As a Technology Integrationist, I provide training to about 30 school districts in northeast Ohio. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer, I conduct Google professional development sessions all around Ohio and across the country. So it is safe to say I think quite a lot about training and what makes it good, what makes it bad, and what can make it better.
In addition to being a Google trainer, I am also a “Cord Cutter”. For those not familiar with the term, this means I am one of the growing population of people who has cancelled cable television and now gets all of our media through streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, and such. Not only has this changed the method through which I get my entertainment, it has also altered the pace of how I view TV series with the ability to binge watch a show in a weekend.
Recently I was considering this and began to see a connection between my changing viewing habits and professional development. See below for an explanation of this insight, and some ideas for how we can learn from this to improve the professional development we provide as trainers, and the professional development we receive as learners.
When Netflix is ready to release a new season of a show they simply release the entire season all at one time. Boom! 13 episodes. 22 episodes. However many episodes there are in the season, everything is available to watch at once.
This has lead to what many people call “binge watching”. Instead of having to wait a week (or more) between episodes of your favorite show, you can watch as many as you want as quickly as you can. It is not uncommon for someone to binge an entire season over the course of a week, or a few days, or even a single weekend.
(search frequency for “binge” in the United States “Arts and Entertainment” category)
While I have never been able to consume that much media in a weekend, I certainly take advantage of access to an entire series. I often tie my Netflix or Hulu viewing with a daily run on the elliptical machine, allowing me to knock off one episode per day of Jessica Jones, rather than spending the eight or nine months the season would normally have lasted.
And I love the binge option. It is great to have the freedom to watch a season at my pace and within my schedule.
However, sometimes I feel like something is missing.
Although it can be frustrating to wait a week in between episodes of a favorite show, there are actually some interesting benefits to that arrangement. To illustrate this, let’s consider one of my all time favorite shows that I had to watch in week-by-week format when it first came out ... Lost.
Lost was a fantastic show full of mysteries, complex characters, lots of questions, and not many answers. It is a show that I became deeply invested in. I often wonder now, if Lost had been available all at once to binge watch, would I have become so connected to the show. Here’s why…
Since Lost only came out every week or so, I had lots of time in between episodes to think about the show I had just watched. In the week or two I waited for the next episode I did many things to dig deeper into the show:
- I went online and read reactions from other fans in online forums. I would learn about their theories, their predictions, and bits of clues that I may have missed when I watched the episode.
- I subscribed to and listened to Lost-themed podcasts. Again this exposed me to the ideas of other viewers, and sometimes even included interviews with the cast or writers for some inside scoop.
- I debated and discussed the latest episode with coworkers, friends, and family. It was the “watercooler talk” at the office.
- Sometimes I rewatched the episode to see something I may have missed the first time through.
- And of course I thought a lot about the show and developed my own theories.
First, I would argue that a lot of technology professional development is much like binge watching a Netflix TV series. That is, most PD is often “one and done”.
- You may go to a tech conference for one or two days, consume a wide range of technology sessions, and then head home.
- You may come to one of my Google Boot Camps in the summer for four or five days of intense Google Apps training, and then continue on with your summer plans.
- You may watch one of my edtech webinars, and then go about your day.
However, I can’t help but wonder if we lose some benefits when we stop at “one and done”.
Just like watching Lost one week at a time, how much more investment and impact can we get by extending professional development over a period of time? What if we have time to process what we have learned, to share our ideas with others, to hear what others have discovered, to test out and apply the new concepts, to have a continuing thread of inquiry over a period of time, to have expectations to come back and build upon what we have begun? How much more would that transform our teaching practice?
Lately I have had the privilege to begin offering more and more such trainings. One example is a technology integration “course” that lasts over a period of four or more months. Over that period of time I get to meet with the participants multiple times in person, as well as connecting online.
- The teachers learn about technology integration models, standards, and tools.
- They develop a project for their students that integrates technology on a higher level.
- They get feedback and suggestions for the group to help design the activity.
- They conduct the project with their students.
- They come back to share with the group how the project went, including the good, the bad, and how to improve the activity for the future.
Extend don't just Binge
1) Look for extended opportunities
When possible, look for or create professional development opportunities that carry on for a length of time. They could be in person, online, or a hybrid of both. Meetings could be weekly, monthly, or on some other recurring schedule. Common examples may be book studies, online courses, study groups, and more. Whatever the case, the focus should be on learning, practicing, reflecting, and building on what you have learned.
2) Share with your PLN
Another option, regardless of the PD you partake in, is to share what you learn with your Personal Learning Network (PLN). Just like the “watercooler talk” for Lost, share your new ideas with other educators on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Edmodo, and other social networks. Not only will you help others with the resources you share, but many times they will help you stretch and grow with their perspectives.
3) Apply what you learn
Finally, there is nothing wrong with any form of PD as long as you do something with it. Go to that conference, attend that boot camp, watch that webinar. Just make sure you apply what you have learned. Challenge yourself to take the new ideas from the PD and apply them in your classroom, test them out, reflect on them, and then take those ideas into your next session. In effect you will be building your own extended course where you work toward your own personal learning goals.
As I mentioned before, I really am glad that Netflix allows me to watch a show as quickly or slowly or sporadically as fits my schedule. Likewise we are so fortunate to have so many professional development opportunities to fit our needs, interests, and lives.
I just want to encourage everyone to look for and to create professional development that gives us time to process what we have learned, apply the concepts in a practical way, reflect on the process, and build upon our growth.
Now if you don’t mind, season 2 of Daredevil is streaming on Netflix and I have some watching to do!
(Note: If you are looking for free edtech professional development, please feel free to check out my webinars at www.controlaltachieve.com/webinars Just make sure to apply what you learn!)