New podcasts to aid teachers in Delaware classrooms
Sharon Walpole
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10:01 a.m., Sept. 18, 2009----Teachers in Delaware have new resources at their fingertips, as the University of Delaware's School of Education and the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) have teamed up to create instructional podcasts, helping teachers implement the nation's Response to Intervention initiative in their classrooms.

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The overall goal of Response to Intervention is to help students who are struggling with basic learning skills, like reading.

The series of 11 podcasts includes lectures, readings and activities. The podcasts are designed to be viewed by teams of teachers at the same grade level, and could potentially help strengthen understanding of reading instruction and assessment for grades K-3.

“This allows people to work in groups of four or five, with their grade-level colleagues,” said Sharon Walpole, associate professor in UD's School of Education. “I think that, in and of itself, is a positive professional development venue.”

It took five years for Walpole to develop the concepts used in the DVD podcasts. This past year, she traveled to select schools throughout the state, presenting the material in person during professional development days.

But Walpole said she was limited as to the number of school districts she could reach with the information and, because of budget restraints, many school districts no longer have those professional development days built into their school year.

The decision to present the information in the form of podcasts is an innovative way to assist teachers who don't have a lot of extra time for professional development, she said.

The podcasts are short and include features not available in live lectures. They can be played, paused and replayed based on the learner's needs and because of the format, the lessons can be used for professional development at almost any time.

“I think it's normal for everyone to be afraid of new technology, but this is the time when we have to experiment with it,” said Walpole. “This experiment using technology as the basis for professional development could potentially help us weather the storm brought on by the economy.”

DDOE is handling requests for the Response to Intervention DVD podcasts. They will be distributed, for free, to districts that request them.

Article by Cassandra Kramer
Photo by Ambre Alexander