For all the many downsides of lockdown, some teachers found a wealth of professional learning opportunities. Almost overnight, a menu of webinars, Zoom courses and livestreamed educational events all appeared. But will these digital platforms become the preferred form of professional learning in the long term?
There are without doubt some drawbacks to online professional learning. Many teachers certainly worried that we might miss the face-to-face connections which are so valuable in the learning process. Ours is a profession built on relationships. Without the interactions, connections and conversations in person, will digital professional learning allow the same level of collegiality and support as face-to-face courses?
Ultimately, we believe that the access to inspirational, educational speakers which online professional learning provides far outweighs the negatives.
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With ScotEd, an online educational conference taking place on Saturday 19 September, we're confident of showing that online professional learning is the way forward. Under the theme of "great teaching for Scotland", educators from all across the country will share practice and pedagogical knowledge which could make a huge impact in the classroom.
By taking the event online, we hope to break down some of the barriers which can make it difficult to take part in face-to-face courses. The event is free, and we have a range of educators which might have been very difficult to coordinate in person. Bruce Robertson, author of The Teaching Delusion and headteacher of Berwickshire High School, will deliver the keynote speech. He will be joined by Jamie Thom, Blair Minchin, Amanda Corrigan, Nuzhat Uthmani, Kate Jones, Robin Macpherson and James Cook. All sessions will be recorded so they can be watched later and shared with staff in school.
So will this be the future of professional learning? There are definitely challenges in ensuring that online sessions allow interaction and opportunities to genuinely support staff. But online taster sessions means respected authors, headteachers and university lecturers – with their own work commitments and often impossibly busy schedules – are all able to present on the same day and share their wealth of experience and wisdom.
There may not be a goodie bag to take home or sundry freebies waiting to be snaffled, but these digital connections may inspire you to try a new approach, or at least do some fresh professional reading and engage with colleagues. That's got to be more valuable than a free pen or notepad.