There’s a joke that goes something like…. “I wish I had more professional development sessions, said NO teacher ever.” Sadly, every joke has an element of truth to it. How many educators would say they wish they had more PD? Not many I’d guess.
There are some valid reasons for this. Educators are busy, we need professional development which is relevant and that we gain value from. Additionally, just like our students we learn more from PD that is engaging and fun.
As an instructional coach, I believe strongly in providing the type of professional development opportunities that do just those things for the teachers I work with. During this school year, I have been using Canvas (learning management system) as a tool to do so.
Using Canvas as the vehicle for professional development, I have been able to address some of these issues with PD and empower professional learning at our school.
Canvas is a digital learning platform which was recently provided for our faculty by our school system. As with any new tool, educators wanted to know why it would be valuable to learn about Canvas and integrate it into their classrooms. Rather than doing a traditional session on how to use this tool, we decided that the best approach would be to use Canvas as a tool for teacher learning so they could experience the benefits themselves. This has been a great success, and has the additional benefit that it has allowed me to address some of the things that can make PD something less than desirable.
The first way I began using Canvas was as a simple information portal for our faculty. I created a course and added all of the documents, resources, and links that would normally go in our huge back to school faculty handbook. Included is our calendar, forms, school handbook, as well as a place for PLCs to record meeting notes. All key information is now online, and at our fingertips without ever having to worry about losing the notebook.
I meet with teachers weekly during their planning periods for a time we call Team Huddle. During this time we discuss student progress, solve problems, and work through professional development. I created another course in Canvas as the home for all of our PD session materials. I add materials for each week to a module with that date and the title of what we are doing. On a content page under that heading is an agenda list for that day, and links to any materials we will be using.
One major benefit of collecting our PD materials in Canvas it that it allows easy reference back to any topic or material without having to create one more notebook. Although we typically work with these materials in a blended format, this allows any faculty member to participate even if they are off campus. No one has to feel like they missed out if they were not present for a session. Additionally, it allows us to keep learning outside of school. Recently we had a snow day on a date that was scheduled for PD. I simply added short videos of a few things that I needed to tell teachers, and then they worked through the session virtually on their own time rather than having to do a make-up session.
To me the most of powerful benefit to using Canvas for professional development has been how it has allowed an increase in interaction from all participants. By embedding tools like Padlet, every participant has a chance to share input and respond to each other. Additionally it has allowed me to collect information very quickly from participants so that I am able to tailor each session to those participants needs. Finally this has added to engagement because it has shifted our sessions from the traditional lecture style to something hands on where teachers can work on and explore something to put to use in their classroom.
The discussion board feature in Canvas makes it a great tool to use for faculty book study
discussions. It allows educators to participate when it is convenient for them, and still get the benefit of the powerful discussions about learning.
Using Canvas for Professional Developmet also makes differentiation much simpler. We meet in mixed subject groups, and this used to make it difficult to provide something that benefitted every subject area within a single meeting. Now I can begin with a common theme and then provide links to how that theme would develop in each individual subject area.
Using Canvas gives me more options for making PD fun by allowing embedding video, interactives, and graphics. Most importantly it has allowed me to maximize the usefulness of the time I spend with teachers so that they feel like they get value from every meeting. A side benefit is that teachers have become so comfortable using Canvas that many have implemented its use with their own students! Double win!