How student-created VR can enhance SEL and special ed

Quality social-emotional learning (SEL) and effective special education (SpEd) programming look remarkably similar. Each relies on a positive, safe learning environment and touts activities geared toward student strengths and weaknesses. Both types of programming facilitate a group experience where individual outcomes are designed to be disparate, be recorded, and used to track growth. Because these two types of programming are similar in philosophy, it should come as no surprise that both SEL and SpEd can be enhanced and expanded by innovative edtech solutions—most notably, student-created virtual reality (360 VR videos).

The benefits of VR

VR is proving to be an effective engagement tool in diverse ways: visiting museums around the world, blasting off into space, etc. But VR does not have to be limited to geography and science classrooms. By using student-created, perspective-taking videos, VR can be a powerful experiential tool that aligns with and augments both SEL and SpEd outcomes.

When students put on a headset to view these types of videos, they are stepping into another life, another story. They will find connection in the familiar and discover meaning in what they perceive to be different. Students then begin to develop perspective-taking skills, resulting in newfound levels of relationship skills (communication), self-management (emotional control in response to a story), and social awareness (empathizing with the storyteller). As a bonus, viewing VR films is an incredibly immersive experience, making student engagement—often a legitimate challenge—easier to achieve.…Read More

5 Big Ideas for Education Innovation in 2019

Over the last year, education innovators around the country continued to pursue expanded definitions of student success, personalized approaches, and wholly new models of school. For many, the very real challenges of change management and discovering ways to promote scale with quality dominated 2018. But for those conversations to go a level deeper, we can’t assume that these new measures and new models are fully baked or that everything deemed “new” is at it seems. Looking ahead, here are five big ideas I’ll be watching for in 2019:

1. ‘Unbundle’ what we mean by SEL.
Social-emotional learning. Soft Skills. Habits of mind. These critical but sometimes elusive ideas have gotten their fair share of love over the past year. But pulling back the curtain on the research base, the paltry supply of reliable SEL assessments can make the current energy around SEL interventions feel anemic at best, and hollow at worst. Like personalized learning, “SEL” now connotes a bundle of concepts and aspirations that may need to get unbundled in order to be useful. In that vein, in 2019 I’m most excited to watch emerging SEL point solutions targeted at specific, narrow skills or dispositions. These innovations are focused on doing a few things really well. For example, GiveThx, the brainchild of Leadership Public Schools’ teacher-entrepreneur Mike Fauteaux, plucks off one particular emotion and skill: gratitude. In a similar vein, Kind Foundation’s effort, Empatico.org, focuses on experiences that inspire empathy across classrooms. I’ll be watching models like these that offer narrower on-ramps to more rigorous measurement and targeted interventions within the exceedingly broad SEL landscape.

2. Commit to threading the coherent curriculum needle.
Speaking of the murky waters of personalized learning, rumblings (and occasional shouts) about the fragmented state of curriculum to support personalization have been building for years. One of the fundamental tensions we hear articulated is whether a coherent, evidence-based, off-the-shelf curriculum is better than a potpourri of lessons that teachers and leaders assemble—and in some cases build—themselves. Although these debates are not unique to personalized environments, personalization hinges on a commitment to tailor learning experiences to individual students. But the more varied those experiences and resources are, many worry the less rigorous and coherent curriculum becomes. Through the lens of our own Modularity theory, these tradeoffs aren’t unique to curriculum per se: across industries, a modular approach can be more affordable and flexible, while integrated solutions are pricier but better at pushing the frontier of performance. In 2019, I’ll be keeping an eye on how districts and schools manage to strike a balance between the tradeoffs of modular and flexible versus integrated and coherent approaches to curriculum.…Read More

Tech directors: Here’s how to truly support multi-screen classrooms

Today, education is far more flexible and collaborative than a generation ago, and technology is key in enabling teachers to quickly adapt lesson plans to suit the moment’s activity. Having multiple screens that a teacher or student can wirelessly project to, along with the ability to switch between sources in seconds, means that teachers aren’t tied to the front of the classroom any more. They are free to roam around to small groups, to see what students are working on simultaneously, and to call attention to particularly high-quality work or ideas that challenge and stimulate.

But all that technology does students little good if it can’t function properly because your school’s IT infrastructure isn’t up to the job. At Central Coast Grammar School in Australia, when Director of Teaching and Learning Damon Cooper pushed for more flexible and collaborative classrooms, we knew we would have to redefine our infrastructure.

Prototyping a vision with spare parts
For more than a year, Cooper piloted his vision of multi-screen classrooms by piecing together whatever spare parts we had on hand. If I retired a screen from another part of the school or had a spare from a bulk purchase, he wanted it. Over that period, Cooper worked closely with me to prototype his vision. That work functioned as a proof of concept and fit nicely with our strategic plan, which called for an increased focus on digital literacy, greater collaboration, and developing students who can produce and publish digital work.…Read More

The other gap that schools aren’t talking about—relationships

The NAEP scores released in April set off a flurry of headlines about the sobering state of achievement gaps across the nation. The general consensus? Despite pockets of promise, and slight declines in gaps by race, achievement data reveal that gaps by income have remained relatively flat, or uneven at best.

The news for young people on the wrong side of these gaps, however, may be worse. Measuring opportunity in terms of household income or school quality, as education reformers are prone to do, doesn’t paint the whole picture. Students today are competing on an even more complex playing field, one that’s often masked by statistics on income and achievement gaps. A well-resourced childhood introduces a whole new set of inequities between rich and poor students, and those whose parents have or have not earned college degrees: social gaps.

Gaps in students’ networks matter immensely in both immediate and longer-term measures. Research groups like the Search Institute have shown that developmental relationships drive everything from higher grades to persistence in school. Down the line, an estimated 50 percent of jobs come through personal relationships.…Read More

Taking on teacher attrition

We once believed that teacher effectiveness dramatically increased for the first three to five years on the job and then plateaued. But recent research suggests that substantial growth in effectiveness can be seen for the first 12 years on the job, and likely longer. This suggests that teacher quality develops over time and that experience can influence effectiveness.
We also know that students who have highly effective teachers for three years in a row can score 50 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who have less effective teachers three years in a row.

But academic gains are just one of the outcomes of high teacher effectiveness. Research showed that as teachers gained experience, their students’ absenteeism rates declined. Experienced teachers tend to be better at classroom management and motivating students, resulting in fewer conduct issues and higher attendance.

And then there are soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate and problem solve, think creatively, and be empathetic. These skills—which have been linked to higher employment, greater job satisfaction, and lower crime rates—are developed, not taught, and teachers are a huge part of that development.…Read More

How 5 states are rocking education data

States are on the right path when it comes to using real-time education data to inform teaching and learning, but they should continue taking critical steps to improve data use, according to a new report.

The Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) Show Me the Data 2017 report highlights strides made by states in their education data reporting and ways they can make their report cards clearer and more useful so that parents, educators, community members, and policymakers have the information they need to make decisions that help all students excel.

The report cards in the report help show if schools are serving students equitably, and the information, including test scores and postsecondary enrollment, can give school leaders a look at school performance and pinpoint existing inequities.…Read More

5 questions we should be asking about student screen addiction

Numerous voices have emerged in the last two years to warn us about the effects of digital screen addiction on children. These voices include Adam Alter in his book “Irresistible”, Nicholas Kardaras in his book “Glow Kids”, Jean Twenge in her Atlantic Monthly “iGen” article, Delaney Ruston in her film “Screenagers”, and Anderson Cooper in his 60 Minutes “Brain Hacking” segment.

They have told us that our screens are as addictive as any drug, that they fragment children’s attention, consume an inordinate amount of their time, isolate them from others, reduce the time they spend exercising, cut into their sleep, reduce the quality of their study and learning, diminish their cognitive functioning, and make them anxious and depressed.

They have told us that tech companies have a deep understanding of the mechanisms of screen addiction, and that they use this understanding to make apps super-addictive. Facebook co-founder Sean Parker affirmed this point in November during an interview with Axios in which he said that Facebook was all about “…how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible (by) exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. We understood this consciously, and we did it anyway.”…Read More

NEA Learning and Leadership Grants

Learning & Leadership Grants support NEA members for one of the following two purposes: Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes, conferences, or action research; and grants to groups fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson plan development, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff. Deadlines for applications are due February 1, June 1, and October 15 each year.
Deadline: June 1, 2017

Categories Uncategorized

Are students buying what schools are selling?

Calls for innovation in education seem to get louder by the day. “Innovation” has become the catchall term for the urge to make up for what our current system lacks; a system that, on balance, is neither delivering an equally high-quality education to all students, nor designed to reliably prepare young people for the modern workforce.

From there, of course, opinions about what sorts of innovations we ought to invest in, and to what end, vary politically and philosophically. At the Christensen Institute, we’ve always divvied up these wide-ranging ideas into two main categories, which Clay Christensen first identified in the 1980s: sustaining and disruptive innovations. Those categories are helpful in identifying the dimensions along which organizations are improving and how new business models can displace existing ones. But disruptive innovation theory has little to tell us about whether a particular innovation will be successful.

Enter Clay Christensen’s newest book, Competing Against Luck, out earlier this week. In it, Christensen and his co-authors Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David Duncan chronicle the coming of age of another theory that may prove just as, if not more, powerful than disruptive innovation: the theory of jobs to be done.…Read More

Study.com selected by Department of Education for EQUIP experiment

Study.com, in partnership with Thomas Edison State University and Quality Matters, has been selected to participate in the Department of Education’s Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP). The program will allow low-income students access to financial aid for nontraditional education and training programs through partnerships with select colleges and universities.

The partnership between Thomas Edison State University and Study.com offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. At least half of the coursework in these programs will be completed by taking Study.com video courses.

“I am honored Study.com has been selected for the EQUIP pilot. Equal access to a bachelor’s degree is the key to upward mobility for low-income students, and the foundation for success in today’s knowledge economy,” said Adrian Ridner, CEO and Co-founder of Study.com. “The Thomas Edison State University and Study.com program will provide an accelerated and flexible path to a bachelor’s degree at a fraction of the cost.”…Read More