IEA Summer Institute Moves Online, More than 600 Members Participate
Like many events in 2020, the IEA Summer Institute, scheduled for late July in Lewiston, had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Or did it? Spearheaded by the IEA’s Center for Teaching and Learning team, Summer Institute rose from the ashes and was reimagined as a digital event. This was no small undertaking.
In order to make the event a success, the team had to reconfirm presenters, figure out how to register members, adjust the session schedule, find a way to still make college credits available, let members know about the new plan, and much more. Most importantly, they had to identify, vet, and work with a third-party technology vendor that could pull it off.
Partnering with a company called Big Marker, the revamped, totally online version of the 2020 IEA Summer Institute was able to keep the same event days, offer 33 sessions, and 21 Speakeasies (think digital social gatherings) for more than 600 IEA members. A typical in-person Summer Institute draws between 300-400 members, so the digital platform allowed even more members than usual to participate.
“Members who have not been able to travel for a variety of reasons jumped at this opportunity for quality professional development, says IEA member and Center for Teaching and Learning Chair Jamie Morton. “There was also a pent-up demand for the collaboration and camaraderie, even in online form, that educators have been missing during the pandemic.”
Sessions for the new look Summer Institute included instructional themes such as special education, classroom management, and trauma-based instruction in dealing with student behaviors. Career advancement sessions and those aimed at helping local associations build strength, membership, and community engagement were also very popular.
Even with a virtual platform the Center for Teaching and Learning team found a way to have a prestigious keynote speaker. Erik Francis delivered a keynote address and facilitated multiple sessions during Summer Institute. Francis is the author of the book Now That’s a Good Question” How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning. He shared his expertise in professional development designed at challenging students to demonstrate higher-order thinking and communicate the depth of knowledge.
Despite the rapid pivot from an in-person to an online format, the event was very successful, with only a handful of minor technical issues reported. “I learned something new in each and every class,” says attendee Jen Acree from the Lewiston Education Association. “Especially in the Equity in Education class, which opened my eyes to some things I hadn’t even thought about. My favorite part was the Speakeasies.”
“I’m so glad we were able to provide this much-needed morale boost for our members and keep our largest professional development alive even as we deal with the bigger issue of public health,” says Morton. “We could not have pulled this off without the hard work and dedication of everyone on the CTL team and the immense help of the IEA staff.”
The short term future remains uncertain due to COVID-19, much less the long term outlook for a return to the in-person format for next year’s Summer Institute. In the interest of an optimistic outlook, make plans now to attend the 2021 IEA Summer Institute, tentatively set for July 28-31. The location has yet to be determined.