New for 2018/19, this will be the space where PD North members and some special guest Bloggers will share ideas and experiences. Watch this space and, if you would like to write a Blog for us, on the topic of further / adult community education and skills, please contact Chloë at chloeh@pdnorth.org.uk

Writer Guidelines:

WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.

STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.

REFERENCES: If you choose to mention other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.

Organising the CPD Exchange Week #2 (Again)

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


I actually wrote this article (see previous blog below that was scheduled for yesterday) last week, knowing something was coming but no idea of the scale of what. Only ten days later, reading it takes me back to a different time. 

As this is published, schools and colleges are closing, people are (mostly) social distancing, supermarket shelves are bare, bars and restaurants are laying off their staff and the word ‘lockdown’ is on everyone’s lips. For some, those of us who have been building communities online for education and activism for a decade, it feels like everything has been moving towards this moment. The watchword is ‘community’. Whether or not #PDNorth2020 becomes a virtual event, the country is moving from individualism to thinking as a hive. This is reflected in professional development too, in the shift from those events where educators turn up looking for ‘stuff from experts’ to the line of flight PDNorth has been taking in recent years; not only sharing practice but creating spaces (and provocations) to think.

We originally planned three concurrent events, connected by a virtual thread and guided by the critical question: what can we do to help people feel part of a community even when they are in different places? The last few days have thrown up communities everywhere: Italians singing at 6pm every night from their balconies, the #DanceForJoy virtual flashmob or local communities setting up Covid-19 support networks and neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, encouraging one another to shop locally. It would be a community organiser’s dream…if it wasn’t for the threat we face. 

If today’s predictions are reliable – and who can know? – by June 26th we’ll be coming out the other end, craving face-to-face encounters with one another but inevitably more skilled, more confident with digital. It has taken a global pandemic for the lightbulb to go on – digital is there to help us communicate with one another, if we use it properly. It’s not money we need to spend (sorry, predatory tech companies), it’s time, to think of novel ways to listen and learn from one another. 

In the last few weeks educators have been rushing to set up learning communities – one of the best we’ve found (if you’re on Facebook) is The Spring 2020 Online Learning Collective. 10k members in less than a week but people are sharing with generosity and humility. It’s a great place to learn. If you’re on Twitter, check out the discussion on #UKFEChat (19th March 2020) for some great ideas – how to take teaching online whilst nurturing ourselves (not selfISH, selfFUL) and looking out for one another. Finally, FE is unfolding its arms and the FABDigital principles enshrined in PDNorth from the start are going to serve us all well throughout this time.

We don’t yet know what the 26th June will look like – in any sense. For many, this is the last day at the ranch for…how long? We don’t know. But we can assure you that it will be all about bringing us back together, taking stock…and continuing to reaffirm our shared, uninterrupted, love of FE.

Organising the CPD Exchange: Week #2

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

Once the venues are sorted, we can set up an Eventbrite for the day. This ticketing service is a real boon for free events like ours, because there’s no charge, it looks good and you can generate signing in sheets and pre-event emails too. If it’s a pay-for event they take a percentage so you have to factor that in when you are setting the fee. It’s also really easy to generate a link which can then be shared on social media (and you’re not messing about with lots of emails). Once people start signing up, it becomes real.

The push now is to populate the workshops. Our PDNorth Professional Exchange Groups are packed with educators who love sharing and learning different ways to teach their subject, but not all have the confidence to do this outside the group. The Regional Leads have a job to do in identifying individuals to run workshops, then nurturing and mentoring them. We have some stalwarts – people who are on the bill each year and always bring something new – and we love them. But we’re also determined to amplify new voices. There’s so much brilliant work out there.

We’ve also got an imperative around finding someone to help us make a digital story – an everywoman film of one person’s journey through the Professional Exchange. We can design and storyboard, we can even do some filming, but we’re hoping to collaborate with a talented tutor or student, to help us pull the whole thing together. If you know anyone who might be interested, give us a shout!

Organising the CPD Exchange: Week #1

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

So the wheels are in motion for the PDNorth CPD Exchange 2020. We’ve booked the venues – old favourite Liverpool Quakers, Leeds City College’s gorgeous Printworks and TBC. We’re holding all three on the same day, with Claire and me MCing them on the big screen. So getting the tech right is critical. Once we get the basics in place we’re going to work on this.

One of the things that’s always challenging when leading a collaborative event is that everyone has different priorities – and you can’t do it all at once! For me a hashtag is an early action – we’re using #PDNorth2020 – so that we can start putting ‘hold the date’ messages out on social media and at this stage it’s great to have the venues and tag them in because they amplify the reach for us. But Regional Leads naturally want content and timings, to sell to their PEN members. When those very PEN members are the people providing content – because an exchange is all about learning from each other – we’ve got a chicken and egg situation.

Luckily, there’s a lot of love in the PDNorth team after three years working together and we don’t fall out during this early phase. It’s so great being in a team where you can be yourself and be truthful with the others. Regular PDNorth event delegates will recall Christina Donovan’s thought-provoking keynotes last year around trust and distrust in FE. It’s that trust we have between us that ensures our conversations are cheerful and collegiate, even when our immediate priorities diverge.