MOREnet's Immersive Learning Lab: Empowering Educators with Technology
When Missouri rolled out new computer science learning standards, the Missouri Research and Education Network’s (MOREnet) Immersive Learning Lab (the MILL) was a natural partner to provide the associated teacher professional development training. The recent emphasis on computer science encourages students to pursue career opportunities in the field after graduation and better prepares them for college-level courses. The MILL has been entrusted with training Missouri teachers to educate students in the new computer science standards.
The MILL, launched in September 2017, has a history of success in providing teachers with the training required to effectively implement innovative, hands-on technology-focused learning strategies. It began as an initiative to provide teachers with training and experience in makerspace-type equipment so that they could make informed decisions about how to effectively incorporate the lab into their classroom instruction.
Since its launch, the MILL has delivered more than 18,000 training hours to over 4,300 people, enabling MOREnet to share its specialized expertise around educational technology tools. The collaboration is empowering teachers to increase engagement, interest, and early access to high quality curriculum activities that create more effective classrooms and ultimately benefits workforce development in the technology field.
Experiencing new technology at the MILL first lets teachers make a more informed decision about how and when to use it. MOREnet Manager of Marketing and Product Development Dawn Thurnau gives an example. “Early on, there was so much excitement around LEGO Mindstorms. Although they are an amazing tool to teach coding, teachers quickly realized they only accommodate 2-3 students at a time, and it isn’t feasible to complete a project in an hour- it’s more like several hours. Through hands-on exploring, we realized this particular tool is better used for smaller groups of students in a library or after-school setting.” Thurnau added, “On the flip side, we continue to be impressed by the versatility of the Sphero Robot. It has use cases from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and one robot can accommodate several students for short lessons or more in-depth learning objectives.”
This year, the MILL’s team of technology integration specialists has the capacity to provide training to over 10,000 educators charged with implementing the new computer science curriculum. The MILL’s team — certified in SMART, Apple, Nearpod, Raspberry Pi, and Google — will offer a two-day in-person training, as well as follow-up online and live virtual training.
The success and exposure of the MILL led directly to MOREnet’s partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide training on the newly implemented computer science standards. MOREnet’s role in facilitating collaboration between its technical experts, higher education, and the K12 community is an outstanding illustration of the powerful way partnerships can positively impact our community.