One of the best PD experiences I have ever had was at the Waterloo Region DSB’s CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) Camp in August 2013. It was three intense days of learning and collaborating with some of the nicest (and hardest working) people you will ever meet. I left the Kempenfelt Conference Centre with much more than I expected.
This year I had planned to return as a facilitator and was really looking forward to working with everyone in such a relaxed yet purposeful atmosphere. Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to a family camping trip that was booked for the Friday and on the other side of the province. To be honest, only a family commitment would trump attending this event for me, it is that good!
In my opinion, one of the reasons that the CATC Camp model works so well as a professional development event for teachers is the culture that pervades the event. Based on my limited experience last year, I believe this culture is built on three principles: student choice, the law of two feet, and a learner perspective.
For me, in this context, student choice refers to the fact that participants and facilitators at CATC Camp have all chosen to be there. By its very nature, being scheduled in the middle of August, you only get the most passionate attendees to dedicate this time for PD. I think this creates a sense of cohesiveness that builds a certain level of trust amongst a diverse group of educators. I don’t think the value of this can be understated when examining the culture of the event.
The law of two feet isn’t unique to CATC Camp but it imbues attendees with permission to focus on their own learning agenda. Without a rigid schedule of events or a formal structure that forces attendees to move at predetermined times, participants are given time to examine their personal goals and whether they are being met in a particular session. If they don’t match, no one feels guilty walking away and exploring a new session. Alternatively, if a participant is really digging into a particular concept or tool, or even having a good conversation with someone, they have tacit permission to stay and work as long as they would like.
Finally, participants take on the perspective of a learner. To clarify, I would define this as being open-minded, curious, and collaborative. When a group of people, especially educators, gather with this mindset good things are bound to happen!
So when I returned from our family trip and I perused the twitter feed for #catccamp14 I wasn’t surprised to see evidence of the culture I witnessed last year. Here is a visualization of those tweets using Spot. Thanks to Doug Peterson for sharing this new tool in a recent blog post.
If you attended CATC Camp 2014, what was your impression of the culture?
What are some essential elements for effective teacher PD?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.