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Friday Institute Senior Faculty Fellow Carla C. Johnson Expands Online Learning Opportunities for K-12 Educators with New Grant from Institute of Education Sciences

Headshot of Carla C. Johnson

Carla C. Johnson, Ph.D., a senior faculty fellow with the NC State College of Education’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and a professor of science education in the college, has been involved in the development of online learning opportunities for over a decade. Her work has included building a Top 10 graduate online program at the University of Cincinnati, as well as personally delivering online coursework and professional development programs for teachers. Now, she’s the principal investigator for a new research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to develop and study two new Professional Learning Online Modules (PLOM) for educators based upon existing IES Practice Guides.

Totaling $934,736 across a two-year period, these PLOMs will be hosted on the Friday Institute’s online platform, The PLACE (Professional Learning and Collaboration Environment), and offered to educators around the world. The PLOM project team includes co-principal investigators Hiller Spires, Ph.D., executive director of the Friday Institute and associate dean of the NC State College of Education; Jessica Hunt, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and special education in the NC State College of Education; Janet Walton, Ph.D., senior research scholar at the Friday Institute; and Mark Samberg, Ed.D., assistant director of technology operations and development at the Friday Institute. Mary Ann Wolf, Ph.D., senior director of the Friday Institute’s Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative, will be senior personnel on the project.

“I am so pleased that we received this grant award that the Friday Institute can leverage to expand our portfolio of online opportunities for K-12 educators,” Johnson said. “There is a great need for professional development tailored specifically for early childhood mathematics teaching. Our team will utilize the important research, which is the basis of the IES Practice Guides, to enable teachers to support early childhood mathematics, as well as developing literacy in elementary and middle schools.”

The Friday Institute has a rich history of online professional learning over the past decade. Former Friday Institute Executive Director Glenn Kleiman, Ph.D., and Wolf conceptualized and led the development of the Massive Open Online Courses for Educators (MOOC-Ed) initiative at the Friday Institute in 2013. Since its start, these online courses have served more than 44,000 participants from all 50 states and 160 countries.

The PLOM project will incorporate lessons learned from previous work with MOOC-Eds, while utilizing the most recent research literature in online learning to transition the format for e-learning into the next phase for the Friday Institute.

PLOMs are designed using a set of four evidence-based core principles of effective professional development, professional learning communities and online communities of practice: active learning in real-life context, learner-centered course design, evidence-based content and collaborative learning.

The PLOMs will be called “Teaching Academic Content Literacy to Elementary and Middle School Students” and “Teaching Mathematics to Young Children.” Spires will lead the development of the “Teaching Academic Content Literacy to Elementary and Middle School Students” module, which will share evidence-based principles and instructional materials with teachers and provide training in the requisite strategies to support the growing number of English language learners in elementary and middle schools in the U.S. Hunt will lead the development of the second PLOM that will enable teachers to effectively use evidence-based principles and instructional materials to support the mathematical learning of young children.

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