How a district got teachers engaged in online PD

PD sessions were led by district teachers who had participated previously in the district's summer ed-tech camps
By: | October 15, 2020
Cumberland County Schools 3,300 teachers accounted for 10,000 PD sessions after the shift to online learning this spring.Cumberland County Schools 3,300 teachers accounted for 10,000 PD sessions after the shift to online learning this spring.

Teachers participated about 10,000 times in professional development sessions offered by Cumberland County Schools this spring after the sudden shift to online learning.

The North Carolina district averaged about 300 daily, voluntary participants—both teachers and administrators—as it offered several dozen sessions over a seven-week period, says Theresa Perry, the director of professional development.

The PD sessions were led by district teachers who had participated previously in the district’s summer ed-tech camps, where they began to develop online teaching skills, Perry says.

“When we had to transition to emergency remote instruction last spring, we had a cadre of teachers who had already been doing those kinds of things in their classroom,” Perry says. “We had a talented crew to automatically lead professional development sessions.”


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The district, which employs about 3,300 teachers, has remained fully online so far this school year.

The spring PD sessions, which ran from late March until mid-May, focused heavily on keeping students engaged during online learning and helping students manage stress in the remote environment.

Teachers also received guidance on allowing students to collaborate while online and how to use new software tools, such as interactive notebooks.

Some teachers have been using the district’s new learning management system to create online scavenger hunts in which students unlock clues, Perry says.

“Grace has been an opportune word in this environment,” Perry says. “We’ve encouraged teachers to allow themselves grace as well to give student grace. It is all about broaching new practices and concepts, and trying, failing and eventually succeeding.”


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