24 December 2020
As for many other people, 2020 started off for me with a spate of cancellations or postponements of conference and seminar presentations, thanks to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. As the year wore on, however, conferences began to move online, and experiments began in how we can build online professional events which are both informative and interactive, using a slew of videoconferencing platforms such as Blackboard’s Collaborate, Microsoft’s Teams and, of course, Zoom. In the midst of the devastation of 2020, and among the repeated interruptions to face-to-face education and professional development, the educational community has shown remarkable resilience and inventiveness.
By the end of 2020, there were numerous highly successful online conferences, seminars and other PD events. Much has been learned about how to deliver professional development at scale while still retaining a participatory element. Aside from taking part in online conferences – notably the GKA Edutech Conference (based in Mexico) and mLearn (based in Egypt) – I also delivered or co-delivered online PD seminars, via Zoom, to teachers in Japan, China and Singapore. In November, I had the pleasure of delivering the opening presentation in an #UpskillwithAU seminar entitled Active English learning strategies for blended/hybrid classrooms, jointly run by the Graduate School of Education at The University of Western Australia and Phoenix Academy, and hosted on Austrade’s Webex platform. In this seminar, we addressed and responded to questions from English teachers – some 2,400 in total – from across the ASEAN region. Perhaps this was a glimpse of the future of online PD?
Hopefully 2021 will see a return to some normality globally, but at the same time, it would be good to hang on to the best of what we have learned about how to conduct online professional development at scale – and how to reach, and include, more educators in more places than ever before. Our educational future, it seems to me, should unfold in an increasingly blended mode.