Modeling technology tools in professional development

“Starting with vision allows professional development work to be messy. Learning isn’t linear, and it isn’t easy. It’s strongest when it involves challenge, is collaborative, and is supported and celebrated along the way. Teachers are going to create strong learning environments for their students when they are involved in similar environments themselves–and it’s up to you to support them…”

Dorr, Ellen. “How administrators can design the best learning experiences for teachers.” EdSurge, 04 Nov 2015. Viewed 01 July 2020.

What tools are educators currently unfamiliar using effectively and efficiently, specifically with Canvas LMS?  How can a variety of best practices demonstrate choice, differentiation, and a blend of synchronous and asynchronous activities for personalized learning? ISTE Coaching standard 3d addresses personalization, modeling, and effective use of technology to improve student learning. Creating quality professional development using a virtual classroom model in Canvas to examine how to foster diversity and community is the focus of this blog. Here are key tips based upon articles from EdSurge, Edutopia, GatesFoundation, CultofPedagogy, and the process to create one example.


A current issue for teachers is addressing how to discuss and address the multi-facets of racism, bias, and microaggressions in ourselves as teachers, address concerns, and encourage communication in our classrooms and communities.  This summer, there are several teachers reading about multiculturalism, anti-racism, and more to become more knowledgeable on these topics. Relevancy is one of the top identified needs for teachers based on “Creating Teacher Driven Professional Development Program” Edutopia LINK and “3 Tips for creating effective PD” Edutopia LINK.


Teachers this summer can choose to participate in a book club model of conversation.  By offering three different texts, teachers can select one or more of the conversations to participate in addition to the level of participation (“Teachers know best” k12education Gates Foundation LINK).  In addition, these book clubs are being hosted by the Behavioral Specialist and a trusted teacher at the high school (instead of guest or administrator). While the hosts will help start and guide these conversations (“What teachers want from PD” EdSurge LINK), the model selected was more of a book club format with open conversation, discussion, and various meeting opportunities for participation and involvement. Being less structured will be more organic, relevant, and personal for teachers to explore the “messiness” of learning along with the nature of these topics.  

Modeling Key Goals

To model differentiation with synchronous and asynchronous discussion and tips to create an immersive Canvas learning environment, the two host teachers and I met to plan the goals and intent of the book study, the structure, and essential tools.  Here is a list of what was discussed:

  • The home page of the course is a welcoming virtual classroom.  The virtual classroom is designed using Google slides and then embedded into a Canvas page, which is then set as the home entry page (called the “front page”). The book titles are hyperlinked to each separate module section for each text. Personalization was created using a Bitmoji representation of the host, the name tag, blackboard instructions to navigate in the course, and also the poster reminding all of key goals of this community space:

  • Each text is its own module, hyperlinked to the cover image in the virtual home page for visual access
  • Each module will host chapter discussions, a zoom meeting, and post-Zoom reflection using Padlet (embedded into a page)  
  • An orientation video welcomes and demonstrates navigating along with providing participation expectations
  • Calendar and course invites have been sent out 6-8 weeks prior to the start date for teachers to plan ahead and around their personal and family schedules (this is summer!)
  • Books have been provided for teachers who responded as interested in reading through the text; additional copies are available to checkout along with other texts that address racism, neuroscience of learning, and differentiation for teachers and staff
  • Books are available for distribution early; teachers can opt to use online resources such as the local library for digital text access and audio copies (this also allows for reading preferences and accessibility features digital options offer)
  • Opening discussion and icebreaker before the first Zoom session to walk through the technology tools and to build connections

By modeling an inclusive community, using synchronous and asynchronous discussion methods in Canvas, teachers can experience the tools, strategies, and content. This allows teachers to understand their value (tools, strategies, and content) in order to implement into their own practice and classroom. Participating in self-selected professional development also adds value and importance. By offering flexible, community driven content teachers and staff are supported and encouraged to implement the tools, strategies, and content. Since the overall model is that of a book club discussion, member contribution and participation is encouraged, expected, and ultimately determined by the individuals’ preferences on time, pace, and product.

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