February 28, 2011; Source: Education Week | Most of us shy away from people who say they hear voices in their heads. But for teachers in training in select classrooms around the country, hearing voices – or more specifically – instruction delivered via earbuds from coaches sitting in the back of the room or watching a video feed, isn't so crazy at all.

In fact, the idea is that if teachers receive ongoing coaching and can apply the advice on the spot they'll become more effective more quickly. Live coaching using earbud technology is attracting support from both The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Teach for America. "Once a teacher understands what it feels like to be successful, it takes root immediately," Monica Jordan, coordinator of teacher professional development in Memphis City Schools.

Edweek reports that funding from Gates is underwriting earbud trials in Memphis, Tampa and New York. The goal is to show that this kind of personalized professional development can result in better test scores. "I think this new approach gives you an opportunity to differentiate professional development based on teachers' own strengths and weaknesses," said Thomas Kane, a Harvard University researcher helping evaluate the project for the Gates Foundation. Teach for America also sees enough promise in the project that it plans to spend $15,000 of its own money on earbud research next year.—Bruce Trachtenberg