Tools and Resources for Professional Learning

What tools, practices, and resources help innovative professional learning? 

As Assistant Principal (Acting) and Head of the English Department, I have opportunities to deliver professional learning. My natural inclination is always towards creative tools like Clips and iMovie. I am fortunate to teach at Orewa College in Auckland, New Zealand, where all students have technology in their hands.

Many in my position know that professional learning can be a minefield at the best of times. I love my school, but it is a sprawling mass of very diverse people. And I'm talking about the teachers! We have over 120 staff members and many of them fit snugly into their curriculum siloes. Finding common themes for professional learning is when it can become tricky. However, the answer might lie in providing tools, practices, and resources creatively.

Last week, we had a Teacher Only Day and I was asked to provide some professional learning and development (PLD) on Creating Engaging Resources. Happy days, I love being digitally creative.

 

Slide Theory

One Tool One Skill

I believe that as a school, we used to have students create and innovate much more than we currently do. The creation included a fantastic level of scripting and filming and there was a high level of engagement. Without going into too much detail, I had a hunch that many curriculum areas were sliding into the trap of providing slides for teaching. And accepting slides as learning.

 

One Tool; One Skill

This over-reliance on slides becomes a boring and unimaginative daily repetition. I know this is potentially an over-generalisation, however many teachers who attended my sessions admitted to resorting to slides because students found them 'easy.' My hunch was affirmed. So, can we improve on this slide generation?

 

Kaupapa- Content

Key to Successful PLD

At my PLD sessions, I was conscious that I didn't want to dismissively slam all slide decks, they do have their place. We discussed the idea that one tool potentially develops one skill, and we agreed that beyond boring, this is very limiting. As the discussion opened up, teachers started to realise that they were all (off in their siloes) asking students to 'create slides to show understanding of...'

Imagine four lessons a day of that, on repeat?

However, I have learnt over the years that the key to successful PLD is giving teachers what they are used to in a slightly upbeat format. And then building on that.

 

Before (Template version)
 
After (My Version)

Tools like Canva

We spent some time playing with Canva. Yes I know, there is some level of irony in presenting a slide deck to rail against slides. But my point was that we can use more powerful tools and be more creative, with not much extra effort or training. I do believe that the more creative and engaging teaching resources are, the more the students up their game. Then, the leap from slides to infographics, interactive posters, podcasts and iMovie creation is a relatively small one. And often this leap is initiated by the students

I did some synchronous creation, taking a jam-packed messy slide and improving it. This helped with the design element and also showed the huge variety of tools embedded into Canva.

 

Messy Slide
 
Improved Slide

Creativity Creates a Buzz

Then it was playtime, with teachers taking an existing resource, adapting and improving it. I am aware that this is not the most innovative PLD. However, I was mindful of our context. As a country, we are currently in a curriculum refresh transition period. And face the rollout of nationwide common literacy and numeracy assessments. When teachers get overwhelmed with deadlines and change, they tend to fall back to old ways. Notwithstanding, in both sessions, I felt the buzz of excitement people get when they are being creative and feel that they have a handle on how to navigate a new digital tool. If they leave the PLD session and create more engaging and attractive resources, I'll take that as a win!

   

Play Time!

Coaching with Clips

Professional Learning can feel frustratingly slow with the small steps forward, and then the slide to the side before the next small step forward. But we have so many powerful tools, practices, and resources, that we simply need to harness them creatively. And then push a bit further. And repeat. Our students deserve good practice.  


Call to Action

My call to action is to encourage staff to experiment with tools that allow voice recording and moving images. Coaching with Clips is my working title 🎬 What tools, practices, and resources are you planning for your next innovative professional learning? 




 


 

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Posted on May 21, 2024

Linda thank you for sharing! I too have heard the "I used Slides because it was easy." I love how you focused in on one tool and multiple ways to use it. That is my favorite professional learning strategy and it's highly effective when working with teachers from multiple different content areas. I think teachers get so overwhelmed by all of the new that working with one tool and the multiple ways it can be used builds a sense of comfort before moving on to the next new shiny tool.

A colleague and I are getting ready to highlight the multiple ways Keynote can be used to activate learning. One way we are highlighting multiple content areas is to show and practice a strategy and then provide intentional time and space for brainstorming. The images below are an example we will use for ABC brainstorming where the teacher shows a picture and students brainstorm words or short phrases beginning with each letter of the alphabet.  

Keynote slide with letters A to Z.
Brainstorming template students can add text or use Apple Pencil to write their words or phrases next to each letter.

 

After modeling the strategy, teachers are given time to think about how the strategy can be used in their content area. We start some brainstorming for them and give space to add their own thoughts.

Posted on June 05, 2024

Thanks for sharing this activation activity Jennifer. It is such a good idea!

Posted on June 17, 2024

Jennifer, love this Keynote PL idea, to ignite thinking in new teachers and refresh thinking with seasoned teachers. The Apple Ecosystem is so robust with innumerable ways to teach and learn with each app individually and then exponentially with apps combined.

Posted on June 06, 2024

Linda your post is so well said! You certainly point out some of the exact challenges I run into when facilitating professional learning. Thanks so much for the approach and tips, they are certainly things I will try. Loved your point from a student’s perspective - how many slide presentations can one do!

Posted on June 07, 2024

Thank you Cheryl! We don’t want students drowning in slides 😁

Posted on June 17, 2024

One practice we use to help both teachers and students explore the possibilities within the Apple Ecosystem is a purposeful play workshop model. Using backwards design, we look at future-focused skills for students to learn, embed them in our PBL/CBL experiences, and then develop these purposeful play workshops to teach them the hard skills. For example, maybe they are putting together a regional tourist commercial (as part of 4th grade learning standards), we have a workshop on skills such as animation in Keynote, editing in iMovie, using Clips animations, utilizing the production process, and more. As a learning coach, I typically run or co-run the workshops -- demonstrate and teach, students and teachers play and learn and take steps beyond, and then apply skills into creative project. Sometimes, it is in the moment and sometimes it is planned out. Either way, both kids and teachers burst with skills, ideas, and creativity.

Posted on June 18, 2024

Linda! I love this statement, "However, I have learnt over the years that the key to successful PLD is giving teachers what they are used to in a slightly upbeat format. And then building on that." To our teachers that are overwhelmed with all things classroom, it's important to show them it's not something new, it's just the next step! Yes! You're doing an amazing job, and you can incorporate a new skill to that and go even further! Thanks so much for sharing!

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