What students think of their blended learning teachers

A recent survey reveals that teacher training may impact student opinion in blended courses

peter-west-blendedWith blended learning, the computer may provide much of the learning fundamentals and students must be more self-regulated than in a traditional industrial model classroom, but the teacher still plays a vital (albeit different) role.

School leaders need to be aware of this, and need to have pathways developed to transition teachers to this new environment. Thus, teachers must be trained in the different pedagogy, and this should impact the way professional development is delivered.

Student survey

The effect of the teacher is demonstrated by the results of a survey I recently conducted of our school’s students in a self-paced blended learning course. All students used the same learning resources in “lessons” of the same duration and were in the same physical environment. The only factor that varied was the teacher. In this case, one teacher had not been trained in the differences between the self-paced blended learning environment and the traditional classroom; this teacher had to work out the differences “on the fly.” The other teacher had been working in a self-paced blended learning environment for more than four years, and was successful and enthusiastic about the environment.

Survey questions

Students responded to a number of survey questions. There was a five point scale for responses, with 1 being very positive and 5 being very negative, and with 3 being neutral.

The questions are shown below.

  • How do you rate (overall) the way that we “do” this subject?
  • How do you find the online tutorial approach affects your learning in class?
  • How do you find the tutorial approach affects the speed of your learning?
  • Do you find the online approach better for reviewing information?
  • How easy is it to get help when you get “stuck” with a problem and you are not sure what to do?
  • Your teacher talks less often in this subject than in a “normal” class. Is this better for your learning?
  • Most of your time in class is spent “doing things”, with explanation from the teacher on occasion. Is this better for your learning?

This survey has operated in previous years and the results had been consistent. However, the survey discussed in this article highlighted “anomalous” results, which highlighted the need for teachers to be trained in the principles of teaching effectively in a blended learning environment (rather than just being told of the differences).

(Next page: What students had to say)


Texas approves Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook for statewide use

Adoption of interactive social studies material demonstrates nationwide shift to digital learning

discovery-techbookFollowing a rigorous evaluation, the Texas State Board of Education has approved the Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook for statewide use as a core instructional resource through its state adoption process.

More than 1,000,000 students across the U.S. and Canada currently have access to the Discovery Education Techbook series, and over 7,000 schools in Texas have already integrated Discovery Education services into classroom instruction.

The Texas State Board of Education adopted all middle and high school Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook courses, including World Geography & Cultures for Grade 6, as well as U.S. History for Grade 8 and high school. School districts across Texas now have the option to implement the Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook, a fully interactive digital solution that replaces traditional textbooks and features standards-based digital content that strengthens literacy, critical thinking and citizenship skills. Discovery Education’s Social Studies Techbook is a complete digital solution that has been built from the ground-up to be fully aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and English Language Proficiency standards.

The Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook is the second Techbook to be adopted by the Texas State Board of Education as a core instructional resource. In 2014, the Texas State Board of Education approved the Discovery Education Science Techbook as a core instructional resource for elementary, middle, and high school science courses through the state adoption process.

Next page: Features of Discovery Education’s Social Studies Techbook


Austin ISD offers free test prep to high school students

Fifth-largest school district in Texas partners with Edgenuity to support students preparing for SAT, ACT and TSI assessments

test-prepAustin ISD (AISD) is partnering with Edgenuity, an online education provider, to expand support for all high school students by offering free test preparation services for college entrance exams, including the SAT.

AISD students may enroll in the web-based courses, which will allow them to complete lessons at their own pace.

AISD is the fifth-largest school district in Texas, serving about 85,000 students at 129 campuses, including 17 high schools. This semester, the district serves about 21,000 high school students throughout Austin.

This year, AISD’s graduation rates have reached an all-time high. More AISD students are participating in the SAT and ACT—and they are scoring better overall on the exams, compared with the state and national averages.

“Preparing Austin students to graduate ready for college is among our top priorities at AISD. Working with our school communities, we are meeting our goals by helping to meet students where they are, but there is more work to be done,” said Paul Cruz, interim superintendent. “We must continue to invest in our students’ success by ensuring all students have access to the tools they need. The new Web-based services offer students the flexibility to prepare for college entrance exams when and where it works best for them.”

Next page: Edgenuity’s test prep strategies


Infobase relaunches Issues & Controversies

New database now features debate videos and other enhancements

infobase-updateInfobase, a provider of educational content to schools and libraries, has announced the relaunch of Issues & Controversies. The database, which aims to offer balanced treatment of complex, hot-button issues, is a recent recipient of The ComputED Gazette’s 19th Annual Education Software Review Awards.

Issues & Controversies’ dynamic new design is structured around today’s most controversial issues, from immigration, gun control, racial profiling, and Cuba policy to climate change, police brutality, terrorism, Middle East policy, and more.

Recent controversies in the news are highlighted on the home page, along with a hyperlinked list of all topics, organized by subject or A-to-Z, for quick access into the core of the database.

The issue pages themselves have also been expanded and improved, with a new, user-friendly organization that reveals at a glance all the controversies related to each issue, with clear pro/con statements for each, plus new features such as videos, interactive polls, and news articles that engage and enlighten users as they explore each issue.

Next page: Additional enhancements, including new educational features


InfoSnap honored as inaugural Pearson award winner

Award honors company’s collaboration in developing application programming interface tools

infosnap-pearsonInfoSnap, a provider of cloud-based registration management solutions, is the winner of Pearson’s inaugural Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Integration Excellence Award.

Chosen from the more than 100 technology companies in Pearson’s ISV program, InfoSnap is honored for its work collaborating with Pearson to develop application programming interface (API) tools for integrating its student information system, PowerSchool, with other software applications, creating cost-effective and efficient approaches for school districts.

Pearson Vice President, Oliver Wreford, who oversees the ISV program, said, “Our partner program includes more than 100 world-class education technology companies that we collaborate with to support K-12 school districts. InfoSnap exemplifies our overall commitment to API development to help schools maximize their technology investment and realize savings in time, resources, and money. Congratulations to InfoSnap President and CEO, Lou Trotter, and his team of talented technology developers.”

Next page: How the API tools work


Recorded Webinar – Access Granted: Access Control Checklist for 2015


Learn about the best practices to keep you ahead of the curve this year when it comes to your access control investment: .

• HD Video Integration: Tying IT-friendly access control to HD video cameras and powerful video management software to provide security and IT personnel as well as first responders with full visibility into every incident

• Going Mobile: Setting up SMS alerts based on automated rules and empowering teams to manage privileges and respond to incidents from any device with a web browser and internet connection

• Data back-up and redundancy: Planning for irregular hours and leveraging emergency fail-over technologies to keep systems running when you want them to, while properly backing up your data

• Crisis and Emergency Response: Quickly and easily locking down your facility in the event of an emergency to ensure complete safety of people and property


Whitepaper: 5 Reasons to get physical with access control

AvigilonWP200x300While many network security systems are now built to support IT best practices and standards, physical access control systems (PACS) have traditionally been designed without IT professionals in mind. Learn how these limitations are changing, as a new breed of affordable, web-based physical access control systems are emerging.


Case Study: Georgia Tech Police Department

AvigilonCaseStudy200x300Learn how the Georgia Tech Police Department uses a web-based physical access control system (PACS) to manage facility access from any web browser, partition role-based access priviledges by building, synchronize with campus-wide identity management systems and reduce their total cost of ownership.


These amazing kits make electronics simple and fun for every student

One tool erases frustration and boredom and makes electronics fun for students

littlebits-stemVery young students often have a hard time engaging meaningfully in electronics projects. Sure, most middle school kids can learn the function of basic electronic components and follow a set of instructions to create a basic circuit on a breadboard. Often, however, their work suffers from the mistakes, short-circuits, and sloppiness that plague any novice.

More limiting than the struggle to keep bare wires from accidentally brushing each other, is the wall that most students hit after they create the alarm circuit or lie detector that they built from the schematic in the textbook.

While their imaginations are ripe with ideas of things they might like to build, most young students lack the fundamental knowledge to push beyond the canned circuits provided by their teacher and to create something original.

By limiting a student to the re-creation of pre-designed circuits, we are teaching her how to pay attention to detail, how to carefully follow instructions, and how to perform a variety of specific tasks such as stripping the insulation from wire and how to install an IC into a breadboard.

If our aspirations for our hypothetical student involve work on an assembly line, this will be all the training she needs. But if we want a little more for our kids, we will need to set the bar higher.

By following instructions to build pre-designed circuits, our student is not learning how to visualize how her idea might operate in the physical world. She isn’t learning how to brainstorm various design ideas, test them out and persist through failure. We are not asking her to create.

(Next page: Kits that challenge students in a fun way)

[Photo by littleBits (littleBits) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]


Pearson unveils tablet ELL assessment system

The new ELL assessment system targets speaking, reading, writing, and listening

ELL-tabletA new tablet-based assessment developed by Pearson will specifically target English Language Learners (ELLs) in order to help them build English language skills and succeed on summative assessments.

With the assessment system, called TELL (Test of English Language Learning), students watch video clips and interact with pictures and words, then answer questions out loud. They listen, write, read and speak—all with no mark-ups or grading by teachers. TELL screens, diagnoses and monitors each ELL student’s progress throughout the school year. Responses—written and spoken—are automatically scored by Pearson’s automated scoring technologies

Fully scalable, TELL can be used with just one student at a time, a small to large group, or for whole-class administration at the school or district level. The assessment covers all four foundational language skills—listening, speaking, reading and writing and is aligned to standards, such as Common Core.

“English language learners are the fastest growing student population in the United States and 60 percent of those students are in elementary school. When we talked to school and district assessment directors as well as English language teaching specialists from around the country, they emphasized the critical need for a new and engaging approach to measuring English language proficiency that accurately diagnoses students’ needs and monitors their progress,” said Alistair Van Moere, Ph.D., head of Pearson’s Assessment Product Solutions.

Material from a press release was used in this report.