Flipped Professional Development

Guest post by Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels), Technology Integration Specialist- Stillwater Area Public Schools

Video tutorials have been available to educators for many years. However, there is currently great momentum for using video resources for “flipped learning”. In the case of teacher professional development, district administrators are interested in the potential for “flipped” professional development, or Flipped PD. How can video resources change the way we conduct professional development? Will the outcomes be different?

Challenges to Traditional Professional Development

There are many challenges to traditional professional development. Today, large group PD time is often spent covering new technology tools and processes or new curriculum programs and strategies. But large group settings have challenges.

  • Experience – One of the challenges of traditional professional development is that everyone comes with a different set of experiences and skills. Just like in a classroom, this makes it difficult to ensure that everyone can fit the information into their context of experience. If I am working with a group of teachers on how to use Google Docs with their students in the classroom and half of them have never used Google Docs for themselves, then there are two very different experiences that need to be addressed in the delivery of new information.
  • Time – Another challenge of traditional PD is that individuals are not given an effective amount of time to practice what they have learned. Learning a new skill or process takes time and requires practice. Just as students are asked to practice new concepts before receiving feedback from their teacher, adult learners need time and space to practice what they have learned before they receive feedback on their progress.
  • Follow-Through – Most traditional professional development opportunities come in a one day package. We trust our teachers to be the best students they can be; to consume information and be ready to implement changes in their classrooms the following day.  Professional development needs to be ongoing.

Flipped PD

Stillwater’s model of professional development came out of many weeks of discussion about how we wanted to spend our time with teachers. We wanted to address the challenges of traditional PD: experience, time, and follow-through. We wanted to move away from demonstrating the basics of technology tools and towards helping teachers reach more meaningful levels of technology integration by using technology in ways that transform learning in the classroom. We knew that in order to do this we had to spend our time with teachers talking about transformational practices and provide them with examples and ideas as well as support and encouragement along the way.

To address the challenges of traditional professional development, we wanted to move our “how to” basic tutorials to a space that teachers could access on their own time. We made it a point to carve out time during the workday to meet with teachers by implementing a sub-rotation model to relieve teachers throughout the day. These workshops were scheduled on a monthly basis and would provide the follow-up needed for teachers to make significant changes in their practice.

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Creating Digital Resources

One of the first questions that people often ask us is, “Do you create all of your own videos?”  We are constantly creating new digital resources and have an endless list of video tutorials on our “to do” list, although we will use content created by others if it is appropriate for our teachers. But teachers prefer videos that we created for the district. There are distinct differences between the videos we create and the videos we curate. For one, it is difficult to find quality videos demonstrating specific tools while maintaining a similar look and feel to the tools we have in our district. This can be challenging for some teachers as they need everything to look exactly the same as what they see on their screen.

Teachers, just like students, prefer watching a video created by someone they know. This is basic human nature. We need to feel a connection with our teachers whether they are face-to-face or virtual. We have discovered a variety of ways to use video in our work. In addition to the typical how-to videos, we create videos for student consumption, to showcase student projects, to share best practices, and to provide specific instruction to an individual.

Beyond the Videos

The technology tools we have available to us today for creating, curating and sharing video content have propelled us into conversations about how we can use this flexible content to move our students and teachers forward quickly and intentionally. Flipped PD has become a focus at Stillwater Area Public Schools and, coupled with coaching, has had a great impact on teacher growth.

As so many flip learning educators will tell you, “It’s not about the videos.” But this could not be more true than with Flipped PD. The face-to-face time of Flipped Professional Development is where we have the greatest impact. Whether this is a large group setting or, in Stillwater’s case – small group workshop settings, the impact of flipped learning happens with the personalization of staff development. Flipped learning can be applied to these situations by providing content ahead of time. Time spent together can be dedicated to work time, problem solving, or discussion around the topic.

Easy starting points

Start Communicating!

One of the first things that you can do to implement Flipped Learning in your school or district is to create a culture of shared knowledge. Many administrators across the country have begun “flipping” their faculty meetings. Communication videos are created and shared with staff ahead of the designated meeting time. This allows the time together to be spent in more meaningful ways. Meeting time could turn into a discussion about a topic or planning time with colleagues. Include surveys in the flipped communication and use results to generate conversation during the face-to-face time. This is especially useful in situations where decisions need to be made that require input from staff. Flipped communication is transparent, and therefore increases staff trust and commitment to the school community. Changing how time is spent together can change an organization.

Provide Resources

Create a collaborative space for shared resources. Educators today can be overwhelmed with all of the information available on the Internet. Sometimes the best thing for them is a one-stop shop of resources that is specific to their needs. This includes district tools that they are expected to know how to use. Both video and printed tutorials are valuable as many educators still prefer to learn from a step-by-step handout. A collaborative space for shared resources allows the expertise of staff to be utilized and provides a sense of community.

Nurture Leaders

Flipped Professional development provides personalized resources for teachers and allows them to grow at their own pace. In many ways, Flipped PD becomes an instigator for innovation and provides the opportunity for teachers to become leaders across the district. Invest in good people. Find the leaders in your district and empower them with the tools and support they need to be innovative. Embrace change, as it’s the new “black.” Nurturing educators to be lifelong learners is vital to the continued growth of a district.

Stillwater Area Public Schools will be hosting the 6th Annual Flipped Learning Conference on June 17-19, 2013. To learn more about FlipCon13 and to register to attend either in person or virtually, please visit www.flippedlearning.org.