Professional learning should not be an isolated process, it should be done within a community, explains Liz Miller Lee. The features that Brightspace gives us to help build that community are super-important.Liz Miller Lee, Director of Online Learning
Enabling Professional Learning At Scale
Established more than 40 years ago, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is responsible for defining and maintaining international standards for the use of technology by students, educators and administrators. First published in the late 1990s and revised regularly since, the ISTE standards focus not so much on the details of the technology itself, but on the pedagogical practices that help educators use technology productively both inside and outside the classroom.
The pace of technology adoption in schools has accelerated in recent years, and ISTE saw the potential to help educators build their skills by offering new professional learning options. In 2018, the organization launched two initiatives: ISTE Certification, which partners with authorized professional learning providers to deliver a full-scale competency-based certification program; and ISTE U, which provides shorter, self-paced online learning that can contribute to graduate-level course credits and professional learning points.
Liz Miller Lee, director of online learning, recalls: “When we were launching these new programs, we needed a learning management system [LMS] that could deliver all the learning components and functionality we wanted to bring in, and help us grow the rosters of educators that we were reaching.”
The importance of having a scalable LMS to support educators became even more apparent when the COVID-19 pandemic forced most schools to switch to a fully online curriculum.
Liz Miller Lee comments: “With the switch to remote teaching, professional learning became simultaneously really necessary, but also really overwhelming for many educators at a time when they were struggling to stay on their feet. We had to have a platform that could make learning as easy and accessible as possible to provide the help they needed.”
Taking Community-Based Learning To The Next Level
One of ISTE’s top priorities for its professional learning and certification courses is not only to deliver engaging course content, but also help educators learn from each other. This was a major motivating factor behind the choice of D2L Brightspace as ISTE’s LMS. Educators are encouraged to learn from others, collaborate on ideas, and walk away with a shared foundation of knowledge that can positively impact the innovation in their respective schools.
Carmalita Seitz, director of ISTE Certification, adds: “The ability to integrate third-party tools seamlessly with Brightspace is extremely powerful for community engagement.”
ISTE’s Certification program involves both synchronous sessions where educators come together to learn, and asynchronous components where they study on their own time. Initially, ISTE used Brightspace core features, such as Discussions to help learners stay in touch and learn from each other during self-study periods. However, by introducing Virtual Classroom and Video Assignments through an integration with Bongo, ISTE was able to take the experience to the next level.
“Bongo allows our learners to watch each other’s videos and really see how people engage, which is fantastic,” says Carmalita Seitz. “We’ve also started doing group assignments in Bongo, and there’s huge power in being able to discuss and spark ideas off each other with these virtual sessions. And what’s fantastic is that the integration with Brightspace makes it a totally seamless experience.”
For example, Bongo is integrated into Brightspace’s grade book, so when learners submit a video to demonstrate their competency, it automatically contributes to their progress towards the certification. Even after completing their certification, learners are encouraged to submit videos to reflect how they are using their new skills in the classroom. These video reflections contribute points towards the renewal of the learner’s certification, encouraging them to continue their professional learning journey. And at the same time, the videos are a useful resource for other educators to understand the benefits of studying for the certification themselves.
Providing A Cohesive, Systemic Approach
ISTE has also formed a partnership with D2L to create a custom professional learning offering for school districts, which packages Brightspace together with courses and content from ISTE.
Liz Miller Lee comments: “With the huge increase in the use of technology in the classroom, school districts need ways to organize all the learning that’s happening. When a district sets specific priorities, such as adopting project-based learning or creating online communities, then bringing their educators along on a cohesive, systemic professional learning journey can really help to make the shift. It’s a great opportunity for educators to drive innovation and scale their initiatives.”
The interactivity that Brightspace gives us makes a big difference to maintaining engagement. In 2020, we had 17,000 educators participate in our Summer Learning Academy, and I had people reaching out asking what LMS we were using because they were so impressed.Liz Miller Lee, Director of Online Learning
Meeting Educators’ Needs
Carmalita Seitz recalls: “When schools began closing due to the pandemic and we had to switch ISTE Certification from a hybrid to a fully online model, I thought engagement was going to drop drastically because educators would be overwhelmed. But in fact, there was practically no difference between 2020 and previous years. That’s when I realized that educators really needed this. They needed something to keep them going.”
Together, ISTE Certification and ISTE U provide the flexibility that different educators need to meet the challenges of the pandemic. For those who actively want to adapt their teaching practice to an online environment, ISTE Certification offers a comprehensive pathway. Meanwhile, for those who may only have limited blocks of time or looking to supplement certifications and gain skills in a specific area, ISTE U’s bite-size content helps them maintain momentum with modules that they can complete during a lunch break.
“It’s great how the two initiatives really work together to be there for educators and give them the professional learning opportunities that work best for them at that time,” says Carmalita Seitz.
For example, ISTE uses Brightspace features such as intelligent agents and release conditions to guide learners through their courses. As learners reach milestones the solution reveals new content and objectives, and automatically reaches out to remind them what they need to do next.
Liz Miller Lee concludes: “The use of automation has really helped us scale, and we definitely saw an increase in completion after we introduced those features. The more we can tailor the online experience to your individual journey as a learner, the more impactful it’s going to be.”
See what educators have to say about ISTE’s training:
- “After becoming an ISTE Certified Educator, I’m more confident in my leadership abilities, I take more risks with technology, and I have a much better understanding of pedagogy and the best uses of technology in the classroom.”
- “By far the best training I’ve ever had as an educator.”
- “A rare professional development opportunity that allowed me to walk away with various tools that I could put into action immediately at my school. I was able to meet leaders in technology education that inspired me to be more creative and intentional with lessons. Each day, I walked away with a call to action in my education practices.”