I learned and experienced a great deal during the NCCAT retreat. The most significant thing that I will take away is not a discrete strategy but more of a philosophy.
Many of the sessions and activities focused on and demonstrated the importance of focusing on the whole student experience rather than simply effective means of information conveyance. This has encouraged me to reflect on how to create a more welcoming, engaging and lively environment for the students. I’m guilty of thinking that the students have an obligation to come to school and engage in the lesson. But we are all human and lesson plans and ideas need to take that into account. We may have awesome ideas in the abstract, but if the classroom and the lesson have not be humanized, they will be very ineffective.
While most of the sessions were fantastic, the sessions that I personally did not gain much from were the ones in which only abstract concepts were discussed, or an example of the lesson was engaged in. For me the sweet spot lies in describing a specific tool, skill or strategy to implement in the classroom, discussing the objective and benefits, then to walk through the implementation of this tool or technique in a pseudo activity, and then finally talk about pitfalls and troubleshooting the idea in the context of specific classrooms. But overall this experience was fantastic.
The largest advantage of this particular PD was the duration, isolation, diversity and self direction. Most PD I have participated in has been done in a hurried, one-size-fits-all, let’s squeeze this in, type of format. You cannot unwind, you cannot digest, you cannot discuss, you cannot focus, you simply get it done and get it over so you can check a box.
The most useful session I would have to say was the app slam. This was a fast paced share-a-thon that was extremely efficient at giving out ideas of tools and did not try to be anything more than that. What would have been nice would have been if this had been done earlier in the week and then time was given to do break-out sessions based upon the different apps shared and allowed teachers to play with the apps and ask questions to see if they would want to utilize this tool.