Candace Robertson

One educator, determined to create an engaging and dynamic experience for learners of all ages.

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Running an Edcamp Style PD!

Teachers in our district have the option of attending a district Institute Day (PD Day) over the summer or during the school year.  I was asked to lead a session with my fellow Technology Facilitator and our middle school Instructional Coach. We wanted to spice things up and provide an authentic learning environment for our teachers, so we decided to implement an Edcamp style PD.  We utilized the first half of the day for our Edcamp and during the second half of the day, teachers worked with in their PLCs to put their new knowledge into action and develop plans and assessments for the year.  We had about 70 middle school teachers participate in our day of learning and all content areas were included.

If you don’t know about the Edcamp craze, check it out here.  We started the day with a bit of a keynote that the three of us prepared, which reviewed TPACK and SAMR.  After a brief discussion, we prompted our staff to participate in a Quickfire Challenge to demonstrate their understanding of the framework and model.  Quickfire Challenges are a concept which can be attributed to Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf of Michigan State University (see her post here about them).  Having been a student in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program at MSU, I have lived through so many Quickfires and love how they sparked my interest and brought energy to learning (I even used them with students when I was a classroom teacher!).  Below you’ll see the guidelines for our Quickfire and if you click on the image, it will take you to the Thinglink with live links.Quickfire Challenge

Teachers then had to share their creation on a Schoology discussion board.  Note that they were only given 10 minutes to complete this task.  Here are three examples of what they created and shared.  When you take a step back to think about it, it’s actually pretty cool.  We gave them NO instruction on how to do any of this, from the technology they picked to uploading to a Schoology discussion board.  They had to play with it and they were immersed in creation with a looming deadline.  Was it stressful?  Yes.  Was it meaningful? Yes.  Did they enjoy it?  After it was done :).  We had everything from videos to Haikus.  They also got to see how allowing for choice with a choice board was simple and meaningful to the learner, because they experienced it as their students would.


SAMR Popplet


After this recap, we then discussed how Edcamps work and how you “vote with your feet”.  We then asked the teachers what they wanted to learn that day.  Now, we did do some pre-planning when it came to this and planted some seeds because we weren’t sure what teachers would do in the face of being given total choice.  We knew we wanted to have at least 6 sessions going at one time.  We thought of 3 sessions which we knew teachers would be looking for and created a “Playlist” of resources that they could explore as a part of their breakout discussion for a bit of scaffolding into the open world of Edcamps.  We also planted some seeds in terms of talking to a few teachers ahead of time and asking them to share their learning interests if the crowd got quiet- luckily we did that because teachers were at a loss initially when posed with the challenge of getting to voice what they wanted to learn.  Once a few of our seeds spoke up, it got the ball rolling and we were able to find teacher facilitators for each session.  We purposefully did not facilitate any sessions. While breakouts were occurring, we rotated through rooms to offer conversation or answer any questions of difficulty.  We made sure to have an “App Playground” during all breakout sessions to assist teachers who simply needed to focus the day on growing their technological knowledge in terms of the functions of the iPads and apps.

Session 2 Session 1

When we returned from the breakout sessions, we had a “Show what you know SLAM”, which is a derivative of an App Slam or Demo Slam that you see at Edcamps.  We asked teachers to share something that they learned in a breakout session, which prompted lots of “Ooohhs and Ahhhhs” from the audience.  Of course, each teacher only had 1 minute to share what they learned, so it was a rapid fire race to talk about their big takeaways.

Show What you Know SLAM

Overall, we had a lot of great feedback about the day.  What would we change?  We would notify all staff to come with ideas for conversation topics that they were interested in.  I believe that if we do this again, now that all of our teachers will have 1:1 experience under their belts, the conversations will spark more readily and their comfort with guiding their own learning will also increase now that they have exposure to this style of PD.

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How did we get our Teachers to Start Talking Nerdy?

Collage from our speedgeeking event

All geared up with our new League of EdTechies badges, combining our creative super powers, we were able to develop a dynamic and fun professional development that engaged our peers and allowed for teacher leadership.  A colleague of mine mentioned the idea of “Speed Geeking” last year and we finally had a chance to employ it when February came upon us and love was in the air!  Let’s first share the results of how this opportunity lead to igniting some sparks…

The best thing happened directly after this PD.  I was in a breakout session room cleaning up and a teacher who is more cautious with exploring new technologies came up to me and said, “I’m going to go home and play now!”  Best. Thing. Ever.  Continuing that, I received about ten emails from non 1:1 staff that evening sharing ideas and excitement.  When I walked into school the next morning, there was a huddle of five teachers discussing the PD and their ideas from it near the office.  Exploration and collaboration were occurring!  There was energy!  I then collaborated with a teacher on how she could do this with her students and we brought Speed Geeking into the classroom to explore note taking strategies when researching.

Below is the main presentation we utilized for our professional development and an overview of how it all came to be.  We had some goals which of course drove the decisions we made:

1.  Continue our discussion of TPACK and apply it to a lesson design that was coming up in the next trimester

2.  Model meaningful technology integration

3.  Allow for play and creation

4.  Make it applicable!

We are fortunate enough to have support from our awesome administration, so we were able to use 1.5 hours of our 2 hour monthly staff meeting.  Here’s the breakdown of how The League of EdTechies provided this professional development for our 75+ member staff:


The League of EdTechies voted on some of the core apps that they felt would be important to all staff moving forward with our 1:1.  We selected apps that had a range of complexity so that everyone would have an option to learn something at their level.  We selected 6 apps and paired 2 League members per app.  They created samples of how each app could be used in the classroom.  Naturally, they created artifacts geared towards instruction and assessment- they did a phenomenal job!  We emailed all staff members about a week before the staff meeting and reminded them to download Notability if they had not done so previously.  This was a HUGE key to the flow of our PD because we could jump right into application and did not have to go through the hoops of downloading during the PD.  We also had them bring a learning target that they would be focusing on next semester so that we could keep a strong focus on context and application during our PD.


  1. We started by getting everyone into our Schoology staff course where we house all of our staff meeting notes and taught them how to download a PDF and import it into Notability.  This ties in with our idea of embedded PD- we didn’t give them much direction on how to use it other than about a 2 minute tutorial of the basics they needed to know to work with the document for this experience.
  2. We then went right into Speed Geeking by giving a short, one minute intro into what they needed to do as participants.
  3. The League Members were split up in somewhat of buffet style tables, we had 2 tables per app and split The League presenters up so that we could keep our groups small.  We gave them 2 minutes to present their app to each small group.
  4. To keep the energy high, we played music when the two minutes were up.  Of course we had to include classic mood-setters in our playlist like some of Marvin Gaye’s greatest hits!
  5. We had the presenters rotate and kept the rest of the teachers seated for ease of transition.
  6. When the rotations were complete, we regrouped and began our discussion of TPACK and repurposing technologies for educational purposes.
  7. Teachers had to then apply their knowledge to the learning target that they brought with them.
  8. After applying their knowledge of TPACK, we had them select a breakout session to further explore the technology that peaked their curiosity during Speed Geeking.  (We used Socrative to embed formative assessment technologies into the PD also)
  9. The goal of the breakout session was to create an artifact that the teachers could use in the next semester (keep in mind, the majority of teachers only had 1 iPad in their classroom this year). We limited the amount of tutorial we gave teachers in the breakout sessions, pointed them to resources to help support their technical understanding, and encouraged them to explore and play with the technology. Very similar to the feel of a PLAYDATE.
  10. At the end of the PD, teachers completed an exit slip in Schoology and were awarded a digital badge signifying their reflection and participation in exploration of one of the certain apps.




Participant Notes:

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Embedded Professional Development

We started the year with a clear goal in mind: our professional development (PD) revolving around technology would not be in isolation, it would be embedded and would serve as a modeling opportunity for teachers to see what meaningful technology integration looks like. We shifted away from standard technology training by carefully placing these pieces within applicable PDs that teachers already had to focus on as a part of our district’s strategic plan (curriculum, instruction, and assessment).  While we did have district professional development days where we were able to embed technology integration practices into topics like formative assessment, our easiest and most-frequent vehicle for embedded PD came from taking advantage of opportunities like our staff meetings.

Example Schoology Staff Meeting FoldersBefore our pilot year started, we were able to easily identify that Schoology and Notability would be two huge pieces of our year. We knew that we needed to increase the competency and understanding teachers had with these two programs before full 1:1implementation the following year.  So, how did we do this without having to hold half-day PDs on how to use the technology?  A few months into the school year, we had our entire building join a Schoology course that held all of the items from our staff meetings (files, links, etc.).  We had the teachers take pre assessments and post assessments in Schoology if there was professional development delivered in our staff meeting that day (ex., creating valid assessments).  The files, which were posted in Schoology, we then had teachers import into Notability and use their iPads for note taking just as the students would.  Here’s the cool thing about that:

  • We were modeling the workflow process without ever having to explain it.
  • Authentic learning was taking place because the focus was not on the technology, but was instead on the purpose and experience

I remember that when we had our first really paperless meeting(which I brought some paper copies to, in order to model printing out a few for students who like to have paper copies), we had no teachers ask for it.  Keep in mind that we have about 75 certified teachers and additional support staff (social workers,admin, etc.), which brings our staff meetings to about 85-90 people, all at varying levels of tech skills. Not. ONE. Asked. For. Paper.  They were willing to take a risk after being given only a 2 minute overview on how to take notes inNotability.  Why were they willing to take this risk?

  • They immediately applied everything we showed them in that quick 2 minute intro. (We didn’t front-end-load them with all of the “Wows” of the application or give them 20 steps to remember at a later time, plus examples, etc.)
  • We only told them what they needed for that moment (writing tools, zoom in to draw, create a text box, add a page, scroll, and erase).  They weren’t given a laundry list of things that they didn’t have a chance to apply, so they didn’t immediately feel like they would never be able to understand the tool.
  • We did turn up their anxiety a bit by having them use it right in that moment without any preparation.  We made some of them uncomfortable, but did not push them too far.  They did not have the time to choose to shut down because they had to authentically apply it right in that moment.
  • We planted 1 teacher at each table that had experience with the applications.
  • We encouraged play, exploration, and sharing at the tables.  If you learn a cool trick, share it!  We wanted collaborative learning.
  • Collaboration made it fun!

Staff PD Example Schoology Exit SlipWe continued to use Schoology to house staff meeting materials and encouraged Notability for recording information on those electronic documents throughout the year. Casually, we would insert new features of the programs (a discussion in Schoology one month, adding sticky notes into Notability for a jigsaw activity the next, etc.).  Now that we had established this culture of play, exploration, and sharing, we were able to run these integration opportunities without any tutorial whatsoever.

As the year went on, we began to integrate other applications.  Need to take a vote on the dress code at the staff meeting?  Use Socrative.  Having teachers read an article on the web about CCSS? Use Subtext and let them share their takeaways and questions as they read.  Want to get staff to a web resource?  Create a QR code and have them scan it. Slowly, our teachers were being exposed to the power of the tools that all of their students would have the following year.

Continuing the momentum, we introduced “App Attacks” at one of our last staff meetings. Because we were modeling so much, we wanted to make sure the connection to classroom application was concrete and was also inspiring idea generation.  The term “App Attack” came from a teacher who was involved in the brainstorming of this idea.  We had explained what “App Slams” and “Demo Slams” were, but were looking for a more expansive view so that we could include websites, apps, etc. and we wanted it to not be about the tool, but to be a mass brainstorming activity where the teachers shouted out what they could do with the tool.  We wanted to use our collective powers to attack the tool and determine how many classroom applications we could generate…in 1 minute!  So was born, the “App Attack”.  After all of the staff members completed a Google Form with an image inserted in it about hallway expectations, we had a 30 second explanation of what this new “App Attack” was.  Then, the timer was set, and the staff members began to shout ideas out.  In one minute, we collected 16 classroom applications for using a Google Form with an image and we had more people who wanted to share, but the timer went off.  Why was this strategy successful?

  • The focus was on what they are already experts in:  their content and their classrooms.
  • It was unexpected.  (Who gets to randomly yell out at staff meetings…or in life?)
  • It created energy.
  • It created a bit of good anxiety because staff wanted to get their ideas in before the time was up.
  • It was an activity that focused on the collective knowledge of everyone in the room.  One idea would spark another, and so on.
  • It was fun!

Using the above-mentioned strategies for embedding PD into pre-existing meetings and professional development allowed us to create teacher buy in.  We didn’t have to sell the value of what we were talking about because we created the value from the experience.  We were showing, not telling and it had an impact.

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Promoting a Culture of Play & Exploration in Adult Learning

Ok, here’s the truth:  I’ve been incubating and drafting this post for about a month now.  That’s because this is a big topic, like really big!  Thinking about culture change in any environment encompasses a lot of grounding information, growing information, energy, questioning, and above all it is challenging to communicate all of the intricacies that come into play.  Is there a succinct way to share this shift in culture without leaving something out?  Here is my attempt at it!

League of EdTechies Shield

How do we engage adult learners in our educational setting?  This is a question that I’ve been focused on for the past two years as I moved into a Technology Facilitator role.  As educators, we create dynamic educational experiences for our learners. For some reason, when we create educational experiences for our educators (professional development), we do things that we would never do in our own classrooms- WHY?! We would never use our full class period to stand in front of a PowerPoint for 2+ hours (or the dreaded full day “sit and gets”) and then send students home without any sort of formative assessment, hands-on learning activity, connection builders, etc.  So why is this acceptable for our adult learners and more importantly, how do we create a change?

Reason for Culture Change

I have always believed that learning should be FUN!  If you want to create lifelong learners, they need to experience the fun of learning at some point in their lives.  I’d argue that most of the educators who are slow to adopt technology in the classroom have probably never had fun with it in an educational setting.  Traditionally, we instruct educators how to “integrate technology” in a manner that is intimidating and is far from fun!  You’ve probably been in a PD situation where you were trying to follow someone training a large group on a new technology and a few mouse clicks were heard, cursors were flying, and somehow an hour passed when you heard the presenter say, “…and that’s it, any questions?”  That was stressful.  Did everyone notice how lost you were?  Why (or how) would you ever do that again?  What did that have to do with your classroom?  It was totally removed from the purpose.  It was about the technology, not about practice.  With taking the first step into 1:1 in our building this year, I knew that we had to have more people who were having fun with technology and we had to make it about their practice.  True, fun isn’t the only way to create a change in culture, but through play we can create a culture of learners who are explorers, risk-takers, creative, connection-makers, adaptable, flexible, innovative, and more!  If we were going to thrive and not just survive, we would need more educators with the qualities previously mentioned.  I needed to take action towards creating a culture change- I was going to bring play and fun to adult learning in our building.

Inspiration for Culture Change

Edcamp,  PLAYDATE, TeachMeets, and Twitter chats are all such fun PD experiences to be a part of.  The reason each is fun differs- some are inspirationally fun, others are hands-on fun, some inspire play, some are content and curiosity fun, but all inspire connections and applicability.  They are EMPOWERING.  Every PD should make us feel the way that we feel when we leave one of these awesome educational opportunities.  To remold adult learning in our building, we needed to capture this energy.

The First Step

The establishment of our “Instructional League of EdTechies” was to serve as our energy source for making this culture change possible.  No, no, no, this is not your standard technology committee- it is a “secret” society, adorned with code names, agent cards, badges, and most definitely some capes!

The League has two driving questions which serve as our goals:

  1. What support can we offer to teachers with integrating/infusing technology purposefully?
  2. How are we supporting CCSS, etc. with devices?


Notice that our driving questions are not just about technology, but are about it being purposefully done to support practice.  The driving questions touch on the idea of being connected learners as well.  There’s a reason that I even put the word “Instructional” into The League’s name, although it may seem repetitive to those familiar with educational technology.  I wanted to clearly define the purpose and place emphasis on practice.

League of EdTechies Agent Card

Setting the Tone for Play

We spent the early months establishing ourselves and building the culture of our group- we needed to let go of worries or feelings of inadequacy in tech skills, each member needed to see their “super powers” because everyone has them!  Plus, if this was truly going to be the catalyst for change in adult learning, I had to make that very clear from the start.  That’s why every member received an agent identification card at the first meeting (pictured on the left).  With our identification cards in hand, we were all now a part of The League and had taken on an identity, were charged with a mission, and were aware of each other’s experiences and strengths.

Playing Together, Spreading the Spirit 

To further connections and to create conversation about educational technology, we have some “Teacher Swag” (pictured below) that we pass around the building to affirm meaningful technology integration and to create an awareness.  This super hero paraphernalia is passed to all teachers and is from all teachers, not just from The League members.  When you receive it, you can hang it in your room, wear it, have students wear it when teaching about a technology, and the list goes on.  When you are ready to hand it off, you write the name of the next recipient on the object itself and the reason for which they are being awarded this “token”.  The capes, shield, etc. were a reminder to connect with those around you and once our teachers became more connected, they noticed a lot more meaningful integration taking place so we actually had to purchase more capes as the year progressed.

Teacher Swag               Teacher Swag Card

Growth in Play and Exploration 

With 75 teachers on staff, we started the year with about 10 members in The League and grew to 22 members by March!  One of the most exciting things about The League is that we have members from every grade level and subject area (from Special Education, to Algebra, to Spanish) and we range in our comfort with technology.  Within the hour that we spend together once per month, we start our meetings with a chosen “Slam”.  From our favorite Common Core resources, to Mac user tips & tricks, to Web 2.0 tools, we start our meetings by creating energy.  We then move on to exchange ideas, tools, and brainstorm ways to meet the needs of our students (and sometimes our own needs!).  It’s about more than technology, it’s about collaboration and creativity.  The League is now taking ownership over the content and sharing their curiosities by determining what we’ll explore at our next meeting.  For example, last month a member asked if we could devote a meeting to productivity and executive functioning, so we did!  Now that we’ve grown in our comfort with trying new technologies, we don’t go over the actual technical steps of the tools we discuss because we have now set the tone for clicking and playing.  Keep in mind that this growth is just from September to April of one school year so far.

Teachers as Leaders

We have a lot of fun playing and exploring together, but each member of The League is also being provided with the opportunity of leadership and they are taking that responsibility seriously.  The questions that their teammates are now bringing me are much less about technical items and are more grounded in ideas surrounding instruction.  They are either utilizing The League members to answer their technical questions or the exploration is catching on and they are becoming more confident in doing a little research and playing to figure things out.  In February, we were provided an opportunity to lead an after school PD that lasted an hour and a half during one of our staff meetings.  There were no goals specifically defined by our administration, other than helping our colleagues prepare for the full transition to 1:1 next year.  This was our opportunity to bring play and exploration to a larger group of adult learners, in a more formal setting.  Each member of The League received a badge before this event to help and identify them publicly as an educational technology leader in our building.  The badge, which a majority of them wear daily, is just a small representation of the exceptional resource these educators are for one another!

This is only the beginning of our journey, as we continue to join forces and take our classrooms and learning community to new levels.  In fact, now that I’ve cleared mental space with this post, I owe you a post about the fun we had leading our February PD!

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Promoting a Culture of Play & Exploration in Adult Learning by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.