Nancy Ruzycki

University of Florida/Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering/Department of Materials Science and Engineering/EQuIPD Grant
Gainesville, Florida
Nancy Ruzycki, Grant Primary Investigator

The EQuIPD Grant is a 2018 Department of Education SEED grantee for teacher professional development. Our grant is focused on training teachers for increased instructional effectiveness through pedagogical training in inquiry, systems and computational thinking, use of technology to collect, analyze and visualize data to support core models, and use of design thinking and engineering design to support student concept model development. EQuIPD also focuses on increased visibility of workforce skills and real-world examples within the classroom.

In spring 2020, COVID forced a pivot for both instructional environments and instructional delivery models for both our grant and the 250 teachers within the grant. Across the many districts in the grant, there were instructional delivery models for remote, face-to-face and hybrid learning options. In order to support teachers in this new way of teaching and learning, we put together a resource guide for districts, teachers and parents, which we published and made broadly available in early April.

During the early months of COVID 2020, EQuIPD supported teachers in remote learning options, including trainings for Microsoft TEAMS, Google Classroom, ZOOM, Canvas, Schoology and other LMS platforms to set up remote work. Our coaches worked with their teachers multiple times a month (and sometimes in one day) to help support them in the transition to remote learning.

Since all the grant training was now being held virtually, we focused these trainings to showcase best practices in online learning and remote educational technology resources in addition to supporting grant content. As districts developed return plans for teachers over the summer, we started incorporating a wider variety of best practices for conducting inquiry and hands-on learning for multiple learning environments (remote, face-to-face, hybrid).

During the summer, we held open access technology training sessions for grant teachers with over ten sessions per week (more than 120 for the summer) for use of probeware and sensors to collect data both in FTF classrooms and remotely. These sessions included use of Pasco, Vernier probes, Arduinos, Micro:bits and cell phone based programs like Arduino Science Journal, Physics Toolbox, and phyphox. Teachers were also trained in mapping software like Plectica, and, and how to graph and analyze data collected by the probes and sensors. More than 100 teachers participated in multiple sessions. In addition to our grant teachers, over 30 teachers in Mississippi who were part of an EQuIPD broader impact in alliance with a Jackson State University teacher professional development program (JSU-MARRS) attended trainings. Teachers were especially interested in how to safely work with sensors and probes in remote stations for students in FTF environments, and how to have these FTF students collaborate with peers at home when in a hybrid classroom. Several teachers were also working to enable students to each have their own individual device (cell phone, Micro:bit) so no matter the learning environment, all students would be able to have their own device to collect and analyze data from inquiry experiments. EQuIPD has two elementary teachers in Hillsborough County, Florida who have sent Micro:bits home to remote & hybrid students, and several other teachers across our districts have creatively figured out how to set up use of sensors and probes in their face to face classes using their coaches as resources.

In addition to supporting teachers in use of technology, EQuIPD developed a seminar series during the summer on Best Practices in New Learning Environments and over 400 teachers from across Florida and Mississippi signed up for trainings. These nearly 50 trainings included SEL best practices for returning to school based on the CASEL model, and educational technology for the new learning environments. Technology centered trainings included literacy practices, supporting ELL and ESE students, Inquiry practices, E-portfolios, collaboration practices and lesson staging and design topics as well as Bitmoji classrooms.

EQuIPD teachers report these trainings have been instrumental in helping them feel prepared and supported in their transition to new learning environments, and teachers across Florida and Mississippi reported these sessions were the first, or only training support they had in preparation to return to classrooms.

This fall, EQuIPD Grant coaches have been working with their teachers to support them in their new learning environments and through the pivot in some districts from fully remote, to fully face to face and hybrid learning environments. The grant goals and objectives continue to be successfully implemented even with these changes to multiple learning environments, and teachers continue to be supported through professional development and coaching to create effective lessons for students to support knowledge acquisition and application trough conceptual model development.