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6 Steps to Engage Educators in Virtual Worklabs

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Listen and learn : Snapshot

Snapshots are a pairing of two 20 minute presentations followed by a 5 minute Q & A.
This is presentation 1 of 2, scroll down to see more details.

Other presentations in this group:

Dr. Stefani Boutelier  
Samantha Gibson  
Charon Leal  
Nicole Ludwig  

How can we design professional learning through virtual worklabs? Learn six steps to increase participation, accountability and networking with worklabs. A virtual worklab is a synchronous workspace for new and differentiated learning for adult learners. Come get motivated to lead worklabs with your professional learning communities or students.

Audience: Coaches, Professional developers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Professional learning
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

In a heightened time of isolation, organized virtual worklabs encourage educators to continue their path as lifelong learners. Through our experience and success on both ends of virtual worklabs, we have concluded that there are six steps to engaging and productive worklabs for adult learners. The six steps are: 1. Set-up (e.g., comfortable with the platform, flexible timing, working links), 2. Check-in (state goals, share good news, questions, share new content), 3. Work (independent, feedback (e.g., verbal, textual), small group, 1:1), 4. Mid-point check-in (brief reconnect for mental break, questions, share struggles, non-academic content), 5. Work (independent, feedback (e.g., verbal, textual), small group, 1:1), 6. Wrap-up (share progress, next steps). This process provides consistency and holds participants accountable for course work, professional development learning goals, or other independent work in a virtual setting.

The use of virtual worklabs with educators supports best practices for andragogy (adult education) by allowing independence, immediacy, and digital accountability. Best practices for adult learners are often left out of professional development and teacher education courses. As well, it is important to remember adults need differentiation and their learning should be augmented with UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles (e.g., allowing for choice, offering feedback in multiple forms, multimodality). Setting up virtual worklabs effectively can support these needed elements for adult learners, thus modeling and transferring into our PK-12 classrooms.

Virtual worklabs utilize not only a meeting platform (e.g., Meets, Zoom) but can integrate the use of collaborative docs for goal setting, add-ons or extensions to enhance digital tools used during worklabs (e.g., screencasts for short “how-tos”), or variations in the setting (e.g., breakouts, 1:1, hyflex setting). The options to personalize and repeat engaging virtual worklabs are wide, yet provide a reminder that organized and purposeful virtual settings support all learners. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of how virtual worklabs can be embedded successfully in their own practice and recognize the need to integrate best practices for adult learners in a virtual setting.


-(5 minutes) Introduction; Overview of virtual worklabs and andragogy; understanding who is in the audience (quick poll)
-(15 minutes) Breakdown of the six steps for engaging virtual worklabs
Brief overview of examples and need for UDL and differentiation for adults
(5 minutes) Peer-to-peer discussion: examples of each step for different settings (e.g., professional development, individual coaching, independent goals, teacher education courses, hyflex)
Brief overview of examples and need for UDL and differentiation for adults
-(5 minutes) Questions, Closure

Supporting research

Please see our initial research published below, in addition to supplementary research related to our topic.
Boutelier, S., Gibson, S., Leal, C., & Ludwig, N. (2020). Teacher education during isolation: Virtual worklabs for community and accountability. In Ferdig, R.E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R. & Mouza, C. (Eds.), Teaching, Technology, and Teacher Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field (pp. 473-477). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/

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Dr. Stefani Boutelier, Aquinas College
ISTE Certified Educator
Samantha Gibson, Southwest Elementary Academia Bilingüe

Samantha Gibson, MA is a bilingual elementary teacher in a two-way immersion program in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is a proud graduate of Grand Valley State University (BA) and Aquinas College (MA) and holds endorsements in Social Studies, Spanish, and Bilingual Education. Samantha currently serves as the secretary of the West Michigan Alliance of Immersion Educators. One of her proudest professional accomplishments is being recognized as Teacher of the Year by her colleagues. Samantha is a passionate advocate for immersion education and believes all children can benefit from becoming bilingual, biliterate, and culturally competent.

Charon Leal, Gladiola Elementary School
Nicole Ludwig, Townline Elementary

Nicole Ludwig, MA is an instructional coach in Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan. Her teaching career has been spent serving urban student populations and understanding how to best support their growth. She is passionate about changing the narrative that has been written about data use in education.

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