BANGOR, Maine — Maine will become the first state in the nation to give its teachers access to dozens of Web-based professional development opportunities when it launches a new partnership early next year.
State education officials announced the new initiative Thursday during the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine conference, attended by more than 50 tech-focused educators from across the state.
The state and ACTEM will partner with Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization that seeks to spur innovation that contributes to better learning opportunities for students, to provide Web-based micro-credentials to Maine educators. The program will be called iLearn Maine.
This marks the first time Digital Promise has teamed up with a state rather than individual institutions.
Micro-credentials are meant to recognize teachers’ professional development and efforts to expand their knowledge base and teaching methods. Mike Muir, director of the Maine Department of Education’s Learning Through Technology initiative, likened the micro-credentials to the badge system in Boy Scouts.
“Schools are working on so many important education initiatives at the moment,” Muir said in announcing the initiative. “We need to offer ways for schools and districts to identify approaches to professional learning and support that personalize the learning for educators and provide the earned recognition.”
Educators will apply for and earn the credentials through an online system. Once earned, they can add the credentials to their portfolio, carry those on to other positions or share what they learned with their fellow educators.
One example of what these micro-credentials could look like can be found in the classroom of Mauri Dufour, a kindergarten teacher in the Auburn School Department.
Her students participate in a digital communication project in which they send videos to their parents detailing what they’re learning in class that day. When they get home, they can watch the recording with their parents, bringing them up to date on their education.
If Dufour wanted to earn a credential for this project, she could gather evidence, such as the videos students shared with their parents, demonstrating the skills and lessons gained, and submit that information for review. Those materials would be assessed to determine whether the educator should earn a credential.
“It sounds like a great opportunity,” said Shana Goodall, a social studies teacher at Orono High School. She said that the program gives teachers such as her the flexibility to expand, innovate and reflect on their teaching methods.
“Teachers are always lifelong learners,” she said.
The Education Department and Digital Promise are looking for teachers, nonprofit groups, museums and other organizations to develop ideas for micro-credential programs. Some groups that have expressed interest include the Maine Discovery Museum, Scarborough Public Library and Maine Science Fair. The state hopes to launch a series of pilot programs in the spring of 2016.
Also during Thursday’s conference, ACTEM handed out a pair of awards to recognize Maine teachers who strived to advance and promote use of technology in their classrooms and schools.
Goodall took home the Achieve Award, meant to recognize teachers for their tech-related innovations in the classroom.
Bob Sprankle, technology integrator at Wells-Ogunquit Community School District, received the John Lunt Friend of Technology Award, meant to recognize a teacher for making significant contributions to technology and education in their lifetimes.
Sprankle wasn’t able to attend the event because of an illness. His wife, Jody Breneman, accepted the award on his behalf while he watched via Skype.
Sprankle has been called a “pioneer” in using technology in the classroom. A decade ago, he started a podcast lead by third- and fourth-graders in his class, among many other tech-based projects.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.