June 25, 2020

How We Used Virtual PD to Support Teachers During the COVID Shutdown

Marshall Beyer and Sitara Ali
A PD leader hosts a PD session over video conferencing

When schools closed and moved to remote learning, it wasn't just the students who needed support for their digital learning. Teachers needed support in digital teaching as well. Marshall Beyer and Sitara Ali, educational technologists from Turlock Unified School District, discuss how they implemented virtual PD to provide distance learning support for their educators.


Marshall: School closures and COVID-19 weren't something that we thought we would ever see. Once we got notice that schools in the state were shutting down, Sitara and I had a conversation about how we could support teachers during this school closure. Once we got notification that our district was closing due to COVID-19, we decided that conducting virtual PDs for our teachers would be the best way to provide distance learning support and PD during this time. This idea was presented to our educational services department and our teacher union the week our school closed. Both parties were in favor of the idea, and we started conducting virtual PDs the next week.

Sitara: This would not be possible without technology. Through technology, we were able to hold live virtual PDs through our conferencing software, and then make those PD recordings available for teachers to access on our YouTube channel or via Marshall's podcast, Taking a Byte Out of EdTech. This allowed us to differentiate our PDs for all of our teachers, those who were able to attend live and those who weren't.

Marshall: Our technology software has allowed us to differentiate our virtual PDs for all of our teachers. We were able to provide video recordings for our visual learners. For those that needed to read the presentation, they had access to our slides and all of our speaker notes. And for those that were auditory learners, they had access to the podcast. We also emphasized teacher self-care and going slow throughout the entire process, which we felt helped us in being successful. Our PDs were based on teacher need and teacher feedback, making each PD specific to what our teacher's goals and wants were. Our PD is focused on ways that teachers could use technology now during distance learning, but also how they could take this skill and use it in the classroom once we returned to some type of normalcy.

Sitara: Our district uses Google software and Chromebooks, so we were able to leverage those platforms. Through G-Suite, we were able to create and share resources easily with our teachers. We first created our presentations on slides, so we were able to use the collaborative aspect of that. Then we were able to use our Google site, where teachers could access our PD schedule along with links to presentations and resources. From there, we uploaded the recordings of our PDs to YouTube. And we use social media in district communication and an internally shared Google doc with links to all resources to spread the word to our teachers and staff about the upcoming virtual PDs.

Marshall: We feel that professional development has had a positive impact on our teachers during school closure. From the feedback we've received, the COVID-19 shutdown has pushed teachers out of their comfort zone, and our PDs have given them the opportunity to go out on a limb and try something new. We were able to provide multiple levels of support for our teachers who were all at different comfort levels when it came to technology. Since teachers are trying new ways to connect, communicate, and provide instructions to students, this also had a positive impact on our students as well. This has provided an opportunity for all students to share their thoughts and collaborate through things like Google classroom, collaborative slides, or other district-approved applications. Students who wouldn't normally speak out in class are now completing amazing projects and coming out of their comfort zones as well. We also emphasize different ways that teachers can reach out to students who don't have internet access at home, which helped foster that connection between teacher and family.

Sitara: We have received so much positive impact from teachers during this time. Some teachers have said that they were grateful for us both. We went both above and beyond to help during these crazy times and during distance learning. And they look forward to each time with us every day.

Marshall: Originally, this was just going to be something that we did to try to support teachers during the COVID-19 shutdown. That has now changed based on the request of all of our teachers saying that they want the virtual PDs to continue during the school year. We're going to continue conducting these PDs to provide our teachers with ongoing professional development that is aligned with not only the teacher's needs, but with our district goals as well.

About the speakers:
Marshall Beyer photo

Marshall Beyer is the Coordinator of Educational Technology for Turlock Unified School District. Previously, he taught in the classroom for 8 years and then was an EdTech coach for 4 years. In 2018, Marshall earned his Master’s degree in Educational Technology. Marshall is a Level 1 and 2 Google Certified Educator, a Leading Edge Certified Digital Educator, Common Sense, Flipgrid, and Nearpod Certified Educator, a Wakelet Ambassador, and a CCCUE Board Member.

Sitara Ali

Sitara Ali is the Educational Technology Instructional Coach and mentor for new teachers. Previously, she taught science and STEM for 6 years in the secondary setting for middle school students. Sitara holds her B.S. in Biology from CSU Sacramento and received her Teaching Credential and Master’s from USC. Sitara is a Level 1 and Level 2 Google Certified Educator and currently holds her administrative credential.

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