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Learning and Teaching This Summer?: The Professional-Development Season Is Upon Us

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

As summer approaches, many of us plan to attend educational conferences of all kinds. Some of the best ones are in our own backyards. Others are international in nature, and, because of budget or travel constraints, are available to us only every once in a while.

I still remember the first big conference I attended: TelEd, put on, in part, by the International Society for Technology in Education. I was teaching fourth grade at the time, and paid for part of my attendance, roomed with our central-office technology director (thanks, Cornie Moon!), and was given the lowdown on how to get the most out of a huge conference (thanks, Adrianne Hunt!).

I was completely mesmerized by the presentations, the vendor booths, and just the buzz of being at a big conference. What a great experience for a simple elementary school teacher from little 'ol Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana! I can still remember combing through my conference program, highlighting all the sessions I wanted to attend, and taking feverish notes at each one.

Since then, I've been fortunate to attend dozens of summer workshops, teacher institutes, and other conferences. I still learn lots -- sometimes just from the social-networking component. I love being able to find other people who do what I do, but with a different take, or from a different place.

I also present and deliver conference sessions all over, and I always encourage attendees to be sure that the next time they attend a conference, they bring a coworker along who might not otherwise attend that specific event. We tend to go to conferences in our specific field, when sometimes the best thing might be to go to one outside our main area of interest.

I've taken principals, special-ed directors, parents, and students with me to numerous conferences just so the nontechnology people I deal with can hear different versions of what I'm always preaching. I also try to attend nontechnology conferences when I can so I can make sure I don't lose sight of other content areas or strands.

This summer, I'm attending the National Educational Computing Conference, as well as the High Schools that Work Staff Development Conference. I've been to NECC many times, but I haven't ever been to the HSTW event. I'm thrilled and grateful to be able to attend both this summer, not to mention several others at which I've been asked to present. (If you're attending any of these, be sure to find me and say hi!) How about you? Are any of you putting on workshops this summer or attending any teacher-related institutes or conferences? Are you taking anyone along with you that might not typically go? Share your favorite educational conference, institute, or other summer professional-development experiences of any kind. What are your summer plans for professional learning? Which events will you be attending this summer? Why did you choose the one(s) in which you're taking part? How do you get the most out of your attendance? The Virginia Department of Education has some simple suggestions for obtaining the most value for your event attendance. If you have other tips, post them here as well. See you around this summer!

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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Ann Sisko's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Some great professional development --

National Gallery of Art Summer Institute for Teachers. The year I participated, we worked with the Center for Digital Storytelling (located in the San Francisco area). They showed us how digital movie making can be a powerful tool for personal narrative and storytelling. Awesome.

National Writing Project Summer Institute. Professional development for teachers as writers and teachers of writing. My group had elementary, middle and high school professionals working together and learning from one another.

This summer I will be participating in a Courage to Teach retreat. Based on Parker Palmer's work, Courage to Teach helps us reconnect with who we are as teachers and remember why we're teaching. For me, it's an affirmation of some very important things that are essential to what I do as a teacher -- things that do not easily lend themselves to testing and therefore are not much valued in education these days.

Something I would like to do -- participate in one of Music for People's summer education programs. Music for People celebrates music as a part of each and every one of us. I worked with David Darling at Omega Institute one weekend at the Omega Institute in New York -- David is the founder of Music for People -- and the experience was both fun and liberating. Several activities from that weekend have found their way into my classroom. I'd like to learn more.

Merry Chapin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks Chris O'Neal for your blog. It is 2 days from the end of school for us. Unfinished student books are all over my classroom. We are all dragging in the muggy weather of living on the Maine Coast. When I read your blog and the comments from teachers and suggestions for staff development, I thought, what a great blog to have at this time in the year and how exciting it is that there are teachers who look forward to the summer development offerings and opportunities. I especially love the idea of taking parents and students to professional development conferences. Thanks!!!

Meredith Stenberg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have also recently begun truly enjoying various conferences and inservices provided either within the county, and outside our area. Since I've been out of the school scene, I've begun to miss the discovery of new things. Attending these classes and or meetings provides unique insight into tayloring it's use in my own classroom. I think just being able to talk to other educators can refresh us in our own quest to expand the education perameters in our classrooms. Learning doesn't just stop inside the classroom walls, and being able to share with my students the things that I'm learning helps to show them that even an adult can continue learning. If I never learned anything else, what would happen to me? They like hearing that I'm still learning things too.
I'm currently taking this computer course on technology integration, as well as a "writing towards differentiation" course. I also attended a one day course on using artwork to inspire poetry and prose, and plan on using some of the techniques on a modified scale in my First grade classroom!
I haven't yet scheduled anything for the summer, but I am interested in possibly doing something abroad. If you hear of anything, please let me know!!

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