I am watching a tech-savvy friend trying to figure out her new smartphone. Some things seem to come to her intuitively, but clearly she is finding other items hard to figure out. Eventually she finds an online tutorial and setup guide and settles down to master this new tool. We laugh, both certain that in a few days this will be an indispensable part of her life.
All around us, technology is changing how we function at work, school, and home. Managing all this technology does present us with challenges and even chaos at times. In education we are seeing monumental changes driven by these innovations. One exciting change has come in Web-based continuing education for teachers, making it simpler for them to earn necessary continuing education units (CEUs) or graduate credit while balancing their busy lives. Colleges have been offering online courses for many years, but recently there has been an explosion in the number and types of professional development resources supported by various technologies. Gone are the pages of clunky clip art and bland bulletin boards. Digital learning applications have become increasingly sophisticated and interactive.
One such online application is Vizi Courseware. Using a rich multimedia platform, Vizi incorporates high-end graphics and digital text with professionally filmed video interviews and projects, interactive exercises, games and simulations, digital flashcards, quizzes, downloadable reports, and other learning materials. Classroom teachers strive to build many different learning modalities into their lesson plans, and the Vizi platform does the same for professional development lessons. “We know that actively engaging the senses enhances learning,” says Meg Bratsch, Free Spirit’s acquisitions manager, “and the variety and interactivity in Vizi Courseware ignites the learning centers of the brain. It’s a great tool for today’s educators. Think of it as the Rosetta Stone of continuing education.”
A walk-through of the Vizi Courseware demo on Free Spirit’s website brings me back to my friend and her new phone. Smartphones are multitasking wonders that can deliver phone service, Internet, cameras, fun apps, and much more. They let you chat with groups, share photos, and obtain endless information without actually making a phone call. We receive visual and audio input, controlled by touch. Our expectation for how we can use technology has been forever changed by smartphones. Making the shift from traditional print information delivery to online multimedia modules is not unlike changing from a landline to a smartphone.
Another way Free Spirit is helping to bring this innovation to teachers is through a partnership with Learner’s Edge, Inc., to deliver both CEU and graduate credit options online. The books Teaching Kids with Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom, Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom, and RTI Success are now featured in distance-learning courses through Learner’s Edge. Created by teachers for teachers, these self-paced, multimedia courses can be used in independent or group study and qualify for graduate credit through two accredited universities.
“We are excited to expand our professional development resources—especially into online digital media,” says Bratsch. As digital options for print materials move from basic e-readers to interactive options like Vizi Courseware and Learner’s Edge, we can expect to see more advances in Web-based applications for delivering professional development. We also hope that teachers who use these resources will consider how these content delivery tools can be used to augment classroom presentations and assignments for their own students.
Do you use online options for continuing education? What interactive features have you found helpful in tech-based learning materials?
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Teaching Kids with Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom by Susan Winebrenner, M.S.
Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom by Susan Winebrenner, M.S., with Dina Brulles, Ph.D.
RTI Success: Proven Tools and Strategies for Schools and Classrooms by Elizabeth Whitten, Ph.D., Kelli J. Esteves, Ed.D., and Alice Woodrow, Ed.D.
International Society for Technology in Education
Learner’s Edge, Inc.