Don’t Forget about Professional Development Amid COVID-19 Crisis

March 20, 2020

By: Susan Gentz Vice President, K20Connect @shoing

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is creating a new normal for everyone across the globe.  Historically, times like these have often led to the most extraordinary outcomes.  The Washington Post recently published an article on how Sir Isaac Newton used his time at home during the black plague to do his best work. Our current circumstances are quite similar and the most innovative leaders in education will use this disruption to not only think about how and what content is being delivered to students, but also to identify alternative learning opportunities for educators as well as the current and aspiring leaders in their districts.

Professional development is often viewed as something that must be done on campus and in-person.

Several districts – mostly those in rural areas – have incorporated virtual learning into their programs.  While those districts made the move out of necessity, the success of those programs has inspired districts, big and small, urban and rural, to look at online professional development as an effective way to bring learning to their teams.  From personalized learning playlists to simulations, now is the time to truly embrace the world of online professional development – there is nothing to lose.

Research has found many benefits to online professional development. According to the Aurora Institute, “Online professional development (OLPD) addresses the problem of increased demands on decreasing teacher time as it expands the professional communities of participants, thus reducing their isolation and increasing potential for innovation.

High-quality, job-embedded OLPD programs take multiple forms embodying:

  • community building and sustainability
  • ongoing, facilitated support
  • application of learning
  • reflection on outcomes”

Recognizing these constraints, scheduling PD sessions for a time and on a topic that works for all is nearly impossible.  The idea of ongoing, anytime, anywhere professional learning eliminates that challenge and is needed today more than ever. The early adopters of personalized learning recognized that PD should not look the same for every educator and it should be available when time allows.  During a global experiment in virtual learning for students, it is reassuring to know that that there are tried and true online options for educating our educators.  Online simulations are an accessible and efficient first step into the world of engaging online professional development.

This is why we partner with Education Leadership Sims (SchoolSims). SchoolSims’ extensive library of simulations provides an opportunity for current and aspiring school leaders to practice dealing with situations before facing those same issues in real-life.  Unlike reality where so much is at stake, virtual simulations allow participants to face difficult scenarios, make decisions, and face the consequences of those decisions – all within the same session.    If practice makes perfect, playing and replaying different simulations provides leaders a chance to exercise judgment in realistic scenarios to create the muscle memory necessary for effective critical thinking. Making a wrong decision and experiencing the outcome in a safe environment prepares leaders to make the right decision when it truly matters.

SchoolSims is supporting the education community by offering access to a free simulation for current and aspiring school leaders to experience during their time away from the district. Click Here to get started on a free simulation today.

Let’s transform education together by realizing the potential of effective, engaging, anytime, anywhere professional learning for educators – whether school is in session or not.  Although COVID-19 has many downfalls, we must find the silver linings, and an opportunity for educators to focus on their own learning for a time is certainly one worth mentioning.  It has been nothing but encouraging to see the education community coming together during this time to offer resources for learning while we all work to combat this novel virus.