Five Keys to Differentiating Instruction

GovAcer200Differentiated instruction represents a challenging path for most districts, forcing them to make fundamental changes to how they reach, teach, and enable students. Here are five steps toward differentiating instruction for each student.


How can teachers inspire learning? By empowering students

Educators discuss the keys to engaging students during a professional development event in Dallas


“A teacher’s main role should be inspiring students to become lifelong learners,” said Arvin Ross, director of professional development for the iSchool Initiative.

How can today’s teachers inspire their students? Where does true engagement in learning come from—and how can technology play a role?

These questions were the focus of a unique professional development event held May 10 in Dallas, during which attendees heard from an all-star lineup of educators.

Sponsored by Promethean and its ClassFlow software, which facilitates collaborative learning using any ed-tech device, the “Educators Lounge” event drew dozens of K-12 teachers and administrators to explore, discuss, and celebrate excellence in teaching, said Machele Stefhon, head of strategic marketing programs for Promethean.

The speakers shared a wide range of advice with their colleagues, but over the afternoon a common theme emerged: Technology allows for more personalization of instruction—and great teachers take advantage of this by letting students follow their passions and direct their own learning.

“A teacher’s main role should be inspiring students to become lifelong learners,” said Arvin Ross, a junior at Kennesaw State University and the director of professional development for the iSchool Initiative. “As a student, if you inspire me to learn, I won’t need a study, a lesson, or a test.”

‘Learning should be noisy’

Nick Provenzano, a high school English teacher who writes a blog called The Nerdy Teacher, kicked off the event by noting that the traditional “stand and deliver” model, “while it has a purpose, … cannot be your lone method of instruction.”

There is a time for teachers to impart knowledge, Provenzano said, and there’s also a time for students to explore topics on their own.

“A noisy classroom is a classroom where learning is happening,” he said. “Learning should be noisy, it should be messy, because that’s what exploration is.”

Drawing on Google’s famous model of giving employees 20 percent of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally, Provenzano said he gives his students one day a week to study something they’re passionate about.


Three more steps to using digital content: Part 2

On the heels of steps 1-2 come the next 3 steps in moving to digital content

digital-migrationBy now, digital content is on the minds of most educators. Transitioning to digital content, and ensuring that districts have the policies and practices in place to support and sustain that transition, is not an entirely easy process.

Still, following a blueprint of important steps can help school leaders effectively navigate a digital content migration. Last month, eSN shared the first two of five steps in a move to digital content.

During a follow-up webinar, Jonathan Costa, director of school and program services for Education Connection and author of Digital Learning For All, Now!, outlined the next three steps in making this process a success.

(Next page: The next three steps in a digital content migration)


Bing in the Classroom will eliminate adverts at no cost to school districts

New York State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi applauds Bing in the Classroom for their groundbreaking decision to remove digital advertisements from schools

bing-adverts-classroom Recently, there have been efforts by private technology companies to work with the public sector to invest in educational programs.

As the public and private sectors begin to collaborate to invest in and develop educational opportunities for today’s youth, we must work together to prepare technology driven lessons, ensure that classrooms are equipped with enough up-to-the-minute hardware for all students, and most importantly, work to create safe, ad-free spaces online where our children can learn to independently research without being bombarded by advertising or inappropriate material.

Schools are safe havens where children should be able to learn and grow in a supportive atmosphere. At home, parents have the ability to monitor their children’s intake of consumer products by limiting television and internet usage, and helping them engage critically with the content they see. But if we allow advertising in any form in our schools, we run directly counter to the message educational institutions are trying to promote: that these are places of learning, not selling.

Advertising in schools is simply not conducive to a learning-focused environment and we must agree as a society that there are places where advertisements absolutely don’t belong. Earlier this week, Microsoft publicly expanded its free Bing in the Classroom search to all public and private schools in the United States, along with lesson plans and the ability for community members to help schools earn tablets.

With Bing in the Classroom, will eliminate all advertisements from search results, and augment adult filters and privacy protections in participating schools, at no cost to school districts.

Watch this brief clip of Bing in the Classroom.

I applaud the architects of the Bing in the Classroom program, particularly their groundbreaking decision to remove digital advertisements from the school environment. As educational institutions struggle with budgetary shortfalls, it is far too easy for policymakers and school boards to be tempted to allow advertising displays as an additional source of revenue.

In the same way that New York State school districts do not currently partake in physical advertising in school buildings, I strongly believe that we should not be condoning digital advertising in an academic environment. We have a responsibility as parents, educators, and policy makers to continue to protect our youth in the school environment.

With the introduction of the new Common Core curriculum standards, educational benchmarks are increasing to meet the needs of a new economy. To meet these new expectations, we must ensure that our children are allowed to mature and discover new information in an environment free of advertisements, digital and physical, both now and in the future.

Andrew Hevesi is a New York State Assemblyman (D-Queens), Chair, Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigations Committee.


App of the Week – Explore the world of dinosaurs

Take a trip back to the age of dinosaurs with this Smithsonian app.

dino-appName: Ankylosaurus Fights Back – Smithsonian’s Prehistoric Pals

What is it? Join Ankylosaurus in this interactive book app as he is so busy eating that he doesn’t notice the huge T-rex that is watching him! Explore pictures, learn new vocabulary, and personalize the story with your own narration. Will Ankylosaurus get away from the dangerous predator?

Best for: Children 3-8

Price: $1.99

Requirements: iOS 5.0 or later

Explore the Story:

  • ENCOURAGE literacy skills with highlighted narration
  • LEARN new vocabulary with tappable words and pictures
  • RECORD your own narration & share it with others
  • SELECT a scene with easy-to-use navigation
  • KEEP kids in the story with parental controls

This title has been carefully reviewed by paleontologists at the Smithsonian Institution and provides fascinating information on the prehistoric world.

Link: iTunes


8 examples of how gaming is changing education

Here’s how to use gaming to change teaching and learning

gaming-listOnce accompanied by a stigma, educational gaming has gained even more momentum over the past year.

Across the nation, teachers are recognizing that engaging and immersive educational games can motivate students to learn and excel–without students even realizing it.

Game developers are still challenged to develop entertaining games that deliver research-based, pedagogically-sound experiences for students–but when those games do succeed, administrators and teachers are able to use the real-time data being collected in the background to inform instruction.

(Next page: 8 examples of gaming in education today)


2 ways to support eRate modernization

How can the federal eRate program be upgraded and modernized?

eRate-upgradeLast month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) closed its comment period for its most recent Public Notice, soliciting responses for proposed changes to the eRate program. As a former school superintendent, in my current role with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), and as a member of the USAC board, the entity that administers the eRate program, I have strongly supported the eRate program for the critical role it has played in the rapid and dramatic expansion of school and library connectivity, forever changing the face of students’ classroom experiences.

The current eRate policy environment is an unprecedented confluence of events: an FCC Chairman committed to modernizing the program, an FCC commissioner deeply passionate about eRate, the momentum of President Obama’s ConnectED proposal, the announcement of $2 billion in found funding for the eRate program, and the ever-increasing demand for connectivity in the nation’s schools and libraries. Program policy isn’t made in a silo, though, and there are external pressures that stand to shape the final eRate changes as much as the voice of program beneficiaries.

(Next page: A two-pronged approach to eRate modernization)


Here’s how students are driving, retaining learning with visual tech

Screencasting has taught me that visuals are a powerful axle, on which student wheels will turn


Seeing is believing–an idiom that never rang more true in education than it does now. As a technology teacher in a project-based, middle school classroom, I always felt that lecturing wasn’t the best way to deliver new content to a room full of eager students.

And certainly not a way for material to sink in and ultimately, stick. My students come to class to do hands on “stuff” – design, build, fix, tweak, you name it – so I was on a mission to identify a way to not only “digitize” myself so I could make that happen, but also to find a way to put my students in the driver’s seat. I saw screencasting as the perfect vehicle to make this transition happen.

I know firsthand what it’s like to read a bunch of text instructions and have to envision what you’re supposed to do next. Similarly, in the traditional lecture model of education, kids have just one shot to internalize what is presented live on the spot. It is hoped that they’re able to retain the information when it comes time to use it on a project, which could be days later.

Watch how Tech Smith Relay works.

(Next page: how screencasting works and why you should use it)