#1: 6 underground apps students hide from schools

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 19th of this year, was our #1 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Technology is nearly ubiquitous in classrooms, and it holds extreme importance in the lives of today’s children.

But with technology comes responsibility, and many ed-tech stakeholders emphasize the importance of teaching students about digital citizenship, being aware of their digital footprint, and being responsible and safe online.

Despite the best efforts of parents and educators, children can–and do–get into sticky situations with technology. And as everyone knows, things you post online, in group chats, or send in text messages don’t disappear if you delete them.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of apps adults might want to know about, not in an effort to alarm parents and teachers, but rather to inform them of the threats that accompany technology ownership and use.

(Next page: 6 apps that might put students at risk)

tags

#2: 5 technologies to avoid in the classroom-and what to use instead

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 7th of this year, was our #2 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

One of the most popular articles on eSchool Media is a surprising one to the editors: “6 apps that block social media distractions.” This story, which seemed  a bit counter-intuitive for us to write (being a tech-cheerleading publication in nature), has held the top spot by a massive margin for almost three years now; which had the editors considering the question, “Are there technologies that should simply be avoided in the classroom?”

Movie Clip of One Technology Exasperation:

Of course, the editors then had to ponder what would make a technology easier to avoid than try to implement, and came up with a list of broad technologies and technology trends that either A) caused, rather than eased, more problems and concerns in the classroom, and/or B) were not evolved enough to make an actual difference in teaching or learning.

And, not wanting to simply talk technology trash without offering some useful information, the editors then came up with the technology options that may be better suited for the intended classroom task.

See any technologies you believe should be avoided that didn’t make the list? Be sure to leave your comments in the section below.

5 Technologies to Avoid in the Classroom

social-media-field

1. Social Media:This was the easiest to choose, thanks to our reigning king of articles mentioned above. Though social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great for informal, personal use, most of education still has problems implementing these larger social media platforms for meaningful teaching and learning without running into privacy, security and cyberbullying headaches.

Better Option? Classroom-created forums. Many technology-savvy educators have deduced that perhaps the best way to mitigate social media distractions while still allowing for collaboration and discussion is to use a classroom or subject-specific forum or platform. In fact, according to EDUCAUSE, one of the core functions of the post-LMS era is to use a “next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE)” that “supports collaboration at multiple levels and make it easy to move between private and public digital spaces. The NGDLE must also include a requirement to move past a “walled garden” approach to locking down a course’s LMS, and instead enable a learning community to make choices about what parts are public and what parts are private.”

Outside of cloud-based or platform-enabled communication spaces, some apps even allow for project and assignment-only collaboration and organization, such as Slack (which Stanford uses for team communication and work management) and Trello (a project management app). Both are available for Android, as well.

gaming HED

2. Games: There’s a lot to be said for gaming in specific areas of education, like for learning how to code or applying mathematical concepts to real-life technology. In fact, eSchool News recently wrote an article touting the benefits of game-based learning and describing how schools are effectively using game-based learning with great results. However, for the average non-STEM heavy course, using actual games to learn is still in its research infancy as to whether or not games provide any major benefits to learning. Compound this with the unfortunate reality that most gaming is still male-centric, doesn’t usually allow for multi-player experiences, and is new to many educators, the time it takes to vet and properly implement games may be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Better Option? Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR). With AR or VR, educators can still boost student engagement while incorporating some of the best characteristics of visual technology: interaction and visual learning. With AR and VR, teachers can help students better understand abstract or difficult concepts, take learning outside the classroom while still incorporating technology, and strengthen emotional engagement in course material–all while incorporating the traditional gaming characteristics of play and humor. Read more about AR in K-12 here, as well as apps for AR here. Read more about VR in education here, as well as how some schools are seeing massive STEM gains with VR here.

(Next page: 3 more technologies to avoid in the classroom)

tags

#3: 4 ways teachers can supersize Hattie effects

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on July 24th of this year, was our #3 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

In 2015, researcher John Hattie updated his seminal research Visible Learning. Hailed as “teaching’s Holy Grail,”1 Hattie synthesized 15 years of research on more than 800 meta-analysis about what works in the classroom. His goal was to focus educators around the idea that all students should make at least a year’s worth of progress for a year’s input.

Hattie found that most of the classroom activities we engage in have some effect on student achievement and even memorably noted “perhaps all you need to enhance learning is a pulse!”2 but he was also able to determine the average effect of classroom practices.

Hattie argues that unless a factor provides more impact than the average teaching activity, it shouldn’t be used to make decisions about what happens in classrooms.

Effect Size in Education

For those of us who aren’t statisticians, effect size works like this: Imagine you’re taking a road trip from Boston to Chicago. If you drive an average of 60 MPH, you’ll spend about 17 hours covering those 1,000 miles. Now imagine you can drive as fast as you like; 85 MPH cuts the trip down to 12 hours. Double it to 120 MPH and you’re rolling into Chicago in about eight hours.

Teaching practices work the same way. Cooperative learning, providing enrichment and afterschool programs have an effect size around the average of 0.4 (average impact). Things like charter schools, student gender and teacher’s level of education are around 0.1 (almost no impact,) while feedback, acceleration and formative assessment are around 0.7 (better impact).

Hattie’s goal was for us to use his research to develop practices that drive improved instruction and results.

Best of the Best

The 2015 update to Hattie’s original research uncovered some interventions that eclipse every other classroom activity with their effect on student achievement.

Conceptual change programs, self-reported grades and collective teacher efficacy all have effect sizes greater than 1.15. To put that into perspective, if you compared collective teacher efficacy at 1.57 to student control over learning at 0.01, 95 percent of your students in the “control” group would perform worse than the average student in the efficacy group.

That’s essentially changing the achievement distribution in your classroom from the red curve to the blue one below.

Given that these super effects have such a powerful impact on student achievement, they’re worth examining.

(Next page: The 4 ways to supersize Hattie effects)

tags

IT #1: Greatest lesson: Teacher buy-in is overrated

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 12th of this year, was our #1 most popular IT story of the year for 2017. Happy Holidays!]

One of the greatest lessons my 30 years of experience in education has taught me is that teacher buy-in is, sometimes, overrated.

There, I said it.

Now, before you stop reading, note my use of the word “sometimes.”  As a former school administrator, I realize there is a time and place for buy-in.  However, as one of my mentors, a seasoned middle school principal once explained to me, while consensus and collaborative decision-making is important, it can also be paralyzing to innovation.  Understanding the balance between growing buy-in and launching innovation has never been more important than in today’s era.

As new ideas about teaching and learning go in and out of style, teachers have a right to feel some initiative fatigue. From organizational concepts like Open Classrooms to pedagogical trends like Madeline Hunter’s Essential Elements of Instruction [I have to admit that I still love this one], great new ideas that will transform education seem to come and go with stunning regularity.

In my role working with school districts across the country as Vice President of Learning and Development at Discovery Education, I sometimes meet teachers who are not ready to make the transition from using textbooks as a core instructional resource to using digital content to create dynamic learning environments.  They feel the digital transition is a fad, or that they, their students, or their school district is not ready for such a change.  Here is a sample of the pushback I hear:

“My colleagues and I aren’t ready for a digital textbook.”

“Our students don’t have access at home, so we can’t go all digital.”

“We don’t have the budget to go 1:1, therefore, we can’t go with digital textbooks.”

“Our students are losing their ability to communicate effectively because they have too much technology already in their lives.”

3 Reasons Why Teacher Buy-In is (Sometimes) Overrated

1. The Real World Isn’t Dependent on Teacher Buy-In

I recognize these are all legitimate challenges that need to be addressed.  However, the fact remains that today’s world is a digital world, and in order for our students to be successful beyond graduation, they need an education that prepares them to operate productively in our society as it is.

This reality makes the digital transition not a fad or something we might be able to get to, but rather, an immediate necessity that cannot always wait for optimum levels of teacher buy-in.

(Next page: 2 more reasons why teacher buy-in is sometimes overrated)

tags

#4: 5 ways teachers can improve student learning based on current brain research

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on May 24th of this year, was our #4 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

The brain is an experience-dependent organ. From our very earliest days, the brain begins to map itself to our world as we experience it through our senses. The mapping is vague and fuzzy at first, like a blurred photograph or an un-tuned piano. However, the more we interact with the world, the more well-defined our brain maps become until they are fine-tuned and differentiated. But each person’s map will vary, with some sensory experiences more distinct than others depending on the unique experiences and the clarity and frequency of the sensations he or she has experienced.

Educators can positively influence students’ learning by understanding how the brain is shaped by their early experiences—and how it can be rewired and reorganized to work more quickly and efficiently.

The Plastic Brain and the Critical Period

Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change with experience. In infancy and early childhood, a brain is so “plastic” that its structure is easily changed by simple exposure to new things in the environment. This time is sometimes called “the critical period,” or “the sensitive period.” [NOTE: the term ‘critical period’ although popular a couple of decades ago it is rarely used anymore because we understand plasticity better and realize new skills can be acquired long after the early developmental period, hence it is not really “critical”.]

Consider, for example, how babies easily learn the sounds of language and words by listening to their parents speak. Inside the brain, what this learning looks like is the brain actually reorganizing itself to change its own structure and create new sound maps that reflect the sounds of their native language. These sound maps are then interconnected with other maps and nodes to form interconnected networks so sound can be linked to meaning.

Networks can be expansive. For example, the sound map needed to recognize the word “pen” might first be connected to the meaning connoting a writing instrument, but over time, “pen” might be part of a network for comprehending “pen” as a verb meaning to write, then part of a word referring to legibility, “penmanship” and perhaps later to farm regions, like a pig pen.  Networks will also develop to allow words to be used in grammatical sentences then organized for reading.

Building neural maps and networks can be thought of like building cities: first, neighborhoods are mapped out and constructed then they become interconnected with other neighborhoods into towns and cities through a complex highway system.

(Next page: How student poverty affects the plastic brain)

tags

App of the Week: Drawing games for learning

Ed. noteApp of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? 

Adventure Time Game Wizard is an iOS and Android app set in the universe of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time show. The high production value is quickly apparent with fluid animations and great-sounding audio, including the show’s voice actors. There are three main modes: Play, Create, and Arcade. Play brings you through the game’s story, switching between five characters from the show. This is classic platformer action akin to Super Mario Brothers; the on-screen character runs and jumps to collect coins and power-ups while avoiding or attacking enemies. Coins collected in Play mode are used to unlock extra enemies, backgrounds, and other items for Create mode.

Price: Paid

Grades: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

Pros: High production value delights, great option for designing game on paper, lots of tutorials.

Cons: Drawn levels typically need fixing in the app, PG language and cartoon violence need consideration.

Bottom line: A highly engaging hook, along with the ability to design games on paper, make this a great option for STEAM teachers.

tags

#5: 5 big takeaways from redesigning learning spaces

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 2nd of this year, was our #5 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

The U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education had already recognized our schools in Kildeer Countryside Community Consolidated School District 96 in southern Lake County, Illinois, for academic excellence. Still, our district administrators recognized several years ago that significant changes needed to be made to our classrooms, and better technology needed to be acquired, in order to help our students develop the skills mandated by today’s educational standards including effective communication and collaboration.

To that end, we turned our attention to rethinking and redesigning our classroom learning spaces to fit the 21st century needs of our students.

Asking the Right Questions, First

We started by asking ourselves an essential question: “What does 21st century learning in a classroom look and sound like in a district committed to high levels of learning for all students?”

Students aren’t the only important component in the equation—we had to focus on teacher and technology needs, too. We also asked “What would teachers have to know and be able to do in order for students to think and interact in new ways?” And if we turned the tables and we were observing students in a cutting-edge learning environment, what would we see and hear?  And in what ways would technology be a catalyst or support for this type of engaged, forward-looking teaching and learning?

We knew we had obstacles to overcome: heavy furniture, the inability to collaborate with multimedia tools, students in rows led from the front of the classroom, and even more compelling, there was an obvious lack of what we called a differentiated learning atmosphere.

Taking Learning Walks

Once we acknowledged our obstacles, we really stepped into high gear.  We took teachers, administrators and school board members to other districts for learning walks. We formed a committee of these stakeholders as well as community members to evaluate our needs. We met with our technology team to plan and design multimedia infrastructure and as well as expected best practices. Then we gathered feedback from all parties and redesigned future classroom learning spaces using this compiled data.

Our data in year one showed that 1.) Teachers love lots (LOTS!) of board space; 2.) Students collaborate in a multimedia environment throughout the classrooms and 3.) Mobile furniture maximizes group flexibility and minimizes the loss of instructional time.

So now that the past has met the present, here’s what else we learned:

(Next page: 5 critical lessons learning redesigning learning spaces)

tags

Video of the Week: How to set up your digital classroom for success

Ed. note: Video of the Week picks are supplied by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to watch the video at Common Sense Education.

Video Description: Classroom set up and classroom management is key to crafting an ideal space for students to learn, especially at back-to-school time. But how do we adapt to classrooms where students and/or teachers use digital devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers? This video showcases three strategies to help you set up and manage both your physical and digital classrooms, from setting up effective digital workflows to practical tips for device management and storage. For more tips like these, visit this collection of classroom management resources.

Video:

tags

#6: 12 augmented reality apps students can use today

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 10th of this year, was our #6 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Augmented reality–a technology that uses a trigger image to superimpose digital content over a user’s view of the real world–is growing in popularity and accessibility, and it holds a wealth of potential for education.

Often described as “QR codes on steroids,” the technology offers new and exciting ways for students to interact with lessons, said Jeff Peterson, an instructional technologist in the Lamar Consolidated ISD in Texas. Peterson presented a TCEA 2017 session on augmented reality’s application in classrooms.

Augmented reality-based apps infuse more engagement into learning exercises, and students often grasp complex concepts quickly with interactive content, said Peterson, referencing Drew Minock, an advocate for augmented reality in the classroom and outreach manager at augmented reality company Daqri.

“If you can captivate those kids when you introduce the lesson, you know they’re going to pay attention throughout the lesson,” Peterson said. “This is a great way to grab kids and get them involved.”

Relevant educational uses include using augmented reality during a visit to a museum or historical location, seeing science concepts in motion, looking at math from new visual perspectives, watching books come to life, and animating art.

(Next page: 12 augmented reality apps)

tags

#7: Greatest lesson: Teacher buy-in is overrated

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 12th of this year, was our #7 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

One of the greatest lessons my 30 years of experience in education has taught me is that teacher buy-in is, sometimes, overrated.

There, I said it.

Now, before you stop reading, note my use of the word “sometimes.”  As a former school administrator, I realize there is a time and place for buy-in.  However, as one of my mentors, a seasoned middle school principal once explained to me, while consensus and collaborative decision-making is important, it can also be paralyzing to innovation.  Understanding the balance between growing buy-in and launching innovation has never been more important than in today’s era.

As new ideas about teaching and learning go in and out of style, teachers have a right to feel some initiative fatigue. From organizational concepts like Open Classrooms to pedagogical trends like Madeline Hunter’s Essential Elements of Instruction [I have to admit that I still love this one], great new ideas that will transform education seem to come and go with stunning regularity.

In my role working with school districts across the country as Vice President of Learning and Development at Discovery Education, I sometimes meet teachers who are not ready to make the transition from using textbooks as a core instructional resource to using digital content to create dynamic learning environments.  They feel the digital transition is a fad, or that they, their students, or their school district is not ready for such a change.  Here is a sample of the pushback I hear:

“My colleagues and I aren’t ready for a digital textbook.”

“Our students don’t have access at home, so we can’t go all digital.”

“We don’t have the budget to go 1:1, therefore, we can’t go with digital textbooks.”

“Our students are losing their ability to communicate effectively because they have too much technology already in their lives.”

3 Reasons Why Teacher Buy-In is (Sometimes) Overrated

1. The Real World Isn’t Dependent on Teacher Buy-In

I recognize these are all legitimate challenges that need to be addressed.  However, the fact remains that today’s world is a digital world, and in order for our students to be successful beyond graduation, they need an education that prepares them to operate productively in our society as it is.

This reality makes the digital transition not a fad or something we might be able to get to, but rather, an immediate necessity that cannot always wait for optimum levels of teacher buy-in.

(Next page: 2 more reasons why teacher buy-in is sometimes overrated)

tags