Training “2.0”: Incorporating Story and Listening into Professional Development

The term “Web 2.0” has been used in “techie” conversations so much that it approaches being a cliche. Despite its overuse, the affordances of “2.0” (sharing, connecting and collaborating) are powerful and should be applied more in professional development environments.

Currently,  “2.0” professional development is centered around personal learning networks. Teachers using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and assorted other social networks create groups around shared interests. You can learn much more about PLNs from people more knowledgeable than I . Click here for more information.

I’d like to contemplate two tools for creating a “2.0” environment around technology training and professional development: learning contracts and teacher storyboards.  Some of what follows comes from my experience with these tools, but much of it is “what if?”.

Learning Contracts

I first encountered learning contracts while taking courses from the Powerful Learning Practice network. I was skeptical. The idea of a student declaring what he or she intended to learn from a course was way outside of my experience and comfort zone. But over time, I began to see how empowering Learning Contracts can be. If learning contracts are an unfamiliar concept, I’d suggest reading this article by Roger Hiemstra.

In brief, learning contracts provide a bridge between the needs of self-directed adult learners and the objectives of a course – or training session.  Contracts can take many forms. A typical contract might be a table with columns labeled as objectives, resources and strategies, completion date, evidence of learning, verification of learning.


As an English Language Arts teacher, I employed a variety of graphic organizers to assist student learning. Storyboards were a favorite. Student immediately grasped their narrative structure, probably due to their prior knowledge with comics, graphic novels, and video.

So how might a storyboard impact professional development? In an earlier post, Starting with Stories, I described two types of trainees: conscripts and volunteers. Volunteers are willing to invest much more of themselves into the task, are more comfortable taking risks and solving problems and will think of unique ways to apply what they are learning to their classroom. Perhaps more teachers will move from conscripts to volunteers if trainers intentionally integrate story into their sessions? By their nature storyboards afford the visualizing of a story, focusing the story on key frames or episodes, and allow for textual descriptions of details. Unlike a learning contract, storyboards also enable teachers to bring to the surface any obstacles or conflicts that block them from growth and possible actions they have taken or might take to overcome these conflicts.

So let’s imagine how technology training might change with the addition of learning contracts and storyboards.

  • Training begins with participants assessing their competencies in the training objective areas and creating a learning contract to guide their experience.
  • Training begins with a storyboard that “plots” the teachers training journey complete with any obstacles they anticipate.
  • Training session objectives become “menu items” that teachers choose from to create their learning contract.
  • Training session objectives become actions that can be incorporated into a teacher’s narrative – perhaps as problem-solving steps that address conflicts or obstacles.
  • The training space is segmented  into trainer-directed and teacher-directed areas. Teachers freely move between the two spaces when necessary.
  • Training ends with teachers assessing their learning contracts and contemplating their next steps.
  • Training ends with teachers plotting the next episode of their learning story.

I’d love for you to become a co-author. How might you use learning contracts and storyboards to empower technology training and professional development?

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Incorporating Story.  How would you use learning contracts and storyboards in PD? #beyondtools


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