Making a Difference:
e-Learning for Teachers

Teachers aren't going to know about this if they don't take some instruction outside of the classroom. You've got to take some kind of professional development.

Michelle Lee

Fayette County elementary school teacher

When Michelle Lee returned to the classroom to get her college degree at the age of 42, she found that she liked school so much that she has never left.

"I had such an incredible experience—I loved the classroom, I loved learning," said the enthusiastic 53-year-old, who is beginning her sixth year of teaching. "I knew I wanted to be with kids, and short of being a pediatrician, I thought teaching was the very best thing."

Lee, an elementary teacher in Fayette County, not only spends her days teaching Kentucky schoolchildren, but spends much of her free time taking online professional development courses for educators offered by the Kentucky Department of Education and KET.

"Any course I've taken from e-Learning, I've found something that I can implement the next day," said Lee. "There's no, 'Oh, let me go home and figure out how to use this.' I can use it right now."

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The KET-Kentucky Department of Education partnership called e-Learning Kentucky is a portion of a federally supported program called Ready to Teach, which provides professional development instruction to teachers online. Designed to facilitate partnerships between state departments of education and public television, the courses being developed by KET right now will help teachers navigate the sweeping transformations in education passed in 2009 by the Kentucky General Assembly, collectively known as Senate Bill 1.

The techniques Lee has learned have opened up her classroom to reach children in ways never before available. "After taking a course in using Web 2.0 in the classroom, I immediately decided that teaching science with technology was the way to go," she recalled.

"That winter during the ice storm I created a blog. Now I've created several courses for literacy in science using software that's kid-friendly," she said.

"Now my students are blogging—and although it's really threaded discussions, they think they're blogging—and they really are eager to jump right in there and learn the material. They're not using texting language—they're doing it the right way."

Technology-based instruction, Lee predicts, is the wave of the future. Already, many Kentucky classrooms are utilizing laptops and moving toward a paperless classroom. It is, after all, the way much of the world already works, she says.

"Everybody, in the next five or 10 years, is going to be using this in the classroom," she said. "But other teachers aren't going to know about this if they don't take some instruction outside of the classroom. You've got to take some kind of professional development."

The online courses offer convenience that traditional professional development, sometimes offered after school or at other less convenient times, can't provide. Self-guided courses, like the e-Learning course KET offers and the facilitated courses KDE offers, can be completed at home—"in your jammies," Lee laughs.

Lee has taken eight e-Learning courses, including advanced instruction in KET EncycloMedia, an extensive online resource provided to all Kentucky schools. In addition, she's attended on-site KET-sponsored professional development, including the summer Multi-Media Day workshops, where teachers are given hands-on instruction in a wide variety of areas.

"For me, this technology has leveled the playing field," Lee said. "EncycloMedia allows you to take field trips to places you couldn't take your kids. They see examples of things that are abstract and would otherwise have no idea what you're talking about—like the phases of the moon.

"It's all right in front of them," she added, "without us having to try and make sense of it for them. This has really changed how I teach and how my kids learn."