- Small rural school districts in Kentucky’s Appalachian region have banded together into a virtual network in order to give teachers the professional learning opportunities they need to keep improving their practice.
- Through the Activating Catalytic Transformation network, teachers are earning microcredentials through Digital Promise and gaining access to knowledge on topics such as assessment without having to travel to a workshop.
- Teachers from the region — which has no interstate and no public colleges or universities — are also collaborating and communicating with each other on The Holler, an online social learning platform developed by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative.
The challenges of providing teachers with high-quality professional learning experiences was a topic discussed at last week’s ASU+GSV Summit. Sometimes teachers exist in a “department of one,” said Rachel Langenhorst, a technology integrationist with the Rock Valley Community School District, near Sioux City, IA. She and other speakers spoke about how technology and online platforms are allowing teachers to strengthen their skills and support each other as they develop and demonstrate new skills.
But just as these new opportunities are a better fit for some teachers who felt in-person, large-group workshops weren’t meeting their needs, there may still be appropriate times for in-person gatherings. Teachers, like students, learn in different ways, and some might prefer face-to-face settings depending on the topic or purpose of the learning.
A 2013 study appearing in the Journal of Teacher Education compared virtual and face-to-face professional development (PD) focusing on adopting curriculum materials. The researchers found that both teachers and students gained from the learning, and that the format didn’t matter.
“Our study design establishes a linkage between PD and learning outcomes for teachers and students, and in doing so further demonstrates that desirable outcomes need not be contingent on PD modality,” they wrote. “There will be contexts where either online or face-to-face PD is more desirable, for reasons of cost, location or content.”