Preparing Future Educators for Success in the Digital Age
When Schoology was adopted by the Delaware Department of Education in late 2014, Tom Gavin, Lead Adjunct Faculty Member and Supervisor of Instructional Technology, Schoology Ambassador, and NEXT 2016 Educator of the Year, had to think fast.
“The need to prepare our teacher candidates in the use of a platform being used statewide became a high priority for candidate employment and classroom readiness within school districts,” he says.
Getting Instructors Started Early
Tom faced this training challenge directly, as a course instructor for teachers at Wilmington University. He began familiarizing his teacher candidates with Schoology by integrating the platform into his own class curriculum.
“The interesting thing about using Schoology in my courses has been the overwhelming response from teacher candidates on how student-friendly the platform is over the previous LMS,” Tom says.
For the teacher candidates, Schoology became the “glue” that held their courses together, specifically noting how the Calendar and Assignments features kept them organized.
Changing Hearts and Minds on Mobile Learning
Smartphones in class is a growing phenomenon, despite widespread resistance from instructors of all experience levels. But one of Tom’s major accomplishments has been shifting teacher candidate mindsets around the use of mobile devices in the classroom.
At first, candidates often consider mobile technology to have minimal instructional value. After Tom’s demonstration of the Schoology mobile app, however, he says they experience “a complete mindset shift.”
He illustrates how to turn smartphones and tablets into effective learning tools by leveraging multiple apps, such as Twitter and Voxer, to complete assignments. He then shares how to use the Schoology app to document and track the learning process by having them submit screenshots or other evidence.
Tom says the app also comes in handy in the distance learning course where his students create weekly video journals/vlogs to connect and collaborate. “I find in online courses students don’t get to know one another,” Tom explains. “So use of Schoology’s mobile app to record and submit video has been extremely helpful.”
One powerful concept Tom shares with his students via the mobile app is anytime, anywhere grading. “We have so many times in our day to get grading done,” explains Tom, “minutes here and there that can be used to knock out grading and give quick feedback. Teachers sometimes have to hype themselves up to grade, which can lead to teacher anxiety, but using Schoology’s app and rubrics, instructors can grade quickly."
Tom’s students have followed his lead, and some are now seeing positive results in their careers because of it. Recently he heard from an instructor who had been introduced to Schoology through Tom’s course at Wilmington University.
“He wanted to let me know that his district had just adopted Schoology for his 6th-grade team,” Tom says. “He felt that the training he received at Wilmington University had prepared him for success.”
The former teacher candidate added that the building administrators at his institution were compelled to rethink their no-cell-phone policy, given how effective they can be in the learning process if used well.
Embracing the Future of Education
As Delaware’s school districts introduce more electronic devices and high-tech tools into 21st-century classrooms, educators must learn to embrace school practices that may seem at the moment a bit futuristic.
Tom observes that a “shared culture of collaboration statewide has helped districts in supporting teachers and diminishing the feelings of isolation and fear most educators feel when adopting new tools and devices.”
Districts are also working on bridging the gap between K-12 and higher education institutions, so that the skills and technology taught to teacher candidates match the needs of the 21st century classroom. This, Tom believes, will ultimately elevate student achievement and increase college career readiness.