Creating A Central Resource For Professional Learning
Prior to COVID-19, PNW BOCES conducted its professional learning activities in person at conference centers across Putnam and Westchester counties. Jennifer Harriton-Wilson, education technology coordinator, explains, “We didn’t have a great solution for providing learning remotely or in a hybrid model.”
When the pandemic hit, PNW BOCES quickly realized that it needed to accelerate the rollout of remote learning options to help teachers and administrators continue their professional learning. John Boniello, director and systems change facilitator, comments, “We had already developed some excellent courses, but we didn’t have a good platform to house them. All the associated work around enrollment, assessment and tracking of completions was a real struggle.”
David Jacob, regional science coordinator, provides an example: “We provide professional learning for the Science 21 curriculum, which is for teachers from K through to five. We had a set of tools that were all adequate individually, but using them together was confusing. That was a problem for our small team, which needs to support 700 teachers distributed across more than 30 cohorts.”
Bringing It All Together
PNW BOCES had just started looking for a replacement for its existing tools when Jennifer Harriton-Wilson saw a demo of Brightspace. “When I saw Brightspace, I just thought, ‘We absolutely need this product,’” she says. “For people teaching teachers and administrators, Brightspace has the right feeling. It allows you to honor what an individual is bringing to the table. It gives you the tools to craft your course in the way that you want to.”
John Boniello adds, “Brightspace customer service has been so flexible and responsive and willing to work with us. It really set them apart from some of the other vendors we’ve tried to engage with.”
Nancy Pisciotti, senior office assistant for Science 21, adds, “Brightspace gives us a way to bring everything together—it hosts our videos, our materials, our manuals, the Zoom links for our sessions. Everything is just much more organized for the participants because it’s all in one place.”
PNW BOCES uses a range of Brightspace features to provide a rich user experience that works on any device—PC, Mac or mobile. Intelligent agents automatically send welcome emails and personalized reminders, while release conditions unlock new sections of course content at an appropriate pace.
At one point, we had people using Brightspace and our previous solution in parallel. They told us that Brightspace was cleaner, with fewer button clicks, and easier to use.Jennifer Harriton-Wilson, Education Technology Coordinator
Flipping The Classroom
Compared to previous tools that PNW BOCES used, Brightspace has won praise from users. Jennifer Harriton-Wilson recalls, “At one point, we had people using Brightspace and our previous solution in parallel. They told us that Brightspace was cleaner, with fewer button clicks, and easier to use.”
The professional learning team are delighted too because their courses are now dramatically easier to administrate. David Jacob gives an example: “We can make one change in our fourth-grade course and instantly have it reflected for all 19 cohorts of fourth-grade teachers. That’s so good.”
Most important of all, the shift to Brightspace has empowered PNW BOCES to reorient its professional learning from an in-person model to a flipped classroom model that combines synchronous and asynchronous learning.
John Boniello says, “With the flipped classroom, it’s not about just soaking up information and then walking away. It’s about changing your practice and applying what you’ve learned. That’s a much better use of everybody’s time.”
Moreover, remote learning empowers PNW BOCES to reach more teachers across the region. David Jacob concludes, “We can go anywhere in New York and beyond now. The virtual space means that distance and travel are no longer a barrier to professional learning.”