Like a lot of services, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Reading Clinic had to pause, regroup, and adapt to necessary social distancing measures in light of the spread of COVID-19. Luckily, their efforts have paid off, and both the Reading Clinic and Project ECHO Reading, a training program for educators, are recruiting students and participants for their respective Fall 2020 sessions, which will take place via livestream.
“I have nothing but utmost respect for the education systems and teachers who had to work tirelessly to convert to a virtual model of learning essentially overnight,” said VKC Reading Clinic program director Sissy Peters, M.Ed. “Less than two weeks after we had to close to Reading Clinic in the spring, members of the VKC leadership team and I decided that the summer turn would be converted to a digital model.”
Thankfully, the Reading Clinic is staffed by dedicated teachers who want to see their students thrive in the new learning environment. As a result, the staff would “meet” over Zoom twice weekly for a “Tutor Think Tank,” where they’d put their heads together to work through the challenges raised by moving to an online platform.
“Their collective innovation, creativity, instructional knowledge, and grit all come together to create ideas and solutions to problems that I had not yet even considered,” said Peters.
The Reading Clinic was able to move their Summer 2020 sessions completely online, and will use that experience to tailor the Fall 2020 tutoring session to be even better for its students and their tutors. The Clinic will also be welcoming four upper-division undergraduate students from Peabody College’s High Incidence Special Education program to perform rotations and provide tutoring assistance. Parents noted how helpful the transition was to their young readers.
“I was worried that my son would not take to virtual Reading Clinic this summer, but his tutor was wonderful!” one parent said. “He was engaged and looked forward to Reading Clinic every day.”
“None of us have any idea how long this pandemic will last and how it could impact education and every other industry going forward,” said Peters. “I am so proud of the way my team took what could have been considered an obstacle and turned it into a viable model of instruction that we are able to carry forward into the future.”
The Fall 2020 tutoring semester begins Tuesday, Sept. 8, and continues through Thursday, Nov. 19. For more information on the VKC Reading Clinic, click here.
Project ECHO Reading ready for second online cohort in Fall 2020
After a successful pilot launch in the spring, the VKC Reading Clinic is accepting applications for participation in the second cohort of Project ECHO Reading, a distance learning model for educators serving students with reading challenges that welcomed participants from around the globe in its first iteration.
“The Britt Henderson Training Series is funded by an endowment from the Henderson family focusing on training for educators,” said VKC UCEDD director Elise McMillan, J.D. “Last year, we began focusing on distance training and tutoring in the area of reading. This was the perfect opportunity to grow our training, research and service in this area. This support has been crucial for the Project ECHO Reading and its success. Especially with the impact of COVID-19 and people working at home, this training has been even more timely.”
The ECHO model was created by Sanjeev Arora, M.D., a liver disease specialist at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, NM, who was frustrated that he could serve only a fraction of the hepatitis C patients in the state. He wanted to serve as many patients with hepatitis C as possible, so he developed a free, educational model and mentored community providers across New Mexico in how to treat the condition. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) launched in 2003. Originally developed for clinical consultation, others have run with the Project ECHO model since its inception and have created distance learning platforms for varied uses outside the medical field.
Project ECHO Reading is designed as an innovative approach that connects like-minded educators and specialists through a virtual learning community. During these sessions, practitioners collaborate with each other and the hub team at Vanderbilt to collectively identify solutions and resources. This collaborative case-based learning approach aims to help bridge the gap between research and practice in reading instruction, while connecting various disciplines.
Participants meet twice a month via Zoom livestream for 1.5-hour sessions. During each meeting, participants review a case presentation (drafted and led by a member of the network) and present evidence-based suggestions through conversation. The session concludes with a 20-minute learning topic on crucial elements of evidence-based reading instruction.
Past Project ECHO Reading participants praised the program.
“I loved the training! I feel that it has prepared me to become a better instructor to students with reading difficulties,” one said. “I now have access to numerous resources and suggestions that I did not have or was not aware of prior to ECHO Reading. This program gave me more confidence to address reading difficulties in my students.”
For now, Project ECHO Reading is reserved for educators, practitioners, occupational and physical therapists, school counselors, psychologists, researchers, paraprofessionals and student teachers.
“ECHO Reading is not a passive webinar; rather it is designed to empower each individual in the network to share their extensive knowledge and support one another in finding solutions when they are unsure what to do,” said project director Sissy Peters. “That’s probably why a hallmark slogan of Project ECHO is ‘all teach, all learn.’”
The Fall 2020 training session of Project ECHO Reading will begin on Thursday, Sept. 17, and will be held from 4:00-5:15 p.m. the first and third Thursdays of the month through Dec. 17. For more information on ECHO Reading, click here. To express interest in participating in the next ECHO Reading cohort, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include name and contact information.
Elizabeth Turner is associate director of VKC Communications.