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Part of the Digital Revolution (Professional Services)

Dr. Anne Rodrigue

Staff at ETFO Professional Services (PFS) are constantly challenged to envision the future of teacher professional learning, understand evolving professional learning needs, and design and deliver programming that respects the principles of both effective adult learning and teacher professional learning. Effective professional learning is grounded in knowledge about teaching, engages teachers in networking and sharing, and respects the ages and stages of teachers’ growth.

It is clear as classrooms change, that teachers are increasingly committed to using media and digital technology both in their own professional lives and to engage students. Teachers are streaming and downloading video, using interactive whiteboards, and accessing digital resources such as interactive lesson plans, e-books, websites, multimedia collections, blogs, photo sharing websites, and online libraries. In this context, I’d like to outline some of ETFO’s PFS programs and services that help teachers integrate media and digital technology into their professional lives.

Let’s start by defining e-learning. A definition developed by the Canadian Council for Learning (CCL) states, “E-learning is the development of knowledge and skills through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support interactions for learning—interactions with content, with learning activities and tools, and with other people.” In PFS, when we talk about e-learning, we immediately think of our online Additional Qualifications (AQ) courses. Two years ago, ETFO decided to introduce online courses for AQ Credit,  In  2011, 5,000 teachers took  our AQ online. This year, we hope to  providing  to  7,000  teachers.  ETFO  has  also destination AQ  courses, a blended model Learning that includes 60 credit hours and  a  40-hour face-to-face component in exciting international Locales such as France, Italy, and Spain.

Online Learning Communities
On the ETFO website, under Team Sites, is a list of ETFO online learning communities that facilitate teacher collaboration, learning, and sharing on a specific topic or area On the Collaborative Coaching team site, five teams of teachers completed collaborative curriculum projects and posted them, along with a guide for teachers who wish to engage in collaborative coaching initiatives.

The ETFO e-book Educating for Global Citizenship was the product of an online community that included ETFO staff, Dr. Mark Evans, Dr. Kathryn Broad, and their graduate students from OISE, along with ETFO members. The e-book includes individual and group units, modified by curriculum inquiry and peer review, and provides many links to global education resources for elementary classrooms.
Another online community produced an e-book titled Teaching for Deep Understanding—An ETFO Curriculum Learning Resource Compilation that will soon be available on the ETFO website. This book contains learning resources on science, social studies, and math that focus on student inquiry.

On a related site, you can also find Early Learning Central, an expansion of ETFO’s kindergarten blog, 1000 Moments of Learning, designed to cover learning in all of the primary grades. Teachers can read blogs, add comments, view lists of resources, and more. In addition, the Reflections on Practice (ROP) team site is an interactive space where teams of critical thinkers work with facilitators to produce action research studies. These studies are then written, published, and presented on the website for new participants to use as models. ROP was the first ETFO blended community of practice and is now in its eighth year.

ETFO online communities have generated much interest in the field and have influenced the design of the Ministry’s Teachers Learning and Leadership Program website, among others. Staff have been approached by university researchers and other organizations to share our ideas on how to design, deliver, and facilitate online collaboration among teachers, and have presented at numerous local, national, and international conferences on this topic.

Digital Media and Instructional Resources
ETFO has produced downloadable lesson plans by educators engaged in the Innoteach online community. Follow the Innoteach link to see videos of teachers sharing innovative practices in technology that improve student learning. Our newest digital resource, The Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning: Practical Ideas and Resources for Beginning Teachers, has an accompanying blog where teachers share their experiences of a new teaching assignment: building inclusion, communicating with parents, managing the classroom, meeting the diverse learning needs of students, and managing their own professional learning and growth. Go to to interact with other educators, ask questions, and join in the learning journey. PFS staff also work with colleagues in Collective Bargaining and Professional Relations to deliver Union School, another blended community that trains presidents and local leaders in the ETFO brand of unionism. ETFO members wrote collaboratively online to produce Learning Together: A Teacher’s Guide to Combined Grades.

Learning New Technologies
Many teachers have indicated that they want to use interactive technologies, but need to improve their skill set and comfort level before bringing these tools into the classroom. The Presenters on the Road program offers workshops to locals on many aspects of technology, including Web 2.0 tools, social media, digital storytelling, and others. Last year ETFO conducted online training, using Adobe Connect, for volunteers for the Ultimate Block Party. In the fall of 2011, new presenters for Presenters on the Road participated via Adobe Connect and conference call links in two interactive e-training sessions with 18 participants.

It is evident from the descriptions of PFS programs listed above that PFS is engaged in new models of professional learning and resource delivery. We are collaboratively creating, disseminating knowledge, constantly moving forward, and innovating. The times they are a-changin’ but our mission stays the same! Time, space, costs, and access are no longer deterrents to quality professional learning.