As the role of the teacher grows beyond the 4 physical walls the used to confine it before the integration of digital technology, so must the methods teachers use to learn and prepare.
We spent some time talking to the passion driven professional development team at Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and were excited by the multiple different paths teachers can take to become effective, talented online teachers for today’s students. They are working to simulate success by connecting learners to engaging and in growth opportunities. The online classroom looks and functions so different from the brick and mortar, professional development has to match this level of innovation for students to truly benefit.
The FLVS professional learning department has always been dedicated to offering quality training to their teachers and have worked to meet their needs, utilizing a number of methods. The belief that learning is not “one size fits all holds true as much for the FLVS educators as it does for the FLVS students. The brief video below outlines so many of the opportunities for training and PD available at FLVS.
What’s New for Current Teachers
PLCs. Karen Ross, learning specialist at FLVS explained they will be officially launching online Professional Learning Communities for their teachers in January that run throughout the year. Together, the PLC groups will focus on the Common Core State Standards, have discussions on their role across the content and, in pods, break down lessons together in order ensure the instruction is aligned to CCSS.
Peer to Peer Observation. FLVS online teachers will also soon be participating in peer to peer evaluation with an observation tool specifically developed for the virtual environment. Peer to peer observation is a powerful learning opportunity for physical world teachers and, with the right tools to allow for the experience to translate to the virtual world, online teachers can observe and model official teaching practices and strategies of their peers just as effectively.
What’s New for Preservice Teachers
Internship Program. Preservice teachers can work towards their online teaching credentials through multiple pathways. FLVS’s internship program, which started by working in partnership with University of Central Florida, has grown exponentially since it first started with just 6 volunteers. This year, almost 250 volunteered to be part of the program. In 2010, the program went through a quality standards review with the Professional Learning with United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and earned the Professional Learning Certificate of Excellence.
Preservice educators can opt in on the level that meets their interest. There is a 5 week program built for mainly observation to help the students who are starting slow and want to decide if online teaching is the right fit. Next, there is a Jr level (level 1) – which lasts 7 weeks with more brick and mortar classroom time at the university and 20 hours a week spent online, focused on observing and receiving guidance from current instructors. In the Senior block (level 2)- that lasts 15 weeks, training teachers spend 40 hours a week online and, with support, take over most of the teaching responsibilities, more similar to the traditional student teaching experience.
One of the initial challenges FLVS faced when they started the work to establish the program was convincing the professors that an internship could work in a virtual environment. But as the word spread, students as well as professors quickly recognized the great potential of an online teaching internship. Intern programs are currently offered at 9 different universities, 2 of the outside of Florida. Some of the programs have started working on virtual counseling and/or principal certifications.
Through this program, future educators get the answers and training they need to teach in the online space. Some teachers enter the program and discover it is not the right fight for them. Others discover strengths and opportunities they had not known existed. FLVS’s internship program has grown so fast there are now more interested in enrolling than there are trainers available but FLVS plans to expand the internship opportunities as well as the course options so that more teachers can receive the training they are looking for.
FLVS is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.