As part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Classrooms for the Future program, which ran from June 2007 to October 2011, teachers had to complete one 30-hour online course during each of the three years that their schools participated in the program. The courses were designed to help them understand and learn how to build 21st century skills using technology. (Many schools have continued the program using their own funds.)
“The Need For Change,” a required course for teachers and administrators who participated in Classrooms for the Future, examined the world students live in. People say that students have to “power down” when they come to school because they use technology more outside of the classroom than in it, explains Holly Jobe, who served as the initiative’s project manager. The course, she continues, showed educators how young people use technology and ways to incorporate what they already know in the classroom.
All courses in the program included online and face-to-face learning so that educators could master the ways in which they would be expected to teach their own students. Other course titles included “Authentic Teaching and Learning,” “Differentiated Instruction,” “Inquiry-Based Instruction” and “Project-Based Instruction.”
Classrooms for the Future administrators also had to participate in professional development opportunities, Jobe says. The Pennsylvania State University collected research to evaluate the program, and administrators learned how to gather information on what was happening in the classroom.
For instance, was the teacher involved in whole-group lecture, or were the students working independently? Was it a didactic lesson or more student-driven? How authentic and “real world” was it?
The goal, Jobe explains, was to create lessons that were more engaging and more connected to the student’s world.