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Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College adapts amid COVID-19

The school created a new platform to help students and teacher candidates while schools in the state closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus


ASU students stand by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College on ASU's Tempe campus on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

As classes transitioned online, students at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College were forced to adapt to new methods of learning and teaching. One of the results is ASU's new online learning platform, which allows teacher candidates to continue to make connections with pre-collegiate students through online tutoring and broadcasts. 

The Sun Devil Learning Labs program was created to not only enhance online learning for younger students but also to give teacher candidates experience. Previously, teacher candidates were placed in in-person internships and residencies to complete program requirements. 

The lessons are done through Zoom and broadcasted on YouTube. Students can log in and access the live sessions in a remote learning environment.  

ASU teacher candidates begin by developing their lessons which are held over Zoom. From there, the lessons are streamed on YouTube and categorized by the intended grade level. 

Allison Williams, a senior majoring in elementary education, said the lab serves as a learning portal for students to help supplement learning. 

"It's a space for students who are interested in learning and enjoy interacting with the teacher candidates," Williams said. 

Adaptation has been imperative at ASU colleges like the Teachers College, where COVID-19 complications have created all-new problems to be solved. 

"It's been a completely different experience from anything else I've done before," Williams said. "It's the new frontier of learning."

Kelly Owen, clinical assistant professor at the Teachers College, said the labs launched quickly to meet the needs of ASU students. This was made possible by utilizing technology at the Teachers College and past financial contributions from donors, she said. 

Owen initially discussed ways to adapt to remote teaching with her coworkers and bosses — six days later, the prototype of Sun Devil Learning Labs launched. Some sessions had up to 20 participants per class, and an early version of Sun Devil Learning Labs was viewed around a thousand times per day. 

"When we started building this project I got chills because ... this is civics in action," Owen said. "This is a group of teachers saying, 'This is a giant crisis, what do we have to offer our community?'"

The lab is made possible by more than 300 students, upwards of 20 faculty members and numerous teams at the college.

Sun Devil Learning Labs workers are split into teams. Teacher candidates already working as teachers were put into groups based on the subject they wanted to teach, while others for each grade work together and rotate teaching days. 

Teacher candidates receive feedback throughout the lessons and are supervised and coached along the way. 

Student workers, called educational technology champions, are also a part of the teams. They provide assistance to everyone working with the Sun Devil Learning Labs by overseeing the live streams and ensuring each grade level Zoom connects to their correct YouTube channel.

Jodie Donner, lead technology strategist at the Teacher's College, works with these students. 

Donner said YouTube's copyright requirements have been an unexpected obstacle, but teacher candidates are working through the difficulties. 

"Teacher candidates have gone through digital citizenship modules so they've learned about copyright and fair use," Donner said. "But this is the first time they've had to really implement it in this live setting."

If a channel is flagged for a copyright issue it could be suspended for a whole day, meaning no lessons can be given for the rest of the day. 

Meredith Toth, assistant dean of digital learning, said the copyright issues are a growing pain that must be solved, especially because she is hoping to implement the labs long term. 

"Students in any of our programs, whether seeking teacher certification or not, could have an opportunity to think about how to convey concepts to a certain audience," Toth said. "This concept of breaking down complex ideas for an audience that is new to those ideas is at the core of what we do."

As this new frontier expands, Toth is hoping the platform will become a resource for schools, parents and communities to use as a positive trusted source for additional educational content and learning. 

"It gave me a sense of optimism that whatever comes our way, we'll get through it and even better, we'll know how to do something good with the situation," Toth said.

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