By Jesse Graytock
The motto of Austin, Texas, home of the 2013 National Council of Urban Education Associations’ fall conference, is “Keep Austin Weird.” On a recent (and unusually frigid) December morning, a group of educators representing associations from urban areas throughout the nation gathered around laptops and tablets for an opportunity to dive into the new online courses offered by the NEA Foundation.
This group’s motto? “Keep Austin (and Everywhere Else) Wired.”
Photo by Flicker user eschipul
Session attendees participated in a tutorial of the courses, searching for ways to share the many free and easily accessible online professional development tools with colleagues.
These courses promote union-district collaboration as a tool to help educators and administrators implement systems change and cover a diverse set of topics— from teacher evaluation and peer assistance and review to collaborative problem-solving and action. They are freely available to all educators through the NEA Foundation’s website. Course participants can come and go as they please and take advantage of the content in ways that work best for the user – as entire courses, single sessions, or individual activities.
Participants were pleasantly surprised with the depth and breadth of options available to them. Natha Anderson, who is currently researching the origins of Washoe (NV) Education Association, expressed excitement about exploring the course on the historic role of teacher unions. “I can’t wait to go back and share this with our members. What a neat idea,” she said.
Others took time to pore over readings, videos, and activities from courses focusing on collaborative problem-solving and action, peer assistance and review, teacher evaluation, and effective school-community collaboration.
By the end of the session, participants discussed ways to share these new, online tools with other educators to improve their practice. By “wiring” their colleagues into the online courses, they’ll be ensuring that educators in their associations and districts have access to an invaluable resource.