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The Global Search for Education: How Teachers Are Learning in New York

“I was exposed to even more sites than I was currently aware of. It was a great place to exchange ideas.” 

— Linda Bean

A new era of personalized professional development is penetrating New York schools. Online learning methods that in the past enriched students are now engaging educators. Participation in online professional development is on the rise. And demand will continue to grow. 

The State of New York has mandated that all teachers complete 100 hours of professional development to maintain their teaching certifications. New York Partners for Technology Innovation (NYPTI), a non-profit organization with the purpose of helping educators integrate technology into their instruction, has partnered with the world’s largest K-12 social learning platform, Edmodo, to create blended professional learning courses for teachers. 

“Our courses blend anytime online learning convenience with synchronous videoconference sessions for the best practices of both individual reflection on teacher practice and group activity within a learning community,” says Carol Weintraub, Director of the New York Partners for Technology Innovation. She explains that “rigor and accountability” is a critical goal. Beginning in May, courses on numerous topics from Children’s Literature K-12 to The Flipped Classroom will be available. 

Weintraub notes that all NYPTI’s courses delivered via Edmodo are eligible for CTLE professional learning hours and adhere to the guidance of the Standards for Online Learning created by Nassau BOCES, New York Institute of Technology, and NYS Teacher Centers. Research indicates that group-based versus individual and instructor led courses, with live sessions, yield much higher engagement and completion rates. “Edmodo has been long-known as an intuitive, user-friendly learning system for students,” says Carol, who believes the Edmodo medium will be “as popular for professional learning for educators as it is for students.”

How do Blended Learning courses capture the best of both online learning and face-to-face sessions? What kinds of courses are the most popular, and would teachers using blended learning recommend them to their peers? While face-to-face learning is a different experience, there are clearly collaborative and group-based benefits of professional development via a social learning platform, as I discovered when talking to teachers. The Global Search for Education reached out to teachers Julie Trzaska, Jennifer Lindner, Jeanette Wolters-Lennon, Linda Bean, Melissa Penman and Rebecca Diehl to learn more.

Teachers, welcome. How did your blended learning experience compare with face-to-face professional development using the same content? What do you think are the pros and cons?

Julie: Having the courses online gives us the option to control our own time. Things come up, and being flexible with our PD is extremely beneficial. The weekly emails from the moderator were helpful, even if they were just to say “hello.” It jogged my memory about the course.

Linda: I like to work at my own pace and work ahead if I have time. I don’t really see any cons to this type of course at all. I do see many pros. I was exposed to even more sites than I was currently aware of. It was a great place to exchange ideas.

Melissa: Online learning requires more time on the student’s part. Instead of attending class once a week and completing homework assignments, I found myself doing additional research to be prepared for Zoom sessions, completing assignments, and logging in regularly to participate in conversations with my classmates. While it required more time on my part, I felt that I learned more by putting the additional effort in. 

Rebecca: Online learning compared to face-to-face PD allows you to work around the time constraints of your job and personal life. There is still access to the teacher as in a face-to-face class, especially if you have questions, but you also have more of an ability to be independent. 

What about the quality of the content in the courses you selected?

Julie: I chose MindMapping for Educators. I liked it because it was relevant no matter what grade you were teaching or what content area you teach. The trial and error opportunities aren’t often offered to educators; usually information is thrown at us and it’s time consuming to go through and therefore often put on the back burner.

Jennifer: The content ranges from introducing the common core standards in assignments - for newer teachers - to adapting technology and implementing modified instruction/assignments to fit the needs of today’s changing classroom populations. 

Jeanette: I am looking forward to see what is coming up next. I chose an art class for non-art teachers. Personally the class was great for me, but I’m not sure if I could use much in my discipline. 

Linda: I picked the Computer Literacy course. I am a computer teacher, but I am always looking for new and exciting things for my students as well as for my fellow teachers. I found some great videos to use in my classroom, and was able to bounce ideas off the teacher and the other students.

Melissa: I ended up choosing to take the Full STEAM Ahead course. My second choice was a course about literature in the classroom, and while this would have been a great course to have under my belt, I chose the STEAM course because this concept was not popular or taught while I was working on my degree. I love that I learned skills to provide my students with hands-on learning experiences that nurture critical thinking skills.

Rebecca: I decided on taking the course on Computer Literacy: PBS Learning Media and Webquests. I enjoyed taking this class. The teacher was very flexible and understanding if you had questions or concerns. My classmates gave great feedback and discussions with them were often enlightening. I came away from the class with some great resources to use and to share with my co-workers. Our instructor also supplemented class with Zoom, which is a video meeting app, and we had a quick video meeting once a week which gave us some face time with each other to ask questions.

Specifically on the Edmodo platform, what did you like about the environment?

Jeanette: Sharing ideas is wonderful in this platform. I have been able to build relationships outside of the PD with those teachers that take many of these classes. 

Melissa: I loved checking in on our group discussions and learning about what other educators are doing in their classrooms. The participants of the class varied in grade-level and subject area taught, which led to some interesting discussions.

It sounds like you all had a positive learning experience. So my final question: Any thoughts or recommendations for teachers or the team that develops these courses?

Rebecca: It would be nice to have a more cross-curricular offering.

Jeanette: Do it! This is a great way to get some of the old dogs to learn new tricks. I’m not being disrespectful saying this, I am an old dog. I’ve been teaching for 25 years.

Julie: Take advantage of the flexibility that online PD offers!

Linda: Go for it. It was the best 6-week course I have ever taken. Continue to get these courses approved by the state so that they will count for PD under the new guidelines for teachers.

Thank you Teachers! For More Information.

(All photos are courtesy of CMRubinWorld)

Top Row L to R: C. M. Rubin, Carol Weintraub, Julie Trzaska, Rebecca Diehl

Bottom Row L to R:  Melissa Penman, Linda Bean, Jeanette Wolters-Lennon, Jennifer Lindner

Join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. MadhavChavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. EijaKauppinen (Finland), State Secretary TapioKosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Geoff Masters (Australia), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (LyceeFrancais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.

The Global Search for Education Community Page

C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.