ST. CLOUD -- Could podcasts and videos replace in-person training events for teachers?

Not entirely, says Steve Stromme — but they have the potential to make a huge impact.

Stromme, along with longtime colleagues and friends Stef Rothstein and Mindi Jenson, are the creators of Learning Minnesota, a website that will collect and create digital training materials to help Minnesota teachers complete their relicensure requirements.

The trio has a combined 75 years of classroom experience in the Albany School District. Many of those years, Stromme says, were spent leading district-wide development programs and initiatives.

“Professional development is really, really important for teachers — yet, the current model, in many ways, is still stuck in the 20th century," Stromme explains. "So, much of our feedback is from our own teachers. They want more voices, more choices, and professional learning that is more nimble."

Teachers in Minnesota are required to earn 125 Continuing Education Units, referred to as CEUs, every five years. Traditionally, those credits are earned by attending workshops — which often take teachers out of their classrooms. Stromme says Learning Minnesota will allow teachers to complete requirements on their own time.

"They can learn on their morning commute, or when they're out walking their dog," Stromme says. "They can learn on their phone, their tablet, their home computer. It’s an enjoyable way to learn, and the retention rates are very high – they become devotees."

Who are the people creating the videos and podcasts? It's a mix, says Stromme. Some recordings will be prepared by field experts and education researchers. Others will be created "independent contractors"  — many of whom are classroom teachers.

"Many teachers prefer to learn from other teachers," Stromme says.

Learning Minnesota's podcast and video database will include a wide variety of topics — including those required by the state of Minnesota. "It could be anything from mental health and suicide awareness to teaching English-language learners," Stromme says.

As the name implies, Learning Minnesota is currently focused on one state. The company will pilot the website with one Minnesota school district beginning in January.

Stromme says they'd love to eventually expand into other states.

“We know that the brain works better the more connections people make with each other. Teachers work incredibly hard, but they don’t always have the time to share what they’ve learned. So, thank goodness for modern technology. Time and distance, in many respects, have been smashed.”

 

This is part four of a five-part series on local entrepreneurs participating in gBETA Greater Minnesota-St. Cloud’s Pitch Night. Each participating company will give a five-minute pitch in front of an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and community members.

Pitch Night will be held on Thursday, Dec. 19 from 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center at St. Cloud State University.

To learn more about gBETA, visit their website.