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Online Resources Widen PD Impact

by Amber White
 | Mar 20, 2015

Designing thoughtful, continuous professional development (PD) is an important part of a school’s improvement process and culture, but has your school ever considered the benefits of video recording your PD activities? With the advancement of technology, many teaching professionals are using tablets and smartphones to make daily videos of their classroom lessons and happenings. You may be surprised to learn that recording any PD event your school organizes is just as easy: All you need is a laptop, webcam, access to Wi-Fi, and a free Google+ account linked to YouTube.  

Google Hangouts on Air (HoA) is a free, live webcast tool that allows the party hosting the Hangout to record his or her computer screen and audio and upload to a public, unlisted, or private channel on YouTube.

My school, Ruth Fox Elementary School in rural Michigan, is exploring HoA. Using instructional practice as the basis for literacy reform, the teaching staff at my school was interested in learning more about Socratic Circles and how this interdisciplinary strategy could help grow student conversation, community, and close and critical reading and writing, while addressing numerous Michigan Standards.

With this focus in mind, we arranged to have Matt Copeland facilitate three interactive professional development HoA webcasts about the thoughtful integration of Socratic Circles. This video is the first in the series.

In a second example, our school also participated in a HoA with the University of Michigan’s Digital Rhetoric Collaborative (affiliated with the Sweetland Writing Center) to discuss our district-wide PD plans for Digital Learning Day. This HoA session is available here.

Benefits of Recording Professional Development

Before the school year comes to a close or as you look ahead to your 2015-16 PD plans, consider the benefits for recording your school’s next PD session:

  • All staff members can revisit the recording and learn more from it, ultimately helping address a key problem with PD—the challenge of keeping it alive for future staff meetings, PLC, and more.
  • When PD activities/events involve teachers learning by doing (e.g., Socratic Circles), access to the live recording can be referenced in whole or through selected excerpts to examine crucial aspects of the craft of teaching.
  • A recording affords the opportunity to greatly improve future PD activities/events by having outside or in-house PD organizers revisit the recording in specific ways to help make sure there’s clear connections made.
  • Colleagues who miss the event/activity can still experience it.
  • PD learnings (or excerpts) can be shared easily with colleagues at other schools, conferences, and so forth.
  • Participation and focus within the PD are likely to improve. In a nonthreatening way, colleagues know they are being recorded and will more than likely get involved in the PD session.
  • The HoA webcast provides an opportunity for parents and other education professionals to get a view into the professional learning teachers are engaged in.
  • A webcast creates an opportunity for schools to learn from an expert speaker who may have been unreachable in the past because of such factors as distance, allocations, and time.

Key Points to Consider Before Recording a PD Session With Hangouts on Air

Although it is relatively easy to record and store in the Cloud any PD activity your school could possibly organize, there’s still a few points to consider when using HoA to record your PD session:

  • PD can and should be interactive in a HoA format.
  • Decide whether your school would like to make the professional development HoA a public webcast (open to all—other educators, parents, and more) or unlisted (you must be invited to view or participate). You may change the privacy settings on YouTube once the HoA is uploaded.
  • A handheld microphone is helpful in capturing staff conversation during the recorded PD session.
  • If another party is involved in presenting, hooking the laptop/tablet to an LCD projector will allow everyone in the PD to see the computer screen and hear the guest speaker(s) clearly.
  • Consider doing a test run with your guest/s beforehand to explore the numerous apps that can be used inside the hangout: screensharing, polls, question and answer, as well as other amenities you may want to include in the recording of the PD session.
  • The host party must have a Google+ account (free) linked to YouTube (consider setting up a Google+ Community account to have more privacy and control).
  • All invited guests and viewers must have a Google+ account.
  • The host and all participating guest(s) should have access to a microphone and webcam on their device—beneficial to have a camera on both ends for recording purposes.
  • HoA video can be edited in YouTube or can be downloaded and edited using another digital tool.
  • Take a look at all the HoA tips Google offers.


ILA’s next Google Hangout on Air will be April 28 at 8 p.m. ET. Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne will discuss “‘Model’ Behavior: How You Can Encourage Wild Reading.” The Hangout will stream live on the ILA YouTube page, but an archived version will be available on demand afterwards.

Amber White is a reading specialist/literacy coach for North Branch Area Schools and a teacher consultant for the Saginaw Bay Writing Project. You can reach her on Twitter or at awhite@nbbroncos.netThis article is part of a series from the International Reading Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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