"The Pro-D Flip"

Since writing my 3 Keys to a Flipped Classroom blog post, I have been reading many great contributions to the discussion around flipping classrooms. Last week I was commenting on Lisa Nielsen’s thoughtful post Five Reasons I’m Not Flipping Over The Flipped Classroom and something occurred to me…

I have flipped my Professional Development!

I’ve done this with my blog and with Twitter.

Professional Development for me used to be about going to sessions on specific days and then trying to ‘bring back’ what I’ve learned and incorporate it into my daily practice. Sometimes this was very challenging, I would get inundated with new information and find it very hard to apply what I learned into what I did on a day-to-day basis. Often my notes would be filed away, not to be seen again.

The Old Way

Sign up -> Go to session -> Take (paper) notes -> File notes away (with intentions to go back to them) -> Repeat.

Now Pro-D seems to be different for me. The key thing is that I don’t ever wait for Professional Development Days or conferences to initiate learning opportunities. In fact, my Pro-D choices stem from what I’m already learning about on Twitter, and sharing in other learning spaces like my blog, Diigo, and Scoop.it.

The New Way

Follow links on Twitter -> Dig deeper then blog my ideas -> Seek related Pro-D opportunities -> Connect to other participants -> Share as I learn -> Consolidate ideas and blog again -> Follow links on Twitter…


Now, Professional Development needs to change to accommodate a new kind of learning journey that participants are on:

  1.  Share resources, and make connecting easy, ahead of time.

  2. Make sessions about action not information.

  3. Use the skills of the participants (have them not just participate, but also lead).



1. Share resources/connecting ahead of time

2. Action, not information
  • Learning in Louisiana – I joined a team from November Learning to present to groups of teachers on the topics of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting, PLN’s and other Web2.0 tools. Most of the event was hands-on with teachers having a lot of time to try the tools out.
  • Flat Classroom Conference – Beijing 2011 – We broke into teams and developed our own flat projects. I haven’t followed up with our ‘Reportizens‘ project yet, but I do think this is something I would like to pursue!
3. Use participants skills
  • EduBloggerCon events which include a ‘Smackdown‘ where participants share tools they like in rapid succession.
  • Edcamp – “…an unconference devoted to K-12 Education issues and ideas. A new kind of professional development dedicated to giving educators a voice.”
Putting these three pieces together isn’t easy. If you pre-load too much before hand, not everyone will come prepared. If you are all about action and not information, then why do people need to come to your sessions? If you empower participants to lead, some will thrive on it, while others will wonder why they paid if they had to help run a session.
You can please some people some times, but you can’t please all the people all the time! 🙂 

It is hard for a one-hour session or even a conference to meet the needs of every participant. That said, I do think there has been a shift in expectations as more educators have become connected learners. For me and for many others, the Pro-D session of old can no longer meet our learning needs. We have flipped our professional development and now we want, we expect, to be active participants in our learning before, during, and after a professional development session.
[Cross-posted on The November Learning Blog]

19 comments on “The Pro-D Flip

  1. Dave: thx for the engaging convo over lunch yesterday – always intellectually stimulating 🙂

    So, do you think there is a difference between Professional Development and Professional Learning? I’m wondering if “development” relates more to the traditional model you’re breaking free from. Development seems to indicate an event where as Learning would be more continuous. Maybe semantics? But I like Professional Learning better. It has a lifelong feel to it. What do you think?

  2. I recently attended a “study circle” that described curriculum development in a similar way, one based on the needs of the learning community…”Once an educational need is identified, a small group of people, working at the grassroots, consult among themselves, and develop a set of ideas for educational activities, and put them into practice. The results of this practice are reviewed, evaluated and consulted upon; in light of this consultation, a modified set of educational activities is put into practice, and subject to reflection that leads to further modification and revision. At no time in this process of curriculum development does action await the final preparation and evaluation of educational materials. At every stage, educational activities proceed with the best materials at hand, in the conviction that it is only through practice and reflection…that more appropriate curricula can gradually evolve…It is important to note that the various aspects of this process of consultation, action and reflection are carried out parallel with one another, and not performed in a linear sequence which would be inherently artificial.”

    It seems that in “flipping” the classroom or the Pro-D, one also starts with the learning needs and meets them in an evolving “conversation” of what works and doesn’t, across a network of teachers practicing “at the grassroots” around the world. It is a much more organic and sustainable process, and therefore much more able to meet ever-expanding challenges and needs.

  3. Hello David, I think there are some dots that might be connected to suggest why the model you’re describing can be effective and, in my opinion, parallel a dominant student learning pairadime. I think it starts with Daniel Pink and the long list of educational psychologists who believe that intrinsic motivation is a powerhouse to success. Digital technology enables ownership in learning and that positively feeds the “I” (ego) in intrinsic. I think that your post extends the power of ownership of learning from a student learner to a teacher learner. Rather than a flip, I would suggest extending what we believe about student learners to teacher learners.

    I do not know if intrinsic motivation is a universal driver, but I do think it is dominant in many 1st world cultures where the standard of living allows a majority of citizens to become life long learners. To that end, you might find the Swiss German movie “Vitus” (available through Netflix.ca) captures the power of intrinsic motivation in a very powerful way.

  4. That is a wonderful curriculum development method you describe Amalia, and three key words from your comment are ‘organic’, ‘grassroots’ and ‘sustainable’.

    When you add in Martin’s idea of being intrinsically motivated, it really sums up why I think this form of professional development can be so powerful. Thanks for the movie tip Martin, I’m not on Netflix, but will hunt it down.

    Re: The difference between Professional Development and Professional Learning?
    I’m thinking the biggest difference may be contextual. I know people who are on Professional Development Plans, Professional Growth Plans, and Professional Learning Plans… Also, we have ‘Learning Teams’ in our district, which is part of our Professional Development model. I think it is more than semantics, but perhaps the context dictates the meaning more than the definition of the words.

  5. David,

    Great to hear other voices raising this issue and outlining it (so well). Technology has made new things possible and we no longer have to come to conferences to do the heavy lifting of learning – but rather can prepare ahead and then be ready to add to the knowledge base.

    I have to say that I love the idea and potential of point #3.

    I love that informal, “at home” learning really comes alive and is a central part to the conference experience. I also wonder what it will mean to presenters when they have more responsibility than to just show up and talk. What will happen when we can see all presenter’s preconference videos and decide whether to attend or not? Also, even decide if we should attend. I think it just as valid to maybe watch the videos and not go to the conference. Professional development needs to honor more this informal learning and not corner PD into a conference corner. At the end of the day, the Flipped model will reach many more teachers – I think that is the big win.


    PS. I wrote a 2 part post a while back on the Flipped Conference that may interest teachers. http://ddeubel.edublogs.org/2011/10/18/what-if-a-new-way-to-think-about-pd-and-conferences/

  6. Thanks for this great post David. The term ‘Flipping Professional Development’ really speaks to me!

    Just over a year ago, when moving from one school to another, I blogged about traditional PDs and am surprised to see my words echoing yours!

    Nowadays I’m converted to creating my own PD which is triggered largely by Twitter and my RSS reader. The experience is both liberating and exhilarating!

    Without a doubt, PD’s offerings in our schools need to change. I’ve recently blogged about two different models – one utilizing the skills of Teacher Librarians and the other utilizing the skills of students.

    And in response to Brian’s query about the terms Professional Development and Professional Learning, I found it curious that my previous school used PD and my current school uses PL. It seems the terms are interchangeable in the mind of educators!

  7. Thanks for the lead Dave, this is really what it’s about. Today I found that my staff would still be early, early in the flip, but what I found, is that while they brought paper to my presentations and they did take notes (and they had signed up), by the day there were questions and the conversations were starting up. Commitments to action were being made. I also noticed that several of my other colleagues made their presentations available to everyone through quick e-mails after the fact.
    I am so glad that my principal decided to allow this to develop organically as opposed to forcing people into something they didn’t want. The critical mass is coming in my school.

  8. David,
    I Googled a Keynoter before a conference last fall and after watching three 1-4 minute videos I basically got his entire 2-hour session in advance. I was disappointed and ended up following another conference’s hash tag during his entire session… at least I continued to learn.

    Thanks for the links, and great to see others thinking along the same lines.

    Love what you did and I think that you have exemplified what it means to do Pro-d that is action-driven. Nicely done!

    Merci beaucoup! Thanks for converting the image and for sharing. I’m always honoured when someone takes the time to translate what I’ve done to another language. Although I don’t speak French, my oldest daughter is in French Immersion (and just went to the District French Public Speaking Finals yesterday!)
    Your twitter image is small, but I do remember you from edcamp:)

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