Most teachers I know don’t ask for much, but I know that if they could ask for something, it would be more time! More time to plan and prepare, but really more time to connect, learn, and get better. We, as teachers nowadays, can’t get by with just knowing the content. We have to learn the tools… the most effective ways to transfer that content knowledge to our wily little tech savvy digital citizens — AKA our students. Great teachers spend a good chunk of their precious time attending conferences and engaging in all types of professional development in order to stay ahead of the curve. Those same great teachers give professional development a lot of thought and consideration… hoping never to feel that a professional development experience was a waste of their time.
This is where a few great teachers from Chicago enter the scene: Jennie Magiera (Digital Learning Coordinator), Anita Orozco (Middle School Special Education), Autumn Laidler (3/4th Science), and Holly Mullenix-Stack (K-8 Music). Working as a team of presenters from the National Teacher’s Academy in Chicago, they left a conference feeling very positive but still realizing something is not being addressed at these types of conferences. Jennie describes the moment in her blog, Teaching Like It’s 2999:
“Thus the idea of PLAYDATE13 was born… First Autumn came up with PLAY- People Learning & Asking ‘Y.’ Then Sue joined in the acronym fun and suggested adding ‘DATE.’ Autumn found a great acronym for that – Digital Age Technology Exploration. And so PLAYDATE came about. After coming up with a catchy moniker, together we refined the idea to meet some of our unaddressed professional learning needs and leverage best practices we’d seen at other conferences… This conference will be geared towards those who just want to explore – or play with – apps, websites, programs or tools that they’ve always wanted to dig into more deeply, but never had the time or support to do so.”
“BUT NEVER HAD THE TIME OR SUPPORT TO DO SO.” Yes, these words resonate with teachers — globally. Thankfully, Jennie and her team announced the date for the first Playdate13, Saturday, Feb. 9th, from 9 AM-noon — a wintery Saturday morning in Chicago set aside for teachers who want to come together to explore a multiple of tools: from Google Apps, iTunesU, Edmodo, Schoology and Evernote to iMovie, Garageband, Twitter and everything in between. Playdate13 will provide resources and facilitators to make sure teachers leave with the knowledge needed to use these tools with their students and with confidence.
An idea this good can’t stay on the down low for long. Soon after hearing about the plans in Chicago, Boston Edtech Specialist, Tracy Sockalosky, jumped on board to host a Playdate in her town to coincide with Chicago’s event. Of course, not wanting to be late to the party an excited group of educators from Portland, OR, Sean Williams, Corin Richards, Melissa Lim, Jeremy Macdonald and Alison Anderson jumped in wanting to represent the West Coast for Playdate13. Registration is currently open in all three of these cities.
Now, no one can wave a magic wand and actually grant more time to teachers, but PLAYDATE13 gives them the gift of time well spent. This new type of conference is definitely the next step in professional development. Participants won’t necessarily leave with a list of new ideas and apps to try, which is definitely not a negative aspect of other conferences. Leaving a conference full of new ideas and excitement is what keeps teachers alive and enthusiastic. But Playdate13 has a unique goal: giving the space and the focus teachers need to prepare and plan so they can truly go to work and use those tools on Monday.
Our digital landscape continues to grow and grow fast! We need to be sure our professional development grows with it. Playdate13 is the new type of conference that teachers need to ensure they can teach with the best tools and methods that are available in this vast digital space. So, you’re all invited to the Playdates in Chicago, Boston or Portland (if you can make it). If you’re not close enough, no worries, there are sure to be more Playdates and spreading to more cities soon.