Online Courses for Reading Teachers: Four Web-Based Offerings Give Busy Educators the Techniques They Need to Teach Literacy and Middle School Students

By Lafferty, Iris Obille | Technology & Learning, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Online Courses for Reading Teachers: Four Web-Based Offerings Give Busy Educators the Techniques They Need to Teach Literacy and Middle School Students


Lafferty, Iris Obille, Technology & Learning


This year's renewed emphasis on teacher quality has prompted a boom in e-learning options for professional development. And given the emphasis of No Child Left Behind, the current topic of choice is reading. Today's sources of such programs are numerous--with training embedded into curriculum offerings from Compass, Plato, and others; targeted instruction by Lexia, IntelliTools, and other publishers traditionally addressing a special education population; and a range of solutions from universities (see "Professional Development: 21st Century Models" in the August 2003 issue). The online professional development courses reviewed this month are some of the most current and visible for the mainstream K-12 reading market. Offering instruction independent of specific language arts texts, these four products bridge findings from recent literacy research and translate them into flesh, practical, and effective ideas for the classroom.

Connected Educator Reading: Teaching Phonics Grade K (Classroom Connect)

This brand-new offering will rouse teachers to make positive changes in the way they teach reading skills. Classroom Connect is producing a series of 20 courses that target the National Reading Panel's fundamental components of reading instruction. The series--which currently includes four courses in teaching phonics and text comprehension to elementary students--allow teachers to pursue their own specific interests and classroom needs.

Though the courses vary in topic, sessions are uniformly organized into Research & Practice, Model Activities, and Reflect & Review pieces. In Teaching Phonics Grade K, for example, eleven 45-minute sessions cover topics such as research, teaching phonemic awareness, teaching phonics, and assessment and intervention. The bulk of the content is delivered in a slide show-like format, with bits of animation, interesting graphics, printable worksheets, and mouseovers that reveal noteworthy facts, teaching tips, an occasional multiple-choice review question, and video footage. In fact, one of Connected Educator Reading's best features is the video segments that model teaching ideas. For example, in one segment, a teacher demonstrates how to teach syllable blending and segmentation.

After the Research & Practice session, the Model Activities component provides more ideas for the classroom (e.g., assessing students' emerging literacy, making consonant cards for phonics practice, analyzing spelling stages). In the Reflect & Review section, teachers can discuss issues with online faculty or answer a set of review questions for credit on their Classroom Connect transcript, which tracks teachers' progress through the course and can be viewed by administrators.

Classroom Connect has laudably put the K-6 teacher at the forefront of course design and content. Navigation is easy, with large tabs, "back" buttons, and a course indicator bar to allow swift movement throughout the course sessions. The content is interactive, practical, and relevant to today's teaching. And while at press time the program is not linked to outside Web sites, it houses an abundance of printable resources, such as "Reading Program Selection Criteria" and "Sequence of Phonological Awareness."

Teaching Reading to All Students. Grades 6-8 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston)

This offering is an elegant, research-based, online professional development course for teachers working with struggling middle school readers. The program smartly syncs interactive Web pages of tested teaching strategies with supporting video on CD-ROM to skillfully deliver 16 professional development modules.

Modules 1 through 16 are dedicated to specific areas of reading instruction, such as building student interest, teaching decoding, or assessing student reading. Each module contains a lesson, printable supporting documents, and online discussion opportunities. Typically, modules get a jump-start with a brief video welcome by a reading expert. …

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