Learning Forward Conference Recap

Educators from across the country and world joined together last week in National Harbor, Maryland, to discuss all things professional learning, and Whetstone was there to participate in the conversation! With so many education-focused conferences throughout the year, we especially enjoyed this event because all of the sessions, and all of the  attendees, were focused on the topic of supporting and educating the educators! Naturally, this is a topic near and dear to our heart.

20151208_100011_resizedWe attended a session about an innovative school district in Rhode Island who implemented their own evaluation system, funded through state and federal grants. We also learned about a small district in Maine that worked with WestEd to improve their observation process and flip the traditional model by focusing on teacher growth and professional learning! Another great session focused on a district in Virginia that created a Teacher Leadership Academy to develop new teachers and create future teacher leaders. It’s not often that ed tech companies get a front row seat to learn about the unique programs schools and districts are rolling out, and have the opportunity to ask questions and participate in the discussion!

We can’t forget to share all the tips, tricks, and trends we learned about during the Learning Forward conference. So much of the discussion was around alternative observation methods, with video-based observations and professional development resources being hot topics! Many schools are having great success with Swivl, a technology that makes recording and sharing classroom videos easier than ever. Another interesting strategy many districts are implementing is peer evaluation. Not only does peer-based evaluation provide an opportunity for more feedback, it also creates a pipeline of trained observers to support a school’s or district's future instructional coaching staffing needs.

What a week! We met such interesting people, from superintendents and coaches at innovative schools and districts across the country, to researchers and consultants providing valuable services to the education organizations that are focused on the topic of professional development. You can bet Whetstone will attend the Learning Forward annual conference next December in Vancouver, Canada! Until then, we are getting involved with our local state affiliate of the Learning Forward organization to keep the momentum going!

Have you attended a Learning Forward event? What did you think? Leave us your comments below.