A recent Clarity Content Team meeting started with a quick Whip Around: What is inspiring you recently? My answer didn’t require much thought. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Oregon EdTech Professional Development Cadre. The experience was definitely inspiring, giving me a window into all the great work being done in Oregon schools and leaving me with a full brain.
The Cadre, managed by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), is made up of 70+ educators, technology and instructional coaches, and administrators from all corners of the state. While this is only my second year in the Cadre, many members have been participating since its creation fifteen years ago. The Cadre meets three times each school year and aims to give educators time to network with others, collaborate around best practices with emerging technologies, and develop effective instructional strategies to use with students in the classroom and with teachers in professional development.
Some things change...
As with so many things, the only thing constant is change. This year, the Cadre welcomed many new faces while others have moved on to new roles. Cadre members also began adjusting to a brand new digital space, the Oregon Educator Network. Perhaps most noticeable, given the rapid rate of change in the EdTech landscape, is the change in the technology itself. Educators always bring a fresh list of the latest tools they are using to improve learning in their schools.
But the important things don’t...
The most valuable aspects of the Cadre appear to be resistant to change:
A focus on professional development
The Cadre explicitly models and addresses effective professional development practices. In addition to incorporating CORE activities (Closers, Openers, Revisters, and Energizers) from the Bob Pike Group, presenters ensure all sessions reach different types of learning styles. Beyond learning new tools and ideas, participants leave with multiple strategies to use in their own work with students and other teachers.
As a consequence of the intentionality brought to planning what is shared and how it is shared, each session is high quality. I’ve grown from every session I’ve attended at a Cadre meeting. Topics are diverse, timely, and thought provoking. This past week, I attended sessions on differentiating instruction by using learning menus; embedding outside tools like DocHub or Zaption inside Google Classroom; and investigating the privacy policies of popular tools we frequently give students access to. The only problem is that with three sessions offered in every timeslot, I couldn’t attend every workshop that interested me.
A sharing environment
Ideas, workshop notes, and Google Doc resources are all traded freely within the Cadre without reservations. So many educators are tackling similar challenges across the state, whether moving towards 1:1 or developing coach/teacher relationships. What makes the Cadre effective is the openness with which people collaborate, sharing what works and what doesn’t.
Time to think
Even as someone who is no longer working in a school, I tend to become overly-focused on the next immediate deadline or the long list of tasks still left on my to-do list. I struggle to step back and see the big picture. In my experience, these feelings are only amplified further in a school setting. The Cadre is like a breath of fresh air, introducing new ideas, but also giving you the time needed to reflect and discuss them with others.
To me, many conferences can feel overwhelming. While the ideas may be good, larger conferences can be easy to get lost in. Cadre meetings are different, more intimate. Every face is familiar and every voice is welcomed. The Cadre is a true community and, for me, a very hopeful and inspiring example of what works in education.