Here’s a bit about our involvement with this important project. TLINC has a long history with the University of Memphis. We have gone through several iterations of this project, with each version having its own area of focus. In past years we have concentrated on mentoring and building the careers of teachers in the field. However, for the past two years we have focused exclusively on teachers-in-training. The primary reason for this change is the ongoing instability in the school districts in our immediate region. I will describe that issue briefly, as it has been widely documented in local news reports, and it is an ongoing legal issue. Our largest and closest school district is Memphis City Schools (MCS), which is also the most common placement district for our teacher education graduates. Within our same county is the Shelby County school district, which is generally more suburban and rural. These 2 districts are attempting to merge. If successful, it will be the largest district merger in United States history, in terms of number of students. Some of the small cities surrounding Memphis are attempting to create their own school districts. This effort is counter to what the larger districts are trying to achieve. Consequently, local district personnel have been less willing to take on initiatives that do not pertain to the merger, or might be unsustainable after the merger. MCS has also had some leadership changes that have made it difficult for TLINC to maintain our connections there. So, we at the University of Memphis have focused on the teachers that we do have access to–in this case pre-service teachers.
So, we are working within the structure of a course–IDT 3600 Integrating Technology in Instruction. Every teacher candidate takes this course. Our 3600 instructors have set up a communities in edWeb, and are engaging the teacher candidates in discussions related to using technological means for professional development.
In past versions of TLINC we have taken different approaches. One year we employed an overarching “theme question” for all the mentoring discussions. That theme was about how to set expectations for student achievement. In other years we based discussions around the different content areas, such as language arts, special education, etc. Interestingly, in the recent past, almost all our mentoring discussions were conducted using synchronous tools (mostly text chat). This year with edWeb we have been entirely asynchronous.
I’ve been pleased so far with the work of our instructors, in terms of the conversations they are leading. We have some veteran instructors such as Carmen Weaver, who you may know has been closely involved with TLINC for three years.