In these difficult financial times, finding low- or no-cost ways of providing quality professional learning experiences for educators remains a challenge for departments of education and the school districts they help support. One solution increasingly embraced is technology-based professional learning. In addition to the cost-saving benefits, online platforms allow for anytime, anywhere professional development, opportunities for educators to network and share ideas beyond their school walls, and perhaps most importantly, such platforms provide us with experiences to better meet the learning needs of the digital natives we see in our classrooms each day.
At the recent National Adolescent Literacy Coalition (NALC) meeting, I had the opportunity to share work underway in Kentucky on implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I described how our state’s implementation of the CCSS has revealed the need for high-quality professional learning on using the CCSS effectively, and how our state is developing resources to meet those needs through a variety of modes, including technology-based supports. The Kentucky Education Television (KET), the University of Kentucky’s P-20 Labs, and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) have partnered to support Kentucky iTunesU, which provides a platform for sharing webcasts, podcasts, and presentations on the CCSS implementation. Another partnership with KET and KDE, Literacy Central, has led to the development of an interactive website of resources on literacy planning, professional learning, instruction and intervention, including reflection questions and activities for professional communities of practice. These are just two of the resources shared at the meeting. To bring all of the educator supports together in one system, KDE is launching the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS). According to KDE’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. Terry Holliday, “The Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) will connect standards, electronically stored instructional resources, curriculum, formative assessments, instruction, professional learning and evaluation of teachers and principals in one place, thereby improving instructional outcomes, teacher effectiveness and leadership.”
Our NALC conversation for this session ended with a discussion of the policy reforms that need to occur to enable more flexibility for districts, schools and educators—flexibility that will allow for professional learning experiences that are on-going, meet the individual learning needs of participants, and take place in a variety of formats, including technology-based. Only then will we meet the needs of each teacher and have students who are fully engaged in a meaningful, life-long education that is truly 21st century oriented.
Guest Author: Cindy Parker is the Literacy Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Education.