On Friday, March 27th, five ASCD affiliates simultaneously held a blended learning professional development event, bringing in Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey of FIT teaching fame from San Diego, California, right into their states for educators eager to learn more. But this wasn’t just about the delivery of Fisher & Frey’s high quality content. It was also about providing a context for like-minded educators to learn from one another. The combinations of content and collaboration, virtually and face-to-face, is a powerful new model that ASCD and its affiliates partnered together to pilot…and the results are powerful.
First of all, not only were there event sites on the ground in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont; Rhode Island hosted two sites and New York filled three. And all that was in play before two campuses of Instituto San Roberto in Mexico contacted Rhode Island ASCD to attend remotely from their facilities. First takeaway: blended learning can reach multiple groups of educators in different locations at the same time.
Then there was Fisher and Frey’s ability to share their work virtually live from their school during a normal school day. They spoke casually and confidently about their program, openly fielding questions and interacting with all ten locations, genuinely sharing their vision and its practical applications with students. “It was like they were right in the room with us….it didn’t feel any different than when I was in Houston last week sitting in the third row enjoying exchanges with big name presenters at ASCD’s annual conference,” one Massachusetts attendee shared. Second takeaway: blended learning works best with subject matter experts who come across authentically online.
And then there was the ASCD EdSpace unconferencing format. Each opportunity for work with colleagues throughout the day provided for collaboration across common needs and interests working with the FIT teaching framework. Attendees self-selected pairings and groupings to learn from one another and build understandings, strategies and processes that can be immediately implementable in classrooms and offices first thing this coming Monday morning. No down time. No sit and get. No seat hours. Just pure what’s-in-it-for-me professional development. Third takeaway: unconferencing couched in rich, purposeful content provides powerful learning and networking that far surpasses traditional PD formats.
Finally, there was the virtual cross-pollination of ideas. At the end of a full day, affiliates all came back together online to showcase their takeaways from the day, after two solid hours of localized unconferencing that allowed each affiliate to work within their unique state context. This virtual sharing was a powerful wrap up to a powerful day. State after state offered attendees coming up to the camera to share the meaningful learning they had experienced. Fourth takeaway: collaboration can happen in multiple dimensions within a single professional development experience.
What is most rewarding is that given the success of this weekend’s pilot, each of these affiliates has expressed interest and enthusiasm for delivering more blended learning PD. The seed has been planted, from which many more possibilities can blossom. How about you and your corner of the world? Are you ready to open up professional development to whole new dimensions and possibilities? Are you willing to bring what you have to offer to interested educators remotely around the world? Are you receptive to meeting the needs of different and diverse cadres of educators who will make their own meaning from what you provide? If your answers are “Yes!” then join ASCD and its affiliates in continuing to push the boundaries on what effective PD can be for educators everywhere.