Making Quick Shifts with Grace and Gusto - An Ode to the PLTW Team!

Dr. Kathryn Kennedy has over 15 years of experience in online, blended, and digital learning in PreK-12, higher education, and beyond. Her work is focused at the intersection of research, practice, and policy. She owns and operates her own consulting firm that is currently helping inform PLTW’s current and future teaching and learning experiences. 

Similar to many organizations around the world, COVID-19 caused PLTW to make a fast decision to offer the same dynamic training experience in an online setting. The PLTW team didn’t really know what the work would entail, but they knew they had to do something to continue supporting their schools, educators, and students across the U.S. They also knew they were working within a very short timeline. 

During the last week of March, I was honored and grateful for the opportunity to be brought on as a consultant to provide guidance and strategic planning for quality online learning experiences. I quickly learned that PLTW would be shifting 26 of their PLTW Core Training experiences online for summer 2020, which included two-, three-, five-, and 10-day trainings. 

Having been in the field of PreK through graduate school digital learning for over 15 years, I have worked on many projects similar to this one where I’m regularly interacting with instructional developers, media teams, and editors. The three key parts that are very different with this project are:

  • The fleeting timeline
  • The requirement to design without access to equipment. We couldn’t assume that educators (both Master Teachers and participants) would have access to their classrooms/labs/equipment.
  • The requirement to design without access to any other resources for home labs/building, including household materials. We couldn’t require educators (both Master Teachers and participants) to neither use their own resources nor ask them to go out and buy materials. 

After quickly establishing a toolkit for best practices, the Instructional Development Team, Media Team, and editors jumped in and started a six-week design and development process - it was truly a sprint to the finish! Instructional Development Teams peer reviewed each other’s work and provided feedback, and Team Leads gave guidance on potential enhancements. I met with teams as needed to provide additional support, and as part of the final sign off for each training, I conducted quality assurance reviews.

As we enter the final week of our six-week design and development process, one of my recurring reflections as I review each of the trainings is how much I wish I was a student in the classes that these PLTW-certified teachers will be teaching. I’m so jealous of their students! These classes will be filled with mind-activated, hands-on, engaging experiences, a few of which are illustrated below. 

In PLTW’s Computer Science Principles training, educators learn how to use the Python programming language so that they can share that with their own students. In PLTW’s Cybersecurity training, educators work diligently to solve a security breach at a water treatment facility. And in PLTW’s Engineering Essentials training, educators learn about ArcGIS Story Mapping to help their students better understand how a map can tell the story of a civilization. 

While I am not one to regret my past, I do wonder if I had some of these authentic, real-world learning opportunities in my science and math classes, would I have taken a different path?

As I wrap up this post, I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge shout out to the PLTW Instructional and Media Development Teams and the editors! This work is a massive undertaking. The magnitude of these builds was beyond extensive. You took the work on with grace and gusto in such a short amount of time and with unprecedented design restrictions. You are so very inspiring and creative, and your dedication to this tremendous effort has not gone unnoticed. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with you all.

PLTW’s blog intends to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.