Friday, June 22, 2018

Leading from the Library with Personalized Professional Learning

In the days of deep budget slashes and little money for professional development, the school librarian is in a perfect position - as someone who has the ability to work with every student and teacher - to lead from the library and fill in what some cases is a major gap. 

One of the big trends in education today is working towards a system of more personalized learning for students. By meeting students where they are in terms of interest and ability we can do so much more to engage them in deep learning and help them develop skills that will aid them in becoming college and career ready as well as model citizens and life-long learners. 

While advocating for personalized learning for students, it is also important to consider the personalized learning needs of our teachers. Talk to any group of teachers, and you will discover that there is a wide range of ability and interest for our teachers when it comes to digital age teaching and learning competencies, because of this it is essential to provide multiple avenues and create more of a personalized approach to learning for our teachers.

The Future Ready Schools Framework advocates for "Personalized Professional Learning" as one of their primary tenants for helping to achieve a "a shared vision of preparing students for success in college, career, and citizenship." You can see if your district has taken the Future Ready Pledge [here]. 

Even if your district has not taken the pledge, you can support teachers in your building by advocating for Future Ready trends. Future Ready Librarians are encouraged to "Lead professional learning to cultivate a broader understanding of the skills that comprise success in a digital age (e.g., critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, technology competencies, etc)."

Begin by Asking Teachers What they Want

So, how do we make this happen? It helps to begin by asking teachers what they want. In the EdSurge article "Personalizing Professional Development for Teachers, By Teachers" by Pat Phillips, Phillips shares that we should begin by including teachers in the design of the PD. One easy strategy is to set up a beginning of the year Google Form and identify what teachers think are their biggest needs, and ask basics like: 

  • What days of the week are best for meeting?
  • Do prefer in person sessions or something more virtual and self paced?
  • What is the optimal length of time for a session?

Once you have some general feedback you can begin to establish a schedule that you can promote. 

Collecting ongoing feedback is also important. Often new trends emerge during the year or tools change. Collecting feedback after sessions helps to stay on top of teacher needs. Often in a session feedback form it helps to ask if teachers need something more in depth or additional resources. I like to ask teachers which tools they need more information about and how they would prefer to get that information (follow up email, one-on-one or a later formal, PD session).

Develop your Plan

The School Librarian wears MANY hats during the school day, so planning personalized professional development is largely going to depend on your schedule. It is critical to put together a team that you can count on for help. Obviously the building administrators will be an asset. If you have access to a Digital Learning Coach or an Instructional Learning Coach in your building, creating a partnership with them is very important. You will also find that you have many teacher leaders in your building who are interested in sharing, recruit them and be their megaphone to amplify the cool things they know. Then set goals. Ask yourself these kinds of questions:
  • How often can I provide PD? 
  • Can I capitalize on any digital tools we have - Google Classroom/LMS?
  • How much time do teachers really have to focus and learn on an ongoing basis?

Once you know what works for your teachers you can create plans that work for their needs. In the beginning, I only focused on our elementary specials area teachers and created custom agendas for them while classroom teachers were attending other district led PD. 

We covered things like learning to use Twitter and finding people to follow, Canva for creating classroom content, website development, and many other topics. 

Once I felt comfortable with my time and with what teachers needed, I began to branch out and get a little more creative.

Creative Ways to Engage Teachers in Ongoing, Personalized PD

We covered things like learning to use Twitter and finding people to follow, Canva for creating classroom content, website development, and many other topics. 

Once I felt comfortable with my time and with what teachers needed, I began to branch out and get a little more creative.

Creative Ways

I found as a librarian, through the year, I really only had writing and lunch time to get new ideas out there. I made heavy use of Smore pages for an ongoing Tuesday Teacher Tips. I included information about things we had in the library, but often took the opportunity to answer questions or provide information based on teacher feedback. Here's an example:

I also used a Power Lunch format once a month. During this time teachers were invited to come and eat lunch together in our conference room and get some time with a new tech tool or idea. As an added bonus, you might think about supplying dessert. We covered topics like HP Reval (Aurasma), Voxer, and collaborating with the tools we had available. 

These two strategies are relatively low key in format and are effective ways to reach out to teachers and creating collaborative opportunities.

If you have a little more time, you might try these next ideas.

Quick and Flexible Formats

DIP Days I wish I could take credit for this name. I heard it in a session at ISTE last year. For this format the person giving the PD provided different dips and teachers were encouraged to Drop in for PD. 

You might however consider a DIP model of Drop in and Play. Host time in your library for teachers to come and play with things you have. Here in Kentucky we like to call that #KyGoPlay time. During a session try the Ignite-Play-Share strategy. Ignite their curiosity with a video or quick demo, give teachers time to play then share how they could use the tool or strategy. These sessions could be as long as an hour or as short as 20 minutes.

Tech in 20 Minutes Some of the "early bird" teachers appreciate a quick 20 minute session before school to get their morning started with a new idea. Over the years I have often hosted these on Tuesdays and we spend time with just one tool and some special features. We use this time to feature new tools and apps or get a quick tutorial on a special feature of something bigger like YouTube.

PD While You...
Another format I have found success with is posting printed out PD While You..flyers in places where teachers are waiting to do...stuff (copy machines, by the mailbox and in bathroom stalls). I try to include links to more information and give them enough that they can let their eyes rest on for short periods of time over the course of a month.

For the Virtual Learner

Not all teachers have time to learn in person. This is one reason why a newsletter, like the Smore I posted above, can be so helpful. You might also consider using your school's LMS or a special Google Classroom to encourage virtual, asynchronous learning. For example, I have developed PD in your PJs modules in Schoology for teachers to use if they need more formal PD hours. Each module connects to different ISTE Standards and includes tasks, videos and articles. 

Your LMS or Google Classroom can be easily used to organize and create a professional book study with discussions and sharing of examples.

Of course, don't underestimate the power of a custom hashtag and sharing on social media like Twitter.

Today, as a Digital Learning Coach, my plan looks a lot more intense. I try to respond to the needs of the teachers and provide many different opportunities. One thing I do to help teacher know what is happening is I create a menu they can refer to:

I have found that offering "PD On Demand" is extremely helpful to teachers who just need some extra help. I publish the dates I am available for that and teachers can "book" that time to go over a skill, strategy or tool specific to their own needs. Sometimes a small group will come together in this way. 

Promoting your services like this on a semester basis can go far to promote things that are available in your library and create a community where everyone is a learner.

What ways do you lead from the library by creating personalized professional learning experiences?


  1. We are always looking for ways to make PD more beneficial for our staff. Thanks for these great ideas.

  2. Thank you! Canva revolutionised my work. I work as a PR & marketing manager in hospitality and I don’t have a big marketing budget, so Canva is perfect for me. 1$ for picture is not so much but I can create some nice offers for our clients. Here you have an example of my work: and it was only for 2 $ It’s a nice alternative for Shutterstock etc. Fonts are beautiful, it is very creative thinking to learn how to mix them. I use it also on my personal blog