One of the great things about the buffet table is that it offers so many tasty choices. We all have our own approach when wandering through the line. Some folks graze and nibble. Others fill their plates, sampling everything. If you’re like me, you go through the line once, then head back for seconds or even grab dessert.
Recently, I attended my first Google Apps for Education 1:1 Summit in Napa with a team of educators from my district. The event offered a cornucopia of delicious offerings for every palette. We came away with a lot of resources and tools to use in our classrooms. Shout outs to the edu-awesome EdTechTeam (@edtechteam), especially Mark Wagner (@markwagner) and Michael Wacker (@mwacker) as well as North Bay CUE Rockstar Extraordinaire, Sergio Villegas (@awesomecoachv) from Napa Learns for setting such an impressive table.
In one of the sessions, Molly Schroeder (@followmolly), Education Technology Integration Specialist, talked about the analogy of a buffet table. She encouraged participants to think about their learning at the conference in the same way they would approach a buffet table — taking what they needed and not worrying about getting it all. Her explanation eased the anxiety of many of the participants and allowed them to relax and focus on their own learning.
The metaphor of the “Buffet Table” is a great way to think about differentiating professional development. A key part of growing a culture of innovation is to move each person from his/her Point A to Point B. As a way to think about personalized professional learning, the metaphor makes sense. It helps teachers to be able to learn at their own pace without feeling overwhelmed at having to “know it all.”
In a recent comment on my blog, Dennis Sparks (@DennisSparks), emeritus executive director of the National Staff Development Council, highlighted the distinction between personalized professional learning that “recognizes that teachers have unique learning needs” and more systemic, collaborative learning that focuses on “continuous improvement of teaching and learning for all students shared by teachers on a team.” To bring about innovative practices in our schools, we need both types of learning.
So, how do we bridge both of these approaches so that we move beyond the “Buffet Table” to create ways to openly share with our colleagues and bring this learning to life across all of our schools?