Social learning networks promote student engagement, global awareness

When students engage with other classrooms around the world, their effort is ‘through the roof.’

Think about it … what do kids want? What do you want? How about the chance to be masters of tasks, have lives with purpose, and have the choice of when, where, and how when it comes to engagement in learning and teaching?

The classroom is no longer a physical place. Perhaps it never has been. Learning is experiential and it occurs, usually not on schedule, but 24 hours a day. What does this mean in an age of Common Core standards and high-stakes testing? The Common Core standards seem to fit well with students’ need for critical thinking and higher-order thinking skills. I doubt that the high-stakes testing philosophy fits well at all. As a teacher, I can’t help but ask if it even fits anywhere!

One of the goals of a social studies curriculum is to ensure that students are aware of different cultures and geographies—including how these are similar to or different from their own. Social learning communities make this easy. They offer a window to the world.…Read More

Readers: Five ways to motivate students

“Students need to know that someone truly cares about them when they are in a classroom,” said one reader.

We recently highlighted a report from the Center on Education Policy that looked at how schools can motivate students. Now, here are some of the best ideas from our readers.

We asked readers: “What are some ways/tactics/activities you implement to motivate students?” Their advice ranged from “be there for your students and let them know you care about them,” to “entice them with technology they use with their friends.”

Here are five of the best responses (some comments have been edited for brevity). What do you think of these ideas? Do you have any stories of your own for how to motivate and engage today’s 21st-century learners? Be sure to leave them in the comments section!…Read More

ISTE 2012: Educators seek the brass ring of student engagement

Robinson pushes for more personalized education.

“Redefining horizons: Encouraging students’ passion to achieve” is the theme for this year’s International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference—but in what looked like a scene that was more appropriate for a rock concert than an ed-tech show, it was educators’ passion that was evident in the overflowing crowd that appeared for the opening general session on June 24.

Though ISTE traditionally has been the largest educational technology conference in the U.S., with dwindling school budgets and the growth of online options, attendance has been down at national education trade shows in recent years.

But at ISTE’s 33rd annual conference, held in San Diego, the surging crowd and squished-in volunteers holding signs reading “Hey, it’s crowded” outside the opening general session suggested that educators are eager for new ideas in their classrooms.…Read More

University research will evaluate physical data to gauge teacher effectiveness

GSR technology could give an advantage to 'tyrannical' teachers, Ravitch says.

A student’s physical reaction to a classroom lesson soon could be used to judge how successful—or unsuccessful—an educator is in keeping students engaged.

Researchers and Clemson University received a nearly $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November to study Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets, which house sensors that measure a student’s physical reaction to learning—such as increased sweating—and uses the data as a way to grade an educator’s performance.

Wireless sensors produce readouts showing whether students are alert, anxious, bored, or excited in the classroom, and as Clemson researchers determine the reliability of this experimental technological gauge, many in education are skeptical of the GSR bracelets as a mainstream classroom tool.…Read More

Panel: Evolving technology has great classroom potential

Interactive, mobile technologies present limitless learning opportunities.

Technology, when used properly, has the potential to increase student achievement and engage students in learning. But the overwhelming number of technology devices and solutions sometimes leads to technology use that does not enhance teaching and learning.

At the AFI SILVER Screen Education SchoolDocs conference in Silver Spring, Md. in late June, a panel of education experts discussed the challenges facing 21st century educators who may become overburdened by technology’s potential in the classroom, and shared their own best practices and solutions on how to implement technology for effective use.

The challenge lies in keeping up with the times—young people don’t passively observe when it comes to technology, and they shouldn’t be forced to be passive listeners or observers when it comes to learning, the panelists said.…Read More

Can Twitter use help improve grades? Some researchers think so

Twitter use helped students communicate more with their instructors.

Twitter use might be more than an extracurricular activity for college students, according to researchers from three universities whose work suggests that using the popular microblogging service to discuss academics could help bolster student engagement and success.

In an article published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning Nov. 12, researchers unveiled findings from a midsized college campus that suggest students who communicated through Twitter during and after class had a GPA of about a half-point higher than students who didn’t use the social media site.

Students who used Twitter also scored higher on a student engagement exam administered at the college, which was unnamed in the article, titled “The Effect of Twitter on College Student Engagement and Grades.”…Read More

Like Facebook, but for learning

Studying online in collaborative environments encourages students.
Studying online in a collaborative learning environment can motivate students.

Aiming to engage students who are multitasking with different forms of technology, companies are creating collaborative learning spaces online where students can help one another solve homework problems and study—all while building important 21st-century skills.

One such social-networking study site is Grockit, which currently offers test-prep services and is expanding its focus to include math and English for students in grades 8-12, with history and science soon to follow. Grockit has opened enrollment for a free Summer Enrichment Academy, which is designed to keep students from falling behind during summer vacation as they participate in collaborative group study forums online.

Grockit’s appeal lies not only in the fact that academic support from peers is free, but also because students are motivated to learn through the company’s social-networking and gaming platform, said Grockit CEO Farb Nivi. As online social networking becomes a ubiquitous aspect of youth culture, sites such as Grockit could represent the future of education technology.…Read More

Free tool lets students participate during class

Microsoft's free program allows for collaborative PowerPoint presentations.
Microsoft's free program allows for collaborative PowerPoint presentations.

Joining in the effort to keep students engaged in the classroom, Microsoft on April 30 announced a new addition to its PowerPoint software that allows students to participate in classroom presentations. The best news: It’s available free of charge.

The new tool, called Mouse Mischief, allows teachers to add multiple choice, yes/no, and drawing questions to their presentations. Students then use any computer mice (any device from the school will work) to answer these questions. The tool also allows for whole-class or individual student responses.

“We’ve observed classrooms around the world, and it’s a no-brainer that technology has the power to engage students—but not every classroom has the budget to afford new technology,” said Nasha Fitter, senior product manager for Microsoft in an interview with eSchool News.…Read More

Can social media cure low student engagement?

Students can access an array of education applications of Facebook Courses.
Students can access an array of education applications from Facebook Courses.

Keeping college students and their professors connected through social media outlets could be key in boosting graduation rates, education technology experts said during a panel discussion at Social Media Week in New York.

Social Media Week ran through the first week of February in five cities worldwide—New York City, San Francisco, London, Sao Paulo, and Toronto—and authorities from the business world, academia, and other fields discussed how social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are shaping global culture.

During a Feb. 6 session called “The Future of Social Media in Higher Education,” a five-person panel explored how colleges can use social networking to communicate with traditional and nontraditional students, what impact the new Apple iPad might have on student-faculty communication, and why Blackboard is not meeting some students’ social media needs.…Read More