Earth Systems/ Digital Systems: On-Line Professional Development for K-12 Teachers
The Earth Sciences Department at SUNY Oneonta provides on-line professional development through a graduate course and an open listserv. The course, Introduction to Earth's Integrated Systems, is an analysis of systems interactions through the lens of trigger events (e.g., volcanic eruption, hurricane, etc.). Using problem-based learning, students identify prior knowledge, address misconceptions, and build new knowledge in cooperative groups. Students apply their new knowledge in constructing systems-based lessons for use in their classrooms. On average, 19 students per semester have completed the course, which is funded through a subgrant from the Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA). ESSEA is an initiative of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and is supported by an NSF GEO-Teach grant. Further information on ESSEA courses is available at http://esseacourses.strategies.org/index.php.
The ESPRIT listserv (http://external.oneonta.edu/mentor/listserv.html) has been active for 15 years. Currently, with over 1000 subscribers from 22 states, it is one of the largest and most active listservs for earth science teachers in the U.S. ESPRIT is characterized by a strong sense of community and openness to addressing questions of subscribers. Resources, instructional materials and content knowledge are freely shared. It is in the area of content knowledge that the most effective professional development occurs.
The on-line accessibility of the Earth Systems course and the ESPRIT listserv has made them convenient for earth science teachers from a broad geographic spectrum. The peer teaching and mentoring that occur in these settings provide extremely effective professional development.