Thanks to the proliferation of internet-connected homes and mobile devices, K-12 classrooms all around the world are fundamentally changing. But just as with any breakthrough related to technology, it's important to remember that the actual value is less about the technology itself and more about how humans adapt and integrate it into practical use and benefit. For education, it's about how teachers leverage the tech to overcome challenges, solve problems and improve student learning.

A Brave New Classroom

At schools like ECOT, technology is not some temporary bolt-on to the traditional classroom. Technology is the classroom. ECOT teachers use their platform to overcome the emerging challenges that more and more students now face in our aging public education system... the challenges of place, time and environment.

Each day, ECOT teachers connect and engage with students in live on-line classrooms located in 15,000+ homes, apartments, hospitals, libraries all across Ohio. What students learn in their daily live sessions is then reinforced by further online coursework, offline assignments, field trips and more. The most underrated benefit of this model is the efficiency it brings to not only a student's but also a teacher's day. When students are given some runway to learn at their own pace, teacher's are able to focus and prioritize their efforts to work collaboratively on individual students and subjects that need their attention at the precise time they need it.

Meeting Of The Minds

Since enrolling my child at ECOT over 5 years ago, I became fascinated with the teachers, their evolving methods and what it all means for the future of education. One of their approaches that doesn't get enough publicity is team teaching.

ECOT PALS first learned about this approach from 8th grade teacher, Maryalice Leister who came to teach at ECOT after a long career in traditional schools. 

Maryalice spoke about team teaching in her interview blog - Online Educators Connect With K-12 Students

"The analogy I came up with is that each of these kids is an unassembled puzzle,” Leister says. “How am I going to put that together? Am I going to sit by myself, or ask other people to help me put the pieces in the right place until we have a fully realized eighth grader? We work together as a team, and that’s critical for success at ECOT.

As much as I loved teaching in brick-and-mortar, we didn’t do that. We taught behind closed doors, and I never talked to the math teacher or the social studies teacher. We didn’t share data. We were considered experts in what we did, and yet, I’m not an expert on Johnny unless I find out everything I need to know about Johnny. We do that here at ECOT, and that’s what spells success for a lot of these kids.”

We wanted to learn more about the nitty gritty of what goes on behind the scenes with team teaching. So, we reached out to more teachers at ECOT for some background. Here's what we found out.

"At ECOT, team teaching is an effective approach for meeting the needs of our diverse learners and building classroom community. We are implementing research-based teaching strategies and models promoted by leading organizations in the industry such as the National Education Association (NEA) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

ECOT teachers work in teams to review student data, discuss each student’s needs, and make plans for individualized instruction. The teams are comprised of a variety of both math and reading teachers including General Education, DEC (Department of Exceptional Children) and LIFT which is an ECOT intervention program. Depending on the student needs, the team would vary between 2 – 5 teachers. We very rarely individually make a decision about a student. Teachers collaborate together to plan for the best way to reach all students both synchronously and asynchronously.

Teacher teams officially meet at least weekly, and the type of information discussed includes: planning, data, strategy, and teacher contact with families.  For example, in Language Arts, the DEC and GenEd teachers co-plan lessons for upcoming weeks.  Plans are based on where the students are and where they need to go.  Planning takes into consideration all students from DEC, LIFT, and GenEd.  Groups are formed based on data and observations made throughout the week.  Teacher roles and best practices are discussed and determined during planning to decide how to meet the upcoming needs for the following week.  

Debriefing daily is also an important part of the week.  Sharing observations, evaluating effectiveness of teaching strategies, and making changes if necessary to the teaching approach and/or materials are all important aspects of the daily reflection.  This debriefing not only helps student achievement, but encourages our professional growth and learning

This collaborative learning environment provides students with a wealth of support while teachers work together to move students to the next level of achievement."

And here's some more from a 3rd grade teaching  team at ECOT:

“Our team looks at our class as a whole.  They aren’t my students or her students but OUR class.  This is key. Then when we plan each week, we can talk about needs and how WE will teach the kids.  We talk about what do the students need, and how are we going to work to meet these needs.  That could take the form of co-teaching a lesson or breaking into smaller groups that we each lead.  The student needs drive what we do.  We make mistakes, and we discuss them.  It is okay if something doesn’t always work, as we talk about it and make a different plan for the next day. To truly team teach is to have an attitude shift and a sense of how we can work together to grow students.

Students in our class benefit from this relationship.  We approach the class together, and we work to make sure they see us as a team working for them. We begin the year this way, so that they learn they are a part of our family.  The students are exposed to several teaching styles and sometimes just hearing a different voice can spark engagement and learning.  Students also have multiple teachers encouraging and celebrating their success.”

ECOT Teachers PD Meeting 

ECOT Teachers PD Meeting 

Students First

There is little doubt that ECOT is changing the paradigm of public education... and it's not by blindly giving students iPads or a way for students to simply click their way to a diploma. ECOT teachers are harnessing the efficiency that technology provides while leveraging the power of teamwork to meet the unique learning needs of their students. 

ECOT is currently involved in a legal action with the Ohio Department of Education. The department is attempting to limit school choice by ripping funding away from ECOT and other eschools based on selective and retroactive enforcement of absurd attendance rules. 

We need your help. Please Take Action Now to support school choice and ECOT in Ohio.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by authors and interviewees on ECOT PALS blogs are the author's and interviewees alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) or any other individual or group. Would you like your opinion or story to be published on the ECOT PALS blog? Please contact us to inquire.

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