13 apps that promote higher-order thinking standards

These mobile apps go way beyond games

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly common in schools because they cost so much less than computers—especially since so many students are willing to bring their own devices to school.

While mobile devices, tablets in particular, have been commonly used to reinforce math and reading skills through the use of games, they can also be used to promote the development of higher level skills and knowledge included in the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S): creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; and critical thinking and problem solving. Here are a handful of high-quality apps that reinforce these skills and promote others.

Writing skills

Students who resist typical writing instruction with pencil and paper may blossom as authors when given the opportunity to compose electronically on computers and tablets. Some that struggle with the fine motor skills necessary for producing legible print are liberated by the ability to type. Although pressing letters on a flat screen without being able to feel them may be awkward for an adult accustomed to typing on a keyboard, students that learn to type on these devices when they’re young are likely to be as skilled on them as they are on a traditional keyboard.…Read More

Common Core is changing how schools teach ELA and math

New report finds Common Core is affecting reading and math — but not test scores

States considered strong adopters of Common Core are more likely to see a de-emphasis of fiction and a decline in advanced math enrollment among middle school students, according to a new report that also found a trivial difference in test scores between states that have and have not adopted the standards.

The report, from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings, pulls data from surveys conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to see how far Common Core recommendations have seeped into states’ instruction, comparing data from 2011 to 2015. The question of whether students should focus on analyzing fiction, which has been traditionally favored by schools, or nonfiction, which is favored by the CCSS, was considered a major implementation hurdle just a few years ago.

On that point, it appears Common Core’s suggestions are winning out over entrenched practice. In 2011, according to the data, 63 percent of students had teachers who said they emphasized fiction, compared with 38 percent of students with teachers who said they were emphasizing nonfiction — a 25 percent gap. By 2015, however, that gap had shrunk to just eight percent, with 45 percent of students who have teachers emphasizing nonfiction. The gap shrunk for eighth grade students from 34 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015.…Read More

The 4 essential elements of any successful one-to-one program

Not all successful one-to-one programs are alike. But they do share some common ground

As more and more schools and districts set goals to provide one-to-one access to technology to students to meet teaching and learning goals, district and school leaders are faced with the task of planning and implementing technology resources at levels that they might not have experienced in the past. My district, Santa Ana Unified (SAUSD), is increasing access to students through a program called “Access for All,” a well-received iPad and Chromebook initiative. Through this experience, we have developed a model for planning and implementation. Here’s how we got started.

Establish your vision

It is important that any plan to increase levels of access to technology to students does not move forward as a “technology for technology’s sake” effort, but that is integrated as part of the district or school vision for teaching and learning. At SAUSD, the goal of expanding access to technology to students is aligned to the district Framework for Teaching and Learning and has been established as an essential part of the district vision. This vision is centered on establishing a growth model with expanding choice options for students, enhancing personalized learning pathways, and providing a wide variety of blended learning opportunities to support increased student engagement and improved student learning outcomes.

Provide opportunities for stakeholder engagement

One of the first considerations when planning a one-to-one initiative is establishing support and funding. The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is a critical part of California’s Local Control Funding Formula. As part of establishing the LCAP plan, school districts must engage parents, educators, staff, and the community.…Read More

App of the Week: Eat your way to basic math skills

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? DragonBox Numbers surreptitiously introduces kids to basic number concepts through puzzles, challenges, and free play. “Nooms” represent each number from 1 to 10. Kids can stack Nooms, have them “eat” each other and turn into different Nooms (for example, 3 eats 5 and becomes 8), or slice them into smaller Nooms. In the sandbox, kids freely experiment with the Nooms against a number line. In “ladder,” kids build a Noom to reach a star on a number line, which gets more challenging as they want to avoid or pass through certain points along the way. In “puzzles,” kids create pictures using the Nooms in certain ways. All activities earn coins that kids can use to “buy” more levels.

Rating: 4/5…Read More

App of the Week: Daily news and events, just for kids

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? News-O-Matic, School Edition, 2015-16 is a daily news and activity app for kids in grades 2–5. Teachers and kids can read five current events articles daily, answer questions, chat with classmates about the stories, and send comments or questions to the editor. Topics include everything from religion and politics to scientific discoveries and kid entrepreneurs.

Rating: 4/5…Read More

App of the Week: Shakespeare for the iPad generation

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Common Sense Graphite. To read the full app review, click here.
shakespeare-in-bits

What’s It Like? Within Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo & Juliet, the full text of the play is featured side-by-side with an animated reenactment. While the style of animation is somewhat simplistic, there are professional actors voicing the parts. Within the text, simply tapping any highlighted words offers a more modern-day term. Tabs at the top of the text let students move easily between the text, section notes, a synopsis, and their own notes. A navigation bar at the bottom of the screen shows all options — viewing by scene, examining characters, reading analysis, and reviewing notes.

Graphite Rating: 4/5

Price: $15…Read More

App of the Week: Skaffl

Ed. note: App 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.
 skaffl

What’s It Like? Skaffl is a tool for distributing, completing, and grading work on the iPad. Teachers create classes and then share each class’s unique access code with their students, who can then use that code to enroll in the class via their own Skaffl login. Teachers then create three types of activities: an in-app assignment, a student dropbox, or a handout. A handy workflow for these activities appears every time teachers create a new one. Teachers can distribute activities instantly (to some classes, some students, or all at once) or schedule them for a later date.

Price: Free/subscription

Grades: 6-12…Read More

4 Essential Game-Based Learning Questions

Asking the right questions can help games make a positive impact in the classroom

game-learningYou’d have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with the rise of game-based learning in classrooms across the nation in recent years. Integrating a game into an instructional unit may seem daunting, but four key implementation questions should help educators use games to support teaching and learning and help drive student engagement.

Games offer opportunities for collaboration and inquiry-based, self-directed learning. They also support skill development that students need under Common Core math and Next Generation Science Standards.

It’s first important to define what is not a learning game, said Susannah Gordon-Messer, curriculum and professional development specialist at the MIT Education Arcade, during an edWeb webinar on gaming implementation strategies.…Read More