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Where: Mobile County Public Schools, Mobile, Alabama
Who: Ursula Martin, Ed.D. Instructional Technology Resource Teacher
What: Online professional development and resources for teachers
As the nation continues to face the COVID-19 crisis, schools have turned to online and virtual learning for their students. Many teachers are still learning how to teach using the technology tools that are available.
Virtual learning for students requires virtual professional development for teachers. In Alabama, teachers are required to earn 50 continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their teacher certification. As school systems have closed due to the national crisis, teachers have been tasked with finding a way to still earn those credits.
The Instructional Technology department for Mobile County Public Schools System (MCPSS) has worked to make sure that there is professional development (PD) available to teachers that not only helps them earn their CEUs but also helps them transition to the online learning environment with their students.
Many teachers did not already have an online presence for their students prior to the changes that recently took place in our nation. Being suddenly thrust into an online class, as a student, has been challenging, and the teachers have had to rise to the challenge of teaching online, even though it’s been hard for them as well.
The MCPSS IT Department has put several plans in place to help teachers meet the needs of their students in their online classrooms.
PD and Resources for Teachers Working from Home
Since Google Classroom is the platform of choice for the district, a district-level Google Classroom was created for both the elementary and secondary teachers with all of the resources necessary to help a teacher get ready to teach online. Self-paced PD was added to each of the Google Classrooms so that teachers could earn CEUs and learn how to work with their students in their own online classrooms.
Teachers who already used an online platform with their students were allowed to continue using that platform. Resources have been made available for the teachers in the form of videos and handouts that were created to help them get started in their online classes or to support them with the online platform they were already using.
A Google Sites website was also created to house the district’s Continuity Plan so that teachers have a central place to find the information needed to work from home and to teach their students.
Lastly, one-hour virtual PD sessions were developed to help teachers stay informed of all of the additional apps and programs, such as Screencast-o-matic, that can be integrated into their online platforms, and to also answer questions teachers may have with continued use of their newly created online classroom. Virtual PD sessions were also developed for administrators and prospective administrators so they can have an understanding of what the teachers and students are experiencing, and are able to evaluate the process.
The major challenge that we faced as we began to get everything in order for our students was the fact that not all students had devices or connectivity at home to begin online learning.
Plans were made for students to either receive devices and hotspots from their school or printed packets that were to be completed and returned to the school via mail or drop off.
We hope that this transition will be a smooth one but the district’s Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (TLA) division has put hotlines in place to help parents, students, and teachers with any questions and concerns they may have.
Dr. Ursula Martin has been an educator for 17 years. She is currently a district level Technology Resource Teacher for the Mobile County Public Schools System in Mobile, Al.