I had the privilege of attending the PlaydateMI “conference” put on by the tremendous folks at Jackson ISD. The reason I say “conference” is because the Playdate model is one of the “un-conference”, meaning there is no formal presenter and no required structure to the sessions. Instead, each has a facilitator, which can be any attendee, who simple introduces the topic, keeps notes and helps document the conversation.
The beauty of this model is its ability to let teachers “play” again. What I found to be most rewarding about the experience was that when left to our passions, and prompted only by a topic title, the teachers dive in with an engagement rarely seen at more “traditional” conferences. Just as we ask teachers to be more student centered and interactive, this model allows teachers to learn in the same mode. Just as we ask students to take risks and try something new, this lets teachers attempt both.
While there is certainly a place for more structured conferences and formal presentations, I am glad that teachers have the opportunity to stop and “play” with ideas. Just as we ask our students to develop certain skills, it is important that teachers sharpen their collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills, too.