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Successful eLearning begins with well-prepared teachers


Preparing future teachers for success helps drive the success of the students they will teach

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Gardner-Webb University began delivering its new online curriculum using Teachscape’s professional learning system in fall 2013.

When the state of North Carolina dramatically reduced textbook funding, yet decided it would implement the Common Core State Standards, our School of Education at Gardner-Webb University decided to fast-track a program to make all teacher preparation courses textbook-free.

We did this with the goal of preparing our students for the environment they would experience when they enter the teaching field, as well as to better equip them to meet the digital expectations that will be asked of them once they graduate.

In addition to going textbook-free, we also wanted to find a way to better capture student data in order to track student progress and focus on accreditation and continuous improvement.

To address the needs of this two-pronged initiative, we chose Teachscape’s online, video-based tools, because they would allow our student teachers to access courses online, view best practices of teaching in action, and reflect on their own teaching—all of which are essential in preparing future teachers for success in the field.

These tools additionally would provide our college’s professors with more opportunities to review students’ teaching and target their instruction accordingly, and they would allow our college’s administration to evaluate the teacher preparation program as a whole based on student data collected.

We began to deliver our new online curriculum using Teachscape’s professional learning system in the Fall 2013 semester. The curriculum, which integrates research-based courses from Teachscape, helps teachers reinforce key concepts being taught in class. Teachers use the system to deliver the courses, track and monitor student learning progress, and provide targeted instruction as needed.

We are now also heavily using iPads with our students. In addition to being able to use the devices to access the online curriculum, students use iPads to capture video of their own teaching. After being uploaded to Teachscape’s system, students view and reflect on actual footage of their student-taught micro lessons in the classroom setting. They use the videos to collaborate with peers on instructional best practices and share the videos with their professors to receive meaningful feedback.

(Next page: How students and professors have responded)

While our students are required to purchase their own iPads, they are actually saving money over the duration of their schooling because they no longer have to purchase textbooks. Plus, they are able to keep their iPad and use it when they enter the profession.

To date, the response to the technology has been very positive. In our technologically driven age, students are already extremely comfortable using the mobile devices and have been very open to the collective use of the online tools to enhance their learning experience.

Professors have also been more excited about this technology initiative than any other one recently implemented, because of the technology’s content, up-to-date videos, and ease of use. They are also excited about the technology’s ability to hone in on individual student data and facilitate student self-reflection.

For other higher-education institutions looking to implement similar initiatives, it is important to look for an all-inclusive program. We wanted a program that would allow us to provide students with meaningful and targeted feedback from their first time micro-teaching on, and support our collection of data based on this feedback to facilitate a cycle of continuous improvement.

Another important piece to consider is the affordability of such initiatives. When presenting this to our stakeholders, we made sure to emphasize the reductions in cost our students would realize. Lastly, institutions should consider ease of use. The technology chosen should be one that is fairly intuitive to most learners, both students and professors.

Overall, we see a lot of promise in the way online, video-based technologies can be used in the clinical pre-service setting, as well as in the K-12 setting, to improve teacher effectiveness and support collaborative, reflective, and ongoing professional growth. By effectively preparing our student teachers for success, we are ultimately helping to drive the success of the students they will one day teach.

Dr. Kelly Taylor is Chair of Middle Grades Education at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. She teaches initial and advanced candidates in the curriculum and instruction, middle, and executive school leadership programs.

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