A New Appreciation for #carPD by Karen Terlecky

My husband would say I’m a complicated traveler.  When I’m in a car, I always bring a large bag of entertainment for myself (much like I used to do for our children).  The bag contains items that will keep me entertained and amused during the trip:

  • iPad for playing word games and staying current on my social networking sites

  • at least one book and my Kindle for reading

  • a small knitting bag with several simple projects

  • stockpiled “Jumbles” from our newspaper that I saved for this exact purpose


But this summer, my many travels (for professional reasons) found this bag staying at home because I had no need for it.  Instead, I had my fellow travelers to energize and motivate my thinking in the form of #carPD.  #carPD started as a fun hashtag on twitter between a group of friends, but it became so much more than that.


If Merriam-Webster would ever adopt this hashtag as a new word in their dictionary, the definition might read something like:

“When two or more Nerdy Book Club members gather in a car for the purpose of traveling to a destination in order to further their learning, and along the way, additional professional development occurs during the time participants are enclosed together in the car for their journey.”

#carPD is an example of the truest form of professional development.  It occurs as an interest-based conversation and allows the participants to dig in deeper to topics of high interest for them over extended periods of time.


This summer I have traveled four different times to destinations for learning.  In June, I went to the All Write Summer Institute in Indiana (round-trip of 7 hours).  July was particularly busy: I traveled to NerdCampBC in Michigan (round-trip of over 10 hours due to dodging tornadoes going there and the freeway being shut down coming home), Chicago for a presentation (we flew in, but then traveled with our host in her car around the city for over 3 hours), and a Choice Literacy writing retreat here in Ohio (3 hours round-trip).  That is a total of over 23 hours in a car.  Can you imagine the conversations and learning that took place in those 23 hours?!!


I was actually the driver for two of these professional opportunities, but during the trips when I was a passenger, I made sure to have my iPad open so that I could capture any big ideas I might want to hold on to for future consideration.  So many great ideas would float around the car, I needed a way to hold on to them so I wouldn’t forget.


A wide range of topics was covered, such as book titles and recommendations, technology that would help our students create and connect beyond the four walls of the classroom, book titles, Evernote as a tool to track student learning, book titles, apps that we needed to explore as teachers, book titles, PD we had been involved in elsewhere and sharing our learning, book titles, ideas about classroom setup, book titles, current thinking about word study and assessment connected to it, book titles, processing our learning after leaving the various locations, book titles, learning about ourselves as writers and making a connection to the young writers in our classrooms, book titles, the importance of advocacy for our students, book titles, how best to dialogue with colleagues at school, book titles, planning for read aloud, book titles, building reading communities (with students and adults), book titles, digital writing and all its opportunities, book titles, our role in Public Education, book titles, blogging with students, book titles, writing communities, book titles, fads in education, book titles, twitter talks, book titles, #cyberPD (Who Owns the Learning), book titles.


The list could go on and on, but suffice it to say, we talked about the things of high interest to us and the engagement of the learners in the car was off the charts.  Sometimes there were even multiple conversations occurring.  That’s when things would get tricky, trying to tune into more than one learning point at the same time.  Typical conversations generally have their ebbs and flows, but I noticed that in #carPD, there was mostly only “flow.”


For me, the biggest gift of #carPD this summer has been the laughter and the ability to learn more about each other personally.  Time to know one another, time to learn together, and time to laugh together – what an amazing way to grow professionally!  The laughter and building of community has actually been a great take-away for me as I look ahead to planning for future professional development.


So, if you have the opportunity to travel with colleagues, Nerdy Book Club members or not, seize it!  The professional development you will receive in the car reaches far beyond the venue of the conference or workshop.  #carPD has been an integral part of my learning this summer!!


Karen Terlecky teaches 5th grade language arts in Dublin, Ohio.  She would like to thank her fellow travelers and #carPD members for their inspiration this summer.  A huge thanks to Cathy Mere, Franki Sibberson, Tony Keefer, Julie Johnson, Cindy Minnich, Katie Strawser, Stephanie Shouldis, Katie DiCesare, Jen Burton, and Karen Szymusiak (all of whom are Nerdy Book Club members as well) for contributing to my #carPD this summer, as well as helping me remember ALL the topics we discussed as I was writing this post.