When I go to professional development, one of the most important things for me is to come away with some real tangible actions or skills that I can use at school immediately to improve my practice. This unit’s content lends itself perfectly to that idea. Both design and collaboration techniques are something that teachers, aware of it or not, do on a regular basis. So it was my hope that as we designed this PD session, it would be something that teachers could walk away from and it would have an immediate impact in their classrooms.
With this as a starting point, we set out to create sessions where teachers would be working with actual materials that they use in their class, assessing their own designs and the designs of others, and working collaboratively to create something better. We acknowledged that good design doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that collaboration, teamwork, and feedback were important parts of the process.
We also wanted teachers to feel that the choice was theirs of how they develop professionally. We wanted to design our sessions so that they did not need to be done one after the other. All three could be offered as a full day PD, or they could be offered concurrently and teachers could choose the track they feel would benefit them the most.
The result was three sessions focusing on design principles and visual hierarchy, data visualization and infographics, and online and offline collaboration.
These three topics stood out for us from Course 3 as concepts that teachers may not be comfortable with, or even aware of, and that they could take action on relatively easily in a short time frame. We also wanted them to be able to share these new understandings with their students. I really enjoy not just creating effective visual tools in my teaching, but helping my students explore creating their own effective visuals. We tried to focus on experiences and protocols that would be effective classroom experiences as well. We were all drawn to the idea of better design helping us to communicate so we chose to expand on Session 1.
Reflecting on the Process
This was my first time working on a project that spanned almost 10,000km and eight time-zones. It was a challenge to communicate in a timely way, share our ideas effectively, and be a collaborative team, but we managed it. Flynn and Boramy were able to connect on a few video calls, we used collaborative Google Docs and Slides where we could offer suggestions and give feedback on each others work, and sent many, many emails. For me, it was particularly challenging being on a different continent and having such a big time difference. We weren’t able to find any practical times to be working on the project together at the same time, and so decisions and plans took much longer to develop. All that being said, it was a great experience, and it certainly showed the power of online tools to mitigate the impact of distances on collaboration.