Keeping professional learning interesting during remote learning

The objective is to make sure we create a model that is meaningful to our educators; a professional learning model that will stick with educators during remote learning and in the near future.
Eujon Anderson is the technology director for Troy City Schools in Troy, Alabama.
Eujon Anderson is the technology director for Troy City Schools in Troy, Alabama.

The current pandemic has brought many challenges to education. Through challenging times, educators have experienced many obstacles from teaching either online or in a hybrid model, teaching students through technology, and learning how to communicate effectively with parents for support.

As a District Technology Director whose passion is to support educators, I have witnessed both instructional leaders and teachers work tirelessly to make sure that student achievement is still taking place in schools. With this being said, one of my challenges has been to make sure we continue with equipping educators with what they need, which includes professional learning for remote learning.

Remote learning has brought on many opportunities for professional learning and strategies to educators. From what I can tell, educators are extremely overloaded with professional learning. Whether it is a new digital tool, learning management systems, SEL, or even for mental health purposes, there are “PD” sessions everywhere coming from everyone.

So how can we make sure that educators are still getting the professional learning they need without overloading them? This is a question CTOs, Technology Coaches, Curriculum Directors, and anyone involved in professional learning may ask. For better terms, we must remember to make professional development matter for these teachers. In order to do so, let us revisit our current professional learning models, or look to actually creating one. The objective is to make sure we create a model that is meaningful to our educators; a professional learning model that will stick with educators during remote learning and in the near future.

Some of the significant problems with professional learning models are that there is a disconnect between educators because of the structure of the event, and how there is no meaning or substance with the learning. Basically, professional learning oftentimes could be treated as a one-time session, and educators are not receiving an experience that will help them grow within their classroom or profession. They were not included in the professional learning schedule and teachers are still asked to teach at a high level. What’s even more challenging in today’s time, is that these educators are expected to take back what they have learned from professional learning, achieve high expectations, and do this all during a new way of teaching, or remote learning (For more insight on Professional Learning tips check out this article).

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The best way to create a professional learning model, that would be considered meaningful to teachers, is to actually involve them. When creating a model for professional learning, administrators and central office personnel alike should consider the following;

  • Are we giving the teachers a voice?
  • Does the schedule work for everyone’s time and are we giving enough time?
  • Are we creating a space for teachers to share what they know and have learned?
  • Are they allowed to give constructive feedback?

Productivity is key

At FETC 2019, I did a session called Flipping the Staff Meeting. I opened the conversation with an image that said “The faculty meeting was a productive use of our time, said no teacher ever”. During this session, I stressed to participants, primarily administrators, that one of the major goals for professional learning is that teachers feel as if they were productive and that their time was used well. That statement is still true during remote learning, especially because of all the challenges that educators face with teaching. As administrators, we must make certain their time and efforts are well spent. The group should feel productive and that the sessions and learning are productive as well.

Create a relevant and meaningful learning model

Professional learning has to be meaningful for those participating. It is most important to have PD that is specific to their content or what they are teaching. One great way of achieving this as an administrator is to limit the concepts of professional learning. For instance, if the focus is education technology tools, keep the digital tools at a minimum and try not to overload them with so many digital tools. Get the assistance of your teachers by allowing them to bring their curriculum, lesson plans, and subject-content during the training to explain their challenges.

Self-directed and learner’s pace

It is important to collaborate with educators and work with them during professional learning. One of the best ways to keep educators interested in professional learning during this time is to have them learn at their own pace. This can be done by having a balance of synchronous and asynchronous methods of professional learning. For example, some schools have created online professional learning models that are a combination of virtual zoom/google meet live sessions, or recorded sessions. Tools such as Screencastify, Wevideo, or Loom are great options for pre-recording sessions and editing video for professional learning. By sending out recordings of sessions, educators can learn on their own time and at their own pace. To keep the interaction interesting and more creative, consider curating these sessions with Wakelet, and also add Flipgrid to the mix to allow educators to speak their minds about what they are learning. Whatever tools you use, just remember to give your educators time to explore and learn on their time.

 Encourage collaboration and build a professional learning community

Collaboration and growing a Professional Learning Community will always be key when creating a professional learning model that will remain effective for educators. Educators need an environment and opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts, and be able to help each other. I’ve seen teachers create professional learning communities to help them through learning different strategies, learning management systems, and even for encouragement during these times. Encourage these opportunities with your educators. Platforms such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or Slack are great tools to use to allow educators to collaborate.

Eujon Anderson is the Technology Director for Troy City Schools, in Troy, Alabama. Mr. Anderson was a featured speaker for FETC 2020.

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