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P.D. Magic: Applying the Best Practices of The Walt Disney Co.

Participate and share

Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Wednesday, December 2, 4:30–5:15 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Ryan Boeckman  
Jerry Johnson  

P.D. Magic is a transformative professional development model that strives to create future-ready classrooms and schools. Explore the instructional methods, concepts and activities that P.D. Magic uses to develop graduate-level courses, workshops, online courses and experiential on-site learning experiences.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Professional developers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Professional learning
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
  • Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Upon completion of the session, participants will be able to:

Create a professional development experience that helps educators to implement and develop skills in communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, inquiry, and research.

Utilize both blended learning, online, and onsite learning environments to capitalize on professional growth and the growth mindset.

Understand the process and structure to implement high-quality professional development based on the principles that make the Walt Disney Co. one of the most sought after company models for success.

Understand how achieving profesional growth can improve student learning and engagement.

How to utilize self-reflection and assessment to further professional growth personally and in setting like C.L.T. or P.L.C. groups.


Ever wondered how one man, Walt Disney, created the Magic Kingdom? This session is designed with that exact question in mind but in terms of educational professional development. Throughout this session presentors and attendees will strive to learn, dream, explore, design, and wonder what the possibilities for the future of professional development may be. Understanding how to create a professional development experience that provides your staff and in turn your students with the same feelings countless guests get when they walk into Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. We will take these ideas of creativity, storytelling, leadership, innovation and guest service and apply them to creating professional development magic and even dream of the bigger picture of crafting the schools of tomorrow.

When we design and create successful sessions, our goal is to incorporate as many of the 47 skills listed below. Each participant will take away different skill sets as they complete the session. Although we designed this session with participants taking away specific skill sets. We are always amazed when participants share with us through their reflections about the many other skills they learned in the session.

Our overall skillset includes these 47:
Accessing and analyzing information; Active learner; Adaptive Thinking ; Agility and adaptability; Analytical-Evaluation; Assessing and Analyzing Information; Cognitive Flexibility; Collaboration ; Communication Skills ; Confidence; Creativity and Innovation ; Critical thinking and problem-solving; Cross-Cultural Communication; Curiosity and imagination; Curiosity-Inquisitive;Digital Literacy;Embracing Failure;Emotional Intelligence;Empathy and Perspective;Entrepreneurship;Flexibility and Adaptability;Global Citizenship ;Growth mindset;Initiative ;Inquiry Skills ;Leadership;Logic and reasoning;Negotiation and persuasion;Oral and written communication; Organization;Perseverance and motivation;Personal Management ;Project management;Reflection;Relationship skills;Responsible decision making;Self direction;Self management;Self-awareness;Self-knowledge;Social and emotional skills;Social awareness;Task Management;Teamwork;Technology ;Time management skills;Work under pressure;

Process: The session has been designed for 100% involvement in interactive discussions, back-channel questioning and comments through Twitter, instant feedback through Google forms, and several interactive activities between attendees.

Introduction: 5 min
The driving question is: What characteristics do you think of when you hear the words "Professional Development Magic?"

Share video commercial from youtube: "Too Excited To Sleep"
Follow this by getting attendees to offer up what makes them excited about professional development.

Interactive activity: 5 min
"Yes, If" activity. Attendees will learn the difference between the language "Yes, If" and "No, because" and practice by turning to a partner. One partner will take an example and hear the return response from their partner starting with "No, because" and then on the second turn they will hear a response that starts with "Yes, if." We will then discuss how that approach moves professional development forward.

Disney Development and achievement of excellence:10 min
How does Disney Design and Create an experience that brings back over 70% return customers? Training and development of their staff is key to this return rate. So what strategies and values can we learn from their model and apply to our educational model?

Design with a purpose: 10 min
Walt designed his theme park like a movie theater. Show the following youtube clip:
How can we design professional development with intentionality and care for the little details that make the biggest impacts? How can we utilize the power of story in professional development? ABC News - Story on Owen -

P.D. Magic online course: 10 min
Discussion on how we transformed the lessons and strategies we learned from the Walt Disney Company into an online graduate-level professional development course for educators at Buena Vista University. Includes the use of Canvas LMS.

P.D. Magic onsite experiential learning. 10 min
Discussion surrounding how we developed and implemented a five-day learning experience for educators from all over the world at Walt Disney World's four theme parks and resorts. Including how we incorporated real-world problem solving, creative and design thinking, collaboration, and innovation models. Also how we utilized professionals into our onsite training, including a retired Imagineer and current Disney authors and historian.

Utilizing Google Classroom for professional development: 5 min
We will give an example of how we develop and utilized a professional development 8-week course in Google Classroom.

Open floor for any further questions from attendees and share resources: 5 min

Our overall goal of this professional development model is to provide participants with instructional methods, concepts, strategies and activities that they will be able to apply to their classroom and schools immediately. Collaboration, curiosity, critical / design thinking, and storytelling are all important 21st-century skills that not only do our students need to master but we as educators can continue to improve upon also. This session will help participants do both and all through the same lens that made Walt Disney and the Disney Company so successful and innovative.

Supporting research

Franziska Trede, Rob Macklin & Donna Bridges (2012) Professional identity development: a review of the higher education literature, Studies in Higher Education, 37:3, 365-384, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2010.521237

Rutherford T., Long J.J., Farkas G. (2017) Teacher value for professional development, self-efficacy, and student outcomes within a digital mathematics intervention, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Volume 51

Roelande H. Hofman, Bernadette J. Dijkstra
Effective teacher professionalization in networks?
Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 26, Issue 4, 2010, pp. 1031-1040

Cockerell, L. (2008). Creating magic: 10 common sense leadership strategies from a life at Disney. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Designing Disney Inspired Classrooms by Howie DiBlasi and Ryan Boeckman

Cockerell, L. (2013). The customer rules: The 39 essential rules for delivering sensational service (First edition.). New York: Crown Business.

Who's the Leader of the Club? by Jim Korkis

Squirrel Inc: A Fable of Leadership Through Storytelling by Stephen Denning

Pixar Storytelling: Rules for Effective Storytelling Based on Pixar's Greatest Films by Dean Movshovitz

Entrepreneurship the Disney Way by Michael GoldsbyDisney University - Wikipedia › wiki › Disney_University
Disney University (DU) is the global training program for The Walt Disney Company employees ... Disney University has traditionally provided learning instructor-led classroom sessions but has expanded delivery methods to accommodate ...

Walt Disney - Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are... › quotes › walt_disney_131649

Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource - the minds of our children. Walt Disney ...

Every Classroom at Keller ISD School Gets Magical Upgrade ... › news › local › Every-Classroom-in-Keller-ISD-...

Aug 15, 2018 - Every Classroom at Keller ISD School Gets Magical Upgrade... Must-See North Texas Classrooms From 'Wizard of Oz' to Disney Decor.

Back to School with Disney Parks - The Walt Disney Company › back-to-school-with-disney-parks

Oct 16, 2014 - At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we are committed to giving back to the ... load up their shopping carts with supplies for their classrooms.

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Ryan Boeckman, Parkway Central Middle School
Jerry Johnson, Buena Vista University

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