Carbon Lehigh IU 21: Training Teachers in Cyber Instruction

Cyber learning is opening worlds of education to students accustomed to learning via technology. However, many teachers didn’t grow up in a wired world, and their instruction skills could use a reboot. Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 is making sure that its e-learning initiative trains teachers in using cyber tools to reach students with effective, rigorous instruction.

IU 21 took a year to plan its launch of eLearn21, a full array of cyber courses based on a model developed by Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15. The cyber-learning initiative includes professional development that teaches teachers the steps needed to transform classroom assignments into cyber assignments. They also learn to adapt courses to fit their own curricula and needs.

For many teachers, it’s a shift in mindset, but they’re ready to give it a try, says Charlotte Golden, IU 21’s coordinator of curriculum and instruction/educational technology.

“People recognize this is the change, this is the shift we make in public education because we have to meet the students where they are,” she says. “Students don’t need the same kind of face-to-face interactions that other generations needed.  They can absorb so much more, so much quicker, and they can do all of these things electronically that we can’t.”

Still, eLearn21 recognizes that even students can “get lost in cyber world,” says Golden. To keep them on track, every student is assigned a mentor – often a school guidance counselor or assistant principal – trained to follow student progress and pace. Parents, students, mentors, and teachers all have access to the same academic and curriculum information, allowing for barrier-free communications and trouble-shooting.

“That mentor piece, somebody to just pay attention to how the kids are doing, is so key,” says Golden.
Though some people think cyber schooling is not easy, “you will never hear that from any of our students,” says Golden. “They’re going to tell you that our content is just as hard if not harder than the curriculum they have in the classroom.”

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