professional development

A Year Without Professional Development

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a dry season (personal photo)

Wow! This is looking like a dry season for me in the area of professional development this year. For me, this creates a feeling of sadness deep within my soul. Why? Because I LOVE TO LEARN!!!

I suppose I should define the “dry season” that lies ahead.

  • I finished COETAIL courses in May. This means no regular assigned readings, no required blog posts, and no tuition bills to pay.
  • I already have a Master’s degree. A PhD is a next logical step…or is it?
  • I finished my two-year stint as my school’s NESA representative, which included attendance at the NESA Spring Educator’s Conference.
  • I’m not up for school-sponsored PD this year. Our PD budget is essentially for the constant training, maintenance, and upkeep of our IB programmes (PYP, MYP, and DP). I am not a classroom teacher, so I totally accept that training classroom teachers is priority. (But, darnit!, there’s a great opportunity in February focused on aligning the Common Core with IB programmes.)
  • I have no problem financing my own PD. In fact, I often do. However, I have nothing currently in the works.

So, where does this leave me? I think it leaves me in charge of an opportunity to redefine what professional development means for me. If I’m honest, this year without professional development has, thus far, been full of professional development. I’m just finding myself on the other side, doing far more giving of PD rather than receiving.

  • Coaching. After attending a phenomenal 5-day Critical Friends Group coaching workshop at the NESA SEC, I am motivated to become a facilitator. The first step includes establishing a CFG of teachers in my school and working with them over the course of the school year (and beyond, I presume). This is currently underway.
  • Leading and Seeking. This year in particular, I am frequently at the forefront of divisional meetings and professional development initiatives at my school. In this capacity, I use CFG protocols in order to promote collaborative conversations around practices that directly impact student achievement. Being in front can be an enormous learning experience! To ensure growth, I do ask for feedback. Below is the basic survey form that I have used a few times. I’ve fallen behind on asking for feedback, so this is a good reminder to get back on track.
  • Collaborating. The majority of this professional development leading involves a lot of collaborative planning with administrators and other teacher leaders.
  • Presenting. I create a fair amount of visual presentations. In a recent in-house PD session by Jeff Layman on presentation design, I was reminded of those amazing teachings from COETAIL course 3 on visual literacy. Jeff and his reminders helped me to move outside of my thinking about presenting text to an audience. There is a way. So, I will be focusing on continuing to grow my visual presentation skills.
  • Researching. I am often in research mode. Due to the nature of a five-year curriculum review cycle (and just needing to know stuff about curriculum-related topics) there is always a curriculum to be reviewed. I find myself with numerous tabs open in my browser that contain information about curriculum development, curriculum implementation, trends in literacy, math instruction, best practices in [fill in the blank], etc. There are also the plethora links to recorded webinars piling up in my inbox and iTunes U to further explore. Then it’s all about making sense of the research and its implications.
  • Accepting. Perhaps this is a year when I will be less of a consumer of professional development and more a producer. <Gulp!> The good news here is that by producing I can still develop professionally. How can I not? As long as I have a clear plan, seek/receive regular feedback, and reflect, I should end up more professionally developed in June 2014 than I am today. 🙂

 For it is in giving that we receive.
― St. Francis of Assisi


lush oasis (personal photo)

So, ultimately I am activating COETAIL, Part Deux. My goals are emerging based on this blog post. I certainly have some areas that will be my focal points. My year without professional development is looking to be less like a dry desert and more like a lush, fertile oasis.




pre-COETAIL blog post

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It’s like throwback Thursday (#TBT), only it’s Tuesday! However, I am doing a little digital housecleaning and have stumbled upon some great files from my past. One is a picture of a fave student who just graduated from university last month. In the picture he’s in 9th grade, slightly chubby with short hair. He’s now tall, thin, with long metal-rocker locks.

Among the gems, I found the following document chronicling a workshop experience led by a certain Mr. Jeff Utecht at the 2010 NESA Spring Educators Conference in Bangkok. Not a surprise that this document was submitted to SUNY Buffalo (with a check) in exchange for graduate credit. I was COETAIL blogging before COETAIL was a thing! Note the hyperlinks. Those were there in the original Word document. 🙂 (Only the NESA link gets an error message.)

I think this is evidence that my life could not have been complete without the COETAIL experience.


Christina Botbyl

NESA 2010 Spring Educators’ Conference – PAPER 1

Buffalo State University

April 24, 2010


Thoughts on the Changing Role of the Educator in the 21st Century

At the NESA 2010 Spring Educators’ Conference in Bangkok, I (finally!) had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Jeff  Utecht of the International School of Bangkok.  I walked away from his workshop entitled “Building Student Centered Blended Learning Environments with a wealth of information.  The role of technology is changing the delivery of education in significant ways.  In truth, technology’s impact on the changing role of the educator is even more considerable.

Technology itself doesn’t change education, the classroom, or teaching practices.  The problem with any pedagogical movement is often that it is touted as the thing that will transform education.  This is the misconception that often sinks sound pedagogical ideas.  A laptop cart that sits locked in a storage room doesn’t change teaching.  Sparkling new computer labs that are used to teach PowerPoint don’t necessarily make for a productive learning environment.  Something more than just having the technology, or access to it, is required.

It’s not about having access to the technology.  The majority of my high school students carry around a mobile phone (mostly smartphones), an iPod touch, or a laptop.  They own technology, they use technology, but it’s not currently impacting their learning in positive and productive ways.  Students are left to their own devices (literally and figuratively) to make sense of the technology that surrounds them.  Their misguided and uneducated misadventures into 21st century technology often find them making a lot of mistakes (i.e. cyber/text bullying, copy-paste plagiarism, etc.).

I find that most of my students haven’t independently moved beyond very low-level educational uses of 21st century technology.  These misuses include:  reading Spark Notes or Shmoop instead of actually reading George Orwell’s 1984, following bizarre urban legends via their BBM network, texting gossip during classes, looking up words on, creating mash-up essays with excerpts lifted from various free essay sources on the web, and the list goes on.  In fact, there is even a small minority of serious students who seem to be anti-technology because they see it misused and abused by students around them as tools for distractions and gossip mongering.

Pedagogy must change to shift the focus of 21st century learning environments.  Educators must make the leap into the 21st century (hey, it’s already 10% over!).  Schools need to stop reacting to students’ misuse of technology in the classroom and teach them how to become better learners while using a smartphone, laptop, or iPad.  There is often an outcry from community groups when books are banned from libraries and classrooms.  It’s time to hear the outcry when students are deprived of using 21st century technologies to become better learners.

My experiences in education now span two decades.  I’ve been in the business long enough now to have seen my share of educational change.  I have a better understanding of those been-there-done-that veterans from my early days of teaching who always stated smugly, “This new bandwagon is just like the one from x years ago.”  One aspect of teaching that never changes, regardless of the bandwagon du jour, is that there is not one easy fix that will revolutionize education.  Technology itself is not going to revolutionize the field of education, classrooms, or instructional practices.  The key is how educators and their pedagogical practices must change in order to remain relevant in the lives of the 21st century learner.




Bigger Steps Towards Zen Presentation

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I recently blogged about some Baby Steps Towards Zen Presentation. Recently I have had the opportunity to take some bigger steps towards presentation Zen. The opportunity to collaborate was presented by the high school assistant principal and the MYP coordinator. Personally, I never pass up a good opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues.

Student engagement is a professional development topic to be covered in an upcoming high school staff meeting. Below is the original set of slides for the presentation that was offered up. I approached this particular slideshow as an example of analog planning, only using PowerPoint rather than a Moleskin notebook. Through examining the slides and talking through the purpose and the goals of the presentation with my colleagues, I eagerly volunteered to develop the Zen version of our presentation. Below are the before slides which served as an outline for the final slides that should be far more engaging for our audience.

As a group, we have very collaboratively developed a great opportunity for professional growth. As a result, I feel that I am farther along on the path to becoming a Zen presentation master!


Before: planning analog using PowerPoint to outline ideas

After: Presentation Zen


Baby Steps towards Zen Presentation

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In a recent blog post, I referenced my less-than-engaging PowerPointless presentations that often include screenshots. I must admit that I was somewhat relieved to learn in perusing the blog posts of another COETAILer that I am not the only one who has relied on screenshots to convey a message. However, if my goal was “to convey a message,” I feel safe in saying that my message may have been lost in the sea of presentation boredom (the audience’s, as well as my own!).

I know full well why I (and so many others) have fallen into the trap of using the PowerPoint default bullet format,  including lots of text, and embedding screenshots. Here are what I see as my personal obstacles to quality presentations:

  • fear of public speaking: detailed slides act as a crutch to hold me up when in front of a group
  • undefined purpose: failing to ask the question, “What am I hoping to accomplish with this presentation?”
  • lack of preparation: not taking the beginning steps to “plan analog” and to begin away from the screen and really think through the intention of the presentation OR just sitting in front of the screen and throwing up all of the information onto a series of slides

The presentation below is really a series of screenshots of how to log in and get started in the Atlas curriculum mapping system. Not necessarily the most fascinating of subjects, but in hindsight I realize that I missed an opportunity. Yes, teachers need to know how to log in in order to begin to realize the potential of Atlas; however, this series of slides resulted in a missed opportunity for me to convey that message.

You won’t be missing anything if you skip out on scrolling through it. I won’t be offended.


This school year I have been working with the MYP Coordinator on the role of the MYP unit planner and Atlas. The presentation below was created after only a few readings of the COETAIL course 3 resources. In an attempt to go Presentation Zen, I opted for no bells and whistles and stayed away from using a prefab template. I feel that I started strong and true to the concepts of Zen design (slides 1 – 4). However, those insidious screenshots make an appearance and hang in there until the bitter end (slides 5 – 9). Below I have highlighted how each slide served to support my presentation (or not).

  1. TITLE: A guiding question helped to focus my thoughts in the development of this presentation. This slide also served a dual purpose in that it helped the audience to immediately focus on the purpose and begin to anticipate what to expect.
  2. PUZZLE PHOTO: Here I used a photo of a puzzle as a metaphor for all of the tools that work together to support collaborative planning and student learning in our school. The image was enough of a cue for me as a speaker to know what to say without having my message typed onto the slide.
  3. COLLABORATION PHOTO: Again, this image helped to remind me of the point I wanted to stress with my audience. I also followed my on-screen presentation using the DocsToGo app on my iPad where I could use cues in the Notes section. This is now my presentation crutch, which is only seen by me and not my audience. The notes that I have are short reminders that help to keep me on message both during the planning and the delivery of the presentation.
  4. TEXT and PHOTO: This slide was only to provide the audience with the URL so that they could browse their planners in Atlas on their iPads during the next slides.
  5. SCREENSHOT: I couldn’t quite end my relationship with the trusty screenshot.
  6. SCREENSHOT: This is another screenshot that I chose to use to emphasize the look of the MYP planner within the Atlas system. The three pieces of Stage One planning got red circles because those were a major focus of the training session.
  7. SCREENSHOTS: The next two screenshots were used to share two years of significant concepts for the same unit. The MYP Coordinator and I are working to support teachers in upgrading the quality and documentation of units. These were used to exemplify an upgrade in quality. In hindsight, I would rework these slides to only emphasize the significant concepts.
  8. (see #7)
  9. LAST SCREENSHOT: Honestly, I can’t even remember what my point was with this slide! This was another missed opportunity to remind my audience of the message. Sorry, dear colleagues!

It’s the process…

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Bored People
Probably my Atlas presentations are the most boring visually. Boring for me as a presenter, so probably über-boring for my audience. I resort to screen shots. <hangs head in shame> I think presentations are the most challenging when, as the presenter, I recognize how easy it might be for the audience to disengage.


Presentation Zen

The timing is great for this week’s lessons as I have been trying to repackage the presentation and perception of the Atlas curriculum mapping system this year. Now, I don’t have a formal plan, per se. It’s just a series of a few ideas that I’ve been tossing around in my head, along with a mantra that I’ve repeated to a few people. I’ve been talking about it during small group professional development sessions. The more I have been talking (and, thus, thinking) about it, the more I realize that a visual representation of the concept that I am aiming for could be very beneficial. After this week’s readings, I definitely appreciate the various ideas developed by Garr Reynolds in a variety of his blog posts on Presentation Zen. Presentation Zen has helped to clarify that a well-thought out presentation is the realization of a plan.

Plan Analog

Somehow I need to rethink the boring slides of screenshots (the only thing worse is watching a presenter navigate through a program on a large screen) into an engaging series of visuals supported by design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Basically, I’ll be starting from scratch. Out with the old, in with the new. The idea to “Plan Analog” resonates with me. Too often I sit down and open PowerPoint or Prezi and just begin to create (as an English teacher, I totally discouraged this type of approach to writing!). I neglect the process and rush directly to the product. This is not very zen! How silly of me to skip the brainstorming and planning stages of the process! This is probably the biggest reason why I have walked away from this particular presentation less than impressed with my work. I have focused on the how-to use tutorial when what I really wanted to do was to sell usefulness of Atlas as a collaborative planning tool…and how is supports the MYP unit planner and backwards planning.

Course 1, Final Project: The 21st Century is Now

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Ka2rina. Now. 2009. Photograph. 12 Oct. 2009. Web. 17 Mar. 2012.

As a Curriculum Coordinator with a passion for technology integration, I find myself more and more in the realm of teaching where the learners are my colleagues. As my school quickly moves towards 1:1 iPad adoption for the 2012 – 2013 school year, the need for professional development support among colleagues is becoming increasingly critical. The need for teachers to find the support they need to experience success is the focus of my final course one COETAIL project: The 21st Century is Now.

Key learning activities would help teachers to build a comfort level with their own technological understandings and skills. Through an opportunity in supported dabbling, a community of users could evolve. The final product of this project would be a thriving Professional 21st Century Learning Community established by and for teachers at my school.