By Tim Gard, TDSB Educator & MSL Report Contributing Writer
I’ve been aware of Atomic Learning for the better part of 5 years now. Initially, when I was invited to review this online resource my thoughts went back to how I used it then. Of course, I made some assumptions about what I was going to see – and they weren’t bad ones because my experience before was a good one, however what worked 5 years ago won’t necessarily work today. We’re in a different era when it comes to online services, not the least of which are online services providing video training. I was pleasantly surprised at the evolution of this product. Atomic Learning – a 2013 CODiE winner in three different categories, including Best Education Solution – is an excellent resource for technology training, staff development, and classroom integration. In fact, that’s their mantra: Technology Training + Staff Development + Classroom Integration = Impactful Results. Let me focus this short review on those three components of Atomic Learning’s claim.
Indeed, they provide a good number of training for various pieces of technology. The technology offerings ranged from familiar software programs to interactive whiteboard training to even a variety of mobile devices, and much more. The database is extremely easy to search, and you can set up favorites, keep track of your training and if your school is using the resource you can even easily view the resources that have been assigned to you. The training itself is easy to follow and each filtered item can be viewed by either a course/series or by each tutorial available. I found this to be first-rate. I didn’t experience any issues searching their database, finding the information I was interested in viewing and then setting it aside as a favorite or viewing it immediately. The whole system for searching, tagging, and organizing your content is well thought through and seamless. (Figure 1)
Staff development was also well organized. If your school or district has purchased an Atomic Learning solution than courses, and tutorials can be assigned to teachers to view learn, and then they can be tracked. I think this is a great way to assure that all staff are well informed on the basics before moving onto something richer or deeper in the same content area. As an example, (Figure 2) I accessed the 21st Century Skills resources and noted that it covered the most important topics – though this was an American resource – for 21st Century skills. Models of 21st Century skills were described, concepts and themes of 21st Century learning were clearly explained and then to wrap it up another section on implementation and assessment was included. Of course, this is an excellent overview but links to some Canadian content would be, of course, necessary.
Atomic Learning has definitely looked at the ‘bigger picture’ when thinking about training models. You must of course provide technology training and staff development but you must by necessity include classroom integration. All of the above is of little value if you can’t provide a way to take the learning and make it applicable to a real-world situation. I had a look at the lesson for Geometer’s Sketchpad – a favorite in math classes – and was pleased to see how the lesson was organized. There was an overview description, clear correlation to academic standards – Common Core Standards for Geometry in this case – and a rubric to assess the students’ level of proficiency. Each tutorial video was clear and concise. (Figure 3)
Will all of the above yield impactful results? I think that if a teacher, or a school or district used this resource on a regular basis you would definitely see a classroom, school and district make some great gains in staying afloat in the flotsam and jetsam of 21st Century learning.
What do you look for when you want an all-in-one online product for training staff in the latest technology, and not just technology but also the ideas and philosophy behind using technology? Well, you look for a resource that provides your staff with integration solutions, 21st Century projects, and connections with reputable organizations that are themselves solid providers of exceptional services. For example, ISTE’s NETS are used as the basis for their assessments. You look for resources that are easy to navigate, broken down into small learning ‘chunks’ and provide you with a mobile solution (iPad app available). You look for something much like what Atomic Learning has to offer. Indeed, Atomic Learning is well worth your investigation. It is in need of Canadian Content but since they seem to have content for other international markets, I’m sure that Canada will be a logical next step!