During winter break many students wish for snowman building, winter sled rides and hot chocolate sipping afternoons. Additionally, many people believe winter break is a time for teachers to take a two to three week mental hibernation. For many teachers however, the learning and planning does not stop at all during winter, spring or summer breaks.

During the holiday break, over 400 teachers from more than 20 states participated in EdCamp Voxer Personalized PD. Voxer is a walkie-talkie type platform that provides users with the old school “Party Line” experience. Personalized PD required no holiday travel, no hotel fees and no conference fees. The only requirement was a commitment to learning and growth.

Through the use of Voxer, teachers were able to organize and create their content rich personalized learning experiences. Teachers were the drivers of their professional growth and had the capability to participate anytime and anywhere through the use of a mobile device or the web-based format. Additionally, teachers were able to earn graduate credit for actively contributing their voice or thoughts to the learning community. This Personalized PD framework helped organize the professional learning experience for scalable use and systemic results.The 2015 EdCamp Voxer Personalized PD experience provided teachers with the opportunity to participate in differentiated discussions; cross-fertilize deeper learning strategies; and assess the future of learning at the local level. Learners participated in group discussions and had the opportunity to:

  1. Capture professional growth conversations
  2. Curate the discussions and resources 
  3. Share professional practices

Using Voxer, participants had instant access to respond to each other, even while we were traveling to and from family functions. Teachers had the autonomy for self-directed professional growth. The Personalized PD experience proved that the best teacher professional growth does not exclusively occur between the walls of the school at a designated time. Participants organically crafted the daily agenda and contributed authentic local experiences. Time and location were no longer variables that inhibit the learning and professional growth. The goal was deeper learning; therefore, not creating the typical surface-level echo chamber for the sake of compliance.

We examined and exhausted multiple Personalized PD topics. Deeper learning required pause for critical thinking and constructing recommended action steps for enhancing practices. Transparency was a premium, as titles and hierarchy were not prerequisites for this collaborative group. We checked our egos and preconceived expectations at the proverbial “digital door.” Personalized PD amplified and empowered the voice of individuals. Educators should have the opportunity to contribute their verse in the professional growth experience. Our professional should design professional growth systems that enhance and respect the contribution of many. See the intuitive sketch note summaries of daily conversations by @MsHaughs and @techy_margaret.

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The best part of the Personalized PD — participants shared that they are redesigning their 2016 professional development plans with their colleagues. Most importantly, participants were able to examine specific aspects of how to personalize their professional development experiences. The experience helped educators take action and ownership in their professional growth plans.

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Randall Sampson is the founder of Liberty Leadership Development. Follow him @randallsampson.


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