Atomic Learning Enhances Teacher Professional Development at Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Earlier this week, the instructional technology department at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) facilitated a technology seminar for the teachers in the district.  This seminar was funded through the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant, and was intended to help teachers understand how they can improve student achievement through the use of technology in their schools.

Attendance was excellent.  I spoke with one teacher who responded to the initial invite within a day of receiving it, and she was told the seminar was already full.  They later expanded the seminar and in the end had somewhere between 200 and 300 teachers attend.

The seminar was two full days of training on technologies such as podcasting, Google Earth, Photo Story, Movie Maker, Smart Boards, Promethean Boards, Moodle, Wikis, and more.  Each day was broken into 5, 50-minute sessions, allowing the teachers to attend 10 different sessions.

So where does Atomic Learning fit with all of this?  As we say at AL, this method of learning is known as "drinking from the fire hose," and can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for teachers, especially those that are somewhat new using these tools.  When the teachers came to my session, we started by making a list of all the things they were learning about.  Then we discussed their plans over the next month:

  • Two weeks left of Summer break, then students come back
  • Two weeks of new students, new schedules, new classes, and a bit of chaos
  • Two more weeks until they're back in the groove with their curriculum

When you lay out the volume of valuable information they received in this two-day seminar and couple it with the fact that it will likely be six weeks until they are able to use it with students, you can get an idea of how difficult it may be to get back up to speed with the technology.  So during my session the teachers spent some time building their preferred training and favorites lists of the technology they felt would be most valuable to them in their classes.  The self-paced training available from Atomic Learning covered about 85% of the technology they learned about in the seminar, so this allowed them to build a quick refresher list.  It allows the teachers to continue growing their expertise throughout the school year, through an ongoing method of professional learning.  With access to tutorials, projects, and workshops from AL, the teachers not only learn how to use the functionality of the technology, but they are able to get specific ideas for ways they can apply it through projects with their class.

CMS has implemented a couple of additional programs to encourage this method of ongoing professional learning.  For example, the instructional technology team has put together Atomic Learning paths, that clearly show a teacher some level of scope and sequence around the training they recommend, depending on the area of focus that the teacher desires.  In addition, CMS has approved this self-paced training for CEU credit, so if teachers are able to accrue ten hours of time on Atomic Learning throughout the school year then they earn CEU credits.

Near the end of my session we discussed other ways they can continue growing their expertise with instructional technology, one of which is our continuing education courses with IT4Educators.  Many eyes lit up when they found out they could earn graduate-level credit from these courses, which teach them additional techniques for applying technology in their classes.  In fact, one physical education / health teacher was explaining to me that her passion is health and she truly wants to find new technology resources for her health classes.  When she saw we had a 1-credit course focused on just that, "Integrating Health/Physical Education Web Resources in the Classroom," she nearly hugged me.

It was a powerful couple of days at CMS, and the instructional technology team is continuing to make great strides in helping teachers improve student achievement through technology.  I'm looking forward to Atomic Learning's continued partnership throughout the school year, and I'm confident that even the teacher who said, "you lost me at, 'insert a CD'," will be podcasting with her students before the end of the year.

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