Friday’s Revolutionary ASCD PD Pilot: Four Takeaways


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.

Maine educators collaborating in between sessions with Fisher & Frey

Maine educators collaborating in between sessions with Fisher & Frey

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.

Massachusetts educators discussing purpose and culture in the FIT teaching framework.

Massachusetts educators discussing purpose and culture in the FIT teaching framework.

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.

New York educators welcoming everyone to the big event virtually Friday morning.

New York educators welcoming everyone to the big event virtually Friday morning.

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.

Taking charge of their professional development locally and across the northeast and Mexico.

Taking charge of their professional development locally and across the northeast and Mexico.

An Email from Mexico Changed Our Entire PD Orientation


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.


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 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 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

Building The Basics of Personalized Professional Learning


Reposted from edSurge:

Personalization is hard –  but not for the reasons that you may be thinking. Choosing the right content and software is daunting. Creating adaptive paths for learning is extremely complex. Developing sets of competencies for your learners is an arduous task. But, none of these are the truly hard part. The hard part is understanding the “person” in personalization. The person is more than just the needs that you have identified and are trying to “fix”. The person is more than just a means to getting better student assessment scores. Seeing this person clearly is hard. But, it is also essential.

The process of creating a Professional Learning Profile (using the SNIC model) is something that helps us see teachers and leaders more clearly, and provide supports that better match where they are. This is a collaborative process and requires us to iterate upon it as growth occurs, but this is only the beginning of how we ensure a true framework for Personalized Professional Learning.

Deeply personalized professional learning has the power to change practice in exponential ways. By starting with the whole “Person” and determining the Strengths, Needs, Interests and Constraints (SNIC), the learning can be fully owned by the learner. This “Personalization Profile” is an entry point for professional learning, but in order to fully support the learner, we must consider the ways teachers and leaders engage in professional learning through their Choice, Transparency, and Reflection. These are the three pillars of Professionalized Professional Learning, and it is by understanding them that we can start to build a system that supports the growth of all of our teachers and leaders.

Read More…

From Instructional Design to Collaborative Solution-Finding

pd learniners

Reposted from Twist:

In the last fifteen years I’ve often been asked which technology I think will be the “gamechanger”. It comes up in conversations about everything from delivery methods to authoring tools to social platforms to mobile apps to devices and other hardware. Here’s my answer, and when I say it out loud audiences don’t much like it: The thing that is going to change the game is – the learners.

Think about a time you learned something from YouTube or some other site. Maybe it was plumbing or drywall or auto repair, or breadmaking, or magic tricks, or how to use Excel. Odds are a local community college or somesuch offers classes in that thing, so why did you go to YouTube? Because you wanted to learn it right then, for free, without driving somewhere, in the 10 minute bit you needed. Because you had a leaking faucet that needed to be repaired that night. Because you suddenly had an urgent work assignment that required some spreadsheet display you didn’t know how to do. Because you can choose from 150 videos, and make an educated choice because of upload dates, or view counts, or user ratings and comments.

Those of us in the industry get this. But now our learners are getting it, too. We’re living in a world where people have figured out that if they don’t know how to do something they don’t have to wait 2 months and pay to take a day-long class. They are identifying their own learning needs and choosing from available options the ones they feel best suit their own situations. Not only can they do it, they are starting to expect it. And they are doing it for each other. Go look at YouTube, or Snapguide, or product discussion forums, or any number of other sites where individuals are creating and posting help just for the purpose of sharing it with others.

Read More…

Petri Dish PD


I’ve been to professional development events that follow a variety of formats: assemblies, braindumps, cattle calls, chats, computer camps, conferences, convocations, deliberations, dine-and-discusses, edcamps, flockings, forums, gabfests, groupthinks, hangouts, huddles, make-it-and-take-its, meet-and-greets, meetings, peer-coachings, podcasts, powwows, retreats, roasts, scrums, seminars, summits, symposia, think-ins, train-the-trainers, tweet-ups, unconferences and webinars. Almost any way you can re-package professionals getting together to interact and exchange, I’ve been there and done that.

And now I can add Petri Dish Professional Development: PDPD.

Since I joined the ASCD team in 2010, the Leader to Leader (L2L) conference has evolved from content-and-connections to, this past weekend, Petri Dish PD. Morphing to become more and more leader-driven, we broke new ground last year by including an inaugural (albeit more structured than naught) unconference experience around KnowledgeWorks’ Recombinant Education concepts. The leader work that resulted from that experience was energy-charged and forward-thinking.

So this year we opened up L2L even more, giving our leaders the floor to identify concepts, initiatives, frameworks, models, programs – whatever they deemed worthy of their focus – that they developed over the past three days and are now taking back to implement with educators on the ground wherever they lead. We encouraged all of our leaders: affiliate, connected community, emerging, professional interest community and student chapter, to self-select groups across their leadership roles and find common ground upon which they could develop their ideas.

This was not only the least-structured L2L ever, it was a Petri dish containing the natural diversity of age, agendas, attitudes, experience, expertise, ideas, skills, values and vision. It was a raw, messy, unpredictable petri dish of potential. Individuals were attracted by big ideas to form groups large and small. Some leaders found it difficult to break away from the teams that defined them back home. Others struggled with the lack of structure. Some groups took off like a shot, with enthusiasm and definite ideas of where they wanted to go. Others charted a trajectory but found it difficult to break free of gravity. Groups formed and reformed, collaborated across groupings, and thrived on the resulting synergy. Regardless they engaged in exhausting work and got the job done.


As staff preparing for and hosting this loosely structured L2L, it was the most collaborative experience we have ever had. You can only plan so much for the unknown. What is the right tone to set for optimal outcomes? How many groups will form? What ideas will emerge? How can we anticipate all the possible scenarios so we can be agile and responsive? How much content is enough content? How much process is too much? What kind of support will leaders need to keep the focus on developing their ideas and not the trappings of catchy presentations? How will we emphasize the value of input, feedback and reflection? We put in place the tools and parameters we thought would foster ideation and collaboration, and went into this year’s L2L feeling out of our own comfort zone, too. It has been the most nerve-racking, exhausting, rewarding L2L yet….for both staff and leaders in attendance.

What do you get when you place such a natural diversity of matter into a Petri dish and stand back to watch it combine and react? You get unleashed energy and potential. And assuming you are not repeating a familiar professional development trial with already known outcomes, you get unanticipated results. Could it have blown up in a combustible cloud? Anything is possible. But when you are working with the best and the brightest leaders in education, you have faith that they will show you the way to new and dynamic teaching, learning and leading.

PDPD is not for the faint of heart. I have not worked with another organization of ASCD’s size and reach that has offered this level of high-caliber open-ended professional development. It impacts everyone involved; we all learn and come out better for having had the experience. What is the future of L2L?  Who knows? PDPD is not predictable or prescribed. But one thing is for sure. The projects and initiatives our leaders took with them out into the field now have the ability to impact education far beyond our Petri dish, and we look forward to learning the results of their implementation in the coming months ahead.


Vet Depth: The Challenge of Social Media as Professional Development

scuba Over the past five years, I have immersed myself in a variety of social media channels, from Facebook and Twitter to Posterous and Plurk. I delved into LinkedIn and Google+ and more recently Instagram and Pinterest, as they became known to me. And while each has had its affordances and benefits, there are six I currently use regularly  that are popular and consistent in their worth to me as an educator.

Reflecting on my social media experience thus far, I retraced my first eight steps for Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. Did I start by posting comments? Meeting people? Finding valued content? And from that point, how did I become more involved as a proficient and engaged user? Each platform was a different sequence of eight concrete steps to success.

But it’s not enough to just arrive in social media communities. One needs to contribute and thrive and grow. Am I successful on some channels more than others, based on my personality, abilities and interests? Yes, I believe so. But what are constants I can measure across all six social media environments that can help me compare the worth of each for me professionally?

social media1(click above image to enlarge)

I identified four measures: value, level of interaction, scale of impact, and depth. As I review the table above with you, rating each of these four measures on a scale of 0 (non-existent) to 10 (excellent), my subjective assignment of number values shows a wide range of worth for each. Some excel at interaction and impact, while others correlate impact to depth. Rarely is there disparity between interaction and depth. After all, these are social communities. Impact is the coin of the realm. And depth is the most difficult measure to ascertain at high levels.

In my experience, Twitter offers the most depth. But even there, the score is only a seven. Why is depth so difficult to achieve on social media? To examine this question, consider the use of Twitter, the platform I rated highest for depth, and its use by educators as a means of professional development.

What is professional development on Twitter? Is it flocking as birds of a feather to other educators of similar mind and interests? Yes, of course. Is it the acquisition of new content that augments my existing skill set and experience? Absolutely. What about validation for accomplishments and contributions to my professional learning network (PLN)? And how about elaboration of existing understandings and applications of knowledge? scuba dissonance Yes to both. But what then of dissonance, the challenge of assumptions and practices? Dissonance is a deeper level of discussion and engagement, where members of a PLN critically explore topics in a safe, supportive and stimulating collegial environment. You know, the way we experience high quality professional development when we work over time with a school district cohort, or when we take a graduate level course in our area of interest and expertise, or when we advance to a new job role and step up to learn and demonstrate the new skills required of us? I want to experience this more through my social media channels. There is no growth without rigorously pursuing the construction of new professional capital together.

With dissonance comes the serious vetting of issues and ideas, as PLN members hammer out new understanding of theory, data, and degrees of proficiency and effectiveness. Social media is at its best not proffering base knowledge and surface understandings, but in offering opportunities to problem solve and the new value, new capacity, and new professional capital that are produced as a result.

This dissonance can occur randomly, as different member’s experience and expertise contribute to the rigorous vetting of topics. But dissonance can also occur deliberately, as PLN members thoughtfully and purposefully prompt and prod one another to question attitudes, beliefs and values of colleagues, helping everyone involved rise to new, elevated levels of professional efficacy. Creating and working through dissonance is key in using social media as a form of professional development. vet-depth

(click above image to enlarge)

By grappling with dissonance, I reach what I term vet depth: the level of rigorous questioning and vetting of professional practice that creates the conditions for professional development. By taking deep dives down to the vet depth, I work through the messy and difficult questions facing education today. Where I had suddenly felt concern and uncertainty, I now emerge with new skills and understandings. Equilibrium is restored, and true professional development takes root that transforms my professional practice.

Having thought through my own social media experience, and considering the valid levels through which we all engage professionally on social media, I encourage everyone in education to push themselves to not only enjoy the validating, rewarding birds-of-a-feather conversations that come so easily, but to ask the hard questions, take risks, push thinking, and have the critical conversations that help us to become stronger, more thoughtful, more reflective, more effective models of learning, teaching and leading. Social media already provides us the tools. We simply need to make the most of them. Commit yourself to deep dives all the way down to vet depth, where we can advance one another’s professional development. scuba team