Educators are the key to success of learning and teaching in classrooms, many cases of digital learning transformation failed because of teachers are not ready. Teachers need personalized learning before they can infuse personalized learning into their teaching practices. To prepare student’s competencies needed for future, teachers must become future ready first!
Founded in March 2010, BloomBoard took the challenge to build a new framework for teacher professional growth. It first offered observation and evaluation tools to help teachers and administrators track and record professional development (PD) goals. Later in 2015, BloomBoard launched its marketplace, which contains several thousand free and paid PD resources from nearly 100 providers.
Inspired by badging, the platform uses micro-credentials to recognize educators’ professional learning, and emphasizes the evidence of learning, rather than focusing on “seat time.” How does it work? Teachers and administrators can use work samples, videos and other artifacts to make public what they have mastered and accomplished with their students and colleagues. Based on this evidence, assessed against established rubrics, educators then earn recognition for what they’ve achieved. As of late summer, more than 30 content partners have developed more than 200 micro-credentials — organized in “stacks” — to address a variety of educator skills and competencies. (more details can be found on EdSurge’s page)
Just recently, BloomBoard entered a partnership with Wisewire to develop learning solutions for educators. Wisewire is a learning platform that engineers efficient learning materials. The first collection released is a “Common Core Teacher Toolkit for PARCC”, which is focused on instructional strategies and preparing students for computer-based testing.
The goal with this collection is to help teachers more quickly find what they need for support. Educators have very limited time and already work long weeks. They need quick PD support which is what BloomBoard pulls together for them. There is also a lack of support for teachers (specifically around the Common Core and computer based testing) so these types of learning materials aim to fill this gap through the collections.
For administrators, BloomBoard offers the ability to track, monitor and analyze teacher activities on the platform both individually and collectively.
To understand the thinking behind this platform and lessons learned. Here is an interview with BloomBoard’s CEO and co-founder Jason Lange, by Jessie Chuang.
Jessie: To claim personalized PD, how do you identify teachers’ needs for different communities?
Jason: Teachers (like most people) actually often know deep down what they struggle with and they are often seeking personalized support in those diverse areas. This makes our job more about helping teachers find private, safe, trusted spaces for them to be comfortable being vulnerable in, which ultimate is where the most growth can happen.
Jessie: Is your program totally online? How do you facilitate collaboration between peers or between tutor and novice?
Jason: We take a blended approach to educator growth. The platform provides virtual forums / Personal Learning Community (PLC) spaces where teachers can work with their peers and/or coaches to get feedback on critical competencies and provide feedback to others.
Jessie: What’s the real impact you’ve created so far? How is it compared with traditional PD’s impact?
Jason: The biggest impact we’ve had thus far is in shifting peoples’ mindsets from thinking about PD as a traditionally “input” model (where we plug teachers into “high quality PD” and hope that they get inspired enough by it to take it back to their classrooms) to now thinking about what the “output” model for PD could look like – imagine a world where we empowered educators to learn new skills in whatever manner they preferred (e.g. workshops, videos, peers, PLCs, etc.), but rather than track their attendance or consumption hours, we focused solely on what the demonstration of that skill would look like in their classrooms and what portfolio of practice they would need to build to demonstrate competency of that skill. This shift is a massive one, which also have substantial implications for how we teach students in the future, so it’s exciting to see people coming along there.
Jessie: What are lessons learned about important factors for success and failure in teacher PD?
Jason: I think the biggest lessons we’ve learned have been that fundamentally growth (professional or otherwise) cannot and will not happen without first creating a space for vulnerability and trust. The data is pretty clear that growth and development is more about experiencing (and therefore learning from) failure versus consuming information and trying to “getting it right on the first try.” Therefore, if we want meaningful growth for our educators, we have to be able to create conditions for vulnerability and trust – if PD is tied directly to evaluation systems, it won’t work; if PD is provided in a non-targeted, disingenuous way, it won’t work; if it’s just about getting hours or checking boxes, it won’t work. Teachers are starving for growth and development, and we have a really amazing opportunity at the moment to help them in an dramatically different way.
Jessie: What is your biggest challenge(s) ahead and your strategy?
Jason: Collaborative engagement and competition with the “noise.” Educators learn best from each other. Yet, our bureaucratic education system creates all sorts of burden and time constraints that prevent educators from actually engaging with each other, either logistically or just because there are too many other things going on at the moment… If schools map “teacher time spent” on top of the “highest leverage activities to improve instruction / learning,” I think they’ll find a pretty frustrating reality that there’s very little overlap – and that’s one of the biggest problems with the system today.
Jessie: Do you need to spend heavy human resources for customer support?
Jason: No. We built our platform on the same sort of user experience that people are familiar with using sites like Pinterest, so we find that support is minimal.
Jessie: Is there more support for teachers in the learning process? (not only assessments for final evidences)
Jason: Yes. Since collaboration is so critical to the learning process we have started creating cohorts for teachers to participate in that help them though the micro-credentials they are looking to earn. These cohorts group teachers together with others based on similar grades and subjects, and allow a facilitator to help guide the group conversation to demonstration of mastery.