There’s something that Erica Fox, Google’s Director of People Development, said to us that keeps coming back to me. When talking about growing Googlers (aka professional development), she said, “At Google, nothing is mandatory.”

Wait, what?!

Training sessions, even their awesome “noogler” on-boarding process – optional.

They will nudge and prompt you to go to relevant events. Social encouragement may make you want to go to an event. But ultimately – it’s up to you.

I’ve been thinking about that in the context of professional development and my experience as an educator.

Certainly, I do participate in a lot of professional development experiences that are completely optional. But there’s also a lot that is mandated. We have to go to a monthly staff meeting and we have required learning at scheduled professional development days.

What would happen if, all the sudden, those mandatory experiences were optional? Would people still go?

My gut reaction is to say that, no, people wouldn’t go. But that led me to the heart of it, in my opinion.

Are staff meetings and PD days events where we have the excuse of providing a poor experience, simply because we have a captive audience? If people could get up and leave at any moment, would we still plan and execute these events in the same manner? Or would we be forced to put in more effort to change what we do and how we do it to ensure that the experience was meaningful and relevant to all?

What if we made professional learning optional so that we would have to focus on making professional learning better?

This is my third post about my experience at the Google Innovation Academy as part of becoming a Google Certified Innovator. Be sure to also check out “How Might we Make School the Best Place to Learn” (part 1) and “Informacy is as Important as Literacy and Numeracy” (part 2).



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