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Personalized learning for teachers is helping a Colorado school district take advantage of having a computing device for every student in middle and high school.
Last year, Manitou Springs School District 14 started a Summer Institute designed for teachers to learn how to teach digitally. With iPads rolling out in middle school last year and this fall to high school, the district decided to offer teachers professional development based on their individual interests.
Typically, educators come to professional development sessions with different interests and goals. But these sessions tend to only cover one topic, said Lisette Casey, the district's technology integration specialist.
The new Summer Institute allowed educators to grow their own professional development.
“This seemed like an easy way to meet the needs of everybody, yet expose them to issues that are emerging in education, especially the technology," Casey said.
Here's how the professional development works. Casey created a course that included six two-hour sessions on topics such as social authoring tools, personalized learning and Web 2.0 tools. Teachers could participate face-to-face, virtually or listen to a recording later.
For 20 percent of the time, the teachers discussed the module topics on a wiki. The remaining 80 percent of their time, teachers spend on their personal learning path.
“There's a lot of power when you let people study what they're interested in," Casey said.
At the beginning, teachers blog about their goals and what they want to do in their classroom. And they blog their progress as well as comment on one anothers' blogs.
About 30 of the district's 100 teachers chose to participate in the institute this summer. One of them was Sean McCune, a social studies teacher at Manitou Springs High School.
Because the district has placed a priority on digital teaching, McCune wanted to learn more about how he could take advantage of the new digital tools that his students would have this fall. His main goals included setting up a wiki page to communicate with parents and students.
On the wiki page he created, McCune plans to set expectations for his students and post homework assignments, he said in an interview. That way, parents will be able to verify whether their students have homework. Students won't have to worry about losing a piece of paper. And McCune will spend less time copying lessons and more time planning them, he wrote in his first blog post.
McCune now has started a wiki that's set up for every class. As the school year gets closer, he'll add specific units.
"In some professional development, a lot of it stays theoretical, whereas this, I have something to walk away with and something to implement," McCune said.
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