Professional Learning Network Pivots to Virtual

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Things have changed. The future of learning looks different every day as our hands are forced to strike the balance between in-person and distance mediums. There are small, future silver linings buried beneath the more immediate frenzy and challenges, but what about the learning that can only be experienced? What about internships and professional learning?

If you know anyone in college, you’ve likely seen them have internship after internship fall through the cracks in the last 60 days. Uncertainty and low hanging fruit combined have made the prospect of securing a remote position (and if you’re lucky, a paid remote position) a bit of a pipedream.

Blue Valley Center For Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), a professional learning hub for high school students, pivoted real-time to virtual instruction. They were able to do this by keeping their core values, hallmarks of both the school’s mission and, what they believe to be, professional learning writ large. These are: professional based learning, professional skills development, self discovery and exploration, entrepreneurial mindset, and responsiveness.

To begin applying these values virtually, the CAPS team created teacher design times to work in Canvas to establish virtual modules covering evergreen professional learning skills and traits. Through some of their Project Wayfinder content, a connection to the Kansas Leadership Center and a vast network of professionals and other CAPS schools, they were able to focus primarily on purposeful and meaningful work. “If the students don’t have the opportunity to figure out who they are, you can have all the skills in the world but you can’t figure out your place in the world, how you can contribute,” says Corey Mohn, Executive Director of Blue Valley CAPS.

They were also able to teach the importance of leading at any position. “They don’t have to be principal of a school or a teacher to go and make a difference,” says Mohn. Because 80% of their student body is seniors, they also allocated a majority of the time towards getting good resume feedback and building strong LinkedIn profiles, but they also were able to maintain some of the hands-on, relationship-driven professional learning. “Our partners felt like it was a bright spot in their professional life at the time,” says Mohn, surprised at their persistence and willingness to carry on despite the shifts in their own lives.

As another response to this pandemic, the CAPS network put together a virtual career week, featuring engineers, nurses, and many more that enabled students to tune in and continue to learn, ask questions, and connect with real professionals. This one-week, virtual event had 2,400 attendees. Archived sessions from CAPS Virtual Career Week can be found at www.preparingforpurpose.org.

Moving forward, the emphasis will have to be on adaptive learning—staying agile, curious, and strong in learner agency and flexibility. “Students will have the liberty to own their learning. To trust and know how they learn, what they learn—that’s really powerful,” says Mohn. Whenever schools return to a greater sense of normalcy, we will have a great opportunity to make sure that the artifacts of the old model don’t come along.

Tons of people are curious to see how professional learning can adapt in order to make it a more equitable experience and one that is better suited for all learners. Mohn says that this has been a great catalyst for increasing interest in the CAPS network and for finding new ways to partner.

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Getting Smart has launched the Getting Through series to support educators, leaders, and families on the path forward during such an uncertain time. This series will provide resources and inspiration as we face long term school closures, new learning environments, and address equity and access from a new lens. Whether you are just getting started with distance or online learning, or you’ve had plans in place and have the opportunity to share your work and guidance with others, there is a place for your voice and an opportunity to learn.

We’re going to get through this together, and we invite you to join us. Please email Editor@GettingSmart.com with any questions or content you’d like considered for publication. We also invite you to join the conversation and on social media using #GettingThrough.

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