Virtual PD: Adjusting to the New Normal

The scramble toward distance learning in March highlighted some areas for improvement in the way we teach. How can we take the summer to adapt and grow? I talked with Kodable Ambassador, Carrie Willis about how she is adapting her summer virtual PD plans to support other teachers and come back stronger than ever in the fall!

Follow Carrie on Twitter @carriewillis18 to stay updated on her journey through virtual PD and education.

Carrie generously agreed to tell us more about the Professional Development that teachers go through and how they have been adapting to the changes. She addresses many different topics around education becoming virtual and the impact it has had on teachers. She has been working in early education for more than 15 years and currently works at the Valley Preparatory School.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights with other Kodable teachers Carrie! To begin, please tell us more about yourself:

I am an active Technology and STEM Director at my elementary school. As a current member of the Wonder Innovation Squad and Discovery Education Leadership Council, I present at both online and in person conferences to inspire other educators to use technology to help progress education.

Importance of Professional Development

Why is professional development important to you and the teachers you work with?

Professional development is VERY important to me. In my job, it is important for me to keep up with the new edtech tools and trends that are constantly changing. I want to make sure that I am knowledgeable with current tech and trends, so that I can develop engaging and relevant learning opportunities for my students (and staff). I prefer to attend in person PD sessions at conferences because I love to be inspired and challenged by other educators and I enjoy making personal connections with other leaders in the edtech community.

Do you look forward to PDs or dread them? Why or why not?

Yes! I love learning new things and making connections with other educators.

What does it provide for teachers? (ie. chance to recharge before the next educational school year, ability to brainstorm with others and learn different techniques, etc

PD provides an opportunity to spark excitement and inspiration to try something new. It is important to challenge both yourself and your students with new engaging lesson ideas.

Impact on Professional Development from COVID-19

How has COVID-19 affected the planning of your regional and local PDs

Many of the in person PD events I was planning to attend have been canceled, postponed, or redesigned to a virtual platform. I was planning to attend CUE in March, ISTE in June and DENSI in July. I have participated in many virtual training/PD sessions since March, both as a presenter and as an attendee. It is nice to have a virtual option when you cannot be there in person.

Are you planning to hold PD as planned or has it been postponed? Will it be via video calls or in person?

We are not sure what our fall PD schedule will be yet. We are still trying to figure things out based on the current situation of our state.

Do you think remote attendance will impact the quality of the PD (in comparison to past ones that you have presented at or attended in person?

I think people are not willing to pay a fee for virtual PD like they are for in person events. There is a value that can be placed on an in person event and people do not see that value (monetarily) with web-based PD sessions. When the sessions are free, and well advertised, they are very well attended! I presented for Discovery Education during their VirtCon and there were almost 4000 people LIVE online! They had over 6000 registrations as well. This is far more than we would ever be able to fit in a conference room.

Preparing and Attending Professional Development

Given the new remote PD structure, what are some ways that teachers are preparing to present for the PD? Have you had to adjust your mindset and approach to PD now that it is going to be delivered remotely? What changes have you made?

When I present remotely online to small groups, I try and have some engagement opportunities for the attendees. I try and use websites that are easy to get to where they can collaborate, answer questions, etc. This helps keep them active during the presentation. When presenting to large groups I try to make sure my presentations are relevant to a large number of people, and exciting and fun to look at. I try and be as relatable as possible when I am on screen.

How has the content you’re planning to cover changed with the new emphasis on distance learning?

For my own staff, I try and focus on tech tools and sites that they are already familiar with, so they are not overwhelmed with new tools, along with the already overwhelming task of preparing for a new way of teaching. As the weeks progress, I introduce new tools along the way so that they can keep their students engaged with fresh new lessons. Distance learning can get pretty boring so it is important to keep the students engaged through the long weeks.

In terms of professional development, what areas are you or the teachers you work with most in need of right now?

My teachers are most in need of easy to use tools and tips to help them easily transfer their curriculum to an online format.

How are your teachers making the most of remote learning? Are teachers in your district having difficulty adapting to the change or has teaching become easier in some cases? Can you share an unexpected benefit or success story about teaching remote?

We are lucky that our students all have access to technology, and we had a pretty good online infrastructure set-up before distance learning started. We are having to get creative when it comes to group work and projects, and hands-on building, art, engineering type activities, where we don’t know what materials students have at home. I am struggling with my robotics classes, because the students don’t have robots at home. A benefit to this whole process is that the teachers at my school are definitely learning how to leverage the different tech tools and subscriptions we have always had access to, but that they weren’t using to their full potential (or at all). I am excited to see how this changes their curriculum and classroom dynamic when things go back to normal!

How are you preparing for next school year? Have your expectations for training and learning changed? Tell us in the comments!

Free Event Resource Kit

Are you planning your own virtual event or PD? We put together a kit of all the main resources you might need to teach other about using Kodable.

Virtual Event Resource Kit

If Kodable has had a positive impact on your classroom, we hope you can spread the word and help other teachers learn more about it.

Read more about Remote Teaching and Learning from Home.