App of the Week: One-stop shop for research and writing

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from the editors of Graphite.org, a free service from Common Sense Education. Click here to read the full app review.

Citelighter Education

What’s It Like? Citelighter is an engaging online platform designed to support students and teachers as they tackle the intricacies of the writing process. Students simply sign up and download the Citelighter toolbar or work on the Citelighter website. Students can work on Citelighter’s platform to research topics and construct their own written work or use the Citelighter toolbar to search and cite from the open Web. On the platform, students follow a series of scaffolded steps predetermined by their teacher; they’ll explore leveled articles and various multimedia content (videos and images) before they begin writing a paper. As students find useful excerpts, capturing and organizing is as simple as highlighting, clicking, and dragging. Citations are automatically saved and referenced in a bibliography.

Price: Free/subscription

Grades: 3-12…Read More

Can growth mindset theory reshape the classroom?

Growth mindset holds that every learner has the potential to excel. How could it impact education?

Great teachers have long known what research is beginning to prove: an individual’s mindset — as much, or even more so than ability — can have a profound impact on their success in school and beyond.

But until recently, noncognitive skills like perseverance and self-motivation sat at the periphery of an education debate centered on the measurement of skills like reading and math. That is beginning to change.

Books on noncognitive skills pepper best-seller lists. Policymakers have taken note of a growing body of research that proves our abilities and intelligence can be developed. The recent revamp of the federal K-12 education law, for the first time, introduced terms like “well rounded” into the policy lexicon, opening the door to inclusion of non academic factors in accountability plans.…Read More

Researchers: Math needs a more visual approach

Stanford University researchers aim to dispel the belief that students should not use their fingers to learn mathematics

Taking a more visual approach to math instruction at the K-12 and higher-ed levels could dramatically change brain development as it relates to future math success, according to a new paper from Stanford researchers.

SEEING AS UNDERSTANDING: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning,” supports the use of visual mathematics and developing “finger discrimination” in students because it could result in higher math achievement.

According to co-authors Stanford University mathematics researcher Dr. Jo Boaler and brain researcher Dr. Lang Chen, the human brain can visualize a representation of the fingers during math problems. This provides an opportunity for further research and pedagogical development.…Read More

What does research really say about iPads in the classroom?

Two educators put the research to the test. When (and how) are iPads most effective?

Popular mobile devices may come and go, but the iPad has remained a hit in the K-12 classroom. But even though they’re in schools, our work with teachers has led us to understand that while many of them would like to use iPads meaningfully in their classrooms, they can’t because of time, access, and training.

So for the past year and a half, we’ve both been working with teachers and university students integrating iPad technology into the classroom in a controlled way. While doing this, we came across several outcomes that made us question and dig deeper into what the research actually says about using them in the classroom. Do students and younger teachers use them more effectively? Do they work better for some student populations? It’s probably not giving much away to say that the most important learning outcome we found was that experience is the greatest teacher.

First, a note about who we are. Jeanne is a teacher (elementary and part-time professor) and Tanya is a university professor (former special education teacher) who loved using technology as a teaching tool. Jeanne wrote several grants to bring technology into her school and her classroom but she kept noticing that she was flying solo—very few of her school’s teachers were using iPads in the classroom beyond the usual Friday afternoon fun time and as a reward for being “good.” We wanted to know more about this resistance and hesitation when it came to the use of iPads in the classrooms.…Read More

The 4 essentials of a successful Genius Hour

Genius Hour projects may be open ended, but there are still some ground rules

What are you passionate about? What do you want to do more than anything in the world? Well I hope you said what you are doing right now. This is not always the case. Some people hate what they are doing. They may hate it because it pays too little, but being a teacher doesn’t make me very wealthy and I love what I’m doing. More importantly, people may hate their job because they would rather be doing something else. This is where I think we can do better in education.

As educators, we can help our students find and explore their passions. Once they discover what they’re truly passionate about, the learning and engagement will never stop. The best way for students to explore their passions is through Genius Hour.

Genius Hour isn’t new concept. Many teachers and businesses have been doing this for a while. Companies like HP and Google started “20 Time” so their staff could pursue passions projects and make their organizations stronger. Similarly, teachers have allowed students to read any book and present a book report in any format for a while now, giving them a chance to indulge their interests while learning. Of course, the true concept of Genius Hour is more open than a book report. It recognizes the need for students to have the freedom to explore their passions and not be restricted.…Read More

Classroom observations may hurt teachers more than they help, study says

Classroom observations — one of the most widely-used forms of teacher evaluation — might be setting teachers up to fail

Teachers might be at a disadvantage during classroom observation of their instructional practice, which is one of the most widely-used tools for high-stakes job performance evaluations. And whether or not students have a history of high classroom achievement could be the reason why.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) indicates that evaluations based on observing teachers in the classroom often fail to meaningfully assess teacher performance.

The study, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, adds to the ongoing policy debate over when and how teachers should be evaluated.…Read More

10 steps for making your online courses accessible for all students

New report highlights 10-step plan to applying Universal Design for Learning online

universal-UDL-learningAccording to a new report, incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in online courses not only benefits students with disabilities, but can have significant benefits for all students, ultimately increasing retention and improving learning outcomes. UDL is tough enough in a face-to-face environment, but the real challenge might be how to implement the principles in an online world where students’ abilities and learning styles differ drastically.

The recent report, written by three professors at Montana State University, aims to help educators involved in online learning implement UDL for teaching both general and diverse populations, including students with disabilities.

The authors note that while, ideally, UDL allows students with disabilities to access courses without adaptation, it can also help to improve learning—and, therefore, retention—among all students.…Read More

Research: Digital media could aid early math skills

Study of early learners reveals media content from the show PEG + CAT could help improve children’s critical math skills

math-skillsChildren who used media content from PBS KIDS’ series PEG + CAT showed improvement in critical math areas involving ordinal numbers, spatial relationships, and 3-D shapes, according to researchers at EDC and SRI International.

Parents and caregivers also showed greater comfort and confidence in supporting their children with math concepts and problem-solving strategies.

The randomized Ready To Learn study was based on a sample of 197 children ages 4 to 5 years old, primarily from low-income families, in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area.…Read More

Do online charter schools measure up?

A three-part research study indicates that online charter school performance may be underwhelming

online-charter-schoolsNew research offers evidence that online charter schools post weaker academic performance and struggle more to maintain student engagement than their conventional brick-and-mortar peers.

The National Study of Online Charter Schools, released Oct. 27, analyzed online charter school operations, policy environments, and their impacts on student achievements.

The three-volume study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, describes the achievement effects of online charter schools.…Read More

Researcher asks: Does the SIS build or dismantle trust?

One researcher is poised to take a fascinating look at Student Information Systems and the data they collect

trust-sisFor all the hand-wringing, media attention, and proposed legislation over data and student privacy the academic research on the topic may just now be starting to catch up. And when it comes to the student data-collection linchpin that is the Student Information System, that research is just about nonexistent.

That’s according to William G. Staples, a sociologist, professor, and director of the Surveillance Studies Research Center at the University of Kansas. Staples has a history of researching both surveillance-related topics and also more standard sociological fare, and is the recent recipient of a small Spencer Foundation grant that will enable him to conduct some research with relevant school and public stakeholders around the SIS and how its data is being used in the interests of students. Staples recently spoke with eSchool News about his upcoming research.

eSchool News: How did you get involved in this line of inquiry? You’ve done some previous research into surveillance? …Read More