An Email from Mexico Changed Our Entire PD Orientation

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As I landed in Houston last Thursday, I received the following email inquiry forwarded from our Rhode Island affiliate:

“I am a RI teacher currently living and working in Mexico.  As an ASCD member, I received notice about the upcoming Fisher & Frey conference and am so disappointed that I will not be in RI to attend!!  As an Instructional Coach in my current job, I work with teachers on the Fisher & Frey Gradual Release of Responsibility model and lesson planning.

Is the virtual aspect of the conference (with Fisher & Frey) just for the participants that will be in attendance in RI, or is the entire conference going to be offered virtually?  If the conference is available virtually to any participant, I have a few questions…”

By the time we finished exchanging ideas, Rhode Island ASCD received an institutional registration for Friday’s ASCD EdSpace blended learning event from a cadre of teachers in Monterrey, Mexico! They will be joining in on the virtual components (about two-thirds of the day) and will work remotely on the offline collaboration pieces, rejoining our Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont affiliates for the resumption of the online work.

I am amazed that a group of dedicated educators in Mexico asked a question that immediately pushed the boundaries on our thinking about delivering the event. I mean, this was an effort of five northeast states. Who was thinking it would appeal to a group of highly interested teachers in a neighboring country? But as I went over the logistics in my mind, it became readily evident there was no reason they couldn’t participate with some accommodations, since they wouldn’t actually be in one of the five states sponsoring the day.

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This afternoon I sent them all the documentation and materials they will need to participate remotely, and tomorrow morning I will get online to run a tech test so we know everyone is ready to participate on Friday. It’s a very exciting development in what has already been an exhilarating project breaking new ground! I wonder how many other educators around the country…and around the world…would participate if they knew they could do so from the comfort of their office, classroom or home?

There’s still time to register, and you don’t need to be a resident of any of the five sponsoring states to do so. No matter where you live on the globe, simply go to any of the five affiliate sites and register online:

Maine ASCD | Massachusetts ASCD | New York ASCD
Rhode Island ASCD | Vermont ASCD

Then shoot me an email at wmckenzie@ascd.org so I can set you up with everything you need to participate in your favorite chair in your favorite slippers!

Want to know more? For further reading about the event:

NE ASCD Infographic

Your Next Generation of Professional Development

Northeast ASCD EdSpace Banner

Working with the ASCD Affiliates is one of the truly great pleasures in my professional life. They are some of the most expert, dedicated, innovative people I know. One of the major points of emphasis in their work is providing high-quality professional development to educators on the ground where they live and work. They have earned their reputation in their professional development work. So it is no surprise to me that they continue to push the envelope, even as educators find it increasingly difficult to get out of their districts and take advantage of PD offerings.

In gauging the best ways to serve educators in the current climate of increased accountability and dwindling dollars, there are four trends we have identified as key when educators select the PD offerings they choose to attend:

  • Networking – educators want to connect with like-minded colleagues outside their district, both locally and globally
  • Capacity Building – educators want to increase their professional capital and capabilities
  • New Value – educators want new skills and strategies they can immediately put into use on the job
  • Digital Productivity – educators want to use virtual tools to collaborate, share, learn and grow

As a result, we are launching a new kind of professional development that addresses these needs: ASCD EdSpace. Focusing on targeted content, useful skills and strategies, unconferencing principles, and web technologies, this format delivers a new professional development experience for educators. Most importantly, this is not cookie-cutter PD. ASCD EdSpace will look differently wherever it is offered, based on the needs and interests of educators in the region.

Piloted by North Carolina ASCD this past November, this ASCD EdSpace format uses a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face collaboration with built-in flexibility, so that participants get what they want with who they want out of the experience. Breaking new ground, five ASCD Affiliates from the northeast United States are planning a larger scale, live hybrid event to take place on Friday, March 27, 2015. ASCD’s Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont affiliates are bringing in Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey virtually to work with educators on the ground in their respective states in real time, learning about and collaborating around their FIT teaching model.

Fisher and Frey

FIT Teaching (the Framework for Intentional and Targeted Teaching) is an approach to instruction that ensures high-quality teaching through school and classroom culture, established purpose, gradual release of responsibility, and formative and summative assessments. It also assists educators in offering descriptive and actionable feedback while using classroom data to inform targeted instruction. It is a rich, meaningful, actionable approach that empowers educators to successful meet the challenges in today’s climate of education accountability.

When ASCD EdSpace was piloted in North Carolina, it was amazing how lively and personably Fisher and Frey came across virtually from their school in San Diego, where it was in the early light of morning for them as the event began. They gave a walking tour of their building, spoke with the audience as they worked from their offices during the school day, and even had students coming in unannounced on camera. Awkward or disruptive? Nooooo….Doug and Nancy parlayed those moments into opportunities for students to talk with the North Carolina audience about their experience as students in the FIT Teaching environment. It was spontaneous, informative, heart-warming and magical.

At certain points during the morning, Fisher and Frey take breaks to tend to their work at the school while participants work together on the ground to make meaning and collaborate around the FIT Teaching model. And the entire afternoon is open to participants forming self-selected groupings and working on FIT Teaching applications that can be used in the classroom on Monday morning. It is a powerful combination of content expertise and practitioner collaboration that reaps enormous dividends. Some educators come in teams from their schools and some come on their own to network with others they meet at the event. Either way, the benefits are numerous.

McKenzie and Weber

One added dimension of the Northeast Affiliates event on Friday, March 27th: at the end of the day all the participating northeast sites are coming together in a virtual meeting space to share and compare outcomes and takeaways. The affiliates see this as critical, since each state will look at FIT Teaching through the lens of its own culture. It is important to compare ideas and insights across the region at the end of the day. If there is interest among attendees during this sharing of takeaways from the day, the affiliates may offer a monthly follow-up virtual academy through the summer…an additional six months of ongoing PD and collaboration across the northeast. There’s no such thing as one-and-done in this brave new world.

Interested in attending? Visit the event page at http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/northeast-ascd-affiliate-culture-purpose-structured-teaching-pd-experience.aspx to learn more and select one of the five affiliate registration pages. Educators from outside the participating states are welcome to participate, too…just select the affiliate of your choice with whom to register. You will not only benefit from the PD experience, you will contribute to our learning as we gather feedback and continue to improve this new breed of professional development for educators everywhere. Help drive the future of educator professional development; participate in the Northeast Affiliates ASCD EdSpace event next month!

EdSpace Event Infographic