Teachers Teaching Teachers – A STEM Program that Works

Like every ECPI University faculty member, Scott Adams is dedicated to helping students reach their potential. Now, through a new program, he is helping teachers do the same. He’s part of a new partnership between ECPI’s Richmond/Moorefield Campus and Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) that helps teachers gain recertification and delivers STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) to the classroom.

Every five years, teachers are required to accumulate a number of recertification points and college credits to maintain their standing. Because teachers must pay for the classes themselves and fit it into their busy schedules, this can be both costly and time consuming. To solve both problems, ECPI took one of its existing classes, Storyboarding for Animation, added specific lab exercises to accommodate teacher needs and created a schedule to fit their work hours, all at a price they could afford.

Every Wednesday at 4:00 pm, 24 teachers arrive at ECPI for three hours of classroom instruction. For three months, they will learn how to go beyond pictures and movies to create an animated web page their students can interact with. The course emphasizes general animation techniques, storyboarding, timeline management, creating vector-based graphics and embedding animated graphic elements into web pages. Once complete, they will be awarded 90 recertification points and three credit hours.

“The final project for the class – a movie and interactive website – will be a tool they can take back to the classroom,” says Adams.  “We’re living in a new era where students don’t respond to chalkboards. They want interaction. They want to be engaged. It’s got to be more than just reading lines out of a book.”

Ernie Longworth, Manager of Instructional Technology for CCPS wanted to work with a technical university, known for its hands-on instruction with real-world applications. “We are excited about this opportunity to cultivate a community partnership with ECPI University,” says Longworth. “Chesterfield County Public Schools teachers are learning to use industry standard technology with an emphasis on classroom application. What teachers are learning is immediately transferable to the classroom and helps create quality experiences for students.”

A critical component of STEM is to find initiatives that fit well into the K-12 classroom, and deliver them in ways that teachers know will be successful and will want to deploy. Unfortunately, many STEM funding dollars sit idle in programs that teachers do not see as valuable or have no time to deploy. That has not been the case with this class. The response has been overwhelming. The first class filled up following just one email and the University is looking to add more classes to accommodate the tremendous demand. Judging from the responses from the inaugural class, word is likely to spread:

Math can be one of the most boring classes for students, especially for those needing visual stimulation. Classroom instruction, now, is moving toward interactive learning.  Adobe Flash is a program that can visually attract students and peak their interest in the subject matter.  CCPS Math Teacher Dina Milliner

I realized that there is so much more that I can be doing in my classroom. I am so thankful for this opportunity. The life cycle of a butterfly or the food chain were two things that came to mind when I was thinking about upcoming science lessons.  CCPS Science Teacher Courtney Wirt

Adobe Flash is complex, expensive and time consuming to learn.  Taking this class will afford me the opportunity to learn this interactive tool and to share it with other educators. As I interact with teachers and students on a daily basis at the Technology Specialty Center of Matoaca High, I will not keep this animation tool a secret.  CCPS Earth Science Teacher Keith Lumsden

All students, even at the elementary level, have high expectations of technology use in the school setting. What we are learning can be used in a variety of ways to help fulfill some of those expectations. It can be used to create interactive puzzles, games, drawings and animations that are curriculum/SOL-related. As a computer teacher in an elementary school, it’s my job to integrate computer skills with concepts students are learning in the regular classroom. I am constantly looking for new ways to keep students engaged and motivated while trying to accomplish this at the different grade levels. I only see each class once per week, so I need to make that 45 minute session grab student’s attention while reinforcing concepts.  CCPS K-5 Computer Teacher Paula Willis

It is so much more engaging to be able to learn with visual, audio and interactive tools. Research shows that digital technology promotes understanding and long term memory. Besides the great instruction, I must say that the cost was definitely a draw.  Education has taken such an economic hit over the past 4 years and this class allows teachers to continue learning in a cost efficient way.  Thank you ECPI!  CCPS Technology Integrator Tamara Howerton

“We had no idea that this program would be so popular with K-12 STEM and other teachers, but we should have guessed it,” says ECPI University Richmond/Moorefield Campus Director of Academic Affairs Paul Nussbaum. “The ECPI method of technology instruction is career focused and hands-on, and so it was a perfect fit for the goals of CCPS. We just recently videotaped the students explaining their work mid-way through the class and you should see how far they’ve come! Thanks to the vision and leadership of Campus President Ron Tracey, we were able to subsidize this effort. Thanks to the teaching excellence of Scott Adams, the class itself is delivering on its promise. We are currently looking for other sources of funding for this STEM initiative, as it may not possible for ECPI to indefinitely continue this subsidy level, but I am sure we will find a way and expand this program to benefit more school districts.”