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End-Of-Term Teacher Residency Gala Goes Virtual; Improves Interaction

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Hacking. “MacGyvering.” Retooling. Repurposing.

Problem-solving in a pinch using only that which is available to you has many different names. But no matter how you refer to it, when the outcome exceeds expectations, it becomes something else: a solution worth sharing.

The following is precisely that. 

Sonia M. Rosen, Ph.D., Director of Inquiry and Reflective Practice for the Independent School Teaching Residency Program (ISTR) at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, brought a unique request to us during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. As a veteran TORSH Talent user, she was looking for a way to extend the platform’s usefulness to improve an annual in-person event that was going virtual in the wake of the pandemic. 

A bit of backstory.

Each year, the department produces a Spring Gathering. During this highly anticipated event, ISTR participants present the one dimension of their practice on which they have done systematic research, collected data, and ultimately identified ways to systematically learn more about their students. This project is a full year in the making, with each teaching fellow presenting their findings to peers, administrators, and others in the program, all with the intention of facilitating peer conversations. Without this year’s in-person event, Dr. Rosen sought the Torsh team’s help to make this year’s event as interactive as possible.

Erin Murphy, Senior Customer Success Manager for Torsh, worked with Rosen through this unique set of circumstances. Her account of the process, from problem to pay off, is outlined below.

Problem: The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education had to conduct their Spring Gathering presentations virtually due to COVID-19. 

Goal of Spring Gathering: The culmination of the year-long inquiry project for second-year ISTR teaching fellows to present their systematic research. While the presentations are not graded, the goal is to elicit thoughtful conversation and feedback from peers, mentors, and leaders.

Solution: Torsh worked with Dr. Rosen to develop a plan on how ISTR could utilize TORSH Talent to best conduct the Spring Gathering presentations and elicit thoughtful conversation virtually.

We strategized how Groups and Collections features could be used to structure the presentations. 

After a brainstorming session, Torsh provided step-by-step instructions on how the environment was to be set up by an administrator and steps for the presenters to follow to share content. Licenses were easily added using the automated purchasing tool within TORSH Talent to accommodate the additional participants and onlookers. 

The virtual adaptation of ISTR’s Spring Gathering was heralded as a success, with meaningful outcomes such as those cited below:

  • The TORSH Talent video-commenting feature allowed participants to provide thoughtful conversation and feedback with one group logging over 1,500 comments of mostly substantive discussion.
  • According to administrators, TORSH Talent was an easy-to-use solution because of the user-friendly interface. People unfamiliar with the platform were able to get up and running on their own.
  • Teaching fellows benefited from great feedback, reflection, and the ability to develop content for their portfolios. 

The fruitful discussions, thanks to the TORSH commenting tool, are sure to play a significant role as the Summer and Fall curriculum is expected to be online, which will expand the number of users to include mentors, program directors, fellows, and Penn faculty. Lectures and content will be available for fellows to watch on the front end of any asynchronous teaching and also on the back end for enrichment. And as administrators look to next year’s Spring Gathering, the valuable lessons learned from going virtual have already been added to the event.  


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