The RCU Goes Digital: How Programs and Conferences Moved Online During COVID-19

The RCU Goes Digital: How Programs and Conferences Moved Online During COVID-19

New Teacher Induction participants and Research and Curriculum Unit project managers celebrate the successful graduation of the program's eighth cohort this July. Like many other RCU-led projects, the final phases of NTI moved online this summer due to the ongoing global pandemic.
George Couros, a leader in innovative education, spoke to Innovative Institute attendees about ways they could strengthen educator-student relationships in their schools and districts.

July 17, 2020

This article appears in the latest issue of the RCU Quarterly newsletter. To read the entire newsletter, click here.

Thanks to technology, Research and Curriculum Unit staff successfully transitioned the Innovative Institute and New Teacher Induction to online formats this spring and summer after the global coronavirus outbreak.

Originally scheduled for two days in Meridian, the one-day online Innovative Institute recognized the Tupelo and Rankin County school districts as the newest Districts of Innovation and gave almost 300 attendees an opportunity to engage in an inspiring keynote address and work session with George Couros, a leader in innovative leading, teaching and learning.

Couros took attendees' comments and personalized his guidance on the importance of educator-student relationships to their own districts. While he was scheduled for the Innovative Institute prior to it being moved online, his presentations were even more significant as educators strengthen relationships with students during online learning.

Participants ended the day collectively reflecting on how this time of modified learning might redefine innovative education in their schools and districts. Many responses centered around strengthening relationships with students, moving beyond traditional education to make it more student-driven, incorporating collaborative teaching and social-emotional learning strategies and embracing technology tools and data.

"We were part of Couros' model of an innovator's mindset by empowering educators to examine their experiences of teaching online to explore and develop something better that will, in turn, empower their students," RCU Project Manager Cindy Ming said.

The pandemic presented new challenges for all educators, from veterans to those new to the teaching ranks. After gathering face-to-face in the Summer I session, more than 60 new career and technical education teachers finished the eighth NTI cohort online June 1-12.

Through Zoom sessions, participants gathered virtually for online learning with NTI instructors and online assignments geared to help them teach students. The final week of the cohort included classroom demonstrations adjusted for the online audience.

The experience proved valuable as it could be a way these rising teachers interact with their students in the future. The cohort wrapped its training with pathway-arranged virtual field trips and collaboration on how curricula could be further adapted for online learning.

While cohort members couldn't reconnect in person for the final two weeks, the newest NTI participants supported each other during a June 12 online graduation ceremony.

When the 60 graduates logged into the Zoom session, they were welcomed by commencement speaker Marcia Tate, author of the cohort's book study focus Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites. Tate discussed the 20 strategies for comprehending and retaining information from her book, providing the educators valuable insights that they can use with their students - whether online on in person.

Following her speech, cohort members donned their homemade caps and became the newest graduates of NTI.

Although their plans were altered, educators were able to come together and collaborate on ways to help students through hard work and innovative mindsets. 

Founded in 1965, the RCU contributes to MSU’s mission as a land-grant institution to better the lives of Mississippians with a focus on improving education. In particular, the RCU benefits K-12 and higher education by developing curricula and assessments, providing training and learning opportunities for educators, researching and evaluating programs, supporting and promoting career and technical education, and leading education innovations. For more information about RCU, rcu.msstate.edu or follow the organization on Facebook at facebook.com/rcumsu, Twitter at twitter.com/rcumsu and Instagram at Instagram.com/rcumsu.