Organising the CPD Exchange: Week #9

A weekly blog on lessons learned by PDNorth Events Lead, Lou Mycroft

In the #JoyFE broadcast this morning we were talking about digital pedagogy and the tensions between resources, risk and relationships. Here at PDNorth we’ve always been digitally-forward, which makes total sense as we are operating across a huge geographical area. We even have an online practitioner research PEN!

We are pouring all our learning from the last eight weeks into plans for the PDNorth CPD Exchange 2020 on June 26th and it’s looking splendid. We were always going to bring the three PDNorth regions together for this event even before circumstances demanded that we do (our original idea was three physical events, connected digitally). Now that necessity has once again become a virtue. 

Since I last wrote we’ve heard the news that Education and Training Foundation (ETF) funding for the Professional Exchange Networks is not going to be continuing. But don’t worry PDNorth will still be going strong! Obviously things will change in the short term, as the funded elements will cease, but we have every faith in the networks we’ve created together continuing to support and inspire one another. We are going to be making so much use of all we are learning about being online!

Obviously as a team we’re feeling it because, frankly, we’ve loved working together, especially on the events. All our meetings have been virtual, so the events have been our chance to come physically together too. But be very clear about this. The funding for PDNorth isn’t ending because it hasn’t worked, it’s ending because it has – and because it’s time, in this newly digital world, to move into another phase of engagement: one which is genuinely grassroots led. Our event is the first step on this path, bringing together practitioners who would in ‘olden times’ have been separated by geography, real or invisible. 

So our watchword is once again ‘community’, also connection. Building the relational capacity of the sector, so that practitioners can seek one another out, maybe work together in different constellations on projects and ideas that make sense to both. The work will continue but think about this – looking at recent tenders from our funders, the Education and Training Foundation it’s clear that the vision has changed. There’s a move towards the sector organising itself and this is one we wholeheartedly welcome and in fact, our support for practitioner-led CPD over the past three years has helped create the grassroots infrastructure that makes this possible.

So it’s not exactly back to the drawing board, as we have always been people-first, but we are now planning #PDNorth2020 with leaving a legacy of connections in mind. And having a proper good PDNorth celebration too. 

The Colour of Courage

By Annie Pendrey. Member of PDNorth’s online practitioner action research exchange.

Courage – This has been a word I have examined over the past few weeks and continue to explore on both a personal and professional level in the face of adversity. I have reflected upon how the world of education will look once we all return to some kind of ‘normality’, when we return to a routine (remember that?) and return to the ordinary things that in the past we have possibly taken for granted.

I am not afraid to say that the past few weeks have been dark and it is in those moments I have tried to find ‘colour’  in my personal and professional life and at times I have struggled not to desaturate colour from my own life, my family and my colleagues and friends. Moreover, in the moments of the darkness, I began to wonder if courage was a colour what colour would it be?  This led me to examine closely the flurry of rainbows popping up in peoples windows and in turn inspired me to utilise my previous floristry skills and adore the front of my house with ribbons in the ‘Roy G Biv’ style. It was during this creative moment that I recalled a book introduced to me by Lou Mycroft, Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, and a word I have taken from it. The word is ‘chromophobia’, this is best described as the aversion to colours. For those of you who know me well will know  I have no aversion to colour and I possess an inner Magpie which loves glitter and sparkle but more than ever I needed to discover how my inner courage was related to colour in my life and my work.

So, this has led me to question how can we as educators not be fearful of colour, how can we inject colour back into our working lives or possibly our personal lives and into the lives of our learners? How can we move forward and not be fearful of making a different colourful choice in our approaches to teaching and learning? Relating these questions back to my house of rainbows which sits in a small row, the only house which is not brown brick with white windows but has ribbons flying in the wind, bows attached to topiaries glistening in the April sunshine, it demonstrates I am not chromophobic and I continue to display the courage through colour, more so now that I feel I have ever done in my life.

For some of us educators and learners, colour may be missing from your lives right now and so making connections with one another is more powerful now than ever in order to not separate colours or your feelings, to support each other with our emotions or the moods we feel each day. In conclusion, how can we use colour and courage to reflect light and hope, to reenergise ourselves, our education system and our learners? May be the answers are somewhere over the Rainbow?

Dedicated to my Brother #Covid19

Organising the CPD Exchange: Week #7

A weekly blog on lessons learned by PDNorth Events Lead, Lou Mycroft

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about all the events we have in FE – more than we ever used to, or I lived under a rock at Northern College (possible). Since Twitter, they have become a lot more transparent. I love following the hashtag when I can’t physically attend and I get frustrated now if an event doesn’t have a hashtag! Breaking the ‘fourth wall’ of closed events allows for diversity and in particular the voices of those who can’t afford/can’t get free of work/are not empowered to be there.

So as we begin to close on the workshop presentations for #PDNorth2020 I’ve been thinking about two things:

  1. How do we open the workshops up even more effectively to amplify voices in our sector who go unheard? More than ever, with uncertainty ahead, behind and under our feet, it feels important to let new thinking in.

And, given the steep learning curve of the past weeks,

  1. How can we support workshop presenters to create inter-active workshops in a digital space? 

I’ve been dropping into various events and I’ve seen some great practice (and some terrible practice too). I don’t think it’s just me who is finding that screen time is exacerbating my short attention span. Like other ADHDers, when I find flow and focus I can be in it for hours, but there’s something about Zoom which makes that harder to hold onto. When there’s something for me to contribute – a mentimeter, perhaps, or responding to a question in chat, I can pull myself back into the conversation. It needn’t be anything fancy. This is about relationship building, to hear new thinking and ideas. 

I’ll report back progress in a fortnight and I’ll tweet those questions out too. I’d love to know what you think.

Book here for the CPD exchange: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pd-north-virtual-cpd-exchange-tickets-101550022852