Speed Dating As Professional Development (or classroom use)

The Impetus

Instruction technology coaches who care about their audiences are always looking for ways to spice up the mostly boring “sit and get” sessions that have become the norm.

A few weeks ago as my family and I were driving through the wondrous mountains of Colorado avoiding bears (for real…I saw a big brown one!) I was lucky enough to be sliding through twitter and came across Mr. Brazeau’s (@Braz74) #sstlap chat.  In an effort, I think, to get his chat participants to get to know each other he had the chat center around “speed dating”.

speeddatingParticipants were asked questions in quick succession which made the chat super fast paced.  I thought the chat might become too chaotic, but, to my surprise, everyone was exchanging back stories, lol’ing each other, and having what seemed to be a good time (I even met another teacher from my motherland, Costa Rica…a rarity!).

The Experiment

The great Tracie Cain (@TracieGCain) and I had the opportunity to implement speed dating in person, during a Ponder ISD PD session.

Parameters: Staff or students will be spending 3 minutes maximum exchanging ideas.  This can be anything from a review for a test, to favorite ed apps, to simply a “how do you do” social exchange.  Once the time is up, it’s time to move.  The build up of anticipation to exchange further is what will make the final session so awesome.

Here’s the How To:

1) To Begin: The entire point of speed dating is to quickly sift sensory input to make a decision on what you do or don’t like within a super fast context.  This forces participants to think and speak concisely and listen with intent.

Let’s assume a positive presupposition: people will like something they hear.  Running with this assumption, it will be useful for participants to make contact cards with their a) names b) twitter handles c) email addresses d) blog sites and so on.  Participants can then exchange these cards quickly as they move on to the next person.  They should also have name tags of course, but the contact card named above might be a more lasting artifact. If you do a name tag try to make these can be fun as well.  They can be serious or funny… I think next time I’ll use the “gangsta name” machine  (or the more PG one here) to produce massive quantums of street cred for my peeps (mine is Big Tricky).

2) Instructions: Announce to your group what speed dating is, why you’re doing it, and to respect the clock. If you like what you hear a more in depth discussion can be had after the rounds during the “smack down”.  Whatever topic you’re covering, keep in mind that your staff or students will be spending approximately 3 minutes per person during the “speed dating” exchange.  Overly obtuse topics may need to be avoided.

Speed dating is a setup meant to facilitate a quick exchange of information in order to sift what you like and what you don’t like.  If some information is exchange that piques your curiosity, then students or staff should exchange twitter handles or email addresses or somehow identify each other.  It might be useful to set up a Padlet to allow those who are interested in similar topics or exchanges to post experiences or reflections in groupings (much like the beginning part of an edcamp).  Each person can post contact information or reflections in every group or category if they wish. However, detailed reflections should be saved for the “smack down” at the end of the session. This builds anticipation & keeps the momentum moving forward all the way through the entire process.

3) Check list: Each person will have a check list with either a) each person’s twitter handle, name or I.D. #.  As they rotate through the group, they will write notes to help them remember what was discussed and where their interest level was.  This will be useful, again, later during the “smack down”.

4) Setting up the rotations: Split the team in half.  One half will be sitting down, while the other half will be rotating from one person to the next in 3 minute intervals.  Each person, once the “dating” begins has 90 second to talk about their topic.  When time is up, the other person does the same.  There are NO exceptions.  After the 3 minutes is up people must move along.

You can move in a normal rotation (move to your left each time) or you can trick it up by asking participants to randomly move (move to your right 3 spaces then move to your left 5 spaces).  Make sure that someone who knows how to do math is in the room if you do the latter.

5) Smack Down: Once your rotations are done, gather as a group and have an edcamp type “smack down”.  Share, share, share via verbal commentary, on the spot blogging, tweeting, instagraming… Let the current of energy move the conversation out into the interwebs!

Note to self…This may be a super useful activity after lunch.

Twitter Aside

This is why I love Twitter so much!  Speed dating was used in a chat session by @Braz74 weeks ago and @TracieGCain and I facilitated its use during a technology PD session.  None of us could have made this work without the others.  Incredible!

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About Thrasymachus

2013 Northwest ISD teacher of the year, Humanities Texas 2012 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, and 2011 Outstanding Educator of North Texas Award (North Central Texas College). I'm currently a Regional Digital Learning Consultant with the Education Service Center Region 11 in Ft. Worth, Texas and a college government educator who incorporates philosophy, technology & humor. A student through and through, I walk with my students in their learning. Most importantly, I'm blessed with the 3 most perfect kids eva! I love on them ery day!!!
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3 Responses to Speed Dating As Professional Development (or classroom use)

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