By Tanya Roscorla
September 13, 2011 Professional Development
Through a statewide online platform, Alabama educators share lessons, find digital resources and teach each other. And on Sept. 1, the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX) won a Best of the Web Award from the Center for Digital Education.
In designing the website for the exchange, the Alabama Education Department made sure teachers could get where they wanted to go within three clicks.
And the department added a new professional learning community section called ALEXville, said Shannon Parks, the ALEX state administrator for the Alabama Department of Education Technology Initiatives. In this community, educators who took the same professional development courses share what they learned about digital content and how they’re applying it.
“The professional development piece we have found is critical to implementing these resources in the classroom because it gives them ideas.”
Educators choose from a number of different training modules, including the following:
- Alabama Learning Exchange navigator training
- A two-day podcast camp
- Exploring ALEX and the Web via group projection tools
- Professional social networking tools for educators
- Web-based tools for teaching and learning
- Incorporating video into the classroom
A new module on lesson plans is in the works as well. During each of these sessions, educators design a lesson plan, create a podcast or develop another resource that’s based on state standards and emphasizes project-based learning. And then they share these resources on ALEX for other teachers to use.
“If we can get teachers to actually create what they learn, then we know that it’s going to stick with them and they’re going to actually take it back to their classroom because they own it,” Parks said.
While much of the digital content in ALEX comes from teachers, Verizon Thinkfinity contributes a large number of resources as well. In order to use those resources, the Verizon Foundation required the department to start a train the trainer program.
With the train the trainer program, educators pass along what they learn to at least 10 teachers. And based on teacher surveys, students are learning more through the engaging, relevant and project-based lessons their teachers create.