Professional development through Google Hangouts

Two years ago, our middle level team undertook a pilot project to begin work on personal learning plans (PLPs). Under the guidance of James Nagle, professor of education at St. Michael’s College, Team Summit teachers and students initiated the process of creating personal learning plans as mandated by Act 77 and the state of Vermont. The work progressed through several stages of development. Initially, students created their personal learning plan using a template created through Google Sites. Soon after, students began using the PLP as a record of growth and reflection, goals, personal strengths and challenges, and as a multimodal platform to demonstrate their learning.

As we moved into our second year, we began discussing these developments with a broader group of educators through a variety of professional development opportunities, workshops, and most significantly, the Middle Grades Collaborative. We also began pondering how to create a dynamic forum that could serve to help interested educators as they began their own journeys with PLPs. Having utilized Google Hangouts sporadically, I decided to employ the platform to host a monthly Hangout addressing issues related to the implementation of personal learning plans.

At this point, I turned to Susan Hennessey, Professional Development Coordinator at Tarrant Institute and  Maura Kelly, language arts instructor at People’s Academy in Morrisville, VT. Together, and not without some glitches and false starts, we began using Google Hangouts in the 2014-2015 school year to have regular online discussions delving into our work with personal learning plans, the successes and challenges of our work, and the different dimensions that PLPs brought to our classrooms and students.

professional development through Google Hangouts

As our Hangouts have become more consistent, we’ve also been pondering how to use Google Hangouts more effectively as a professional development tool. There are several aspects of the platform that make it viable and, depending on the user’s comfort with its features, a dynamic 21st century application that integrates elements of social media, professional learning networks, multimedia, and collaboration.

If you are interested in our work with personal learning plans, would like to tune in to a Google Hangout to check it out, or have any questions related to using the platform, our next Hangout will be on Thursday, May 7 @ 3:30.

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Don Taylor

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