NCSS works to develop Web training

COVINGTON -- Some Newton County teachers soon will be able to sit in front of their computer screens to earn professional learning hours.

The Newton County School System's professional learning and technology departments are working to develop the system's own online professional learning courses for teachers.

"Teachers are so busy," said Naomi Cobb, director of professional learning at NCSS. "Many have families, and, therefore, it is difficult for them to attend classes. This way, they can work at their own pace at a time that is convenient for them."

Currently, classes are taught face-to-face at the Newton County Board of Education offices or at one of the schools.

So this year, NCSS enlisted the help of 10 technology teacher leaders to develop several online courses. They are creating such courses as CyberSafety, Fifth-Grade Writing, Digital Storytelling, Podcasting, ActivBoard Basic and Advanced and e-Learn Basic and Advanced.

Teachers will be able to take these pilot courses through a current learning portal, e-Learn, starting this summer, said Gary Shattuck, director of Technology at NCSS.

"Teachers use e-Learn to create their own Web pages that students and parents can access," Cobb said. "The teachers who will be teaching the classes will use their e-Learn sites for teachers to access the classes."

All certified staff in NCSS must accumulate 10 Professional Learning Units every five years to become recertified. Ten classroom hours is equal to 1 PLU, and the online courses are being developed with the same criteria in mind, Shattuck said.

He said the teachers developing the courses will be paid about $1,000 each for their work, which is estimated to take between 30 and 40 hours. Depending on funding and budget constraints in the future, the departments hope to expand the course offerings next year.

"The teachers are excited about creating online courses because they realize that we are living in a digital world and learning does not have to be confined to a brick-and-mortar classroom," Shattuck said. "They want to be the pioneers in Newton County's attempt to provide (professional learning) opportunities anytime, anywhere."