The Early Childhood Learning Community associate degree program at the University of Cincinnati allows students to complete the student teaching requirements in their local communities. This process could be adapted to many additional teaching and learning situations.
During the 2002-2003 academic year, eleven (11) distance learning students successfully completed student teaching using video, media streaming, and conference calls. Each student chose a mentor (meeting our requirements) and made arrangements to teach two half-days during the fall term, three half-days during the winter term, and five half-days during the spring term. During the academic year, twelve conference calls with each student, mentor and university supervisor were held to watch and reflect on the student teaching. Students were able to self-reflect and set goals for themselves. The mentor and university supervisor became a support team to give resources, suggest extensions for practice, and clarify specific goals. Students documented and created portfolios for their final projects. Comparison of the on-campus traditional student teacher and the distance learning student teacher performance and portfolios, indicates a similar spectrum of outcomes. Specific outcomes of the distance learning format include:
Data collection from course evaluations is being compiled and analyzed to add rigor to the anecdotal evidence collected during the first two years of the program.
learning effectiveness:The Early Childhood Learning Community (ECLC) has pioneered a new model of student teaching for adult-students who are currently working in the field of early childhood. The ECLC associate degree, which leads to an Ohio PreK Associate Teaching License, requires 400 student teaching hours. Traditionally student teaching has focused on a pre-service teacher modeling the practice of a master or veteran teacher. In the ECLC mode, the student teaching experience is based on a reflective model with the mentor serving more as a coach, than a model. The student teacher, mentor teacher and university supervising teacher watch a video (30-60 minutes each) of the student teacher synchronously (after it is encoded and media streamed through the course management system, Blackboard) while on a 3-way conference call. Conference calls are set up around the schedules of the participants; some are during working hours, and some are in the evening. With this model, the distance learning student can keep a job in her own community, remain in her own classroom for half of the student teaching hours, allow continuity for the children, and meet the requirements for the degree and license. The center can keep a valuable employee, and the profession has better trained professional teachers and staff. It is a win-win situation for all. For a distance learning program that serves students around the world, it was imperative that a protocol for student teaching that balances the reality of student's lives, with the integrity of the university and profession, be implemented. Best practice videos of master teachers were developed and made available through media streaming to provide students with a model. The issue of confidentiality for both the students and the student teacher was solved by using media streaming and conference calls. Students record a journal entry the day they do the taping, since there is a week time lag for mailing and encoding the video. This entry is sent to the mentor and the university professor to help guide the conference call. Calling cards were provided to the university supervisors so that calls could be made from any location.
Equipment for encoding all types of video for media streaming was procured through a grant for $4,000-$5,000. Student workers were trained to encode and upload the video. The University Media Streaming Project provided the technology and server space for the pilot project, but ECLC purchased additional dedicated hard drive space. The on-going costs for distance learning student teaching are similar to those of a campus-based program. Instead of paying for travel expenses, the distance project funds phone cards and student workers.
Mundorf, N., Multi-Modality Early Childhood Distance Learning: Experience the Opportunities & Challenges in Bridging Distances & the Digital Divide. Association of Childhood Education Annual Conference Virtual Presentation, April 2003. http://oz.uc.edu/~mundornk