2020: the year of online teacher training? ASU Entrepreneur-in-Residence David Levin Takes Up PD Case with Two Massive Virtual Events

David Levin ran one of the world’s largest educational publishers. Before that, he made a name for himself by completely reorganizing the business operations of a 200-year-old British publisher. But for the past year he has been obsessed with online teacher training.

“The lack of emphasis on pedagogy to support online and blended learning is just striking,” Levin said during a video conference (pictured right). When the Covid-19 pandemic erupted earlier this year, ASU’s entrepreneur-in-residence quickly hosted a huge free event, REMOTE, to help connect post-secondary educators with qualified practitioners of the online learning. The event attracted 26,000 participants. Now Levin is working on rehearsing the conference for K-12 teachers. KNEW REMOTE K12: the summit of connected teachers will go down on January 9. Participation is free and registration is currently open. Educators who attend can earn a professional diploma from ASU.

Levin’s involvement in online teacher education is doubly ironic. He joined ASU at the end of 2019 as a department (ASU’s EdPlus) launched an end-to-end adaptive education platform to support her entire undergraduate degree in biology. Since then, Levin has also joined AI developer SparkBeyond as president, among other companies.

Hearing Levin talk about the integration of learning technology and teacher training, however, his vision for education becomes clear.

How 2020 brought online teacher education to the forefront

“Look at the massive investment that K-12 has made in technology – and it’s been huge,” Levin said. “Compare it to the investment that virtually every other institution has made in technology, from the military to government to business. By far the biggest investment has been in software and in evolving workflow. People wonder how they can use technology to do something differently. Well, education didn’t do any of that.

Levin isn’t the first person to criticize K-12 edtech spending. Sector spending in the United States totaled approximately $ 13 billion before the pandemic. We won’t know the full cost of educational technology in 2020 for some time. A sort of cottage industry has formed to help schools make better use of their edtech licenses. But the monitoring of edtech return on investment is not easy. And with the exception of educators who proactively trained in the online modality, there was little incentive until 2020 for educators to seek professional online training for teachers.

“There hasn’t been any corresponding investment in the tracking, the pedagogy, the teaching, the workflow in a business sense,” Levin said. “It’s funny because, in all other areas, digital technology has totally changed practices and behaviors. Productivity is a word you need to tread carefully in the world of education. But however you measure it, the military is more effective today. Businesses are faster and more agile. Governments deliver services in a whole different way. And yet, our outlook on education has not changed.

The summits of teachers and connected professors

Throughout 2020, Levin worked to correct the course. In partnership with ASU (and many sponsors like Pearson and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Levin helped organize REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit in July. The event featured experienced online educators who showcased some actionable, high-impact best practices. It attracted 26,000 teachers and speakers (including about 700 K-12 teachers), who spent an average of three to five hours participating in the event. The one-on-one sessions saw an audience of over 5,000 people.

“We’ve received loads of fantastic responses,” Levin said. “People were like, ‘My school didn’t do any professional training for teachers. I have no idea how to approach this.

Following the event, there was huge interest in repeating it with a focus on Kindergarten to Grade 12. This follow-up, at REMOTE: the Connected Teachers Summit, will take place on Saturday 9 January.

According to Levin, there are many themes common to online professional training for K-12 and higher education teachers. But there are also important differences.

“Higher education instructors have a dozen, fifteen years of expertise in the field to deliver online learning to a large number of students,” said Levin. “This practice existed before 2020. When we put together the agenda for this event, we could turn to people who ran grant programs and who were known in the network.

ASU workers deploy PPE and signage on campus
Courtesy of ASU.

“The contrast with K-12 couldn’t be stronger,” Levin continued, “because domain expertise hasn’t been developed in the same way. Muscle is still really raw.

As a result, the second REMOTE conference is holding a competition for K-12 educators. ASU asks participants to name those who they believe have developed strong online teaching or leadership skills. The selected winners will be invited to present the practices they have developed.

Levin recognizes that good professional online teacher training takes years. REMOTE Conferences present a way for educators to improve their online teaching in the absence of this possibility.

“We don’t offer a holistic course on how to do fantastic online and hybrid education,” Levin said. “We are designed to be a fantastic resource available on demand. Let’s say Miss Jones is going to teach a class tomorrow and she’s freaking out. She needs ideas. For fifteen minutes, the conference will present some good ideas in its specific field.

The conference presentations are organized by grade level and by teaching discipline. Besides various topics, these disciplines will also include things like serving students with special needs or addressing mental health issues.

Until 2021

Levin hopes the lessons and best practices of online teacher training learned this year will not be forgotten.

“If we go back to school and everyone says, ‘Thank goodness for that Covid-19 vaccine. Now what were we doing? “It will be a terrible missed opportunity for me,” said Levin. “It will be an indictment, a terrible indictment of education. We have learned some things that are really important. And it was very painful to learn them. We must not forget them.

REMOTE: the summit of connected teachers will go down on January 9 for a day. Teachers can attend for free. Registration is currently open.

Image courtesy of ASU.