In part 4 of this 4-part interview, Class Tech Tips founder Monica Burns discusses how edtech can be used to help teachers with their professional growth and teacher learning.

Watch the interview video on edtech for teacher learning above, or read the transcript below.

Portfolios, collaboration, and videos: edtech for teacher learning

– [Adam] Welcome to another PLtogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video observation platform for streamlining feedback to teachers. Today, we’re talking with Monica burns. She’s the author of classtechtips.comm as well as several books, including Ed Tech Essentials, out this year from ASCD. Monica, thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you so much for having me.

– What we’ve been talking about, tools for teachers to use with students, and ways for leaders to support their teachers to use tools with their students, but I kind of want to shift a little bit here, and think about how Ed Tech could be part of professional learning for the adults. And so, you know, I’m curious from you, I mean, what are you seeing out there in terms of advantages to making this part of the professional learning process for teachers given that we expect them to use it as part of the learning process with students?

– Well, one thing that I think is important to consider, is what tools you are using in a professional learning experience. and whether or not they mirror what a student experience might look like. It’s a really great opportunity to bring your colleagues into a same space so that they see things from a student perspective, and it can help build more empathy and understanding about what a student experience might look like, moving through an LMS, when you take on that student role, right, as a learner in a professional space as well. So that’s one thing that I see often is that inside a learning management system, a teacher or a educator at different levels might have the role of a student in a course, as part of a professional learning that’s happening in their school, or in their district. So that’s one way that it’s been interesting to see the use of different tools from a professional standpoint, there’s also a lot of great tools that can help with collection of resources, developing professional portfolios, those may be ones that are similar to what students are using in terms of their own creations, but it’s a good opportunity to build out an artifact of your professional experience over the course of the year. I had an article for Edutopia, I guess earlier this year or last year, around building out a portfolio for your remote learning or distance learning experience, and what it can look like to gather different artifacts to chronicle a period of time. I know in some states they use the Danielson framework as part of a coaching role, or to get feedback to different teachers, and if you are collecting artifacts that go along with different domains, right, you might pull them together in a digital space similar to the way we would expect a student to create a portfolio or artifact of their learning at the end or throughout a school year. So, there’s a lot of opportunities for those products of professional learning, so the ability to do create something that demonstrates growth in a particular area, and then of course, there’s a lot of ways for educators to collaborate across grade level teams, across a district, across the state, or a cohort, or whatever that group might be. Everything from creating a Wakelet collection full of resources for a unit of study that’s coming up, to creating a Google drive folder full of different presentation decks you might pull from. If you want a couple of great examples or primary source documents to talk about. So I love the way that I’ve seen technology used in lots of different ways. and it’s a good opportunity to mirror student use of tools. Just earlier today, I was leading a session for a group of educators virtually, and we brought in a Jam Board opportunity, for them to post some ideas, which is the same thing I would have done, right, kicking off a lesson with a group of eighth graders, right, but the topic would have been very different.

– You were talking there a little bit about building collections of resources, and it feels like the softball back to me to say maybe a collection of teaching on video, and how that could power teachers to talk about teaching a little bit more, obviously a topic very near and dear to my heart, but yeah. You know, tell us why can video, and collaborating with video, especially when we talk about recording teaching and its various forms, be so powerful as a professional learning tool.

– Well you bet, there are just so many reasons why that resonates, and I know I’ve been there on both sides of it where I’ve been leading a lesson for a group, where I’m being observed, or I’m giving a demo lesson where teachers are observing me, or I’ve been quietly as best as I can, sitting in the back of a room, you know, taking a few notes, jotting down a few things and then ready to have a conversation with the teacher afterwards. And so, the power of video in those situations to be able to go back to the tape, right, which is what I might say if I was coaching a football team, right, pointing back to something, or being able to give really specific praise and feedback in a particular area, when you have that video artifact, that evidence of professional growth to point to, I think it can be really powerful from a one-to-one perspective, but then if you’re building a library or a collection of great examples, I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had plenty of conversations of what does this look like, right, with someone, and if you can say, well, this is what it could look like, or this is what I’m talking about here when we are having this conversation, and so the more that you can build out that, even at a school or district level, it’s much more meaningful to see your colleague down the hall, who you might grab pizza with on Fridays during lunch, right, doing something wonderful that you’re ready to replicate, then something that might feel a little bit more anonymous or unrelatable, there’s benefits of course to both of those, but I just love the community building aspect that can happen when done right.

– Yeah, I mean, you’re, I think I’m in agreement here when you’re saying that teachers love to watch video of other teachers they know, teaching the students that they also teach. You know, it also makes me think that there’s this opportunity, how, you know, video enables, you know, kind of collaboration experience, not just down the hall, but you know, among the fifth grade teachers across the district or the science teachers across the district, and it almost feels like, and I’m curious if you would agree, like given that much of what’s happening in classrooms right now we’re questioning, is this still the right way? There may be more need to kind of see representations of teaching right now than potentially ever before.

– Yeah, and you need such a great point about, you know, wanting to see people in your own school or in your own district, and bring those moments to life, but, you know, there are folks that might be in a place where they don’t have someone who’s in their school or district, and that could be from a geographic reason. It could be because their growth level is just different than where their colleagues are, in terms of their specific needs. They could be teaching something, and they’re the only person in a district of 10,000 kids that is teaching that one thing, right, even in a big space, you know, that might be the case. So if you’re able to bridge those gaps, and have those connections with people that are maybe far away or just one time zone different, who are really going to be able to give you meaningful, relevant feedback, or provide an example that you can then build into your own practice. I mean, just the possibilities are endless there, and it’s not just that local community building piece, but you have a potential to really build a professional learning community with walls outside of your school or your district.

– It sounds like you may have been weaving in a theme there of one of the benefits of using Edtech with students, the differentiation. It sounds like you may have been weaving that in here, related to the professional learning aspect of different learners at different levels, in terms of, you know, the power of collaboration across various different spaces.

– Absolutely, and we know that even, you know, we might have interests as educators that are different than anyone else in our building, or there might be things that we’re excited about, or we might be in a space where, you know, there isn’t that collegiality, you know, I feel very lucky to have spent so much time teaching in a school as a new teacher where the doors were open, and everyone was very supportive, and there are a lot of people to pop in, and offer help or guidance, but if you’re, it’s a new teacher, someone who’s new to a grade level, new to a building, whatever it might be, right. There’s always that opportunity to get something that’s more personalized if you’re expanding your options, and that might be just removing some of the, kind of the barriers of being in a smaller or limited space, and opening up the doors a bit.

– I like the idea of opening up your doors virtually, to anyone you’d like to invite in. Monica, thank you so much for joining us to be part of PLtogether. If you’re interested to know what we talked about before this or who else I’ve talked to, head to pltogether.org for the rest of this conversation, and many more. Monica, thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you so much for having me.

For more interviews with education leaders about teacher learning and other insights, check out all of our PLtogether Lounge Talks

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