Really? Are you still unpacking and processing your latest professional learning experience?

Good. You should be. Here’s why…

For any professional learning experience, including local, state, national, and international conferences; unconferences like edcamps, techcamps, or smackdowns; weekly twitter chats; or even what some still call professional development just down the hall in your own school, there’s a ton of variables to consider and a plethora of opportunity.

Planning

Somewhere, a group of people intentionally made these learning avenues possible and accessible to you. That requires a team of dedicated educators to carefully consider physical spaces, topics, and in some cases, even travel, lodging, and food options.

I’ll never forget how much I loved co-hosting @EdcampWake‘s first school-based edcamp. But I will also never forget how much more work it was to plan and run smoothly–more work than I ever envisioned when I first pursued such an endeavor. In an unprecedented leadership opportunity to us at the time, there was also incredible management to be done. Lucky for me, I had an outstanding teammate with forward-thinking vision, logic, management, and leadership. Eventually, #Edcampwake grew into a total team effort! That wonderful experience alone still makes me appreciate any present-day, professional learning opportunity all the more.

Even if you read a book, join a twitter chat, or strike up a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee, you are still dependent on your network and your environment for your learning. In the book Innovators Mindset, George Couros quotes Steven Anderson:

Alone we are smart but together we are brilliant.”

Funding

I believe no factor affects the conference professional learning opportunity more than funding. If you’re like me, you pay (at least) most of your own way to nearly ever single conference. That means a lot to me.

When you pay your own way, you can do whatever you want, and turn your conference into a vacation because there’s no accountability, right? Exactly the opposite. When I personally invest my time and attention (let alone my own money) into any professional learning experience, I go to every extent possible to make sure I get the most out of it. And our learning neither begins nor ends at the conference.

One of the biggest disappointments in education today, is when educators see professional learning as an event and not as an experience, a task and not an opportunity, something they have to do and not something they want to do.

Professional learning opportunities are not one-and-done events; they’re starting lines from which to learn, grow, extend, and experience for a long time.

Reflection

John Dewey said: “We do not learn from experience… We learn from reflecting on experience.” Reflection is an ongoing process.

It’s only in times of reflection where ideas grow more apparent, connective, transferable, valuable, powerful, and transformational. And personal.

So, you just got home from that conference, and what becomes of your newfound learning, skills, concepts, ideas, relationships, and practical action steps?

I believe that they may not necessarily be totally lost, because we now have connective, technological archiving capabilities, but I do believe that they will slowly fade away if not reflected upon, shared, and applied in the near future.

When we archive, share, and tell others about our learning, we can:

  • Multiply learning opportunities throughout our networks
  • Grow personally and professionally
  • Apply, grow, and mature ideas over time
  • Foster relationships with fellow learners and leaders
  • Extend learning beyond expectations
  • Get the most out of that conference
  • Want to learn and not Have to learn

How do you get the most out of your professional learning opportunities? I’d love to hear your ideas! Please reply by commenting on this blog.