Another PD Gem Mined from My PLN




This past weekend I listened and participated live in my first Techlandia podcast:

Techlandia Podcast is amazing hour of sharing, discussion and humor led by Jon Samuelson (@ipadsammy), Alison Anderson (@tedrosececi), and Curt Rees (@CurtRees). Each week they are joined by a guest to highlight apps, twitter users, and educational ideas that “Can make an immediate impact in your classroom,” (from

The guest for this past podcast was Karl Lindgren-Streicher (@ls_karl) who shared his recent experiences at EdcampSac and EdcampHOME.  One of the sessions he spoke of was the “Things That Suck” session that Bill Selak (@billselak) was introduced to via Dan Callahan (@dancallahan)

“Things That Suck is a staple session at most EdCamps (an EdCamp is a participant-driven professional development gathering). I was introduced to Things That Suck at EdCampOC by Dan Callahan. I was in a different session, but read so many tweets about Things That Suck, that I ran over to that room. It turns out, Things That Suck is a debate, a discussion, a conversation. Dan announced a controversial educational topic, and people moved to one side of the room if that topic sucks or to the other side of the room if that topic rocks,” Things That Suck: an Epic #EdCamp Session.

I was quickly intrigued by the idea and decided to run a “Things That Suck” session at our middle school faculty meeting.

Faculty Meeting

All of our faculty meetings begin with faculty members offering “kudos” (usually in the form of a toast, roast, and/or poem format) to fellow colleagues as a token of appreciation for their kindness, support, and dedication.  After our “kudos” session, is our “21st Century Learning, Teaching, and Sharing” in which faculty members share apps, web resources, instructional strategies, and/or ideas that they are currently using and/or exploring in their classroom.  This week teachers shared PowToon (@PowToon), PhET Interactive Sims, and Gone Google Story Builder. All three of these applications were well received and could be integrated in a myriad of ways to enhance student learning.

At the completion of Kudos and Sharing (there are certain months, often surrounding conferences, that kudos and sharing last the whole hour and are therefore the content of our meeting), we move on to specified content.  I was anxious and excited to share a brief history of the Edcamp movement and talk about my own experiences with EdcampHOME (@edcamphome) and EdcampOnline.  Next I explained the “Things That Suck” session and we dove in.

Over the course of 30 minutes we declared our “Suck” or “Rock” opinion of homework, BYOD, midterms, and twitter.  Each topic segregated our faculty which facilitated some fabulous discussion.  While none of these discussions produced resolution (this is not the goal of these sessions and I would caution use of this protocol if that is your aim) the safe space created for dissenting opinions, sharing one’s own perspective, and accessing and hopefully understanding a perspective different than your own contributed to great learning and a great shared experience.

A few great thought provocations that came out of our session:

  1. (Midterms) At what point does the focus on preparing students for what they will encounter the following year or years impede our focus on teaching the student what they are developmentally appropriate for and need to know in the current year?
  2. (BYOD) Does a BYOD policy in a middle school further foster social concerns of the haves and have nots based on the brand, capabilities, and newness of each student’s devices?
  3. (Homework) Does the inability to provide all the learning that is necessary for students to engage in during an 8 hour period, represent a failure or problem on the schools part?
  4. (Twitter) How do we model for our students the appropriate balance of living in the present, while understanding and respecting the power and potential of connection through social media?



6 thoughts on “Another PD Gem Mined from My PLN”

  1. Drew, thanks for your post and participating in the live show. I am usually not good at getting the questions out of the Q+A section of the Google Hangout On Air, but tried my best for this show. I really enjoyed learning the Things That Rock/Suck Session from Karl and Kristen Swanson at IntegratED SF. I think your quote from Mark Twain, is something my PLN has been discussing. We should have more discussions and a willingness to listen to each others point of view. Challenging your ideas and beliefs is a good thing. It is the only way we are going to push education forward. I appreciate you writing this post, it may make me go home and quit being lazy and put that episode into iTunes.

  2. Thanks for the feedback and for the great idea. I have enjoyed watching the podcasts in the past, and greatly enjoyed participating in the live show through the Q&A. I completely agree with you that about the importance of not only appreciating the value of dissenting opinion, but actively soliciting it in order to better understand other people’s and our own perspective.

    I look forward to connecting more in the future, and I hope to see you at ISTE in Atlanta.

  3. Your middle school faculty meetings sound very motivating and inspiring! A similar “Things That Suck” session was run at EdCampDelta (which I was unable to attend, but did follow the hashtag), and it seemed like it was very dynamic and interesting to all the participants.

  4. Thank you for sharing. I have only attended two edcamps, and both were virtual. I am greatly looking forward to the next one that is geographically attend-able.

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