Learning.com: The Long Review, Part One

First in a series. Tech & Learning follows Illinois's Oak Lawn-Hometown District 123 through the school year as they implement Learning.com's STEM curriculum in conjunction with the district's new 1:1 computing initiative.

How we Prepared for our 1:1 Rollout and Learning.com Pilot

On the eve of our 1:1 Netbook rollout, I sit compiling the ways to support our teachers as they transition into teaching with a new digital STEM resource. Learning.Com will be providing all of our fifth grade teachers and students with access to science, math, and technology supplementary curriculum pieces.

Having just left the classroom to become an instructional technology coach, I remember well the realities of teaching. Teachers do most of their learning and professional development at home or on the weekends because one-day professional development rarely transfers to the classroom. Striving to be the best, they stress about creating quality materials and worry about not knowing something completely before presenting it. They are sometimes nervous that the kids will know more about something than they will and want to master everything before experimenting with students.

Recalling these notions about teaching allows me to provide our teachers with what they need now: guidance, appreciation, and the support of a learning community. Here are the ways we have worked to create the groundwork for a successful rollout and pilot.

  1. Teacher leader blog showcasing creative teachers
    When I post on our blog and send out emails mentioning great tech projects, I receive a huge positive response from my colleagues. Teachers love to be inspired by each other and reminded about the great things happening in our community.
  2. Professional Learning Community within Google Apps
    We created a private site for teachers to share information, documents, and videos. Several teams of teachers took off with this concept and have truly benefited. It only takes one leader to start posting to energize an entire group of people.
  3. Instructional screencasts
    All of the fifth grade teachers say our tutorials have been the best way to learn. The feedback has motivated us to populate our section of Google with screencasts that are used as lessons for both teacher and students.
  4. Internal coaching positions
    My new job as instructional technology coach allows me to go into every classroom and model, collaborate, and support teachers and students. Each week I send out a schedule with a link to my Google appointment calendar and include a list of services I can offer to teach that week. Allowing options for lessons allows teachers to still be creative and have autonomy over what happens in their classroom. Of course, my lessons are always correlated to NETS, ISBE, and Common Core standards.
  5. Timed introductions
    We are waiting to introduce the website until after our rollout has started. Between the 1:1 netbook rollout, our student Google apps rollout, and this new pilot, teachers have much on their plate to learn and implement. In many ways, this website will be an answer to the gap in digital curriculum materials, but I want teachers to have a few weeks to watch the instructional screencasts and to see how this website could be a great supplement to our curriculum.

We will be using Foss Science, Everyday Math, and Technology Component. I’ll set up each online classroom for the teachers, choose parts of the curriculum, and start making screencasts of how to use the program. The videos will serve as a guide for teachers as they navigate the site, divide students into groups, differentiate lessons and access student data from quizzes. I will also be making student videos that can be used to introduce the site to them. Teachers can then pick and choose what kind of materials they want to use. I’m looking forward to seeing how our teachers make use of these materials.

Peg Keiner is an instructional technology coach for Oak Lawn-Hometown District 123.