I am writing this aboard a flight from the east coast, where I have just visited with my adult children, back to Louisville. I have always been fascinated with travel, not only as a means to experience distant places firsthand, but as an opportunity to leap the seeming limitations of time: I may live in a different time zone, or even a different hemisphere from that of my destination, but thanks to jet flight, I can shrink distance and collapse time. Twenty-first century communications technology likewise bridges geographic and temporal barriers, allowing me to see and talk to family members, friends and colleagues instantaneously, no matter where each of us sits with laptop or smart phone in hand. If I am here, and you are there, but I can see and hear you in real time, are we in different places, or, in some sense, in the same place?
These in-flight thoughts about the meaning of “place” connect directly to my reflections on a recent webinar that I attended—virtually, of course—on online professional development for educators. The real-time presentation focused on the characteristics of virtual PD that distinguish it from face-to-face continuing education and training, and the resulting challenges and opportunities for participants. Much of the emphasis was on how educators might recognize and evaluate the attributes of virtual training that can make it an effective and convenient substitute for in-person PD. But the ensuing discussion went the next step, suggesting that virtual PD can add value over traditional face-to-face professional learning when it facilitates continuing collaboration and feedback among participants and experts.
I would like to know about the experiences of educators and others with virtual PD, as both providers and consumers of professional learning. What has worked for you, as a learner or as a coach? What specific elements ensure an engaging, productive, effective process? If you’re a professional learner, what do you look for when shopping for virtual PD? If you’re a provider, how do you establish dynamic learning communities through the use of new technologies? Let’s get the discussion going. I’m right here.