4 Simple Steps to Design Collaborative & Interactive Online PD With and For Teachers

online PD
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As much of learning for students has moved to online spaces, even when physically in school, the same is true for teachers as lifelong learners. 

This blueprint provides four simple steps that can be used to co-craft professional development opportunities with and for teachers within online spaces, in which they learn and build new skills as well as interact with tools that can be used in their own pedagogical practice, all while having a meaningful role in the process.

1: Assess Actual Needs  

Similar to starting in-person PD, for online PD determine what topics or skills teachers need to work on to support their efforts. Instead of deciding these topics with administration, use an online tool such as Google Forms to survey teachers regarding what topics they’re interested in learning more about. Teachers know it is best practice to approach instruction by connecting to students’ interests, and the same should be done for deciding on foci for PD. 

2: Include Teachers in Preparations 

After the needs assessment survey has revealed the topic or skill that teachers would like to focus on during PD, seek out educators who are interested in leading or collaborating to craft parts of the learning. While it is sometimes necessary to bring in outside consultants and experts, teachers already have a strong knowledge base that can be leveraged. Using an online curation tool such as Wakelet can provide a space for teachers to contribute materials and content for the PD, without having to constantly find time to meet. 

3: Co-Facilitation While Leveraging Digital Tools 

Now that teachers, in concert with administration and/or external consultants, have put together materials, use an online meeting room such as Zoom to hold the interactive online PD. Zoom allows for verbal communication through the microphone and nonverbal through emojis indicating likes, claps, etc., so teachers can continuously be part of the sessions, as opposed to just listening to someone talk to them in person. 

During the PD, smaller groups can gather in breakout rooms to discuss topics more in depth. This also is a good opportunity to pair teachers in similar grade bands and/or subject areas, or to group teachers with those they do not typically work with, which can provide fresh perspectives. 

Teachers can also participate with the chat option, and facilitators can use polling to keep participants engaged. Plus, with the transcription features of Zoom, there will be a written documentation of the PD that can be referred to in the future and to be maintained in files. 

Finally, the share screen feature of Zoom will allow you to add video, readings, websites, and a variety of other content that can increase engagement. Just like with students, it is important to constantly stop and ask questions, have polls ready, take advantage of the break out rooms, and provide opportunities to contribute and share experiences throughout the PD to help keep everyone involved.

4: Plan for Translating Learning into Practice  

Toward the end of the PD, time should be allotted to allow teachers to start planning how they will integrate what they have learned into their own teaching. This can be done as a reflection piece – for this exercise it may be helpful to have teachers split up into even smaller breakout rooms so they can have a colleague or two available for brainstorming.  

While attending PD may not be at the top of teachers’ bucket list, designing interactive and engaging online PD can be something that is enjoyable to teachers. Most importantly, when done correctly, teachers can leave online PD with a plan that can support the overall success of students. 

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Dr. Stephanie Smith Budhai is an associate clinical professor in the department of Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum at Drexel University, in Pennsylvania. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies and K-12 teaching certifications in Technology Education, Instructional Technology and Business, Computers, Information Technology, Special Education and Elementary Education. She is also the 2021 Emerging Leader for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) and the 2017 ISTE Awardee for Excellence in Teacher Education. Dr. Smith Budhai is a Nearpod, and VoiceThread Certified Educator.  Dr. Smith Budhai has more than a decade of online teaching experience, and has published myriad books, articles, and invited editorials surrounding the use of technology and online learning in education. Her publications include: 

- Leveraging Digital Tools to Assess Student Learning 

- Increasing Engagement in Online Learning: Quick Reference Guide

- Culturally Responsive Teaching Online and In-Person: An Action Planner for Dynamic Equitable Learning Environments 

- Teaching the 4Cs with Technology

- Best Practices in Engaging Online Learners through Active and Experiential Learning Strategies

- Nurturing Young Innovators: Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom, Home and Community