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This is my latest article in a series on owning your professional learning.

I love the concept of “Pajama PD.” It’s the idea that you can engage in deep professional learning without having to dress up nicer or go anywhere. Don’t get me wrong. I love conferences (and un-conferences) for the sense of community that occurs when people get together and discuss ideas. I also enjoy in-person classes for the uninterrupted focus on a particular topic and for the deeply human element of physical presence. But the reality is we probably won’t have in-person classes, conferences, or workshops anytime soon.

So, I want to explore what it might look like for us to engage in “anytime / anywhere” professional learning. I’ve already written about book clubs and mastermind groups. But today, I want to focus on a few more ways that we can engage in professional development anywhere and at any time.

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Timing Format: Synchronous,

Time Commitment: Low-Moderate

Format: Video

Description: Webinars are typically conducted live and last for 45 minutes to an hour. A webinar is a great way to learn a general overview of a big idea. My favorite webinars have pushed my thinking which eventually led to larger paradigm shifts. Often, webinars are available later to watch on replay. For example, I created a webinar about boosting engagement in distance learning courses, a webinar on improving engagement in video meetings, and a webinar on making the most out of choice menus. All of these webinars are free watch on replay. I’ll also be doing a webinar about what it means to design PBL units in distance learning and blended classes.

Webinars will often have a practical element but it’s not the ideal platform for learning a specific discreet skill. In these cases, a one-on-one virtual coaching session is more dynamic and allows for instant feedback. If that’s not possible, a prerecorded video series works well. Which leads to the next idea . . .


Video / Video Series

Timing Format: Asynchronous,

Time Commitment: Low-Moderate

Format: Video

Description: Videos work great when you are trying to learn a new discreet skill. Because of the ability to press pause, practice, and re-watch a particular component when needed. This is how I learned key aspects of coding and how I mastered Photoshop. It’s also how I learned to fix and install a sprinkler system. As I begin to brew my first batch of IPA, I will likely turn to a video series.

However, a video series does not necessarily need to be a “how-to.” Videos can also be great for pushing your thinking and for learning new concepts. When I needed to learn core concepts of statistics and quantitative research, I began with the systematic videos of the Crash Course Channel on YouTube. Later, when I struggled with specific gaps, I watched short screencast videos from professors. I love watching The Nerd Writer for the video essays on art and culture. In some cases, videos can be conversations and function like webinars or podcasts. Or they might be speeches or thought-provoking keynotes. The most recognized version of this is TED Talks.

If you’re interested, I have a YouTube channel that focuses on the intersection between creativity and deeper learning. I also share free project prompts, creative thinking prompts, and writing prompts. When you subscribe to my channel, it makes it easier for you to find my videos.


Online Courses and Workshops

Timing Format: Synchronous or Asynchronous

Time Commitment: High

Format: Video with Articles, Audio, Discussions Added

Description: If you want to take a deeper dive into a subject, another option is an online course. Online courses typically require you to complete assignments and often interact with others in a more immersive experience than a video or webinar. Online courses vary in several ways:

  • fully asynchronous (watching videos, responding to prompts), fully synchronous (meeting virtually via video conferencing) or blended (asynchronous and synchronous)
  • deadlines (specific dates and schedule) or self-paced (no dates, no schedule, no deadlines)
  • solo (all individual work) or cohort (with collaborative learning built in)

Online courses often provide opportunities to experience paradigm shifts and wrestle with big ideas while also learning specific discreet skills. In this sense, you might get the advantages of pre-recorded videos but also the dynamic social element of interactions and discussions. You might also receive feedback on the work you submit.

If you’re interested, I have a course on project-based learning, a course on design thinking, and a course on empowering students in distance learning. These are each self-paced and asynchronous.


Podcasts and Audio-books

Timing Format: Asynchronous

Time Commitment: Low to High

Format: Audio

Description: In my last article, I mentioned that you could read 50 books a year by making some small tweaks to your daily routines. I also mentioned how book clubs can be a powerful way to make a book more dynamic and practical through deeper peer discussions. Audio-books allow you to listen to these books while you’re driving, running, taking the dog for a walk, or doing household chores. Some of my best reading occurs when I’m doing the dishes each day. But another option is a podcast. Podcasts can be similar to an audiobook, with a person essentially reading what they have written. Other times, they might be long-form interviews with experts in various fields. It might be more philosophical, like Krista Tippet’s On Being or it might be entrepreneurial, like How I Built This with Guy Raz.Or they might take a more narrative approach, like 99% Invisible.

There are so many great education podcasts that range from shorter five-minute podcasts to long-form discussions. Some are closer to an audiobook and others are interview-based. If you’re interested, I have a podcast called The Creative Classroom. Please feel free to subscribe on Apple Podcasts / iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.More about me

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