5 tips for doing virtual professional development 

Part I: synchronous meetings

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Many teachers will tell you that good PD is hard to come by…and let me tell you from many years of experience, good virtual PD is even tougher to come by! After three years of designing and facilitating online learning, here are my lessons learned that are worth sharing as school leaders face the challenge of virtually training and developing teachers from a distance. 

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  1. Blend it up

Thinking about meetings with a Blended Learning lens can help you get creative and extra efficient with your time. Are there things that can be done in advance to prepare for the meeting? Are there portions of the meeting that can be addressed in email correspondence, self-paced modules, videos or reading material? Decide what can be done as pre-work and communicate what each person can “bring to the table” to prepare in advance of your meeting, to make the most of your time together online. You can create a hub where teachers can access all meeting-related materials and clearly call out in your meeting where and when they will need those materials. 

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  1. Make a dynamic agenda 

Talking at the screen for 45 minutes is a good idea, said no-one ever. As you design the agenda for your meeting think about how you can make it dynamic,  with moving, yet fluid segments. When I facilitated virtual meetings as a School Development Coach for New Tech Network I used the Experiential Learning Cycle developed by National Equity Project to help me develop my agendas. This cycle divided up a learning experience into 4 quadrants, which naturally cut up the meeting into quarters. By thinking about a meeting agenda as an opportunity to move participants through mini learning experiences, it will help the meeting feel interactive and applicable to the work of teachers, thus keeping them engaged. 

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  1. Make it collaborative 

I know that virtual meetings and conference calls generate the following mental scenario: ‘I just need to login and show that I’m “there” and then I can mute myself or turn my camera off and go back to the fun things I was doing before’  ~ don’t judge, we have all done that! But the best way to avoid 25 muted speakers is to ask them to collaborate by actually speaking and listening to one another. In my experience, the easiest way to do that is to take it from the experts, and use protocols. My favorite protocol resources are from Expeditionary Learning (yes, these are for students, but they work great for adult learners too!) and National School Reform Faculty. This is also an awesome book that has some great resources and ideas that I steal from ALL the time!  

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  1. Make it interactive 

If the meeting is too large and difficult to set up break-out rooms for collaboration, you can still keep it interactive by doing the following:

-Have participants journal in response to prompts you provide

-Ask participants respond to thinking frames using the chat box or padlet (I LOVE this resource for Visible Thinking routines online) 

*Want to see what this looks like in action? Check out my last webinar for Newsela where I model this!  

-Ask for real-time feedback using Mentimeter to keep participant feedback coming in on your shared screen during your presentation 


  1. Build in accountability

I know nobody likes the word accountability, but we all need it! Be sure to build in time in your agenda for people to actually do the work (or at least get started with it), or apply a skill/content presented in the meeting to their personal context. And at the end of your meeting close out with clear action items and a timeline for next steps. This will make everybody feel like the meeting was productive and clear on how it will guide the work going forward. 

Looking for more on how to lead the learning of your staff or how to “go virtual”? Check out the resources HERE under “professional learning” , HERE on the blog or this article…because #CraftEDcares.