Re-imagining professional development

Washington STEM, Washington (US)

How can technology be used to overcome the logistical challenges that prevent teachers from having effective professional learning experiences?

Working with 50 schools across Washington State to support teachers with meeting the demands of the new standards in Science and Math, Washington STEM’s STEM-PD project looks to explore how video technology can help.

The challenge

With the introduction of Washington’s new standards for Maths and Science, teachers in America’s Washington State are required to teach in a dramatically different way than they have been.

To do this, they need new methods of professional development that research proves are truly effective in supporting them to make those changes. Including opportunities to:

  • see examples of effective instruction
  • practice it in their classrooms
  • get individualized feedback
  • receive ongoing coaching

Unfortunately, these opportunities are logistically very difficult to deliver. Teachers are typically quite isolated in their classrooms. It’s difficult for them to get out and see how others teach. Likewise, it’s hard to get someone into their classroom to get the kind of individualized feedback they need.

Believing that technology is the key to overcoming these challenges, Washington STEM have been exploring how it could help.

The STEM PD project

Starting in March of 2013, they launched an initiative called STEM-PD. Following a thorough review of the available technologies, IRIS Connect was chosen to support the project.

“We compared the top providers of solutions for teacher professional development, looking for a technology that would enable all of the characteristics of effective PD,” explains Dr. Shawn Edmondson, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Washington STEM.

“We found that IRIS Connect provided the best solution to enable teachers to see models of effective teaching, to reflect on their own teaching and to practice and receive immediate feedback. Most importantly, the IRIS Connect system is secure and private, ensuring that teachers are always in control of their own learning.”

STEM-PD are currently in their second year of the project and have IRIS Connect installed in 50 schools.

“These schools are forming a state-wide learning network and are helping us to understand how best to use this technology to enable effective PD practices,” says Shawn. “Educators at these schools continue to create resources such as Math and Science video libraries that demonstrate teaching practices aligned with Math and Science standards. Most importantly, we continue to develop a change management model that other schools across the state can follow as they adopt technology to make their PD more effective.”

Dr Shawn Edmondson talks about Washington STEMS’s journey so far with IRIS Connect:

Their findings so far…

“What we’ve learned so far is that educators can adopt this technology. We’ve done a usability study to find out what they think about it, which has led to us recommending some changes that have already been made. It’s enabling professional learning experiences that wouldn’t happen otherwise, and we’ve seen some really cool interactions so far. The schools are also using Groups within IRIS Connect that we have provided for them.”

These include:

  • The Pioneer Group, where four exceptional STEM teachers share how they teach STEM.
  • The Webinars Group, where Washington STEM posts recordings of the webinars they hold throughout the year.
  • Most significantly, the Video Professional Learning Toolkit Group, where they have created a large compendium of information, recommendations, tools, and resources.

Eventually STEM-PD want to use this technology to allow effective teaching in all 2,300 schools across Washington State. To do that, they are working on gathering evidence that shows it works for improving teaching behaviors in the classroom, which ultimately changes student behavior and subsequently student achievement.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is to convince the other schools to re-allocate the money they’re currently spending on professional development practices like workshops that we know are not as effective, on these new more effective processes and technology.”

Get more information about IRIS Connect:

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