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Program makes waves on the Web

July 30, 2007

The College of Teacher Education and Leadership at ASU’s West campus has received the 2007 Rich Media Impact Scholastic Achievement Award for its innovative use of Web communications to improve communication, learning and outreach.

“This award recognizes the College of Teacher Education and Leadership and its Professional Development School (PDS) program for excellence in the practical and innovative integration of rich media in education,” says Darrin Coulson, chief operating officer of Sonic Foundry, a communications technology company that presents the annual award.

The PDS program was developed at ASU in 2000 by Scott Ridley, a College of Teacher Education and Leadership associate professor.
The program, designed to partner with Arizona school districts in low-income areas, was launched in the Osborn School District in Phoenix and now includes seven districts that have received new teacher preparation and the resources necessary to improve instructional practice and increase student achievement.

Ongoing performance research indicates that PDS teachers are more effective, confident and stay in the profession longer than teachers prepared in other types of programs.

PDS partner districts are Osborn, Madison, Avondale, Chinle, Whiteriver, Indian Oasis-Baboquivari and Douglas.

“The goal for this program has always been to work with high-poverty school districts where the trend has been that certain districts have had a hard time getting and keeping good teachers,” says Ridley, who directs the PDS program for ASU. “Our project is unique because it is both high-touch and high-tech. The high-touch part is that we embed a full-time ASU faculty member in the partner school district, while the high-tech part is the interactive video-conferencing and the media site.”

Nearly 300 partner-district teachers attend PDS Content Academies via distance-learning courses – where, on two large-screen, high-definition monitors, district teachers see the teaching team at ASU, the participating teachers at the other partner-district sites and the presentation content. Teachers learn content and how to use embedded technology applications such as Blackboard, Smartboard, document cameras, digital video and numerous Web-based resources.

Additionally, teachers seeking further learning opportunities turn to PDS distance-learning courses in mathematics, reading and science. Many of the teacher candidates in the PDS district-based, “grow-your-own” teacher preparation programs are from the local community. Candidates earn their degrees and become teachers without leaving family or work responsibilities.

“Using the live broadcast mode, the program permits teachers to view classes, meetings and presentations in real time,” says George Powers, media specialist senior who directs the distance-learning studio on the West campus. “The obvious benefit is the availability of the research and expertise of ASU, where it may not be available in remote regions such as Chinle, Whiteriver, Indian Oasis-Baboquivari and Douglas. Teachers can take advantage of the resources we have here in Phoenix without having to drive eight-and-a-half hours.”

The PDS program has been gaining national attention. In June of last year, it was the subject of a congressional briefing detailing its success in teacher retention and student achievement. In October, it was recognized locally by the Western Maricopa Coalition (WESTMARC) with a “Best of the West” award for excellence in education.

In February, the program earned a national Best Practice Award for Effective Partnerships in teacher education from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).