UF Lastinger Center Online Early Learning Professional Development System

Aiming to transform the practice of early learning teachers and give their students the best chance of success in life, the University of Florida Lastinger Center has built a cutting-edge online professional development system, Leaf.

Leaf is an online platform for on-the-job professional development for those who work with our greatest resource – our children.

In conjunction with the UF College of Education’s eLearning, Technology and Communications Department, the Lastinger Center has created this state-of-the-art system with Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation, Department of Education and Palm Beach State College.

Sparking a child-like curiosity in its users, Leaf offers Florida’s 40,000 early learning teachers a robust, easy-to-navigate online educational experience that encourages immediate classroom implementation.

This learner-driven system supports professional development for degree and non-degree seekers on the state’s formal and informal career paths, respectively. Leaf courses are aligned with Florida’s most recently adapted learning standards, including the Core Competencies for Early Childhood Education and the Steps to Success Early Learning Career Pathways system.

An eclectic variety of organizations – including community colleges, state colleges, universities, early learning coalition and professional development organizations – can use Leaf as a standalone, facilitated online system or as a hybrid that mixes online coursework with onsite instruction. Participants engage in interactive communities of practice, which convene and empower them to take charge of improving their practice.

In constructing Leaf, the Lastinger Center has drawn on the latest advances in online learning, including Universal Design for Learning, which differentiates teaching for a variety of learning styles. The Lastinger team of content and e-learning experts, academic and technical reviewers, early learning practitioners, instructional designers, researchers, programmers and graphic artists have worked to create the best learning experience
for teachers.

Although sophisticated in its construction, Leaf is designed for the tech novice. Instilling a sense of wonder and excitement, it offers its users the opportunity to:

  • Participate in contextually relevant activities that explicitly connect knowledge to practice.
  • Interact with their peers and facilitators in a variety of engaging ways within communities of practice.
  • Watch videos of teacher-led instruction and student learning environments that help connect theory to practice.
  • Learn and share best practices through a variety of exercises and mechanisms, including interactive exercises and real-time collaboration.
  • Every course features the same learning design elements, including Big Ideas, Reflection, New Content Exploration, Try It and Summary.