When I first started coaching, I considered professional development my nemesis. It took me more hours to plan for a session with teachers than it did to actually facilitate the session. And what seemed to work well with one group of teachers completely flopped with the next. I just couldn’t seem to figure out how to successfully AND efficiently plan for professional learning sessions that actually were effective AND enjoyable for all. Until I started notebooking. If you’re reading this, you already know about my Coaching Sketchnote book and how I use the design thinking process to craft my coaching role and plan professional learning sessions for teachers. And that was a game-changer for me, taking professional learning from my nemesis to hands-down my favorite coaching activity. 

But then things changed. And I seemingly had a new nemesis overnight: virtual professional learning sessions.

I felt comfortable and confident working with teachers in person and while I was certainly comfortable working with technology, it still required a shift in thinking and a whole lot of learning. I captured most of my learning along the way in my virtual coaching toolkit, a Padlet of ideas, resources, tips, hacks and more for virtual instructional coaching and even created a virtual professional learning checklist to guide planning my online sessions with teachers. But I needed more. I needed a template for professional learning sessions that would prompt me to design virtual sessions around what mattered most. Sessions that would honor teachers’ busy schedules, focus on key content to support their teaching and still incorporate connection, conversation, collaboration and especially, community. 

So I took a hard look at the virtual sessions I was creating, compared them to my checklist for virtual professional learning and created a template of sorts to guide my planning. Here are the slides I always include in each virtual professional learning session I facilitate:

  • Welcome Bitmoji Office Slide or While You Wait Slide: These first slides offer teachers something to look at and browse while we wait for the virtual session to begin. 

  • Press Record and Sign In: This slide is a tongue-in-cheek reminder to have teachers sign into the session and to record the session for those that cannot attend, something I typically forgot to do at the start of my virtual journey.

  • Opening Move and Personal Check-In: I always start my sessions with a bit of community and connection. We might play ‘Screens On Screens Off’, contribute to a Google Jamboard, laugh with a fun meme or even play digital word games together. 

  • Content Burst: This collection of 4 slides prompts me to focus on the content of the session in a way that honors teachers’ time and gets right to the point:

    • Name the goal/objective of the session. 

    • Give a short content burst of what matters most.

    • Provide a live model, demonstration and/or collaborate together. 

    • Invite teachers to make learning visible and share it with others. 

  • Discussions and Questions: Here, we connect and collaborate. We might have a whole group conversation, use the chat box, head to breakout rooms, share our thinking on Padlet or contribute to shared Google documents or slides. 

  • A Look Forward: I end each session with a look forward: what’s next for our professional learning, what take-aways and look-forwards can we extract from the session and what do we need next?

Depending on the purpose and the length of the session, I might add more content burst slides or extend our work together. But, if I do so, I always add in additional opportunities for interaction or a short break to re-adjust our tired Zoom eyes. If you're looking for additional guidance on this very topic, you might be interested in my series of 5 on-demand sessions on designing teacher learning. We explore all things PD and I hand over my most treasured templates so you can make them your own!

How do you plan for virtual professional learning? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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  1. Have you considered the implications of playing "hangman?"

    1. Honestly, I had not. It was a game played often in my own schooling and I only thought of it as a fun spelling game, with no other implications. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention so I can think more carefully about the language I use and the intent behind it.

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