Transitioning PGO catalogue to online offerings is ultimate goal for STF Professional Learning

Sask Bulletin
December 16, 2020

Shaun McEachern

STF Professional Learning Director Shaun McEachern (pictured) and his colleagues want to make sure teachers are aware that there are plenty of options still available for workshops through the ever-expanding online component.

For those of you who might availed yourself of the opportunities offered in years past through the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit and might wonder if those workshops have just fallen by the wayside, think again.

Although only coincidental in terms of the name change to Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation  Professional Learning, the whole COVID-19 pandemic has also changed the mode of delivery in a major way.

Shaun McEachern, Director of STF Professional Learning, has previously spoken of while it was always going to be a goal to transition to more online content; the new reality we find ourselves in has exponentially sped up that process to the point where at least 90 percent of the professional development opportunities are now being done virtually.

By no means has that resulted in a reduced offering of the 104 workshops that teachers can sign up for through STFPL, ranging from the core subject areas to instructional supports, technology and even sessions devoted to the well-being of teachers.

According to McEachern, word is definitely getting out there and it has been a steady increase in the usage of the website.

And it’s not only individual teachers signing up. McEachern indicated STFPL has already supported three teacher conventions throughout the province and has the capacity to increase that amount.

Jay Salikin, Senior Manager of Learning Technology for STFPL, said, “this is what teachers are asking for and so we’re adapting our practices.
We are trying to replicate the face-to-face situation, particularly with the smaller virtual rooms.”

Salikin did, however, readily acknowledge that it’s not going to be the same and while the vast majority would prefer the face-to-face format, this most assuredly helps fill the void.

“You’re still going to have some delays and people turning the camera, but teachers are still learning. The social networking aspect can’t be the same in this format,” he added.

McEachern said while workshops are available in either Microsoft Teams or Zoom platforms, “it’s a very time consuming process to get all this set up and I know teachers have shared their apprehensions, but at the same time they have also told us how uplifting it is to still be able to be part of a community. That’s something we are working very hard on to establish.”

McEachern explained how STFPL has incorporated a learning management system in an ongoing effort to make the process more effective. The program being used is called Canvas, and McEachern said the goal is to have the entire traditional catalogue available in this format, while conceding that “this is not something that is going to occur overnight. We are building capacity in order that it should ultimately be able to suit all learners.”

Salikin noted that an undertaking as ambitious as this can be tricky. “We have been thinking about how can we streamline the process, but things change so fast in this world.”

McEachern implored teachers to check out the website at www.stfprofessionallearning.ca, adding that even if there’s a particular area that might pique your interest that might not be listed, “we can offer just about anything, so we’re asking teachers just to reach out and we can work together.”