Professional Development Costs

I was surprised to discover that traveling to ISTE in Denver, costs almost exactly AU$1000 more than traveling to Melbourne to ACEC. While I am not naive and realise that importing off-shore speakers is expensive – and relevant to local issues, I can’t help but think that there culturally, Australia sees overseas conferences in education here is unheard of – unless of course you are an executive or heading some organisation. Ironically, executives tend to only attend ‘leaderships’ events, which might explain why so few participate in any kind of ‘grass-roots’ learning or conversation.

The SWSR regional event in March is $450.00 to attend. Add travel and a casual and it’s $1000.00.

Let me be clear, the speakers are amazing – and increasingly we are seeing more academic debate around the drivers that are pressuring executive-brains to give a little. Advocacy and motivation has a significant place. Where I become uneasy – is that these ‘events’ are organised with walled garden mentalities. SWSR for example … why not stream the keynotes into Connected Classrooms or better still live stream to all of us?

Many ‘leaders’ (informal) have been using K12 online keynotes and pieces for in-service and in-school – why not do the same? Heppell and Warlick are well recorded and accessible in that regard – so I would assume would not object. Few classroom teachers will get the opportunity to go … and no doubt it will be many of the same faces attending (love you all – but are some-way experts already).

To further illustrate the PD divide – ICT DET Innovations are running a free training session on the Macquarie Campus for Quest Atlantis – the one really great technology that can penetrate the DET bubble – yet they struggle to get numbers.

The cost of PD (in-service, pupil free days) per head is not zero, and as we know – much of the day’s afforded are given over to compliance issues and administration – not PD or exploration of new ideas.

It seems to make a lot more sense to bring in externals to work with teachers – on their teaching and faculty program – than simply to inspire them. It makes sense to pay them, and invest locally to do it.

It makes more sense to send teachers to ISTE – if you must send someone somewhere – which is a smorgasbord of activity – and connections that make life-changing differences in the classroom. It makes no sense for the National Curriculum Authority to fly suits up and down the country for 2 hour meetings, simply because they don’t want to learn how to connect in better ways online.

The problem seems to be that ‘events’ are profit-driven for the event management company and venue first, then that cost is passed onto teachers. I used to work for one of Europe’s biggest Event Design Companies – I know how events work. They cost an packet to put one. ACCE do a great job – and it’s all voluntary – but I question the benefit of trying to model ISTE at a relatively small scale, and of course ACEC is predominantly about ‘computing teachers’. In NSW, the branch is for 7-12 computing teacher for example. Even though it is relevant to all teachers, I wonder how many of those going are not in fact ‘computing’ teachers at all. It’s messy huh?

Surely @garystager et al – are worth working with, as well as listening to. It’s not like everyone can interupt and ask questions … unless via the backchannel of course – and that again excludes the vast majority of teachers.

I wonder if any speakers at ACEC, should be self-funding the trip. Surely at the very least, some presenters should not wear the full cost of entry and then be expected to give away their IP or risk a Twitter spanking.

All the time – the cost of transforming your practice, at your expense adds up, financially and personally – while money is poured into pilots and executive coffers. Ordinary teachers are told ‘sorry, no money left’. Community, community, community – whether local or metaverse based in the ONLY way forward. If you don’t participate, you are as the man said – dangerously irrelevant.

My frustration comes, in that many teachers I see on Twitter – are crying out for more in-service support, not to be motivated or to learn to work another handle on a car door – but help in renewing curricula – practical advice on how to deliver and connect with students using the tools that they can access, not hear about ones they can’t. Running small group workshops, in a faculty, delivers ten fold. If you really need a keynote,  watch a K12 video on YouTube. Working locally, and spending locally is the only way to re-design learning. There is a place for great conversations and videos – but really I think we have plenty of those already … why can’t money be spent getting local mentors to help local schools – and don’t tell me Gillards latest ‘pilot fund – we all know the vast amount of that will go to cartels and RTOs who actually have the time to write great proposals, and never work for free.

More teachers need more exposure … if leader’s haven’t worked it out by now … then maybe they are not leading anything but a wild goose chase. I know how hard ACCE work to put on the show – and similarly SWSR – and don’t for a moment suggest that anyone not attend and learn – my concern is that professional development is still not local-action based. Rather than give $40million to RTOs and Cartels – give $40million to school principals to target local priorities and get people in to explicitly help staff – and that may well mean sending ‘ordinary teachers’ to ISTE as well as ACEC.

It kind of looks really backwards.

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2 thoughts on “Professional Development Costs

  1. You make some interesting and valid points about professional learning, especially relating to cost and issues of streaming. Its extremely difficult for any teacher, regardless of position to attend a conference interstate as approval needs to be given from at least a regional level. So overseas travel is almost entirely out of the question.

    Cost is a huge issue that confronts all schools and the benefits of using technology for virtual attendance really haven’t been utilised or in some cases used at all.

    But I think its important to note that many schools run intense, high quality and structured professional learning programs that are contexualised within that school. These are not based on compliance (although mandatory training must be completed), but on identified teacher and student need, on creating an optimal learning environment, on developing leadership capacity for all teachers and on working together to strategically meet the goals and vision of the school. There are some amazing, innovative and multi-layered programs in place within these schools and every teacher has the opportunity to participate as an equal. Even expected.

    The other point is that conferences are generally designed with a specific audience in mind, at least within my system, and the benefit of opening all conferences or learning opportunities to everyone is questionable. For example, the benefit of a social science teacher attending a music head teachers network event would be minimal.

    Of course, such professional learning opportunities vary between and among schools and systems.

    I think its really important that the issues you raised in your post are “put” out for discussion. The more thinking we do, and therefore action we take, with respect to professional learning and enhancing student outcomes, the better.

    Thanks for another great post and the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

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