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PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Mar 1, 2009
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Company: PBS TeacherLine, 2100 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202. Phone: (800) 572-6386; internet:  

Price: $799--Annual subscription for two coaches (includes unlimited teachers). Add $189 per year for each additional coach (for as many as 10 additional coaches). Additional discounts are offered for more than 10 coaches.

Audience: Pre-K–12 educators, especially instructional coaches and teacher mentors.

Format: Web-based instructional and professional development resources.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with a Windows 2000 or XP operating system or a Mac OSX 10.2 system or higher.

The supported web browsers include Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Firefox 1.5 and higher, and Safari 1.3 and higher. Browsers must be set to enable cookies and JavaScript.

The following free browser plug-ins/players are required: Real Player, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Shockwave Player, and Adobe Acrobat Reader. A page on the PBS website enables users to check their computers for the free plug-ins and download any that might be needed.

Description: PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection delivers online instructional and professional development experiences intended to improve instruction and foster a sense of community. The resources are offered in the form of articles, videos, and interactive tools such as email, group and individual collaboration tools, and more.

Report Card

Overall Rating: * * * *

Installation A

Content/Features A

Ease of Use A

Product Support A

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: Installation involves subscribing to the service and making sure that computers are properly configured to access the online materials. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection provides online resources and collaboration tools designed to facilitate instructional coaching. The program offers materials for use at all grade levels in math, reading, and instructional technology. Science materials were in production at the time of this review.

Once a district or building subscription is established, a site administrator enrolls all participants, identifying them as a coach or teacher. The site administrators can send districtwide announcements but cannot access resources or discussions.

The instructional coaches are responsible for finding helpful materials relevant to a group’s or an individual’s teaching or study needs and notifying the teachers of that resource via email. The coaches also manage groups and discussion boards, including new topics of discussion, but cannot enroll or remove users.

The Coaching Modules, among the site’s most important coaching tools, offer collections of resources that are topic-, subject-, or strategy-specific. The modules are designed to help coaches find material focused on the needs of specific teachers and groups. The available titles include Understanding National Standards, Deepening Teacher Content Knowledge, and Assessing Student Performance and Achievement.

Each module contains an Introduction, Expectations and Outcomes, Resources, and Coaching Suggestions. A final Achieving Success section gives coaches observation feedback forms that can be modified as needed.

Teachers and coaches access the tools and resources through what PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection calls a "dashboard." The teacher dashboard enables teachers to change their passwords, view an account summary, preview resource suggestions from their coaches, see current discussions, view announcements from the system administrator, and read tips focused on improving teacher practice in content areas.

The suggestions from the coaches are emailed to the participating teachers. The email messages include a variety of information such as background on the reasons the suggestions were made and links to articles, videos, websites, and a place where teachers can comment to the coaches about the resources.

Group discussion boards are accessed through a tab on the navigation bar. Instructional coaches can create topic-specific discussion groups; teachers can participate in more than one group. Discussions are asynchronous and basically consist of replying to posts by others.

Teachers can save the resources sent by their coach by labeling and storing them in the My Resources section on their dashboard. A rating system allows the teachers to rate and comment on the usefulness of the resources.

Many of the PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection resources are developed by Just ASK Publications & Professional Development. All of the materials on the site are outstanding and well worth incorporating into any school’s professional development agenda. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection is extremely easy to use with its excellent tab navigation system and corresponding clear explanations. This resource is a moderately complicated service, however, and educators should plan to take a little time to learn the program. Three online professional development Help sessions are available to subscribers; these are an excellent introduction to the product. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Help is provided in quick-start guides and outstanding user manuals. Additional support is available by calling (866) 864-0828, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST, or by submitting an email "help ticket."

Three sequential online professional development sessions are available to all teachers and coaches. These sessions examine the basics of high-quality professional development, the needs of adult learners, and professional learning communities and the way they affect student achievement. The material also explains the best ways to effectively use the PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection resources. All three sessions are excellent and especially useful for coaches. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Most states have mandatory in-service requirements for a certain number of hours or days a year. Developing appropriate, focused in-service programs to meet these requirements can be difficult and time-consuming. Many professional development opportunities offered by school districts, especially those operating on a tight budget, can be boring and irrelevant.

PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection provides an excellent way to develop exciting and useful professional development resources at all grade levels for most subjects. I highly recommend this program for most school districts.

Reviewer: Charles Doe, media specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.

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