Professional Learning in the Time of COVID-19

April 17, 2020

Professional learning

"You are not working from home;

you are at your home during a crisis trying to work."

I've heard this twice today. I think it's an important distinction worth emphasising. 

- Neil Webb (@neilmwebb) March 31, 2020

 This tweet from @neilmwebb has stuck with me. In this extraordinary time, we’re working and learning while literally trying to survive. 

As we navigate a new shared reality of social isolation and virtual connectedness, there’s no scarcity of resources, webinars, and live-streams to help us to learn some new things along the way. For educators, having time to pause, take stock, and wade through the opportunities can be challenging, if not impossible at times.

As someone with the privilege of a very flexible work schedule, I’m attending webinars weekly, engaging in conversations about equity and remote learning, exploring ways to rethink how we use tools to support learning experiences, and hearing from experts about inclusivity. And while it’s all fantastic, thought provoking, and inspiring, it’s still a lot to process.

Knowing how—and even where—to start is hard. Here are few questions I ask myself when I consider my professional learning lately: 

  • What learning is most urgent? To answer this, I begin with the things I can control: trying to be specific and think in terms of what is actionable. Next, I consider the things I can influence, and how to best use this influence. Lastly, I think about all of the things that are out of my control and that I have no influence to change. These are the things I don’t need to waste time, energy, or effort on. For instance, I don’t need to learn about _____ right now. One new thing at a time is enough!
  • How can I mute the noise? Using social media tools such as Twitter lists makes it easier to filter out the noise (and news) and hone in on the accounts, hashtags, and information that I want to explore for learning.
  • Who am I looking to for guidance? Organizations such as Edsurge , EdElements , edWeb , and ISTE are hosting webinars and live chats on timely topics. It’s impossible to attend everything at once, but most of these events are recorded and archived for later viewing. I sign up, add it to my calendar, and participate live or use the recording link to watch or listen when I can.
  • How can I “lift” and “lean”? While we’re physically isolated, we can still connect. Learning from my colleagues and friends in my professional learning network is just as important as ever. With free web conferencing tools such as Zoom , and even video chat apps like FaceTime and Google Duo, it’s easy for me to set up virtual coffee chats and happy hours to share and learn. I’ve been able to lift others up when they have questions, need a thought partner, or just need to vent. And I can lean when I’m having trouble or need support finding a solution to a problem I’m trying to solve. 

Wherever and however you choose to learn, remember that there is no playbook. We are all in this together, iterating as we go!