Open Source PD On Demand?!

It’s Open Source Template Tuesday! See how one Illinois educator is changing the game!


Hi! If you’re new to the blog, welcome! I’m John. And I’m the author of EDrenaline Rush: Game-Changing Student Engagement Inspired by Theme Parks, Mud Runs, and Escape Rooms, a new book from Dave Burgess Consulting. I am RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED to share it with the world! And I truly believe that enthusiasm is infectious — so I love sharing lesson plans, classroom activity walkthroughs, and open source slideshow templates on this site whenever I get the chance.

Because great pedagogy isn’t relegated to any particular subject area. And we don’t teach content. We teach people.

I have a bunch of templates available on this site, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to adapt them to suit the unique needs of your classroom! Regardless of age, content area, or skill level — it is my sincere belief that, in the hands of a great teacher (that’s YOU!), a creative teaching tool or technique can be a total game-changer for any classroom.

So here’s where you come in!

Each week here on the blog, we celebrate OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATE TUESDAY in an effort to help readers get a clearer sense of how adapting shared templates from this site can be super helpful in saving teachers time, effort, and frustration.

Here’s how it works:

    1. For each OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATE TUESDAY, I’ll feature a guest blog from a fellow teacher who’s adapted one of the resources available on this site and used it to change the game in their classroom! I’ll also post an original copy of the template that inspired their lesson so you can see its life cycle in action.
    2. We’ll also feature a guest blog entry from the teacher who adapted each template in their classroom. This is their chance to talk about the tweaks, adjustments, and modifications that they decided to make to the original resource in order to help it be a neater fit in their classroom. It might also help inspire you to take their template (or the original) for a spin in your school! Click any of the links below or check out their Twitter handle to connect further!
    3. In the spirit of OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATES, everything that you’ll see in one of these guest blogs is designed to be shared, customized, and adapted for use in your classroom! Steel sharpens steel, right? And by paying it forward to fellow educators around the globe, the rising tide of #EDrenaline can truly lift all ships — inspiring untold ripple effects of teacher creativity and student engagement around the globe.


The Original Resource:
The igKnight Academy

Today’s Guest Blogger:

Karen Shelton (@Spedcial_K), teacher and instructional coach at Urbana Middle School in Illinois.

Here’s the Story…

Scrolling through Twitter one night, much like most nights, I came across this tweet by John. It immediately spoke to me.


For five years I was a teacher of students with low-incidence disabilities in a mostly self-contained setting. They required highly specialized instruction and supports. I remember feeling like the staff meetings I was expected to attend were often a waste of time. Sure, I needed to know the evacuation procedures, but even those didn’t always take my students’ needs into consideration. I found myself searching Twitter frequently for relevant professional development, that wasn’t always available when I needed it at work.

So, I clicked the link included in his tweet and hopped down the rabbit hole. Personalized professional development? No more one-size-fits-none meetings? Yes and yes. Sign me up! I read on and almost immediately began thinking of ways this could be adapted to the needs of our Special Education Department. John’s post from January 2019 about this idea was also helpful in guiding my process. I recently accepted a new position at my middle school as SPED instructional coach/reading interventionist and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to kick off my coaching career!

To make this model work for my purposes I had to make some tweaks to John’s original idea. In my role as an instructional coach, I can’t mandate teachers complete professional development, rather my role is to support their professional development. I want SPED Scholars to serve as a resource for teachers, something to save them from hours of searching for relevant PD online. Hours they don’t have. Because I can’t offer teachers any “actual” PD credit for completing these courses (yet), I like the addition of badges to make it more intrinsically motivating. I’m contemplating making a bulletin board, where teachers’ names and badges are displayed, both to serve as a visual reminder and to encourage friendly competition. 



My hopes are that in the future my building or district will make the shift to this personalized model of professional development and teachers will be able to earn more than just neat badges, but for now I am putting this out there in hopes that teachers will find it useful. Therefore, I have decided I am not requiring teachers keep an online portfolio where they complete a written or video reflection. Although I love this component and think reflection is an invaluable piece of professional development, I’m afraid the extra steps will turn teachers off to completing the course, which is the last thing I want to do as I roll this out. In some courses, reflections are included as a part of a HyperDoc and in other instances where I need teachers to submit something to “prove” they’ve earned the badge I’ve linked to a short Google Form reflection prompt for them to answer. 

To create the SPED Scholars site, I used Google Sites and designated one page for each track.  Each page gives a description of the activity and what steps teachers need to take to complete the course and earn the badge. I’m still deciding whether I want to create a Google Site or some sort of digital space to display teachers’ badges or whether the low-tech bulletin board will suffice. A bulletin board may not work for everyone, but our department has less than 20 people so I could easily fit everyone on one board. I made the mistake of trying to find cute badges before I planned what content each course would include. I was left with a bunch of cute, useless badges. In hindsight, I should have developed each course and then found or created a badge that represents it. Believe it or not, the badges have been the most complicated part of this whole project. image2

I hope this post leaves you feeling inspired to try something like this in your building! It’s been a lot of fun to work on, albeit time intensive. Maybe that’s because I tend to obsess over every little detail? If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to reach out on Twitter. This project is a work in progress and I have a lot to learn! My Twitter handle is @Spedcial_K Thanks for reading!! 

Hi! John again. THANK YOU so much to this week’s guest blogger, Karen Shelton, for her amazing look behind the scenes at her planning process in adapting this open source concept and fiddling with it to make the resource fit more seamlessly with her school! Kudos likewise for the vulnerability in sharing a “work in progress” here, as there is SO MUCH to learn from seeing an idea in a “beta” stage. Far too often as educators, we’re simply presented with a “finished product” of a program or presentation that appears to have sprung fully formed out of someone else’s brain. Posts like this are fantastic reminders that we are ALWAYS working in a “rough draft” stage of development, and that teaching is a lifetime commitment to reflection, evaluation, and self-improvement.

Like yoga — that’s why we call it a teaching “PRACTICE,” not a teaching “perfect.”

Thanks for reading this week’s guest blog!

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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