4 strategies to boost student engagement

As the beginning of the school year is creeping up on us, many schools are reconsidering the need for online options. There are too many variables at play right now for any educator to feel they have everything under control for this school year. Historically, stability was often a reason for many to enter the education field, but stability is nowhere to be seen this fall. As educators struggle with keeping a variety of balls in the air, one of the key issues in all settings is how to keep students motivated and engaged.

Recently, a study of rural elementary teachers outlined a few key factors for engaging students and then keeping them engaged online.

The first suggestion from elementary teachers was to start the course by setting the stage with a clear set of behavior expectations for students working online. Simple things like expecting students to keep their cameras active, how to attract the teacher’s attention by raising their hand via video or using a Zoom tool, etc. This is not particularly different than setting beginning of the year behavior expectations in a traditional classroom. Students always appreciate having clear expectations. Interestingly, only about a third of teachers responded that they had set video lesson expectations at the beginning of last year.…Read More

How to make elementary teachers stronger in STEM

It’s no secret elementary teachers are often weakest in STEM. Targeted PD can help

stem-teachersDespite renewed interest, calls for funding, and presidential appeals, true STEM integration is missing from a large number of classrooms across the country. And to hear Patty Born-Selly tell it that’s especially true at the elementary level.

“Most elementary teachers when they are placed in the classroom often just don’t feel comfortable teaching STEM subjects,” said Born-Selly, who is the executive director of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education, an organization embedded within Minnesota’s St. Catherine’s University (colloquially known as St. Kate’s).

“They might avoid it or they might teach the bare minimum or they might go on a field trip and think that was their science lesson,” she continued. “But what we’ve found across the board is that teachers really want to be more comfortable with this material and the subject matter so they feel as comfortable with it as with, say, reading.”…Read More

Video-based modeling enhances online training for Minn. Teachers

Like many states across the country, Minnesota has implemented strategies to improve mathematics education that include higher standards, greater accountability, and increased access to challenging curricula. Still, the teacher’s role remains central to mathematics reform, particularly for elementary teachers who set the stage for students’ future success in math. Content-specific, practical professional development for these teachers is therefore crucial to the success of these reforms.

Unfortunately, as financial resources shrink, providing professional development to these teachers has become alarmingly cost-prohibitive. Time, funding, and logistics pose significant barriers to all schools, but particularly to those in rural areas where wide disbursement of faculty makes regular face-to-face meetings expensive and inefficient. Even if financial and technical resources were available, often there simply are not enough qualified trainers to reach every teacher in need.

In 2002, Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) brought its digital video expertise into partnership with the Rational Numbers Project (RNP) in an effort to provide teachers and districts with wider, easier, and more cost-effective access to high-quality professional development. The RNP had in its repertory a five-day, face-to-face workshop for mathematics teachers that gave our collaborative project ideal source material on several levels: the workshop’s effectiveness was backed by 20 years of research; its content (focused on increasing student understanding of fractions through the use of hands-on manipulatives) lent itself to online adaptation; and the RNP staff people trained to lead the workshop were few in number but high in demand. …Read More