Nothing has been ‘normal’ this school year. Hosting our 5th Annual Future Ready Conference, back in March, in our district, was no different.
For the past four years, we have been hosting our own conference on one of our workshop days. We have had staff members as well as outside speakers partake in sharing out best practices sessions. We have managed to have about 100 different sessions offered throughout the day to help meet the needs of all of our staff.
Instead of following the traditional format of listening to a keynote session and then attending four different hour long sessions, the Bedford School District Tech Team wanted to come up with a way that staff could still grow professionally without having to be in the same space. We wanted to think differently. We wanted to think purposefully. We didn’t want staff to be in front of their screens necessarily the entire day. As a result, a menu idea was born.
We still had a virtual keynote session, but we followed it up with having staff participate in virtual keynote breakout rooms to discuss what they just heard about and what they wanted to reflect about. We thought, if we couldn’t get everyone together for the entire day in person, we should at least get them talking with a small group of people for a short amount of time. We followed that up with asynchronous resources – broken up in menu topics.
Our food theme: With traditional menus at restaurants, you always have an option of ordering appetizers, meals and desserts. We wanted to try to mimic that in a way. So we created bit size (5-15 minutes), snack size (20-30 minutes), meal size (45-60 minutes) options for staff to choose from. We also came up with different choices within those types of foods. Rather than only have presentations to listen to or watch, as we have done in the past, we provided other modes, such as articles, podcasts, videos, tutorials, presentations. We also thought, if we created menus of topics, that might appeal to people to help them find the resources that have been curated. So, if I was interested in what “Hot Topics” are out there, I could look at the “Hot Topics” menu and select some resources. Below is an example of what one of the topic menus looked like (click HERE to open in a new window). To see all of the menus, click HERE.
Alternatively, we thought it would also be important to have all resources in one data base for those participants who might not want to focus on one major topic/theme. But, we wanted to make sure that it would be an easy database for participants to navigate. We decided to use Google Data Studio to help with the visualize aspect of data. To interact with the Data Studio, click HERE. As you can see below, a staff member could sort via menu name, length of activity, or type of activity.
Not only did we give choice for our staff, we also differentiated learning for all of our learners. We all learn differently and prefer to learn certain ways. Why not model that on a workshop day? Overall, we thought that the day went as best as it could under the conditions that we were given.
Did I miss the excitement around seeing everyone in the district walk around the high school in between sessions? Yes. Did I miss chatting with others about best practices? Yes. Did I miss seeing staff members inspire other staff members in sessions? Yes. But, I am thrilled that we still made the day happen. Connecting and talking with one another is so important. I look forward to the day when we can do this again in person. Proud with what the tech team was able to accomplish in this crazy time that we are living in and proud of the staff members who shared some insight with their peers.
And that is my Spiel…