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What do speed dating and new technology have in common? At our school, professional development!

Thanks to the Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant, we started this school year with dramatically improved Wi-Fi and over 600 new Chromebooks, 1 for each student at Lawrence School. For the pioneers in our building, this was a long-awaited dream come true. Yet for a good part of our staff, it brought on some anxiety and stress of how to put the Chromebooks to use.

After meeting and sharing with other grant recipient schools’ teachers, principals and tech staff, one of the things we are glad to know we weren’t alone in is the need for professional development. It’s a common dilemma: how do you provide quality professional development for staff that has a wide range of experience and do it without much of a budget?

It’s a common dilemma: how do you provide quality professional development for staff that has a wide range of experience and do it without much of a budget?

Our most recent and successful solution was speed dating! One January afternoon, we split our staff into 5 groups and rotated groups through 5 different teacher-led sessions. Each session introduced, in 12 minutes, a different tech tool the presenters had used and found worthwhile.

With a movie date theme which included a hallway “concession stand” with popcorn, candy and drinks, teachers were engaged, and the quick pace was just enough to give everyone an introduction and keep the blood flowing!

We used the Chromebooks to try Kahoot!, Nearpod, and Google Classroom (we had 2 sessions; 1 for beginners and another for veteran users). And we had fun trying out some green screen video and learning how to connect our class with our online school newspaper, the Bulldog Bulletin, which my Tech21 class produces.

At the end of the last session, we gave staff a “dating card” that asked them to note whether they would like to try out the 5 tools and gave us some indication of how everyone felt about the topics. It also gave us an opportunity to give away a gift certificate, donated by our PTO, for a “lunch date” for 2 to a local eatery.

Our speed dating professional development was so well received, we’ve decided to try it again next month. We have 5 teachers ready to go with new topics, and we reworked our groups to 4 so that each presenter can attend 1 session, too. Our theme is “Coffee Date,” and we’re hosting a parallel Coffee Cake-Making Contest to build some friendly competition and yield some extra yummy treats to go with the coffee. Funds for coffee and more giveaways are coming from a small grant from our local education foundation.

It has been both fun and motivating to plan our PD, and it’s great to be using our own staff to get it done. Ideas are flowing for a year-long PD plan next year that leads us into some personal PD with a competitive edge (hint: it involves group rewards).

What have you got planned for PD? Remember, whatever fun we have in learning tools to use with our students will certainly be passed on to them. If you’d like to try some speed dating and need some support, let me know. I’d love to share more.

Written By:


Tech21 Teacher

Lynn O’Connell is the Tech21 Teacher at Lawrence Junior High School in Falmouth, where her students produce the school’s online newspaper, the Bulldog Bulletin. After 16 years as an ELA teacher, she switched to technology 2 years ago and loves watching students come alive with technology in ways that get them writing, collaborating, problem-solving, and decision-making.

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