It’s a given that in order for students to benefit from new technologies in the classroom, teachers need to be trained how to use them in their instruction. Many districts lack the funding to make this happen–but a new program from the MCI WorldCom Foundation aims to change that.

Called the “MarcoPolo State and School District Professional Development” program, the grant provides on-site professional development for K-12 teachers throughout the U.S. in the use of internet content for the classroom.

Training is based on materials developed by the MarcoPolo initiative, a partnership between the MCI WorldCom Foundation and six leading educational organizations. The MarcoPolo partnership has produced five discipline-specific web sites that offer high-quality, panel-reviewed educational content.

Through this grant program, states and school districts are encouraged to apply for on-site professional development, which includes “train the trainer” seminars taught by professionally trained internet education specialists and copies of the MarcoPolo Teacher Training Kit. Each kit contains a trainer’s guide, CD-ROM, mouse pad, and classroom poster.

The primary goals of the free training program are to:

  • Meet educators’ needs for quality professional development and training designed to guide teachers through the vast network of resources on the internet;

  • Help educators work with their peers in creating useful lesson plans, activities, and research exercises; and

  • Make it easier for teachers to transfer the learning from the MarcoPolo sites and other educational web sites to the classroom.

The first phase of the program involves the training of lead teacher trainers within your district by a representative from the MarcoPolo initiative. Participating school districts would be responsible for providing only the instructional facilities and a group of teacher trainers who possess a minimal understanding of the internet and computers.

MarcoPolo will provide each lead teacher trainer with a comprehensive Teacher Training Kit so the training can be just as effective at the teacher level. Trainer Kits include step-by-step modules that allow the presenter to design sessions ranging from two hours to more than 16 hours, depending on the needs of the audience and available time.

Included in the kit are handouts to reinforce learning points and provide for team development exercises and a PowerPoint presentation which allows the presenter to customize the training sessions and materials.

After the first phase is complete, the lead teacher trainers are then charged to train other teachers in the district. Lead teacher trainers will have a sound knowledge of the internet and its educational capabilities, an understanding of how to use various search engines with the best results, and the ability to create lesson plans and reference guides using online resources.

While the MarcoPolo professional development grant program targets medium-sized to large urban and suburban districts or states, smaller school districts are encouraged to team up with neighboring districts and apply as a consortium.

Applications can be submitted online to the MCI WorldCom Foundation at any time. Applicants will be contacted within two weeks of their submission, according to the foundation. The foundation’s goal is to provide training for all qualified school districts that apply.

Successful applications must meet the following criteria:

  • The application contains a comprehensive training model that demonstrates how a significant number of the teachers in the district will benefit from MarcoPolo training;

  • There is a sufficient number of lead teacher trainers with the requisite technology skills to become lead trainers in the district;

  • The applicant has the technology infrastructure necessary to execute training sessions; and

  • As many teachers and students will be affected by the program as possible.

Application materials can be found at http://www.wcom.com/marcopolo/training/request.shtml. For more information about this professional development program or the MarcoPolo partnership, contact Pamela Veal at (703) 415-6026 or Pamela.veal@wcom.com.

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