PD = Play Date... for the teachers!

Opportunities for unstructured time for teachers to experiment with innovative tools and resources and collaborate with each other.

Photo of Krissy Venosdale
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With great tools like Makey Makey, Little Bits, robotics, Lego Wedo, MakeDo cardboard building, and so much more, there are endless possibilities for "hard fun" in the classroom.  But when do teachers get the chance to relax, explore, share with each other? 

I dream of a PD environment where PD stands for "Play Date."  Invite teachers to join in, explore, play, let their guard down, take a risk.  Make the environment about having fun while taking a chance to try something new.  Finish up the PD with brainstorming-- "How would this work in our classroom?" and allow teachers the chance to connect their fun experience with their students' learning. 

So much of our PD in the world is full of dread, long days listening and sitting.  It's time to make it fun, engaging, and allow teachers to reconnect with their inner child.  

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Photo of William Ferriter

Hey Pal, 

I dig this idea too.

I think if I were trying to sell this to administrators who might be skeptical about setting PD time aside to "just play," I'd push the notion that this is also about building relationships between teachers and helping them to understand the power that those relationships have for driving learning.  

Essentially, what you are creating is a space for people to be vulnerable with each other and to support one another through moments where they feel vulnerable.  That has real value for a faculty in any circumstance.  But what I also love is that teachers get first hand experience with the vulnerability that the learners in their classes feel almost every single day.  So not only do they build a sense of empathy with their peers, they build a sense of empathy with their students.  

Any of this make sense?  Essentially, I think the way to get school leaders on board with "play dates" is to point out other less tangible outcomes that matter, too.  

Hope this helps, 
Bill Ferriter

Photo of Christy Novack

Yes, this ties in with Tech Playdates and the idea of EdCamps.  Coffee And Tech uses same idea but less so due it's structure and time of day.
I am going to see if I can create an opportunity the second half of the school year that incorporates this and playdates. I think it's really important to give teachers that time (permission?) to discover, fail and learn in their own ways together with someone there to help facilitate. Fun! 

Photo of Kevin Jarrett

We actually JUST did this - (but not as part of any formal district PD). Yesterday was Black Friday, and I put out an invitation for people to come to my studio (our brand-new middle school makerspace) and spend the day tinkering. Holy cow! It was incredible! We had teachers, parents, STUDENTS of all ages engaged and knee-deep in amazing projects. We went from 8-3, nonstop! It was definitely something I'd love to see happen in our school during a district PD day!

Blog post from a friend about the day: http://techforteachers.com/2015/11/black-friday-maker-day/

My Flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/albums/72157661163723800

Photo of Paula Marra

Hi Krissy,
I could not find the latest information but a while ago I saw this:
https://sites.google.com/site/playdatechicago13/ Absolutely amazing! Great way to learn and grow!

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph


I love this idea!! And there is plenty of research on the critical relationship between play and learning that you can easily deflate any push back or attempts at dismissing play dates as unproductive!

I was about to suggest you reach out to Michelle King who is also thinking about ways of creating more holistic and playful forms of PD than the drudgery of traditional PD you mention, but I see Michael beat me to it. Have you had a chance to connect with Michelle? If so, how is it going? So excited to see you push and refine this amazing idea! 

Photo of Kirsten Franklin

Yes! Inquiry as part of PD!

Photo of Chris Good

Love this sooo much. We learn so much from exploration and play. And what better way to overcome the stigmas of PD than to strip out the formality and return to the fun and unexpected discovery of play!

To build off Margaret, what if the accountability, learning goals, and relevance were not formalized at the beginning - but rather uncovered throughout the process - maybe not even until the very end?????

I cant tell you how many times i started out doing something with the intention of learning a particular skill - and ended up learning something else entirely different and far more impactful.

Removing those "Hurdles" from the start of the process and instead focusing on the fun might also get people fully engaged instead of begrudgingly so!

Photo of Margaret Powers

Fun!! I wonder if this is something that could start in one school and spread to area schools (with teachers sometimes going to visit playdates at other schools and co-hosting larger ones) and from there, be replicated in other areas? How might the scaffolding for starting an initiative like this be shared with others in a way that tackles administrative hurdles like accountability, learning goals, and relevance to each school's mission/goals?

Photo of Laurie Bartels

Kids learn through playing and so would/could adults if only they'd take/make the time. What about going a step beyond the digital to include the Arts or any of the other areas touched upon during the school year?

Photo of Michael Schurr

Hi Krissy,

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I love this idea!!!!

Have you seen Michelle King's post: https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-reimagine-professional-learning-so-that-we-continue-to-grow-feel-inspired-and-have-impact-in-the-lives-of-our-students/ideas/house-of-the-spirited-but-spent

I am wondering if you two might want to connect, seems like you share similar ideas about playfulness in PD.

Photo of Kevin Jarrett

OMG YES! Have you heard about https://sites.google.com/site/playdatechicago13/? It was inspired by Edcamp and is becoming a very popular movement in its own right!

One possible roadblock I see however is administrative reluctance to letting an entire staff "play" ... so, this could be limited, at least initially, to a short period of time (maybe 2 hours?) at a "traditional" PD day. Baby steps...

I love the idea of closing it with a "How would this work in our classroom" discussion, perhaps as an exit ticket, with results shared for all to see?

Love it, Krissy!


Photo of Emma Scripps

Krissy! Yes! I love the idea of unstructured PD - it makes me think about the self-org model of Edcamps - and also things running like "un-PD" days. So here's my question - how might you scale something so unstructured? How do you support "play" for districts or counties? What kinds of structure would need to support the unstructured quality of this?