Like many states across the nation, Mississippi faces a shortage of classroom teachers, with many unable to enter the classroom because they lack the proper credentials to receive teaching certificates.
“Mississippi is just one of many states experiencing a shortage of certified teachers,” says Barbara Treacy, who directs EDC’s work in the nine-state E-Learning for Educators project. “For states with large underserved rural areas with limited access to professional development, this crisis is exacerbated.” Using EDC’s EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) training, Mississippi’s E-Learning for Educators program provided online workshops for more than 350 teachers on emergency certificates as a requirement for them to return to the classroom this fall.
EDC’s Center for Online Professional Education (COPE) teamed up with Alabama Public Television (APTV) and others to offer this online professional development program for K-12 teachers. The E-Learning for Educators initiative is funded through a five-year, $22 million U.S. Department of Education grant from the “Ready to Teach” program which provides funding for teacher training. While the program is not broadcast, the public television station is part of the statewide leadership team that oversees the project.
The state leadership teams share in all aspects of the state program, so staff from both the state department, the stations, and school districts recruited to be trained as online facilitators and/or online course developers. The stations have developed marketing materials, for example, while others on the team have been more focused on recruiting teachers for the workshops.
States participating in E-Learning for Educators include Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
Treacy and her ETLO colleagues developed online workshops to help meet teacher quality goals in core content areas. Online technologies, says Treacy, expand opportunities for teacher professional development, because they offer increased access and flexible delivery of training, especially needed for teachers in underserved areas. ETLO workshops focus on content knowledge, teaching practices, and ways to improve student achievement.
Working with State Leaders
ETLO is a train-the-trainers model that helps educational organizations provide online professional development to K–12 teachers and administrators. Working for school districts, state departments of education, and institutions of higher education since the fall 2000, ETLO has trained over 1,200 online training specialists who have delivered workshops to more than 30,000 educators in 36 states.
E-Learning states are adapting the program to meet teacher quality and student learning goals, with a specific focus on high needs schools and districts. ETLO’s collection of 30-online workshops is complemented by 18 new workshops EDC is designing especially for the nine E-Learning states.
“Each state is taking the model and bringing it to life with its own flavor and using it to address critical state educational needs,” says Treacy. “Strong leadership teams have been established in each state, based on a partnership between the public television station and the state department of education and other stakeholders, which ensures local ownership and sustainability.”
Each state leadership team attended a multi-state week-long training academy to orient them to the E-Learning program, develop a state implementation plan, and build collaborations with other state teams.
Online learning, particularly the EdTech Leaders Online model, is a “learning community” approach that offers facilitated, discussion-based courses. Web tools and online discussions provide opportunities for learners to collaborate and share reflections during the course and beyond. In the E-learning project, state leadership teams’ facilitators are supported in the ETLO Facilitator Forum, an online environment where they can share questions, successes, challenges, materials, and products with one another
“A huge focus of the program has been building cross-state collaboration between the nine participating states,” says Treacy. “We have helped them develop a formal network to share lessons, materials, and other resources that can be disseminated beyond the project.”
For example, the Missouri public TV station participating in the E-learning program developed a five-minute promotional video highlighting the merits of online professional development. It is airing the video throughout the state in order to introduce the program and attract course registrants. Missouri has offered this video to the eight other E-learning states, and will customize it to suit states’ purposes for a nominal fee.
This spring, ETLO trained 24 facilitators from each state in its online facilitator training course. In the next phase, these facilitators offer online courses to teachers throughout each state.
Facilitators can choose among 30 ETLO workshops, which include the following:
- Supporting Early Reading Instruction with Technology
- Primary Sources in the Social Studies Classroom
- Using Technology in the Elementary Math Classroom
- Helping Struggling Readers Improve Comprehension
- Designing a Virtual Fieldtrip
- Using Patterns to Develop Algebraic Thinking
- Making the Most of Adolescent Literature
- Inquiry in the Science Classroom Using Internet Data
“Alabama decided to use the E-learning program to partner with their state reading program, the Alabama Reading Initiative, offering ETLO’s Early Reading Instruction workshop to elementary teachers across the state,” says Treacy. “Starting in October, Alabama’s 24 newly trained online facilitators will offer this workshop to hundreds of Alabama teachers, enabling the E-Learning for Educators program to play a significant role in helping Alabama meet its Reading First goals.”
Starting in the fall, ETLO will provide training for states to develop their own online courses to meet their particular needs.
Originally published on August 1, 2006