Jennifer Wolfe is a strategic consultant in the education technology field and serves as an advisor to Kiddom. She is an expert in open educational resources and innovative learning models. Previously, Jennifer was a partner in the national nonprofit The Learning Accelerator.
For administrators who are facing the task of running summer Professional Development (PD) sessions after an embattled year, Educational Advisor Jennifer Wolfe shares tips to engage teachers and utilize newfound digital skills.
This has been an intensely challenging year for leaders, educators, families, and students. While much has been written on what we lost, and we cannot underestimate the loss in terms of life, the silver lining of the pandemic is that educators were pushed to shift instructional practices and lept forward in classroom innovation and use of digital tools.
Now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build on this leap and make a bold change in our education system. We can leave behind the old normal which did not serve many students well, particularly students of color. We can replace it with an improved system that offers students more voice, choice, and autonomy in their learning, preparing them for the world they will face as they enter the workforce. This will require us to rethink our professional development offerings as we prepare for next year.
1. Celebrate New Learnings & Determine a Way to Keep Skills Sharp
As you plan for your summer professional development, it is important to consider how to build on what was learned and focus on the skills that will prepare your team for the unpredictable school year ahead. This includes prioritizing supporting students in dealing with trauma, with a focus on social-emotional development. There are some wonderful resources you can share with your educators:
2. Take an Asset-Based Approach
I encourage you to take an asset-based approach which celebrates all that was achieved, even in difficult circumstances, and examines what students gained by having more autonomy and agency over their learning.
You may even kick off summer PD by sharing examples of what was learned and gained over the past year and having your team identify what they would like to keep as we return to in person classrooms. Some examples may include the use of tech tools such as Jamboard or Google Docs that engaged some of the students that were normally quieter because they don’t require speaking out. This is a great opportunity for educators to share the new skills they gained with their grade level teams and beyond.
3. Support Educators in Offering More Voice and Choice
Consider how you can support educators in offering their students more voice and choice over their learning within brick and mortar classrooms. Students thrive when teachers respect their choices and understand their needs. We saw in many instances that when students drive their own learning, they can do amazing things.
Another potential area for summer PD is around increasing capacity to use a variety of formative assessment tools. These can allow students to demonstrate their content mastery through invention, projects, and alternative assessment methods in a move away from standardized testing.
4. Remain Flexible & Stay Prepared
It is also important to do some preparation in the event the pandemic continues to require school communities to quarantine and shift rapidly to distance or hybrid learning. We must remain flexible, as this past year showed us we don’t know what is around the corner. TNTP developed a high-quality Covid-19 School Response toolkit with a rich set of resources to help in planning for next year, which I encourage you to review as you create your summer PD plans.
How Are You Adjusting Your Summer PD Sessions This Year?
This last year has helped us to imagine a new education paradigm that better serves all students. I hope you will use your summer professional development to think boldly about creating engaging and equitable learning environments that empower students and teachers alike. I’d love to hear how you're adjusting your PD plans this year. Please leave a comment below, or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jenniferawolfe.
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