“PLD in my Pyjamas”
The possibilities afforded by webinars as a professional learning platform for the ECE sector.
The background stuff
In partnership with the Ministry of Education, the Professional Learning and Development (PLD) programme to support the implementation of the revised and refreshed early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki began in May 2017. Alongside face-to-face workshops and facilitated communities of practice (Kōtui Ako) across the country, part of this implementation support has been to provide webinars. These webinars have been designed to both complement the other elements of the programme and to reach more kaiako. I have been very privileged to have been part of this programme, from the rollout of the initial workshops to the development of the webinars designed to continue the discussion in the ECE sector about our treasured curriculum.
Ten webinars have been prepared and are being delivered on 10 different areas of content associated with Te Whāriki, with each of these webinars being presented 10 times (100 in total). At the time of writing, webinar 10 is being delivered. The uptake has been incredible with over 9000 having participated in the webinars, and a further 3000 viewing them online!
Being an absolute newbie to webinars, helping to develop this series has been an exciting part of my role, but it has not been without its challenges. It has not been easy to narrow down possible content, choosing what we believe to be the most important ideas for the sector to engage with. It has been even harder to condense this content to an hour! But it has been worth it, providing PLD through a webinar platform has opened up a world of possibilities for both the presenters and the participants.
While there have been pockets of professional development for the ECE sector provided via webinar, there has never been such a large-scale use of webinars to support kaiako professional learning before. From the very beginning, and (I admit begrudgingly) much to my surprise, this platform of learning has been embraced by ECE kaiako across the country. Overall satisfaction has been very high — 88% of participants have rated their webinar experience as 4 or 5 out of 5. Not bad for a sector where the majority of participants (in the first few webinars, anyway) had NEVER participated in a webinar before!
Part of this particular model of webinar presentations has been to send the recording of the webinar to each person registered, including a transcript of the chatbox. In addition, a ‘clean copy’ was recorded (without participants and chat), and these have been uploaded onto Te Whāriki Online, so kaiako who were unable to register for some reason, are able to view the full series online. Another added bonus has been the opportunity afforded to us to bring renowned ECE experts directly to the sector.
While the power of webinar is new to me, as it is to most of the wider ECE sector, CORE Education Tātai Aho Rau has been running webinars and commenting on the use of digital platforms and media in PLD for quite a while — most recently in the Ten Trends identified in 2017. Many of the possibilities and advantages I have discovered myself, and through feedback from the participants in this programme, reinforce some of these ten trends, in particular, Learner Agency, Communities of Learning, Virtual Learning, and Collaboration.
While it has not been a question in the evaluation form completed at the end of the webinars, I was really interested to discover that many of the participating kaiako felt moved to comment on the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the webinar platform to support their professional learning. Again, for a significant majority (77%) of those compelled to comment, their experiences have been positive. Digging deeper into their responses, I have found that the reasons for kaiako support for the webinar model CORE is using came down to the following five areas:
- convenience and accessibility
- simplicity of use
- networking with other kaiako from around the country
- supporting team engagement
- the ability to revisit their learning.
I will dig a little more deeply into each of these areas.
“PLD in my pyjamas”
Convenience and accessibility
In relation to convenience and accessibility, kaiako really appreciated:
- the ability to choose which webinar session they would access
- the relative shortness of the initial presentation
- the fact that they could access learning from the comfort of wherever they happened to be.
This form of Virtual Learning provided them with the Learner Agency to choose when and where to access the PLD and what PLD to access.
Unlike teachers in the compulsory sector, ECE kaiako do not necessarily have the ability to get together as a team regularly and for enough time to generate deep and meaningful conversations and learning. Many early childhood services are open from 7 in the morning until 6 at night. Professional learning at the end of a very long day has sometimes proven to be less than fruitful for the kaiako involved, particularly when additional travel has been involved. For many kaiako, webinars have proved to be a convenient, accessible, and comfortable form of professional learning.
Their appreciation can be summed up in these quotes:
- “It’s great that it was only 1 hour. I can make time for 1 hour, not for 4 or more :-)”
- “We are a small isolated Community Kindergarten. Good PD is sometimes difficult to find without travelling lots of kilometres to a city”
- “…loving listening in my own time from my own home, as it makes it feel homely and my own focus, rather than a super long day at work — like a staff meeting or after work PD, thank you!”
I wonder whether the accessibility of these webinars exploring Te Whāriki provided the impetus for kaiako to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. It would seem that they were pleasantly surprised with the result!
Simplicity of use
The simplicity of use was also an area appreciated by kaiako. Research and popular media have reported that many teachers have expressed fear and anxiety when faced with learning through ICT. I have had many teachers express these fears to me as well, often worried that it will be complex and they won’t have the skills to participate fully. In contrast, the simplicity of this webinar format was worthy of comment by some. Examples of these comments include:
- “Webinar was easy to get into, easy to hear the speakers, easy to follow the content. Links provided [are] relevant. Excellent webinar.”
- “The webinar is really good from the perspective of the chat room and how efficient that is at getting everyone’s input so easily which is not possible in a face to face situation as you have to wait and take turns, so I find that really good.”
CORE Education also identified collaboration and communities of learning as two of the Ten Trends for 2018, and these results would back these up. Networking was identified as a particularly positive outcome for the kaiako participating in the webinar series. They appreciated being able to share their ideas with, and get feedback from, kaiako from all over the country — moving them beyond their teams and immediate communities.
- “Getting feedback from the other attendees also is very enlightening. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on and revamp my dealings with children.”
- “With our Centre being located in the northern region, I appreciate access to the cyber-space classroom with over 111 online students.”
- “It is great being able to join in with others and get many new ideas that you would never think of on your own.”
Networking and team engagement
The collaboration and development of online communities of learning occurring through the webinar series is not only supporting networking amongst geographically dispersed kaiako, participants have also indicated that the webinars are a useful tool to grow team engagement within discrete early childhood services too!
- “Often we go on PLDs individually so it was nice to do this together learning from each other as well as other Teachers sharing in the comments box.”
- “The webinar was a great way for me and my team to come together at the start of the day and be inspired for our future practices.”
Revisit the learning
I was really pleased to note that many individual participants expressed a desire to share both the webinar and their changed thinking with their colleagues and/or the people they lead. The availability and accessibility of the webinar recordings (as well as the opportunity to attend more than one session) supported participants to revisit and grow their learning as individuals and collectives.
- “Kaiako are revisiting the videos of the webinar and the chat pdfs — great resources.”
- “I will be reading all the links you provided to remind/get further prompts for my own and the team’s practice.”
- “I have just gone over all 5 webinars and I have been able to take more in without the pressure of what is/ about to/ has happening.”
The data and trends emerging from this small piece of analytical work indicate an increasing acceptance of, and appreciation for, the use of webinars as a professional learning platform for ECE kaiako. Alongside other learning opportunities, I believe PLD provided through webinars is providing the sector with meaningful and accessible professional development that has the potential to keep an over-stretched profession informed and motivated to critique and transform their own practice.
Let’s keep it up!
Ministry of Education Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga (2017). Te Whāriki He whāriki mātauranga mō nga mokopuna o Aotearoa : Early childhood curriculum. Wellington, NZ: Author.
Te Whāriki Early Childhood Curriculum,Ministry of Education Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga, ISBN 978-0-478-16926-3