Friday, 29 January 2016

What happens when college and career readiness starts in kindergarten?

Ask a third grader what she wants to be when she grows up and she might say “a doctor.” Adults know that anyone with a doctorate is technically a doctor, but for a young mind their idea of what a doctor is or does is narrow. It is only through repeated exposure to careers that students begin to expand those definitions and begin to think about their futures. At the Kankakee School District in Illinois, where I graduated from and now serve as superintendent, it’s a process that begins as early as preschool.
Research shows that the earlier and more often you talk with young children about careers, the more students will envision themselves going to college and working in those fields. Without the consistent conversations, a student may never pursue secondary education or have a solid career at all.
From the time a student walks through the door of a school in Kankakee School District to the time they walk across stage to receive their high school diplomas, they are constantly transitioning to their next stage of life.
At Kankakee, the magnet and gifted-student programs traditionally got most of the district’s focus, creating a significant achievement gap for students on the general education track, which was filled with watered-down expectations, creating a slippery slope that pulled the entire district down. At one point, half of students in grades two through nine failed to meet local assessment expectations. The way our community and school is structured, with high-achieving magnet programs, there is really no excuse for us to be a low-performing district.
Something drastic had to be done to level the playing field, and college and career readiness looked like the best way to do it.
At the beginning of the 2015 school year, we implemented a new K-8 reading and math curriculum, and renamed general ed “College and Career Academy Classrooms.” It was the perfect opportunity to reinvent the program to wrap in a number of key objectives, such as Common Core State Standards, real-life application, and career exploration, through the lens of a project-based learning environment.
The goal was to give students a taste of what a career as a police officer or a doctor would really be like, and what it takes to work in those fields. To ensure each student was exposed to a variety of different careers, I created a virtual career wheel for teachers to follow. Each grade level focuses on a different segment of careers. As students move through elementary school they are able to explore a variety of fields and recognize where their interests lie. First graders, for example, focus on careers in agriculture, food, and natural resources, while third grade students hone in on business, marketing, and management. While implementing the Common Core, teachers tied in the career theme so students could see how the skills they learn today will help them tomorrow and beyond.
Power to explore
During the year, students do four hands-on, cross-curricular projects to further experience what it takes to work in a specific career. Through the virtual wheel, teachers can log on and choose from dozens of projects within a career strand and align them with what’s being learned in class. We use the curriculum supplement Defined STEM, which breaks down tasks by grade level and keeps all lesson materials such as articles, videos, and rubrics in one spot. The tasks allow students room for individual creativity while testing the problem-solving and collaboration skills they have learned in all subjects.
The projects make the career wheel come alive, because students can apply their classroom knowledge and make connections to the real world. The format changes the students’ mindset: They learn to think like an engineer, designer, doctor, or whatever position is relevant to the task. The hands-on projects also allow students to explore career options they may have never thought of.
Think back to the example I used earlier—the third grader who says she wants to be a doctor. The career wheel we’ve set up is designed to show her and her peers how many different types of specialized doctors are out there, and that there are other professions in the medical field such as a nurse, EMT, or surgeon. It takes their interest and dissects it to open their minds to career fields they may have never been exposed to until later in life. By connecting what they’ve learned in the classroom to what they’re seeing outside the classroom, they’re able to recognize relevance in the lessons, which gets them excited about their future in learning.
Though newly implemented, the career wheel model has our entire community talking, and slowly we’re changing the way the general education track is viewed. Setting cognitive ability, skill level, and achievement aside, we’ve made college and career options available to all students, creating equity in our once segregated system. As a superintendent, ensuring that all students get the best education possible is my highest priority, but as a long-time member of the community, helping guide and educate our future doctors, police officers, and farmers in the place I know and love means even more.
Dr. Genevra Walters graduated from the Kankakee School District and now holds the position of superintendent of schools.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Can blended learning reach superstar status with MOOCs?

Compilation of case studies that describe use of MOOCs as part of blended learning provides insights into new potential for massive online courses.

blendedThe verdict may still be out on the effectiveness of MOOCs on their own to improve learning outcomes and bring value to an institution, but could MOOCs have a more definitive positive impact in a blended or hybrid model; specifically, as incorporated in traditional, face-to-face courses?
To try and help answer this question, Maria Joseph Israel, School of Education, University of San Francisco, reviewed five recent college and university experiments that used MOOCs in a blended format in traditional classroom settings, and synthesized the findings into challenges and opportunities presented by this MOOC integration.
“Of late, a growing number of researchers, teachers, colleges, and universities have begun to report integrating MOOCs in a traditional classroom setting to support face-to-face learning experiences in a blended format,” writes Israel. “Understanding its intricacies can promote further research as well as assist improving the design of future MOOCs, and inform useful strategies for similar implementation by others.”
The case studies chosen by Israel vary in student size from a small 10 to hundreds of students, number of courses adopted from a single course to a maximum of 17 courses, duration of experiment from a single semester to multiple semesters spread over two academic years, and adoption methods from a supplementary text to a fully integrated course in traditional classrooms.
Israel states that not only can the models be divided into two categories: Single MOOC adoption and multiple MOOCs adoption, but each of these categories can be further divided into models adopting ‘live’ or archived MOOCs as replacement for traditional in-campus courses and models adopting MOOCs as supplementary texts.
The cases highlighted multiple emerging models, such as:
  • Synchronizing an entire MOOC with in-class courses as done by Patti Ordonez-Rozo at University of Puerto Rico Rio Perdras using Stanford’s introduction to databases (Caulfield et al., 2014)
  • Using select modules of MOOCs while supplementing with additional reading materials as implemented by Bruff et al. (2014) research team
  • Adopting MOOCS without the assessments provided by MOOCs as conducted in University System of Maryland by Griffiths et al. (2014)research team
  • Integrating augmented online learning environment for courses offered at San Jose State University by Firmin et al. (2014) research team
  • Allowing students to take any archived or ‘live’ MOOCs related to subject taught in traditional classroom by Holotescu et al.(2014) research team
  • Combining multiple MOOCs run in different universities or in MOOC providers’ platforms as suggested by Bruff et al. (2014) and Caulfield et al. (2014).
According to Israel, most of the research studies reviewed claimed that the impact of incorporating MOOCs in traditional classroom settings was almost equal, or slightly better than, face-to-face teaching environments, which she says is consistent with other large-scale studies combining online and face-to-face courses.
Also, students in many of the case studies gained strong critical thinking skills, specifically in the ability to distinguish between opinions and augmentations, and improved skills in analytical critiquing.
In terms of demographics, none of the studies revealed significant evidence of negative effects for any subgroups; for example, academically at-risk students faring worse in entirely online learning.
Israel notes that in all of the reviewed case studies, researchers affirmed lower levels of student satisfaction in hybrid learning, and other related issues of limited student participation in the MOOCs’ global community discussion forums and of MOOCs being used as open education resources rather than MOOCs. “The reason for [using MOOCs as OER] may be the belief that MOOCs did not test adequately on particular skills and knowledge required for the local programs on college and universities’ campuses,” writes Israel.
Also, in all cases, students expressed lower satisfaction with their experience in the online part of learning due to less time with face-to-face personal interaction with instructors.
However, Israel highlights that in all cases students heavily used interactive materials like video lectures and quizzes provided within MOOCs.
Moving Forward
According to Israel, the case studies emphasize “substantial promise” for MOOCs as a blended learning component in two ways: as learning resources; and by providing students with two facilitators (one in-class instructor and one online instructor), which can expose students to different ways of teaching content and enrich understanding. They can also “enable instructors to redesign classes without creating online content from scratch, or even replacing textbooks with more engaging content from MOOCs.”
But these opportunities don’t negate the challenges. For example, some instructors noted lack of cohesion by incorporating a MOOC, or difficulty in relating the MOOC to the course content overall. This lack of cohesion requires huge amounts of motivation and time commitments from in-class instructors to re-design either the class or MOOC structure for effective use.
Also, Israel notes that intellectual property rights of MOOC content should be taken into account, as many MOOC providers restrict their use in other environments.
Another challenge is how to assess students’ distributed activities in different MOOCs and integrate it within on-campus assessment and evaluation policies.
“On the front of technology integration, it can be a herculean task,” writes Israel. “Most of the reviewed research studies affirmed that technology integration was a major concern as the MOOCs could not be embedded into local [LMS’].”
To most effectively use MOOCs in traditional classrooms, Israel (with the support of multiple cited research reports) recommends that MOOC providers make their courseware more modular and must consider intellectual property and licensing implications of making their content available for different contexts. “They must also make tools and content easier to implement and repurpose, and provide assurance of online content availability for use in the future,” she says.
MOOC providers should also ensure that MOOC discussion forums become meaningful to students by experimenting with three design models suggested by Michael Caulfield, director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University: 1) Connectivist MOOCs that focus more on the community participants’ lives and work together with course content rather than strictly course content; 2) loosely-coupled cross-institutional courses in which related courses run simultaneously at multiple institutions and are connected by an online community of students and faculty; 3) form a network with communities or organizations that will provide students opportunities to engage in real, authentic collaborative works, and projects.
Finally, Israel recommends that institutions that adopt MOOCs have overarching strategic frameworks for course redesigns and implementations to have significant impacts on enhancing student’s outcomes and reducing costs. “They must provide leadership, infrastructure, support and incentives to help faculty to engage with MOOC and other online learning technologies,” she emphasizes. “They must explore opportunities for blended MOOCs research on how factors like early support, high degree of structured content and assignments, and use of learning analytics help to guide early interventions to improve engagement, persistence, and outcomes of students.”
For future studies, she advises researchers to not only focus on student motivation and perseverance—two factors that play important roles in completing both in-class and online activities but were not included in these case studies in their relation to learning outcomes—but also conduct research on larger scales to augment more data to form consensus on the success of embedding MOOCs in undergrad classrooms.
For much more detailed information, included specific data collected, methodology and in-depth case study reviews, read “Effectiveness of Integrating MOOCs in Traditional Classrooms for Undergraduate Students.
Source: By Meris Stansbury, Managing Editor, @eSN_Meris

Friday, 6 November 2015

Rewriting No Child Left Behind: Three Testing Issues to Watch

So, despite all of the political pushback to testing, we all know that annual tests are likely to stick around if Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in coming months. (That wasn't always a slam dunk, but now it basically is.)
But that doesn't mean that testing isn't—or hasn't been—an issue behind the scenes, as congressional aides and the top lawmakers on education issues—Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., along with the Obama administration—work through key ESEA issues. 
Why? Well, even though both the ESEA rewrite bill that passed the Senate with big, bipartisan backing, and the one that barely squeaked through the House with just GOP support, keep annual tests, they go very different ways on a lot of other assessment issues. 
Here are some of the key distinctions between the bills—and the administration's testing vision: 

1. Opt-outs

Where the House stands: Back in July, in order to win support for the House ESEA bill, House leaders allowed lawmakers to vote on an amendment allowing parents to decide to excuse their kids from standardized testing, without any penalties for schools. The amendment passed with bipartisan support.
Where the Senate stands: No federally sanctioned opt-outs. In fact, the Senate voted against them. States and districts, on the other hand, could allow for opt-outs. But the NCLB law's current requirement, which calls for 95 percent of students to participate in state tests, or else the school is considered low-performing, still stands. (Confused? Check out page 8 of this report from the Congressional Research Service, which explains the differences between the bills. And big thanks to FairTest's Monty Neill for alerting me to the language allowing districts and states to let parents opt-out, even though it wouldn't change federal accountability.)
Argument for keeping the House opt-out language in: On the one hand, kids wouldn't have to take standardized tests if their parents didn't want them to, which some folks see as a big plus for parental choice and small government. Plus, the Senate language arguably sends mixed messages on opt-outs. 
Argument for getting rid of the House opt-out language:  School leaders could encourage the parents of say, a student in special education, to opt-out, thus making the school's test results look better, some say. Plus, opt-outs make it harder to see any real, comparable data on a school. 

2. Local testing

Where the House stands: The House would allow pretty much any district to try out their own testing system, as long as a) the state is cool with it and b) the local tests can be compared to the state assessment.
Where the Senate stands: The Senate bill sets up a pilot project, giving up to five states the chance to try out local tests, with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education. As with the House bill, the tests have to be comparable to the state assessment. And importantly, these local tests aren't supposed to be used forever—the point is for districts to try out new forms of assessment (as New Hampshire is doing with performance tasks) that could eventually go statewide and be used by everyone. That way states don't get stuck with the same old assessment for years on end.
Argument for House bill: More freedom for states and districts, more room for experimentation and local decision making. Plus a smaller role for the feds, which is ultimately what Congress is going for here.
Argument for the Senate bill: Better for equity, especially for poor and minority kids. After all, folks say, you wouldn't want students in say, an impoverished city to take a different test from students in a tony suburb forever and ever. Plus, having the department review the systems provides an extra check on the whole comparability thing. And having most students take the same (or similar) tests provides the best data on what's working and what isn't. Local tests make that harder to figure out. 

3. How Much Tests Count for Accountability 

If I had to bet, I'd guess this has generated at least some discussion, even though both the House and Senate bills take similar approaches. Both would basically allow states to decide just how much of a role tests should play in accountability.
But an amendment that Senate Democrats supported (but which ultimately failed) called for states to develop accountability systems that weighed student outcomes (tests, but also graduation rates, English Language Proficiency and other academic factors) more than say, school climate.
Argument for letting states decide: Many folks think standardized testing has become way too prominent in education. This is a chance to dial it back. Plus, again, this would give control to states. If they want to make tests paramount in accountability, they could, they just wouldn't have to.
Argument for making sure tests, or at least student outcomes, are a big part of the accountability picture: Equity again. If the point of school is for all kids to learn and get ready for college and the workforce, shouldn't most schools be judged on academic factors so we can see how they're progressing?  Daria Hall, the Education Trust's K-12 guru, brought up the weight of tests on a panel at the Center for American Progress. States, she said, shouldn't be able to design accountability systems that give the heaviest weight to say, attendance, while paying a lot less attention to how students are performing. (Watch the event here.)
So where do these things stand? No way to say yet. But if lawmakers are serious about passing an ESEA rewrite bill by the end of the year, we should find out pretty soon where things ended up. 
In the meantime, what do you think of each option? Comments section is open!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Teachers Turn to Twitter for Solutions, Connection

Educators say the social media platform offers immediacy and practicality lacking from school PD programs

For several years, growing numbers of teachers have been taking to Twitter to network and learn from other educators, often through education-related chat groups.

There are now dozens of Twitter communities for teachers, featuring weekly scheduled chats as well as continuous, ongoing discussions. Most every kind of K-12 niche is represented, often many times over: Science, English, leadership, professional associations, and state-based educator connections are all represented.

But even as so many online Twitter communities flourish—as old ones get bigger, new ones sprout up, and even school PD coordinators start to jump on the bandwagon—the value of Twitter as a source for professional learning remains anecdotal.

"We have recent converts who have tons of enthusiasm for what they're doing [on Twitter], then they turn to their peers, and their peers say, 'OK that's great, show me the results, show me the difference it makes,' " said Mark Weston, an author and ed-tech researcher who helps moderate the ubiquitous #edchat. "And we as a profession don't have an answer."

Still, many teachers maintain the professional development they get from Twitter is better than what they get through their schools—in part, they argue, because it offers opportunities for dialogue and continuous feedback from fellow educators that much school-provided PD does not.

"Twitter has afforded teachers that opportunity of engaging with each other in a professional way that doesn't really occur in their school or district," said Weston.

Professional Discourse

There's no foolproof way to gauge how many practicing educators participate in Twitter chats, or even how many are on Twitter to begin with. #Edchat is the granddaddy of education Twitter chats, having grown so big that "#edchat" is now the de facto hashtag for thousands of education-related tweets each week; a casual observer might forget that there is still a scheduled weekly chat associated with the brand. (Two, actually, every Tuesday.)

How is it that a continuous stream of 140-character snippets is inviting or helpful to teachers?

For the uninitiated educator, it might not appear to be helpful at all.

The kinds of instructional changes that come about because of Twitter chats tend to be "small and incremental," said Brian Sztabnik, a high school English teacher in Long Island, N.Y., who founded #APlitchat about a year ago, geared toward Advanced Placement English teachers. But Sztabnik noted that the conversations can also expand teachers' understanding of a topic or issue in their field.
On a Monday evening late this past summer, members of #APlitchat debated the merits of teaching excerpts of literature, as opposed to whole novels. The Common Core State Standards, with their emphasis on close reading, have pushed many educators to reconsider teaching whole novels and instead use selected portions, a move detested by some English teachers.

On one side of the chat was a vocal component of teachers uninterested in excerpted text, while others argued for its usefulness.

Sztabnik finds that kind of discourse fulfilling: "I thought you shouldn't really excerpt text because it doesn't do justice to [the book]. But then you see other people articulate reasons why you should. And I don't know if I would necessarily change completely, but [the chat] allows you to be more, perhaps, empathetic, more understanding that there's more than one way to skin a cat."

High school English teacher Kristen Nielsen of Baltimore County public schools is a follower of #APlitchat, where she first heard of the "two perfect sentences," a strategy for literacy instruction proposed by Wisconsin teacher Brian Durst to meet common-core expectations.

"In some ways, the #APlitchat is revolutionizing what I'm willing to do this year in terms of more direct instruction," Nielsen said. "Looking at how I can teach analysis in a more discrete and concrete way to a bunch of different types of thinkers."

Nielsen says she doesn't "do Facebook, and I don't really like social media much." But she started playing with Twitter after hearing about a chat being conducted by the National Council of Teachers of English, which had invited novelist Laurie Halse Anderson to be a special guest.

Nielsen finds such chats to be more stimulating than the in-school PD she is often prescribed. "So often, it's bought by the county, people are paid that don't have any real knowledge of students or what is needed; instead, they're just selling their product," she said.

But many school leaders are beginning to see Twitter's value as a professional learning tool. Adam Welcome, the principal of Montair Elementary School, in Danville, Calif., said he works to establish a school culture in which teachers are encouraged, though not required, to experiment with social media for professional development.

"Teaching isn't that collaborative," Welcome said. "Twitter opens up your classroom all the time, every day, all day."

It also gives teachers opportunities to share content on an ongoing basis and establish lasting dialogues with other educators.

"If you go to a one-day Saturday seminar, you can't get that," Welcome said. "[But] this is happening right now, in the classroom, and it's free, and you can do it from your phone. If your principal says, 'Put your phones away"—they're wrong, because it's a teaching tool."

Seeking Community

Teachers might turn to Twitter because of a PD vacuum at the local level, but it may also take some time to get what they're looking for.

Rusul Alrubail, a former college educator in Canada who's now an education consultant and writer, joined Twitter a year ago, and for a while, was unable to find good discussions reflecting her interest: social justice in a school context.

"Not seeing it on Twitter felt like, well, I guess educators are not allowed to talk about that kind of stuff because they don't have to go through that, they don't have to deal with issues of race because Twitter is all white," Alrubail said.

Alrubail then found the #educolor group, a community focused on intersectional issues in K-12 education.

"There was a hashtag for it, there's a chat that's going on [where] we're going to talk about this issue," Alrubail said. "So I said, 'I have to join.' "

She is now a full-fledged #educolor member.

Founder José Vilson said that #educolor occupies a unique space between advocacy and professional development—not quite an #edchat derivative, but still a "safe space" where teachers of any color can delve into cultural issues.

"Cultural competence is professional competence," said Vilson, a middle school math teacher in New York City. "How do you actually treat your students if you don't know who they are?"

Vilson added that there's been a demand for PD materials focused on cultural competency, which the #educolor movement provides on its website as well as within its robust Twitter community.

"When the Trayvon Martin situation happened, I got a lot of emails and comments from teachers—white teachers as well as teachers of color—saying, 'We need resources,' " he said, referring to the young black man fatally shot by a neighborhood-watch volunteer in Florida in 2012.

And other groups, like #HipHopEd and the organization Teaching Tolerance, have also been working to draw diverse conversations to Twitter's K-12 practitioners.

Teachers Engaging Teachers

Despite the resources and connections to be found on Twitter, not all teachers want social media shoved down their throats. Sztabnik, who also runs the Talks With Teachers podcast and co-founded another Twitter group, #edugeekchat, said he used to push colleagues toward Twitter, but has backed off in recent months.

"It's almost like you feel you're a proselytizer, and that just has a bad vibe," he said.

Putting aside concerns about spending precious time adapting to Twitter's frenetic pace, there's also the fact that some teachers—and, best to sit down for this, it may come as a shock—do enjoy having a personal life.

"It's tough to tell someone after spending a full day of school teaching, to go home for an hour and hop on a Twitter chat and talk more about teaching," Sztabnik said. "There's something to be said for being a teacher and then being an individual person outside of school and having your own identity."
To Weston, the #edchat moderator, it doesn't matter where professional conversations take place, so long as they do.

"Good things happen when teachers engage with other teachers about teaching," he said. "And that's true whether it's in the hall in their school, on Twitter, on Facebook, or church."

Friday, 25 September 2015

The digital learning plan every educator should read

North Carolina’s brand new Digital Learning Plan is generating buzz in schools and at the capitol. Here’s what other states can learn
DLP-learningLike every state, educators in North Carolina are struggling with complex demands around digital learning.

In the era of personalized learning-meets-BYOD, and with a big push on 21st century skills, districts and education leaders can still feel pretty isolated as they work out where to go next. And conveying their needs to state legislators, who often have the power to regulate funding and set the pace for any statewide digital initiatives, can be yet another challenge.

“A lot of people tell us that these kinds of digital initiatives get written at the Capitol, when the focus should be on engaging stakeholders at every level,” said Jenifer Corn, the director of evaluation programs at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.

When the state’s department of education decided to educate lawmakers, district leaders, and other stakeholders and set North Carolina’s digital learning future, they turned to Corn’s organization to do it in a systematic, data-driven way that gave a voice to nearly every educator in the state.

Recently, the Friday Institute released the results of that 18-month-long effort, the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan, which outlines both recommendations and specific goals for education leaders and policymakers around digital-learning related topics, such as infrastructure and devices, professional development, instruction and assessment, and funding.

The DLP is, in part, a response to two new state laws passed in the last legislative session — that schools must transition to digital resources by 2017 and that colleges of education, teachers, and administrators would be responsible for meeting new digital competencies. The state’s department of education contracted with the Friday Institute on how to implement those goals simultaneously.

In response to that charge, the Friday Institute, a policy and research land-grant which is part of the college of education at North Carolina State University, began by checking in with districts one by one. They criss-crossed the state conducting needs assessments and asset management surveys. They spoke with all 115 local education agencies and held town hall meetings. And, during that process, they collected a lot of data.

“This was the first time every bit of the institute was touched by the same work,” Corn explained. “We were building buy in so [everyone] really felt like this wasn’t the Friday Institute telling people what to do, but it was reflecting back to the folks in Raleigh about what was happening.”

A digital snapshot
In addition to those deep dives, the institute also developed an ed-tech rubric and assessed every district’s digital progress. “For the first time,” Corn said, “we have a snapshot of where every district in the state falls along a continuum about where they thought they were in terms of readiness in technology.”

As might be expected, few districts are in truly advanced stages of their digital transitions. According to results from the rubric, about 19 percent of districts in the state confessed to only just beginning to move toward digital, while just six percent rated themselves advanced. The vast majority said they were in a developing stage.

For them, the DLP might serve as something of a roadmap, or at least a set of goals to aspire to. While many of the recommendations can be read as a call to action for statewide organizations and leaders, specific goals — spelling out the skills and resources teachers, administrators, and schools should possess as they enter more advanced stages of their digital transitions — can help school and district leaders at every level in their planning.

An example of the recommendations and goals from the Human Capacity section. Click image for full size.

Of interest to both lawmakers and educators, the DLP makes recommendations around providing flexible professional development for district-level staff and principals, as well as the creation of a larger network of PD facilitators devoted to helping teachers adjust to digital learning concepts, such as blended instruction. It also suggests beefing up regional and statewide collaborations to support local educators and developing sustainable funding models. Of course, many of these initiatives will require new funding, and the report takes pains to spell out where federal money can step in and what, exactly, the state might be on the hook for.

“It’s been quite a budgetary fight,” Corn said about working with legislators to secure those funds. “But we did get an increase in textbook allotment and school connectivity. We didn’t get everything we asked for but because of the Digital Learning Plan and the conversations we’ve been having, at a time when our state budgets have been fiscally conservative, they did give increases in those two areas.”

Right now, Corn and her team are talking up the DLP to legislators and continuing their work. A toolkit for district tech directors is in the works and they are in the early stages of considering a data clearinghouse that education leaders can use to more easily find out what kinds of technology their colleagues across the state are buying — and using.

The overall goal of the DLP, she said, was to make it easier for everyone to come to grips with a digital world, no matter what their role in education. “The model that we developed, it could certainly be applied to other states,” Corn said. “This is about changing the role of the teacher in the classroom, changing the way school works. It’s not about the devices or the technology.”

Monday, 21 September 2015

Five Essentials for Basic Classroom Management

Classroom management. It’s the one thing you wish they had covered more extensively in your educator prep program. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of easy solutions to share. The book won’t give you all the answers to the challenges you will face throughout your tenure as an educator. It’s something that develops slowly throughout a career, constantly in adjustment, and constantly revised and reworked. Although there’s no “one size fits all” for classroom management, Education World has some tips for how to begin thinking about the facilitation of your classroom’s natural personality. 

Meet the parents. Including the parents and guardians of your child into your behavioral and academic plans can be an incredibly powerful tool in any educator’s toolbox. Different parents generally prefer different levels of contact with the school, however, so pay close attention to their needs. Find out how your parents and guardians prefer to be contacted: email, text, notes home, meetings, phone calls…and what kinds of communication they want. Some parents want to know immediately when their child misses an assignment or refuses to work in class – having their child pull out their cell phone and call them at work might be just the trick. Others might prefer to only be alerted when their child’s grade average slips below a particular number – this could be a more formal in-person meeting. The point is to connect with your parents to set both goals and expectations together, finding out where your classroom flow meets their home flow. And please, find a platform to communicate both success as well as concerns – a little celebration can go a long way in encouraging academic behavior.

You’ll never win. What?! Sounds worse than it is. Be wary of confrontations with students. Taking a page from the Love and Logic Institute, the reality is that when a confrontation is created between you and a student, you have nothing to lose, while that student has everything to lose. Remember, they are in front of their peers – their social group – everything they have built as an identity in the school is at risk and now on stage. A student would rather push you until they are sent out of the room than to lose whatever clout they’ve worked so hard to maintain. So what does this mean? Give them the illusion of power. When confrontations arise, make them private. Lower your voice to have a personal, respectful conversation with your student. Give that student choices, so that they feel they have the autonomy to decide their future (as opposed to feeling cornered with nowhere to go) – they can either focus in on their work, take a quick breather outside and then come back to work, or go see the school’s counselor. Then walk away. Most of all, empathize with your student. They’re never looking to disappoint you.

Plan for success. Believe it or not, the most powerful method of preventing classroom disruption before it starts lies in the lesson plan. Nothing beats a well-orchestrated, timed, UDL-conscious, and engaging lesson to keep students on task and focused. Students need to be clear about their learning goals for the day: without the “why are we doing this” addressed, it’ll be difficult to motivate any meaningful learning. Keeping the lesson varied allows students to not get stuck on any one thing. Minilessons are short and to the point, the modeling was clear and engaging, students work alone for a bit, then share with a peer for a bit, then work in groups for a bit, maybe moving around a little before coming back as a class for the wrap-up. Differentiate texts whenever possible, by choosing interesting content, using sites that manipulate reading levels, or by assigning small pieces of a text for deeper reading. Assignments should give students choices – even small ones – on how they can show you their learning. Capitalize on your students’ natural curiosity and have the flexibility to allow their questions to drive your instruction, as it aligns with your standards. Keeping these elements in mind at the planning stage of things can make the execution seamless, and more importantly, exciting for the learner.

Find your voice. This is easier said than done. Your classroom persona plays heavily into whether or not a management strategy will work for you. Some teachers succeed with humor; some with a stern face. Some capitalize on emotional connection; some use tough love. If you find yourself struggling with your current management tools, start by doing some observations. What’s working for other teachers in your building? This doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. However, observing your peers will absolutely give you new things to try. The key here is to be consistent. Students want that structure and stability your classroom provides. They need to know how you tick – from expectations to consequences. So when you are introducing a new strategy, be honest with them about what’s happening. Don’t be afraid to tell them that something wasn’t working for you in the classroom, you have a new plan to improve upon it, and that you’ll need their help to make it work. You’ll be surprised by how quickly students will respect and appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness. Having said that, be sure to plan time to reassess the new strategy and decide if it works with who you are in the classroom.

Know your kids. This might sound cliché, but it’s something we can sometimes put on the back-burner when things get difficult. When a student is struggling, he or she is much more likely to work with someone they feel is on their team. This takes both time and energy, but it is one of the secrets of the veteran teacher, and well-worth the effort. Notice them. What do they do when they are outside of school? What is their passion? What’s home like? Where’s their family from? Compliment their new sneakers, their purple hair. Arrange to catch one of their gymnastics meets or their basketball games—or see their band play. Check out their mix tape – even if you only listen to 30 seconds. In education, we speak a lot about schools being families or being an active part of the community. The kids need to see that. At the end of the day, a student will hardly ever rage a campaign against a member of their own fan club. The moment you feel that energy pressing against you, press back with interest.

What works in your class? Comment with other key classroom management tips below. Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor Lambert is a certified English Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut.

Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor

Lambert is a certified English / Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut. Source:

Friday, 11 September 2015

13 Interesting Back To School Facts

Here are a few fun and valuable facts about education and back to school that you can share with your children.