Professional Learning Exchange turns teachers into students


MJ Martinez

High tech-- Math teacher John Kostal tries on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset at the “Virtual and Augmented Reality in the Classroom” workshop at Professional Learning Exchange (PLX). The event took place at the high school on Tuesday, October 9.

Pei Yi Zhuo, Editor in Chief

While students had a day off on Tuesday, October 9, teachers from across the district came to the high school for Professional Learning Exchange (PLX), an event that allowed teachers to inform their colleagues about “emerging instructional ideas and practices” according to the PLX informational booklet. There were 42 workshops on offer with topics ranging from augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the classroom to writing college recommendations.

“I thought it was a great day, with many worthwhile workshops offered and opportunities to share knowledge and experiences with colleagues from all the schools in the district,” Principal Bill Silva said.

Social studies teacher Patrick Mulcahy attended four sessions including “Constructing bird houses: interdisciplinary learning opportunities” led by construction teachers Jim Corrigan and Jeff Teravainen as well as “It’s Hip to be Square: The Experience of Being a Novice Learner” led by Physical Education and Wellness Department Leader Ed Manfredi and wellness teacher Courtney Landheer.

“The purpose of this session was to put teachers into the role of student with a task that was novel to him/her. We wanted to elicit the emotions that students feel when presented with a new skill or task,” Landheer said.

During Manfredi and Landheer’s workshop, teachers learned to square dance, focusing on collaborative learning and understanding the experience of encountering an unfamiliar subject.

“Many students are overwhelmed or feel out of place in new classes, so it is important for teachers to understand their feelings and frustrations and identify the types of supports those students will need to be successful,” Mulcahy said.

According to Landheer, attendees enjoyed themselves and successfully overcame obstacles to learn the dance.

The session outcomes exceeded our expectations,” Landheer said.

During the “Virtual and Augmented Reality in the Classroom” workshop led by Technology Integration Specialist Andrew Marshall and art teacher Earl Procko, attendees sampled AR and VR technologies and created AR and VR content. They also discussed the applications of such technologies in the classroom.

Landheer attended the AR/VR session in addition to “Building Relational Capacity &
Creating Culturally Relevant Classrooms” led by English teachers Julie Yimoyines and Katie Buckley.

“I really enjoyed and appreciated both workshops that I attended. It was clear that the presenters were passionate about the topic and took the time to create a meaningful experience for the “students” of the session,” Landheer said.

The PLX schedule divided the day, which lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., into four sessions, with lunch falling in between sessions 2 and 3. Each session was 90 minutes. Teachers generally attended one workshop during each session. A unique set of workshops was available during sessions 1 and 2 in the morning and a different set was available sessions 3 and 4 in the afternoon.

Mulcahy hopes to lead a workshop at a future event and Landheer wants another PLX that focuses on teacher passions.

“We are a very talented faculty with so much to offer each other. Learning and engaging in another person’s passion would build a districtwide community that would extend far beyond our own lives and spill over into our classrooms…..bettering everyone,” Landheer said.