The days of “sit and get” professional development are so 20th century. Educators are no longer limited to collaboration with their local peers, and now have the opportunity to form professional learning communities of practice with educators all over the world. One of the benefits of being a member of the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance (VLLA) is being able to harness the collective knowledge and expertise of the group members. There are so many unique and successful practices happening in blended and online learning within this group and everyone is eager to collaborate and share ideas. The idea that “the responsibility for knowing is sharing” permeates everything the VLLA does.
The VLLA consists of the Executive Directors of member organizations, along with several work groups including one focused on Professional Development. Last March, professional development directors from Virtual South Carolina, Idaho Digital Learning Academy, Georgia Virtual, North Carolina Virtual Public School, Indiana Online Academy, Wisconsin Virtual School, Illinois Virtual School, IDEAL-New Mexico and The Virtual High School met to plan collaborative professional development events in which teachers, administrators and other stakeholders from all member states and consortia could participate. It was decided that they would hold an Edcamp and book study during the summer.
Edcamps are “unconferences.” Organizers set the schedule for the day but all sessions are determined by participants on the day of the event based on current trends and topics of interest. Everyone is welcome to propose and lead a session where conversation and collaboration are the focus. The day is completely participant-driven. The Edcamp was held on July 27, 2016, and consisted of sessions every hour, for a total of six hours. Participants attended a kick-off session in Unhangout to set the agenda and meet participants. Each session was facilitated by the committee members or participants from the various states and hosted in Blackboard Collaborate rooms. Because participants were located all over the country, they used a shared Google Drive folder to post the agenda and any other materials needed.
There were 129 registered participants from ten states. The committee is already making plans for another Edcamp next summer and brainstorming ideas to market this free, collaborative event to any interested participants.
Another collaborative event hosted by the Professional Development work group was a book study featuring the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck. VLLA member staff from eight states planned and facilitated the book study which ran for eight weeks from June 12-August 12, 2016. Each week, collaboration in the Google+ Community and posted questions were facilitated by different VLLA members. During the last two weeks of the book study, two Twitter chats provided for synchronous collaboration and discussion among the 198 participants. Check out the conversation by searching our hashtag #VSLAPD!
Each state organization had the option of offering the opportunity for graduate credit, renewal hours etc. based on their state requirements. The Wisconsin Virtual School provided a sample syllabus submitted for graduate credit. Based on the evaluations submitted by the participants, the format using synchronous and asynchronous collaboration was a both informative and enjoyable.
These two events are just the tip of the iceberg, illustrating multi-state professional development collaboration. The VLLA plans to keep expanding opportunities for educators to share ideas for implementing technology and successful online learning practices.
An example of the Unhangout Edcamp interaction.
Getting the word out for one of the Book Study events.