Virtual Learning Communities: An Online Professional Development Resource for STEM Teachers

This project will design, develop, and test a virtual learning community (VLC) to enhance the ability of first- and fourth-grade teachers to provide mathematics education. The goal is to produce a prototype of a VLC for first- and fourth-grade Everyday Mathematics teachers that integrates three primary elements: (a) learning objects rooted in practice, such as lesson video, (b) community-building tools offered by the internet, and (c) focused content that drives teachers' professional learning in mathematics.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020083
Funding Period: 
Thursday, July 15, 2010 to Sunday, June 30, 2013
Project Evaluator: 
none
Full Description: 

Researchers and developers at the University of Chicago are conducting an exploratory project to design, develop, and test a virtual learning community (VLC) to enhance the ability of first- and fourth-grade teachers to provide mathematics education. The project deploys cyberlearning technologies to allow teachers to interact with one another and with experts across the U.S. The goal is to produce a prototype of a VLC for first- and fourth-grade Everyday Mathematics teachers that integrates three primary elements: (a) learning objects rooted in practice, such as lesson video, (b) community-building tools offered by the internet, and (c) focused content that drives teachers' professional learning in mathematics.

This VLC is developed during two engineering cycles in which the project team engages teachers as central partners. The quality and utility of the resultant VLC is tested against the anticipated outcomes of (a) sustained participation by teachers in the VLC and (b) changes in teachers' "professional vision" in mathematics education. Sustained participation is tracked using web analytics and user logs. Changes in professional vision are measured by on-line assessment tools used by approximately 150 teachers.

The VLC develops learning objects; community-building tools; and focused content. The VLC will be launched during the third year of the project by way of the Everyday Mathematics website, which has over 6000 visitors per day, and the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project newsletter, which has a circulation of 40,000. The potential audience is quite large since Everyday Mathematics is used in 185,000 classrooms.