Flip Everything You Know About Professional Development
At this point we are all pretty familiar with the buzz term “flipped classroom.” You may have heard it while attending a training session on the benefits and pitfalls of this practice, read about it online, or possibly even tried your hand at it yourself.
Flipping a classroom has been hailed as a unique take on delivering content, and for the most part, it is gaining popularity in classrooms nationwide.
Now, imagine another term that you are familiar with, “professional development,” or the abbreviation of the term to “PD” in an attempt to make it more palatable.
I am sure that the term PD also conjures up other ideas such as time (Monday morning PD is undoubtedly more gut wrenching than Wednesday afternoon PD, but no where near the dreaded Saturday afternoon workshops), place (cramped classrooms, sweaty roundtable discussions), and head space (mostly the feeling of being “hangry” with a dash of anxiousness as you consider all of the other things you could be doing).
As a trainer and former teacher, I understand how these factors affect both the participant and the facilitator. In fact, the all around idea of professional development tends to be unpleasant for both parties involved.
Professional development boils down to completing mandatory sessions so that boxes can be checked and schools are in compliance with the latest information on bloodborne pathogens.
While many teachers have abandoned the traditional classroom experience in favor of flipping their instruction, the same has not translated into how administrators deliver content to teachers. We focus on providing all of the benefits of flipped instruction to students; however, we have neglected passing those same benefits to our staff.
Why Flip Professional Development?
Flipping professional development gives teachers the flexibility to learn needed material independently.
While traditional notions state that learning must take place as a part of a group in the same physical space, we now know that this does not have to be the case.
Allowing staff the control of determining when and where they want to absorb PD material ensures that your audience is focused and in the mindset to learn.
Furthermore, your audience will have a record of what was presented that they can refer to if needed. All of my fellow teachers took notes during presentations. However, among the chaos of the first week of school, it was common to misplace important dates, notes, and instructions received during PD at the beginning of the year. Flipping professional development solves for this problem as instructors will have continuous access to the content delivered to them.
Lastly, there is evidence to support that teachers who engage with technology in professional development have an increased likelihood of using that technology effectively in their own classrooms.
Monica Beglau et al write in their ISTE whitepaper Technology, Coaching and Community: Power Partners for Improved Professional Development in Primary and Secondary Education that, “Teachers who have experienced technology as a teaching tool for professional learning, and who in the process have developed the skills for powerful use of technology in the classroom, can greatly improve student learning.”
For those administrators wanting to increase teacher usage of tech in their classroom, exposing teachers to technology through professional development is a powerful step towards that end.
Benefits and Pitfalls of Using Video for Your Flipped Professional Development
By far the most popular method of flipping instruction is through the use of video.
The benefits of video are numerous. For one, the instruction seems to be “live,” similar to what teachers are familiar with in traditional training sessions. If you create your own videos, the content can be perfected so that you deliver the material exactly how you want to (without the risk of unexpected interruptions or curveballs that tend to occur).
Furthermore, videos provide the ability to deliver content once. Even if you deliver content multiple times (think of state-required materials or content packages delivered to new staff), you only need to deliver the material once and record it. Then, hypothetically, you are able to use that video for the same lesson in subsequent school years, changing a formal sit down training to a one-click sending of your video lesson link.
To harness the power of video in flipped professional development, what has become popular is to create materials and then place them on video hosting sites (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.). Then administrators assign instructors a lesson by sharing a video link with them and hope they complete it before your deadline.
While video is the most popular—and in my opinion the most effective—method for flipping professional development, there are some glaring pitfalls.
These pitfalls all center around the idea that the administrator has no control over how instructors engage with the video. There is no way to tell if a lesson is completed, monitor progress, or assess whether the information in the video was actually learned by the instructor.
It’s as if the pendulum swings from its starting point of a totally controlled, rigid, in-house training and arcs to the opposite extreme of absolutely no control or supervision of whether or not content is completed by instructors.
Solving Flipped Professional Development Challenges with Interactive Video
Fortunately, various web services offer the ability to create a happy medium between the two extremes of professional development (controlled and uncontrolled) with the use of interactive video. Interactive video changes the passive viewer experience of simply watching a video to an engaging exercise where they respond to interactions and questions embedded into the video itself.
One such service is the video-based platform of PlayPosit.
PlayPosit offers a robust arsenal of tools to best tailor how you want to deliver content and monitor data (and it integrates with Schoology).
Not only can you embed questions into video sources such as Youtube, Vimeo, or any MP4 that you upload, but you are also able to choose from 8 different question types ranging from your standard Multiple Choice, to a Discussion Forum where teachers can post comments and react to ideas.
As an administrator, you are also able to monitor the data from the professional development you assign, see the progress of a lesson, the score (including information on responses to specific questions), and feedback from staff.
Of course there are other options, such as sending out Google Form surveys with pointed questions regarding the video, or providing tests to instructors at a certain deadline about information covered in your flipped training. While these alternative options are useful, they can be a bit cumbersome as they only add steps for instructors to complete in order to gain this data—and we all know that people, but particularly instructors, value streamlined, time-saving processes.
What’s the Flipping Point?
Anyone who has flipped a classroom will tell you that it is nerve wracking to make the decision and commit to it. Expect the decision to flip your professional development to be similarly difficult.
The benefits of making that change, however, far outweigh the initial time it will take to set up a flipped professional development curriculum. By incorporating interactive video into your flipped professional development you change what was once a one-way street of only delivering content, to a two-way street where content is delivered and information is received—scores, feedback, data, timestamps.
Take the step, let interactive videos help, and bring your professional development into the 21st century.
* PlayPosit is a sponsor of NEXT 2017. You can learn more about their solution and how it can help you flipping learning by joining them at Schoology NEXT 2017.