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What If? The Power of Virtual Professional Development

Teachers are learners. We spent countless hours reading, writing, planning, reflecting and making thousands of instructional decisions to create safe, caring and productive learning environments for our students. But more often than we would like, mandated professional learning is bounded, decontextualized and isolated from practice with others.

So, what if we took a risk and blurred the traditional lines of professional development? What if we created innovative spaces for teacher learning to enhance connection and collaboration? What if we shared our work with the field so that we could learn and lead together? I was honored to be included in a recent virtual professional learning opportunity lead by Briannah Burrell and her team of literacy coaches in Texas and experienced firsthand the power technology had to innovate teacher learning and construct knowledge together in ways previously not possible.

Briannah lead a professional learning session to help teachers unpack the new Units of Study and used You Tube to broadcast the session to her multiple buildings so all could participate, regardless of location. She used the chat feature to connect educators together and shared her efforts on social media, connecting with educators and authors to learn with. I was thrilled to learn of her innovation and joined the session. As I participated, I was struck by how powerful the experience was, enhanced and supported through digital tools to create new opportunities for teacher learning:

Technology can break down barriers and increase equity for teacher learning:
While Brianna was hosting the session in person at one location, she was able to connect with multiple buildings in her district and widen her reach. This provided teachers unable to attend in person the opportunity to attend from their own buildings or even their homes.

Technology can support collaboration in multiple ways:
Teachers working together in person were able to connect and collaborate, but by enabling the chat feature, they were also able to connect and collaborate with other educators at other locations. Participants connected, shared their thinking and offered ideas and resources to support their collective work.

Technology can provide access to educators and content previously not possible to support and energize learning:
This is where things got exciting. When Briannah shared her excitement for her virtual PD on Twitter, she earned recognition for her innovation. While originally a learning opportunity for her own teachers, sharing her efforts expanded her audience to the wider field and teachers were able to learn alongside Cornelious Minor, a national speaker and staff developer with Teachers College who joined in. You could visibly see the energy and enthusiasm of sharing the learning space with him online, something that would not have been possible without technology….and tasking a risk to share our work.

When we think differently about how we define collaboration and the spaces we engage in such work, we reimagine teaching and learning and see new possibilities for our work together, often widening our professional learning networks in the process as we encounter new ideas and meet new educators. So, as you think forward to the professional learning opportunities you hope to create for your teachers, consider adding a virtual element to your work and broaden your audience to give teachers a fresh perspective and inspiration to participate. Don’t forget to share your efforts widely so others can join in!


  1. Hi Stephanie! Thank you for being a part of our first live session! We have more coaches that are planning more live session in the near future. Your book has pushed our thinking beyond we could ever imagined! Thanks again!


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