Dr. Laura Morrison and Dr. Janette Hughes share their recent paper ‘Making the shift to virtual professional learning’.

Emma Whewell

Emma Whewell

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Making the shift to virtual professional learning.

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Laura Morrison and Janette Hughes

Morrison, L. & Hughes, J. (2022). Making the shift to virtual professional learning. Technology, Pedagogy & Education. DOI: 10.1080/1475939X.2022.2156918

Smart devices, new social media platforms (i.e., TikTok), the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (A.I.) are changing how humans interact with one another and their environment. These technologies are also changing the skills people now need to critically navigate and participate in their various life worlds. The world of work, for example, requires new technical skills, strong inter- and intra-personal skills and other skills such as creativity and critical thinking (Johnson et al., 2017; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016). As a result, the education system has needed to evolve to keep up. 

One way the Ontario Ministry of Education has responded is through the integration of makerspaces in K–12 schools. Makerspaces are communal learning spaces where people gather to explore, design and build. The spaces can be high-tech, low-tech, or a combination of the two. Important defining features of makerspaces and pedagogies include design thinking, student-driven, hands-on learning connected to the real world, and authentic assessment (Hughes & Morrison, 2021). Learning happens as making happens. 

Making is often also collaborative and connected to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). In this regard, a making approach to learning can help students develop global skills and competencies. However, educators need the proper professional learning to support their students. Complicating things in 2020 was the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered a shift online and emergency remote teaching (ERT). As many teachers were unfamiliar with good online pedagogy, they were at risk of reverting to traditional content “delivery” methods even if they used transformation-based pedagogies in their face-to-face (f2f) classrooms. Our maker lab saw a need to intervene early in the pandemic to help teachers in the transition. 

Our qualitative research involved the development of virtual maker professional learning (PL) sessions for K–12 and post-secondary educators at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-June 2020). The sessions were developed by our maker research lab in Ontario, Canada as it moved entirely online at the start of the pandemic. Our study focused on best practices related to virtual maker professional learning and from it we found that: a) technical issues should be anticipated and addressed in advance of each session; b) simple, hands-on activities are most effective for online maker professional learning; c) collaboration is pivotal to a rich online maker professional learning experience; d) using free, virtual tools is imperative for equitable access and learning; and e) adaptability is key when working with a diversity of learners/teachers from varied subjects and divisions. 


Hughes, J., & Morrison, L. (2021). Design thinking through passion-based learning. In D. Scott & J. Lock (Eds.), Teacher as designer (pp. 103–117). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-9789-3  

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2017). NMC horizon report: 2017 K-12 edition. The New Media Consortium. https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2017/11/2017hrk12EN.pdf  

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). Towards defining 21st century competencies for Ontario: 21st Century Competencies Foundation document for discussion. http://www.edugains.ca/resources21CL/About21stCentury/21CL_ 21stCenturyCompetencies.pdf  

Dr. Laura Morrison is a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Education at Ontario Tech University and the University of Hawaii. She completed her Education Doctorate at the University of Calgary with a focus on promising practices associated with online pre-service teacher education. Over the past ten years in academia, Laura has published/co-published scholarly articles, book chapters and conference proceedings, and she has presented research at over 20 national and international conferences. Laura’s areas of expertise include online teaching and learning, critical digital literacies and making for education

Dr. Janette Hughes is a Canada Research Chair, in Technology and Pedagogy and Professor in the Faculty of Education at Ontario Tech University. She is the recipient of multiple research and teaching awards and research grants. She is widely published and is author of four books, including Makers, Making and Makerspaces, which is based on research with teachers in 20 school districts in Ontario. Dr. Hughes is a prolific author and presenter, sharing her work both nationally and internationally in prestigious scholarly and professional journals, keynote talks, and conferences. She has presented more than 125 peer-reviewed research papers conferences across Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America.