“Zoomed Out” Reimagining Professional Learning Recap

“Zoomed Out” has become part of our vernacular.  How come?  And how might we reimagine Professional Learning around it?

Co-authored by:  Dean Shareski, Victoria Caruso and Julie Foss

When a product becomes a verb it’s likely a pretty good sign for that company. Today we “Google” an idea, ask for a “Kleenex” and “Photoshop” a person into a picture. You can now add “Zoom” to that list. Whether you use Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype or Facetime, we now collectively call that a “Zoom call”. It’s happened in the past 3 months which is likely faster than any product has taken hold and as an unintended consequence, we are also “Zoomed Out”.

Why are we “Zoomed Out?”

This term applies not only to the volume of meetings we have but also the very unnatural way we need to interact during them that is adding to our collective fatigue. Many articles have examined the ways our virtual calls will make us weary. Here are a few the most common ones:

  • Being so close to someone’s face is not natural. Think of the “close-talker” reference from Seinfeld.
  • Seeing your own image makes you more self-conscious. Instead of focusing on the conversation, you are tempted to think about not only yourself but your background.
    • “Take your ego out of it…if this (Zoom session) isn’t for you, and you’re debating between this session and another one, go to that other session that might better fit your needs” -Monica Agudelo
    • “PL (is)… creating a safe space for your vulnerability.” -Alaina Trott
  • It’s easier to multi-task and we don’t multitask well.
    • “Are they (attendees) there to listen, or is there an expectation forth? Is their input going to be valued… is this just to fill the time, or do they really wanna know what we think?” -Monica Agudelo
  • There’s no social context to these spaces
    • “Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t it weird? That’s what we’re doing now – Gianpiero Petriglieri
    • -”People are grasping at whatever, trying to figure out what best serves their needs.” -Monica Agudelo
  • During this time, many of us are trying to be extra compassionate and caring for one another and trying to communicate that via video is also exhausting.

While we have certainly benefited from our “Zoom” meetings and likely would not have been able to be as effective as we have been, as we continue to explore its use for professional learning, we are quickly becoming tired of the media and the format. It’s time we examined how to make our virtual meetings better even as we recognize some of the factors that make it challenging.

How might we Reimagine Professional Learning in a Virtual World?

In a recent conversation with Zoomed Out webinar participants, one participant shared that he drives around the block between meetings to give himself the illusion of a change of scenery.  Our ALP leadership team recently started conducting “walking meetings” as a way to collaborate AND address our social and emotional well being.  And while these and other ideas we hope you will help crowd source and share widely are creative ways to think about managing our time and space, we also offer systemic considerations for design as well.

  • Training vs. Learning- Otherwise known as what we need our people to know & do vs. what our people want to pursue to grow as people and professionals. What percentage of professional learning in your division is training?  For those opportunities that reflect learning, who designs them?  While training may require a high level of fidelity and consistency, how does that change with learning?  What opportunities exist to detach from time, space, and place with learning?
  • Initiative vs. Human Capacity– Several years ago now I wrote a #30daysoflearning series on LinkedIn and interviewed anyone who would talk to me about what learning looked like in industry.  My takeaway was that in education our professional learning is largely focused on initiatives (culturally responsive teaching practices, SEL, mastery-based learning, etc.).  While these are all worthy pursuits that challenge the growth of our practice, few challenge us to grow as humans.  When was the last time we offered a professional learning opportunity on building effective teams, listening to learn, resolving conflicts collaboratively, vulnerability, or galvanizing people around ideas?  How might developing our people as humans impact their capacity to embrace and further initiatives?
  • Internal vs. External Lenses- Professional Learning is in large part, reflective of learning we are seeking.  I wonder about what opportunities lie in our willingness to view reflection as an action, mobilization as a mindset and professional learning as a byproduct of the interrogation of our practice first and foremost.  Our use of simple structures to guide/frame/and structure thinking, our ability to ritualize reflection and our commitment to capturing learning to inform and carry learning forward are all ways we might look at professional learning through an internal vs. external lens.


Though “Zoomed Out” is a recent colloquialism, it is reflective both of the form and function of professional learning design.  The continuation of our discussion on professional learning will take place on July 15th at 3:00 pm EST.  We hope you will consider joining us and adding your voice and ideas to our conversation.

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