Why Professional Learning Should Be Coached, Collaborative, and Connected

Think of the best professional learning experience you’ve had. Why did it stick with you? Most likely it was meaningful, relevant to your own work, and maybe it even refined your practice and impacted student outcomes. Now, if I asked if that experience was online, I’d bet your answer would be, “no”.

Too often online professional learning is sterile, dull, and unengaging. You’re asked to sift through some readings, watch a few videos, and then post a discussion thread in an endless scroll of posts. At GOA, we’ve found that online professional learning can be just as meaningful and authentic as in-person experiences, if they are designed to be coached, collaborative, and connected.

Flipgrid Coaching

Using Flipgrid, Coach Jamey facilitates an online professional learning discussion.

The value of a coach in professional learning is immeasurable. Coaches make professional learning personal, goal-oriented, and supported. With some simple creativity and use of a few technology apps, online coaching can mirror that of in-person coaching. Using video conferencing apps like Zoom, coaching relationships can become as real and authentic as those in place-based schools.

Coaching Slack

Online collaboration using Slack

Professional learning should also be collaborative where a community of learners share ideas and grow together. By using tools such as Flipgrid and Padlet place-based groups can work to solve problems of practice together, curate and share resources, give each other feedback, and affirm each other’s work.

In an online professional learning community, we must be connected to a larger world, which is often limited by the walls of our place-based classrooms. Global connections challenge our own beliefs, practices, and create a diversity of thought. According to The Asia Society, “The globally competent student learns how to synthesize information and ideas from many sources and perspectives, and makes well-informed decisions to act on what is learned”. If we are asking our students to be globally connected, so must we ask ourselves as their educators and school leaders. By bringing our professional connections online, faculty and staff can now connect, interact, and engage with colleagues at schools all over the world. Shared curation tools such as Evernote and collaboration spaces such as Slack allow ongoing collaborative work to occur regardless of time, space, and place.

Online professional learning doesn’t have to be dull. With a few common tech tools, schools create long-term, meaningful professional learning experiences embedded into the daily lives of their communities.

Summer is a busy time at GOA, with our in person summer conference for professional learning in full swing. To stay in the loop on our summer conference, including free ways to be involved asynchronously, follow GOA on Twitter @GOALearning and use the hashtag #GOALearning. For more on professional learning opportunities and our fall courses, check out our Fall 2017 course offerings page.

Global Online Academy (GOA) reimagines learning to enable students and teachers to thrive in a globally networked society. Professional learning opportunities are open to any educator. To sign up or to learn more, see our Professional Learning Opportunities for Educators or email hello@GlobalOnlineAcademy.org with the subject title “Professional Learning.” Follow us on Twitter @GOALearning. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.

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