How an iPad can overcome ‘print disabled’ curriculum

Apple’s iPad can improve the accessibility of content for students; here’s how

ipad-tabletOne of the signature findings of the cognitive revolution of mind, brain and education research over the last few decades has been the overwhelming recognition of the tremendous diversity of human brains. In our population of students, there is a stunning variety of talents and capacities, and some of our peculiarities are both great strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, an incredibly high proportion of the world’s leading astrophysicists are dyslexic. As it turns out, in the complex architecture of the brain-eye connection, some of us have very strong central vision, while others have very strong peripheral vision. Those with strong peripheral vision often have trouble with dyslexia, slowed down by the distraction of words scattered all over a page. However, this strong peripheral vision is a critical asset in finding patterns in wavelength images, which happens to be the core competency of astrophysicists.

Learn how EdTechTeacher can help with staff development at www.edtechteacher.org.

Despite the great diversity in our capacities, our curriculum materials often are narrowly constructed, with a focus on static text. Some advocates have gone so far as to call the curriculum “print disabled”—incapable of supporting learning from people who struggle with decoding print. Note the important shift there: It is not the child who is disabled; it is the published materials that are incapable of doing their job of supporting learning.

(Next page: A tablet’s impact)

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LAUSD’s iPad debate overshadows learning revolution

LAUSD’s much-publicized iPad initiative has garnered much criticism

LAUSD-iPadLast week, as Los Angeles Unified officials debated and complained about the speed, cost and logistics of the troubled iPad rollout, students around the sprawling district were putting the tablet computers to good use.

Fifth-graders at Western Avenue Elementary in South LA were downloading apps and creating multimedia presentations.

An eighth-grade English class at Paul Revere Charter Middle School on the Westside was mapping Huck Finn’s route along the Mississippi River.

At ArTES Academy in San Fernando, high school students were taking notes in English Lit, graphing equations in chemistry and dreaming up fantasy 3-D flowers in graphic design class.

(Next page: What iPads truly mean for learning in LAUSD)

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Kids learning computer code in after-school clubs

Learning to code offers valuable educational, workplace benefits

code-classBilly Harkins, 11, is one of roughly 100 fifth- and sixth-grade students staying late after school in the computer labs. He’s not in trouble. He’s not staying for sports. He’s staying to learn a new language, one that many adults don’t even know.

He’s learning to write computer code.

Cypress Grove Intermediate and Oakwood Intermediate are two College Station ISD schools testing out coding clubs to teach their students how to write code through educational coding websites such as Codeacademy.com and Code.org.

Harkins and his best friend, Jerimiah Stoddart, have been attending the Cypress Grove club since the beginning of the year. The two sixth-graders are learning the basics of HTML and CSS and are hoping to move onto JavaScript.

(Next page: What makes students want to learn to code?)

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Smart education networks: An action plan for leaders

A number of things should be considered when it comes to preparing school networks for optimum performance

school-networkIn my September column, “Time to ask for more eRate funding,” I discussed how this is a historic moment. The eRate program is the largest and most important funding source for ed-tech infrastructure. For the first time in 17 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched a comprehensive rulemaking to examine the eRate’s structure, the services it supports, and the adequacy of its funding.

To help inform the FCC and our community, CoSN and Market Data Retrieval (MDR) in August and September surveyed school district leaders about their broadband networks, garnering 469 responses.

[Editor’s note: You can read the key findings in our eRate Survival Guide.]

Here’s what the survey tells us.

We need more bandwidth—now

Despite the eRate’s success in promoting nearly universal basic internet access, 99 percent of districts agree they need more bandwidth now or will in the next 36 months.

(Next page: What else do school networks need?)

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How (and why) it’s time to create digital student portfolios

I always find it quite confusing when educators tell me that students in their classroom are reading at a 7th grade reading level, Edudemic reports. What does that really mean?  Does that mean that they are truly reading? When I say truly reading I mean with full comprehension. They are able to share their learning, demonstrate it in many different ways and extend that knowledge.  Too often when I hear that students are at a particular reading level the person is referring to decoding not reading.  Reading is only when true comprehension happens. I want to think I know what a 7th grade reading level is, but in actuality, I am only guessing. I am not sure this categorization does enough to prepare me to help that student grow as a learner. I have to spend a lot of time getting to know that child individually – only then, am I prepared to help him or her grow as a learner and reader. Usually it takes until October before I have enough information to be  equipped to make a difference in the life of that student…

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Merit pay for teachers is only fair

Business has long been accustomed to rewarding good performance with salary increases, but the birth of merit pay for teachers is proving both protracted and painful, Forbes reports. Evidence that performance-related pay raises standards is hard to come by, and last summer one of the few schemes to show a positive impact was quietly dismantled. But this doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. Even if merit pay does not lead to higher grades, its supporters argue that there is another reason that makes it worth considering as a replacement for a system that takes little account of ability or effort…

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Ending education reform to reimagine what’s possible

According to a recent PEW Research Study, 66 percent of Americans say either that the education system in this country needs to be completely rebuilt or that it requires major changes. I couldn’t agree more. In this post, I am infusing innovation research into the education reform debate. We need to ditch the agenda to reform, and shift our focus on to creating anew. In my TEDx talk, “Go All In on Education,” I took the audience through a visualization exercise using the four images below. Most critics make the mistake of assuming that innovation does not exist in education. I can assure you that innovation exists; the problem has a lot to do with the environment and the ability for disruptive ideas to thrive. Below is an outline of two critical issues we face as it relates to the environment in education…

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Why should students show up to class?

Where do you get your information on content or ideas that you present in the classroom?  Some of you educators may say the classroom text book, most of you may be experts on the topic, and few of you will say outside resources that aren’t technology based, CK-12 blogs.  Most of you may be putting together PowerPoint presentations or implementing some sort of slideshow or classroom discussion into your lesson planning.  The online classroom is full of presentations, videos and discussions with the help of companies like Khan Academy and 2U that actually allow you to have virtual face to face exchanges.  So, why should students continue to show up to class when they can learn and gain human interaction online? Today’s learning process needs experiences…

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Google connects teachers with virtual field trips

Virtual field trips now available on Google’s ‘Connected Classrooms’ platform

virtual-field-tripsMicrosoft has connected teachers with virtual field trips for quite some time through its free “Skype in the classroom” service. Now, the company’s chief rival in the productivity software market is pushing virtual field trip experiences as well.

In an effort to boost teacher collaboration and cultivate digital skills in students, Google+ on Nov. 4 launched Connected Classrooms, a program that connects K-12 teachers with virtual field trip resources and best practices.

Virtual field trips have always been available on Google+, but the Google+ Education Partnership Team sees Connected Classrooms as a more formal way for teachers to locate virtual field trips and connect with other educators in a thriving community.

“This is really just the beginning of where we see Connected Classrooms going,” said Lisa Jiang, Google+ Education Partnerships Lead. “We see this as an opportunity to not just attend a virtual field trip, but for teachers to become more proactive in using digital tools to help equip their students with the skills they need for digital citizenship.”

Virtual field trip providers connect directly with educators through Connected Classrooms to gauge interest in various virtual field trips, coordinate schedules, and more. Virtual field trips will be streamed through Google Hangouts and then recorded and made available on the organization’s YouTube channel.

Teachers can search by month to find upcoming virtual field trips, and more than 20 organizations—including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and National Geographic Education—have partnered with Connected Classrooms.

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7 steps to more engaging professional development

Professional development doesn’t have to be a drag—here’s how to improve it

professional-developmentMost administrators and teachers share a common view of professional development: It’s not always as productive as they hope or it takes valuable time away from more pressing instructional demands. But seven simple steps can lead to more engaging, collaborative, and effective professional development, no matter the topic.

“We don’t want our teachers to think that any of our staff development is a waste of time,” said Amber Teamann, assistant principal at Watson MST in Garland, Texas, during an edWeb webinar. “It’s just a manner of conveying [professional development] in a way that allows your staff to get on board and have that passion. You want staff development to be something that is impacting student success.”

Teamann outlined a professional development strategy using the acronym LEARNER. Each step, she said, leads to better professional development approaches.

(Next page: The 7 steps to better professional development)

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