Although the COVID-19 pandemic left so many educators stressed and exhausted from remote and hybrid teaching, they continue to value professional learning opportunities relevant to their practice. An excellent case is the educators enrolled in an online professional learning program stemming from a unique partnership between Dell Technologies and OECM, an Ontario not-for-profit sourcing organization. “Confidence and resources to help me support and learn” and “I will be able to share what I have learned with my colleagues” are just two comments shared by educators who participated in the program.
Since August and continuing until the end of March 2022, the program is facilitated by Advanced Learning Partnerships under the leadership of well-respected Canadian educator, Dean Shareski. Before it began, he along with Dell Senior Education Strategist Katina Papulkas, assembled a team of K-12 and faculty representatives to discuss the program we wanted to offer and its focus. When interviewing Mr. Shareski, he emphasized the importance of bringing together a group of educators, allowing for sharing of expertise and diverse voices.
The team decided to proceed with the program with the intention of: achieving excellence, equity and inclusion and social and emotional learning. Within each of these themes, a variety of online sessions have been offered, including some in French. As of the end of October, the following sessions were hosted:
• Empowering learners synchronously and asynchronously
• Pour une intégration réfléchie du codage dans notre planification annuelle
• Empowering students as assessors of their own learning
• Long-term planning for thoughtful integration of coding
• Building a thinking classroom
• Spiraling curriculum with activity-based learning
• Digital storytelling: Tools & ideas
• Managing flow and letting go
• Actionne ton idée
• The oft untapped potential of assessment: It’s not just about measuring learning
Equity and Inclusion
• Indigenous innovations and contributions in K-12
• Truth and reconciliation in K-12
• Comment vivre la reconciliation
• Indigenous technology through the lens of the Wiigwaas Jiimaan (Birch Bark Canoe)
• The “how-to” of reconciliation
• Getting back to land-based learning – respecting protocols and methodologies when entering an Indigenous learning environment
• Canoes, food and water – A story of trade, relations, and culture
Social and Emotional Learning
• Shift to positive: Create a better world with social media and technology
• Games & play to nurture SEL in Junior/ Intermediate classroom
• Apprentissage par le jeu
Most of the interactive sessions ran for about one hour, however, several consisted of three consecutive weekly one-hour sessions and more than 500 educators participated. They were facilitated by a variety of respected educators engaged by Advanced Learning Partnerships. YouTube recordings of the sessions are publicly available at https://oecm.ca/professional-learning-for-ontario-educators-program-archive.
Educators Valued the Program
The educator’s response to the program has been extremely positive, according to Mr. Shareski. In a post-session survey of a sample of about 70 teachers, facilitators were rated very close to 5 (strongly agree) on a 5-point scale evaluating them on factors such as content knowledge, understanding of participants’ needs, flexibility and time management.
Participants’ understanding of the topic of the session(s) in which they participated nearly doubled from 37% who reported they had a “Good” or “Deep” understanding to 72% upon completion. Similarly, application of the topic to their teaching rose from 47% to 90%, and nearly all felt their professional learning experience in the program would have a positive impact on student learning.
Moreover, open-ended responses to the survey reflected educators’ appreciation of the opportunity to learn, the facilitators’ skills, the insights they gained, and the organization of the program. Here is a sampling of these responses:
• It will support my students as I try to engage in anti-colonial practices. It could also be shared with my colleagues, specifically my grade team partners and my administration.
• Learning and un-learning. Sharing truths. Rebuilding and repairing [were significant outcomes].
• Je pourrai mieux appuyer les enseignants qui veulent l’essayer!
• I will be using what I learned to support teachers in my board to use inquiry as an instructional strategy – specifically in the 2018 Social Studies and History/Geography curriculum.
• Giving us the words to use is important. Words carry great power, in understanding terms and language we are better prepared to unpack the history, current climate, and future opportunities.
• [Name] is an amazing facilitator who helps cut through anything fake. She tells it like it is.
Forging a Successful Partnership
The professional learning program was successful because of the strong partnership between Dell Technologies and OECM. The latter organization negotiated a bulk purchase of Dell hardware for Ontario schools on behalf of school boards. As part of the purchase negotiations, Dell agreed to sponsor the professional learning program for Ontario educators through the auspices of Advanced Learning Partnerships. The program was open to educators outside the province to maximize benefits. Educators from across Canada as well as several from the United States have taken part.
The successful partnership was a “win-win” for the education community: school boards benefitted from favourable pricing by bulk purchasing Dell equipment through OECM and educators benefitted from free-of -charge professional learning opportunities. Or as Dean Shareski says: when all partners contribute their expertise and energy to make the program succeed, everyone wins.