Sibley teachers complete Leading Edge certification
High School teachers complete Leading Edge online learning certification
Posted on 12/12/2014
Leading Edge certified teachers

The Henry Sibley Leading Edge certified teachers, from left, Marc Tobias, Christine Kelly, Mary Beth Townsend, Doug Linton and Linda Zurn. Not pictured: Alison Footh. 

For nine months out of the year a teacher’s primary role is to teach. But when school is done for students in June, many teachers become the students. Summer is often a time when teachers complete trainings, attend conferences, earn credits and certifications and more.

Prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year, six teachers from Henry Sibley High School who teach both hybrid and traditional-format classes took an 8-week course aimed at improving their use of technology in their instruction. The course, administered by District 197 Curriculum Coordinator Kate Skappel, resulted in the teachers receiving their certification in online learning from Leading Edge, a national certification program in educational technology and curriculum innovation.

Linda Zurn, Doug Linton, Christine Kelly, Marc Tobias, Mary Beth Townsend and Alison Footh all say they chose to take the course because they see the value of online learning and its ability to improve student engagement and achievement when implemented effectively.

A Hybrid class combines components of traditional classroom instruction with the flexibility of meaningful online instruction. Students spend two or three days each week in the classroom interacting face-to-face with their teacher. On non-class days they are responsible for completing online coursework (facilitated through Moodle, a web-based course management system – www.moodle.org). 

“After taking the online certification, I began to see how I could use this not only with my hybrid health students, but with all my health classes,” said Linton. “Using technology not only increases student engagement, but helps them understand health in a different way so that they can apply health principles to their lives. I am able to deliver content in different ways and help students individually.”

Throughout the course each participant said they gained skills to become a more effective online instructor. During classes, which were held online, the group analyzed effective uses of technology in the classroom and explored online resources shown to boost engagement. The group also looked at online assessment tools that provide teacher and student feedback on progress or mastery of material.

“I prefer the apps that can give a teacher instant feedback on a test or assignment,” said Kelly, an Instructional Math Coach. “I can do a quick check at the end of the hour on my student’s understanding of the lesson and make adjustments for the next day.”

Students can likewise receive this instant feedback when completing online assignments at home, informing the student in the moment of whether or not they are taking the proper steps to solving an equation or have fully grasped the content.

“The benefits of digital learning are endless. The idea that a student can get instant feedback on an assignment at home is huge,” said Tobias, an Instructional Peer Coach with a background in science.

The net result of the instant assessments and feedback is more freedom for teachers to tailor the content and pace of lessons based on each students’ abilities and learning style.

The teachers also said they placed a high value on being able to access educational resources using technology. In classes such as Linda Zurn’s “On Your Own” hybrid course, online and digital resources are critical in helping students stay up to date with the constantly evolving worlds of personal finance and employment.

“Instead of relying on a textbook, our course content remains current as laws and regulations change in the areas of credit, banking and health insurance,” said Zurn. “Students work from current and reliable websites as they make important consumer decisions. Students are also able to remain current and competitive as they explore careers and search for jobs.”

With the approval of the capital projects levy by voters in November, use of online and digital curriculum will increase throughout the District. At Henry Sibley, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative will be expanded in 2015, bringing more devices into classrooms. The District is committed to ensuring teachers receive the training necessary to make the shift to digital learning in their classrooms and Skappel says she foresees more teachers being encouraged to attain the online learning certification.

“The Leading Edge Certification of our hybrid teachers benefits our current students by enhancing their hybrid course experience as well as the future of our hybrid course offerings,” Skappel said. “Our teachers who completed the certification are already sharing their learning with their colleagues through professional development, allowing all staff to grow.”