Professional Learning

Integrating Technology Into Collaborative Professional Learning

Incorporating digital collaboration into PD gives teachers a model to replicate when setting up tech activities for students.

February 23, 2024
Goodboy Picture Company / iStock

Promoting student collaboration in the classroom can increase engagement and students’ use of higher-level thinking skills. But it’s important that teachers help students develop the tools needed to collaborate effectively, and that includes learning how to leverage digital tools for collaboration.

Many teachers find it challenging to do so, though, whether because of a lack of experience using technology for collaborative purposes, or due to an uncertainty about when to use these practices in the classroom.

One way to address this challenge is to model digital collaboration in professional development (PD) sessions. By demonstrating how teachers can integrate digital collaboration into their learning environment, we can help colleagues feel more prepared. 

When I plan PD sessions for teachers, I use the principles of adult learning theory as a guide. These principles help me design learning experiences that are effective for my adult learners, and they also provide me with opportunities to integrate digital collaboration—for example, when teachers share prior knowledge or experiences or new learning, or they work to solve scenario-based problems.

Sharing prior knowledge and experiences 

Teachers bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to PD sessions. Our job as facilitators is to acknowledge and build on that experience. 

I led a PD for teachers about how to use Google Forms for assessment. At the start of the session, I asked teachers to reflect on the current practices they use to assess student learning. I organized teachers into groups of four to five, and I gave each group one slide to share in a Google Slide deck. 

They discussed their current practices and added them to their assigned slide. After a few minutes, I asked each group to take a minute to look at each other’s ideas. They were able to see their work as a whole group, and as a facilitator, I was able to connect their current practices to the new learning that followed.

Sharing new learning 

Teachers appreciate having opportunities to make choices about how and what they learn. Those of us who design PD should provide opportunities for choice in every session. Simultaneously, we need to work in ways for teachers to share their learning with each other. 

When I led a PD on blended learning for a group of teachers, I knew that they were coming in with a variety of experience levels. I designed an activity in which I gave them three different articles from which to choose, depending on their current knowledge. The articles ranged from a very basic introduction to blended learning to a more advanced exploration of teaching strategies.

When participants finished reading their chosen article, they then shared what they had learned on a collaborative Google Jamboard or another digital whiteboard. In this way, they were each able to choose the best path for their learning needs, and they were still able to share and discuss new learning with each other, building upon one another’s ideas with the help of technology.

Solving scenario-based problems

Adult learners are motivated by the opportunity to solve problems. Facilitators can therefore engage teachers by designing activities in which they are challenged to solve problems related to their professional lives. 

For example, I facilitated a PD for teachers about how to increase active learning for students. After we explored some strategies and ideas together, I asked teachers to apply their new learning. I placed them into teams based on their grade level and content area, and I gave each team a classroom scenario. They worked together to identify ways that the lesson could incorporate more active learning. Each team was given a Google Doc template where they could organize their ideas, explanations, and thinking. Since each team member had access to the Google Doc, they were all able to edit and type in it together. 

Each team added the link to their Google Doc on a Padlet board that the whole group could see. Teachers benefited, not just from hearing the thinking of their team members, but also from being able to access the work and ideas of all the other teams. 

Other Ways to Incorporate Tech Into PD

After you complete a collaborative activity, you can also ask teachers to think about and discuss how they could use a similar activity with their students. It’s important to use digital tools that teachers are also allowed to use with learners, to make it as easy as possible for teachers to use the activities in their own classrooms. Be ready to offer suggestions or ideas for teachers who might struggle to see how the activities could translate to their content or grade level.

You can also provide how-to resources for the digital tools you use, such as links to videos or step-by-step directions. Offer to follow up with individual teachers who might need support learning how to use the tools.

Integrating digital collaboration into the classroom can be challenging. By providing teachers with opportunities for digital collaboration in PD, we can help them gain the confidence to implement these strategies in their classrooms, which will lead to enhanced learning opportunities and collaboration for students. 

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Professional Learning
  • Instructional Coaching
  • Teacher Collaboration
  • Technology Integration

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.