Next month I wrap up my year-long participation in the MERIT program, by far the best professional development program and PLN experience I’ve had to date – bar none.
The impact of MERIT really hit me last week when I was sharing with a colleague some gems I took away from last week’s amazing Saturday session with Ramsey Musallam. I started to explain that I met Ramsey while down at Foothill College. She immediately added, “Oh, the MERIT program, right?” That’s when I realized that throughout the school year, I regularly reference speakers, resources, and ideas gleaned from my MERIT experience.
So why is it that the MERIT program has been so meaningful to me, both in my work (technology integration specialist for a large k-12 school district) and as a life-long learner? Let’s see if I can nail it down in a few bullets:
- “Earn while you learn” – That was the original name of the MERIT program. What’s the difference, besides $$$, in being paid or having to pay for PD? Somehow with a stipend I feel more valued as a contributor to the MERIT community. I also feel energized, supported, and empowered to spread great resources and best practices back in my district and region.
- 2 week summer institute – Having a concentrated chunk of hands-on time to learn about new tools while engaging in conversations on how these tools can improve teaching and learning boosts the likelihood of implementing them as part of my teaching toolkit. Two weeks to explore tools and concepts such as: UJam, Diane Mein’s introduction to geocaching and QR codes, magic fill and look up options for Google Docs, Meg Ormainsky’s models for well-designed Prezis (that don’t bring on motion sickness), MIT’s Scratch, and so much more!!!
- Inspiring leadership – Between Rushton Hurley’s ability to motivate a crowd (and not just because of the super cool swag available to those who arrive early for each session;-), his ability to recognize tools that can make a difference to students, and his ever present sense of humor; the outstanding MERIT co-leaders and student assistants; and the Krause Center for Innovation (Gay Krause & Steve McGriff) – I’m pretty sure that 100% of my MERIT colleagues also feel fortunate to be part of the program.
- Teaming possibilities – Priority is given to teachers applying as a team. Through our involvement in the National Writing Project, my MERIT teammate Natalie Bernasconi and I have known each other for a number of years. Many times we have said how it would be great to partner on a project. MERIT transformed that idea into a reality. Six months after our summer institute, I stand back in awe of where our MERIT-ignited collaboration has taken us. Next month we head to the CUE Conference where we will present our digital citizenship wiki and project: Digital ID – a project that will continue to grow, even as our MERIT year draws to an end.
If you applied for the 2012 MERIT program, I wish you luck. If you are accepted, I guarantee you too will soon be widely broadcasting its benefits. If you did not apply this year, I encourage you to think about 2013. And the good news is that MERIT is open to teachers across the nation and world. For a glimpse of the depth, breadth, and possibilities of the program, the community, and the multiple “ah ha” moments, checkout the video below from the 2010 MERIT team: