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Teachscape XL

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Jan 1, 2009
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Company: Teachscape, 731 Market St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103. Phone: (877) 988-3224. Internet:  

Report Card

Installation: A

Content/Features: A

Ease of Use: A-

Product Support: A

Price: $1,500 per school site, per year, for a single content family. $2,500 per school site, per year, for two to four content families.

Audience: K–12 teachers, administrators, and others who develop online teacher professional development resources.

Format: Web-based digital database with a search engine and tools to create learning materials.

Minimum System Requirements: In general, any computer with a browser and internet connection will work to a certain degree. To take full advantage of Teachscape XL, you will need the following:

For Windows systems: A Pentium 400MHz processor, Windows 2000, and 64MB RAM (128MB recommended).

For Macintosh systems: A Power-PC 400MHz processor, OS 10.2, and a minimum 64MB RAM (128MB recommended).

The minimum recommended browsers for Windows systems include Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or Firefox 1.5. The recommended browsers for Macintosh systems include Safari 2.0 or Firefox 1.5. JavaScript and cookies must be enabled; pop-up windows must be unblocked.

Additional free software is required, including QuickTime Version 6.0, Adobe Reader Version 5.0, and Adobe Flash Player 7.0.

Description: Teachscape XL is an online professional development resource that provides a web-based database with a search engine and tools for combining resources (including video) into personalized professional development teacher training materials.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: Installation includes subscribing to the service and making sure computers can access everything needed. A page on the Teachscape site helps users test workstations for needed software. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Teachscape has gathered together a large number of online institutes, classes, workshops, graduate and other programs of study, and additional materials aimed at improving communities of learning in a variety of specific ways. These resources include modules with video, text, graphic models, and other digital materials offered in a web-based digital database.

Every element of each set of materials (including text, video, and interactive resources) is available as an individual item in the searchable Teachscape training library. These items can be reassembled for personalized instruction programs, or users can create new resources of their own.

The video material includes best-practice videos, commentaries by noted researchers, teacher reflections, and student commentary. The text resources offer background material, research summaries, classroom resources with lesson plans, sample student work, and assessments.

The graphic models illustrate key ideas. The communication and collaboration tools promote communication among members of a community of learning and provide a virtual forum enabling the members to communicate about their work.

The content creation tools allow users to add content to existing resources to make new materials. Existing content can be reorganized using resources from a variety of sources; schools and districts can create their own examples of professional practice.

The basic idea for using these materials is that instructional coaches observe teachers working in the classroom and talk with the teachers to select instructional skills for development. Professional learning resources designed to shape and improve instruction in those areas are selected. The teachers then work with the selected resources from their computer desktops.

Instructional coaches can increase the number of teachers they work with by using virtual coaching for individual online work. Professional learning groups can be created, each with their own workspaces (special areas within the program tailored to a particular type of work). Workspaces can include a resource library, a discussion group, or a learning environment for materials exploration or taking a complete online course. A message board enables conversations on practice and the sharing of lesson plans, student work, and more.

The content modules are organized into seven key areas for professional development—mathematics, early childhood, new teacher support, English language learners, effective instructional strategies, literacy, and elementary science.

Each area provides a number of independent study resources including online multimedia professional learning modules, study guides that suggest learning paths, recommendations for ongoing study, and questions and suggested applications for independent use or for use by a coach or other instructional leader with a group of teachers.

At the time of this review, one of the larger programs—The Literacy Series—offered 28 sets of material. The program included presentations addressing various aspects of literacy such as Foundations of Teaching Reading: Phonics. Most of the presentations had an introduction and resources section. The phonics segment mentioned here also provided a section about phonics instruction with two text modules, two videos, and a Coach’s Corner. Some of the material sets were much larger.

Teachscape XL is a technology tool that can greatly improve instruction by local communities of learning. With it, administrators, coaches, and others can lead teachers in specific and differing educational situations to improve their knowledge of content and of effective research-based strategies. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The basic materials in Teachscape XL are very easy to use; they are clearly defined and logically arranged with an intuitive interface and clear instructions. The workspaces and content development tools are not quite as easy to use and would benefit from detailed documentation and help. Ease of Use Rating: A-

Product Support: The product support is good but not perfect. At the time of this review, some of the Help sections weren’t finished. Help is available by calling a toll-free telephone number or by email. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Teachscape XL is a complete online system that provides easy access to learning resources. All of the materials and needed tools are supported on the Teachscape XL website. Work can be done at any location, with the secure login ensuring confidentiality on several levels.

One of the schools I work with is currently doing extensive professional development using Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, and Robert Eaker. Teachscape XL could provide excellent supplemental material for this study project, both as is and with some modules adapted for our learning situation.

I highly recommend Teachscape XL to any school or district involved in professional development in this age of ongoing and continuous professional study. This excellent product can add a great deal to any school improvement process by facilitating, accelerating, and broadening the experience. In general, Teachscape XL is an outstanding resource.

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

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