What is the added value of online CPD? At a basic level, if a CPD provider or facilitator “uploads stuff” from a face-to-face CPD session, it opens up the opportunity to those who could not be there, making available videos of speakers, slides, images or documents that may have been used.
However, this view gives a limited impression of the possibilities offered by the online dimension to our CPD. The only added value is availability and convenience and the CPD experience is largely a passive one.
At this point, it probably will be helpful to share some of my beliefs about CPD:
The best CPD is collaborative.
Educators should have ownership of their CPD.
CPD builds professional capacity.
CPD is central to leadership development
Above all, CPD must have impact on learning.
I would like to explore a few basic ways in which we can add value to CPD opportunities through the online dimension of Glow, Scotland’s national intranet for schools – and by adding value I mean getting more out of CPD experiences by keeping the above principles on the radar throughout.
Knowing who appears on the list of participants is an important part of CPD events. If the opportunity is online, then the same holds true. It is important to know who is here and see who is interested in the same sort of CPD as you. Even better if you can share email addresses and get in touch with colleagues who you may want to collaborate with. So all CPD opportunities should invite participants to do just that.
If you have ever dipped into online CPD on Glow, you will have noticed that all participants are invited to introduce themselves with a photo and a few words about who they are. And why not do this in advance of face-to-face events as well? A lot of time can be saved in trying to find the people that you really do want to talk to since you could have met some of them already online.
CPD opportunities always benefit from discussion. Many years’ experience as a CPD facilitator has taught me that this is what participants often value the most in their CPD experiences. Finding out and sharing what colleagues think, do and want to change is a rich source of collegiate CPD.
The online dimension can add some value here, by providing a space where discussion and reflective questions can be encouraged and facilitated on themes relevant to the CPD; the real added value is that the discussions can be active before and long after a CPD opportunity is over, whether face-to-face or online.
Another bonus is that it quite often gives people a space to speak when they might not want to in a room full of unfamiliar faces, and it gives you time to digest and reflect on the issue, perhaps coming back online to post your thoughts after a day or two.
Of course it is also possible to have online discussions running in tandem with the face-to-face ones at a face-to-face CPD event, giving participants the chance to choose how they wish to contribute, but also providing a documented record of the contributions as they emerge.
Sharing reflections and practice is an essential feature of collegiate CPD and it is a massive part of online CPD. Educators all over the world are increasingly exchanging their thinking, ideas, experiences and resources on blogs, wikis and social networks like Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
If you attend a CPD event, or engage in a CPD experience, what is your responsibility to share the outcomes of it? Many educators no longer see this as a choice – it is just an integral part of their professional life.
For a really interesting perspective on the moral responsibility of educators to share, have a look at CPDShort8 on the CPDCentral section of Glow (see further information). In this clip, Dean Shareski gives a compelling account of why sharing our practice is more than just a nice thing to do; we now have a moral obligation to do it.
So you might not be into Twitter or blogging, but the good news is that using Glow, our common platform, we can easily share what we do in a secure online environment.
In terms of CPD, you can “flip” your CPD opportunity by sharing the presentation or document that is the focus of the event in advance, thus giving over much more time to collegiate discussion (see CPDShort11 in further information).
You can share pre-event documents or links to be read and tasks to be completed which will enhance participants’ experience of the event on the day. Items can be easily filtered to be gathered together by theme, and more value can be added to this if colleagues are invited to comment on other people’s shared items (and again, the sharing can go on long after the event is over).
Of course, the most important element of any CPD is the impact it has on students’ learning. But sometimes this is hard to work out, especially if you are never asked the question – and even if you are asked, no-one holds you to account for what you hope might change as a result of the CPD.
Is it not a much better idea to ask people to share the aims which result from their CPD instead of “evaluating” the experience? This can be done using Glow – sharing an intention resulting from a CPD experience using the “i-intend” function is a straightforward way to establish a connection between the CPD you experience and the impact you hope it will have on your practice.
If you declare this publically you can set your own timescale for achieving your ambitions and colleagues can join you in working on it. You might find a few helpful links or ideas relevant to your intentions and these can also be shared.
In all of Glow’s “CPDCentral” communities you are supported in meeting your intention through follow up emails issued as reminders of your target dates. Simply put – impact on learning can be made visible and linked to your CPD.
Within Glow, there are many online CPD communities for you to explore, all intergrating into CPDCentral.
A lot of work has gone into streamlining the user experience in these communities, so now when you sign up you can choose the communities you want to belong to using hashtags.
This hashtag system also allows you to share and interact across several communities at a time. To take the example, CPDLead is the online community for leaders and co-ordinators of CPD. A member of CPDLead sharing some CPD practice on, for example, health and wellbeing, can tag the item with “#cpdlead” and “#hwb” and share simultaneously across both communities.
Many other CPDCentral communities operate in this way. In the new Glow, it would be great to see this “share once, see many” idea extended to the CPD work done by individuals, establishments, local authorities and national organisations.
In fact, many CPD communities are being set up at local level but integrating into a much larger national community – giving the local authority community members the opportunity to share their professional learning locally and nationally with one click or upload.
National communities can then become amalgams of local communities and networks of interested educators in the particular theme.
There is much more to be said about the potential for CPD online, but for now why not have a look at some of the communities in CPDCentral – perhaps take the plunge and join an online community, upload something of your own or download someone else’s – but remember, there’s more to it than this; this is just the beginning!
Catriona Oates is primary languages staff tutor for Stirling Council and freelance CPD facilitator. This article is drawn from various blog posts which were jointly developed by Con Morris and Catriona Oates while members of the National CPD Team at Education Scotland.