Teaching Practices


Recently,  Dr. Diane Ravitch the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (New York Times review here) sat down with Alan Gerstel from The Education Network in Palm Beach County to discuss her book, her views on educational reform, and how best to prepare schools to meet the challenges of the future. As a former policymaker and member of the administrations for both the  Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton, Dr. Ravitch has particularly interesting views on school reform, testing, and the impact reform efforts have had on teachers.

Below is the full interview which may also be seen on the local broadcast of The Education Network carried in Palm Beach County on Comcast channel 97.

In Palm Beach County we all (mostly) know and love the great curriculum resources provided by BrainPOP, and it’s companions–BrainPOP Junior and BrainPOP en Espanol. Our usage of these services is through the roof, and our teachers report over and over again how much they and their students love BrainPOP and the engaging content that the service provides.

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Now, through a comprehenisive study conducted with our own teachers and teachers in New York City schools we can back up how we feel about BrainPOP content with a scientific study that measured the impact of BrainPOP on student learning gains. To say the results are striking would be an understatement.

Looking at the chart here you can see the differences in learning gains measured using the Stanford 10 diagnostic test. Students in the BrainPOP groups had substantially greater gains than those in the control groups where BrainPOP was not integrated into the curriculum. Reading from the Executive Summary of the BrainPOP Effectiveness Study conducted by SEG Research you learn that:

Students who were in classes that used BrainPOP showed substantial growth in Science, Language,
and Reading Comprehension and more moderate gains in Vocabulary, during the course of the
study. Students in classes using BrainPOP increased their SAT 10 Language scale-scores by 24
points, their Reading Comprehension scores by 17 points, their Science Scores by 17 points, and
their Vocabulary scores by 11 points (see Figure 1). Students received approximately 16-20 weeks
of instruction using BrainPOP, yet the amount of growth achieved is equivalent to between one and
two grade levels of growth when compared to the national sample of students
included in the
Stanford 10 norm group (Harcourt Assessment, 2002).(emphasis added)

In addition to the Executive Summary you can read the full, detailed Report on BrainPOP Effectiveness at this link.

A companion study conducted at the same time found that “the use of multimedia instruction can significantly enhance student learning if properly designed and implemented. BrainPOP uses animation, voice, characters, diagrams and more to motivate and engage learners in curricular topics. Read the full research paper – Understanding Multimedia Learning: Integrating Multimedia in the K-12 Classroom.

Our thanks to the teachers who participated in this study and to the great people at BrainPOP who gave our teachers instruction on its most effective use in the classroom. I had the pleasure of sitting in as Allisyn from BrainPOP Educator’s worked with our teachers to examine our benchmarks and demonstrate how lessons that support and enhance instruction can be found in BrainPOP’s library, and shared how she had used different kinds of content in her own classroom. The remarkable thing about the approach that the entire BrainPOP organization takes is how totally focused they are on creating authentic, fun, engaging learning experiences for kids. In a world run amuck with multi-media of all kinds, it’s often a tall order to get the attention of students and get them focused on your learning objectives. Based on this study, BrainPOP content does just that–engaging learning in the classroom in a way that leads to measurable gains.

Of course, no one, not even the folks at BrainPOP, claims that this kind of multi-media content engages every kind of learning, or is the best and only use of classroom computers. But clearly BrainPOP is far more than simply a modern-day version of the filmstrip if used as intended–as an awesome and fun (even!) curriculum add-on to get help kids get focused and excited (even!) about learning.

Back in August, Kim posted here about word clouds, specifically using Wordle to build them. I found this extremely timely interactive website while reading Larry Ferlazzo’s blog. The New York Times has created an interactive look at the language of presidential inaugural addresses. The most-used words in each address appear in the interactive chart, sized by number of uses. Words highlighted in yellow were used significantly more in each inaugural address than average. Included is the full text of each address as well.

After listening to President Obama’s, can your students (or perhaps as a whole class) use Wordle to create their own?

As many of you may remember, Lee Kolbert wrote an entry on September 2nd about a very rousing and motivational speech given by Dalto Sheman, an amazing student in Texas.   At the time the post provided a link to the video that was not viewable within our district’s network.  Someone recently reminded me of this young man so I thought I would re-post with a version than can be viewed from school!  Well worth sharing with your students!

ENJOY
 

I will be the first to admit that I can use plenty of help when it comes to my ability to remember lists of facts, or organizing my thoughts.  I will bet that many teachers are familiar with ways to become better thinkers and I’d love to here them.  Here’s a link to a really immpressive list of things you might consider useful in improving your own thought processes.


 This interactive list of ideas and information surrounding ways to improve your cognitive skills comes courtesy of Jessica Merritt and can be found at http://www.find-schools-online.com/blog/  This list has something for everyone. 

Please feel free to comment on your favorite or on any that you think are not worth the time.

Me neither but I felt like I was very close!

Today, I had the pleasure of video conferencing with a 5/6 grade class in Central Butte, Canada. Participating in the activity was (teacher) Barb Mcinnis (& her students), Tim Lauer (Portland, Oregon), Tom Barrett (Nottingham, England) and Dean Shareski (Moose Jaw, Canada). This is direct from Mrs. Mcinnis’ class blog

:

The grade 5/6 students had the chance to meet people from different parts of the world thanks to wireless technology!  On Tuesday, November 4 we participated in a web conference.  We had the opportunity, thank you to Dean Shareski (division technology) to interview educators from Nottingham, England;Portland, OR; Florida; and Moose Jaw via a web cam.  We were able to see and talk to these individuals. We first asked them questions to try and locate them, then we talked about the wireless technology that exists in their classrooms and schools.  Wow!  there are sure some great pieces of technology being used!! This project came about from an article we had read called “Get Set For the Net”. This article helped us understand how past inventions lead us to the wireless age we live in. Most of the students take this age for granted and do not realize the negative and positive effects it can have on our lives. We watched “Smart Guy:Stranger on the Net” to help us become more “Net” smart. Then we decided to do something positive and exciting with our wireless technology.

I’d like to commend Mrs. Mcinnis for her innovative vision as she seeks out relevant technologies to make learning for her students relevant. Wouldn’t you love to be in her class? This is an easy and free activity that took less than 40 minutes and can easily be replicated in YOUR classroom. Where would you find another class to communicate with? Try ePals, for starters.

This is the edited version that Dean created (5 min):

This is the entire conversation (40min):

Thank you, Dean, for asking me to participate. It was truly a pleasure to “meet” Tim, Tom, Mrs. Mcinnis and all of her students.

P.S. I hope my clues (about where I live) still have them stumped!!

The Technical Stuff:
We used Adobe Connect to have our online conversation and I recorded the session. When we were finished, I downloaded the video in .flv format (the default for recorded Adobe Connect sessions) and then uploaded that file to our school district’s Vodcast server (Video On Demand). I was then able to copy the code (anyone know how to read code??? Certainly not me, but I know how to copy and paste!) and pasted it into this blog. Code like that can be pasted into ANY webpage, including Edline! The video is also available on MediaShare along with a description so other teachers can easily access and replicate similar activities in their classes.

An excellent and thought-provoking article appeared in the New York Times this week, and the teacher who published this piece speaks eloquently about the challenges of teaching and learning in a technology-driven environment. In “Putting Technology in Its Place”, teacher- blogger Matthew Kay discusses his experiences in a one-to-one laptop school. His article makes a couple of excellent points that serve as reminders that technology in the classroom has to be about teaching and learning and not about the technology. Here are some of the tastier bits, but do read the entire article–and just as importantly–read the comments that come after the article. That’s where you see the beginnings of the collaboration that takes place on the modern Web.

“…technology provides sexy alternatives to older methods of instruction and assessment. (I once) spoke about my “podcast year” — when, as a first year teacher, I discovered the joy of digital microphones. Every piece of creative writing was recorded, an activity that ate up entire class periods. By the time I reached a unit where it actually made sense to capture student voice (speeches), the kids were ready to fight me. I too had allowed myself to be distracted.

Technology is also expensive. The kids have to buy insurance, and they constantly lose and replace parts. Schools feel the pinch, too. There is the myth about the Soviets using a pencil when we spent millions developing a pen — and I’m sure that’s how many feel about schools using technology. In hard economic times, there certainly is an argument to be made against unnecessary expenses.”

And yet, as he sums things up, Mr. Kay still finds incredible value in the role technology plays in the education of today’s students.

“As important as it is for students to expand their sense of community and learn to collaborate — it is more crucial that they learn how to sift thoughtfully through increasing amounts of information. The Internet presents a unique challenge to scholarship — many of the questions that once required extensive research can now be answered with 10-minute visits to Google. The issue now is distinguishing between rich resources and the online collection of surface facts, misinformation, and inexcusable lies that masquerade as the truth. It will be hard for our students to be thoughtful citizens without this ability to discern the useful from the irrelevant.”

Hmm. Being able to discern the useful from the irrelevant. Now there’s a 21st Century skill!

If you wold like to add a little personality to your Edline page, possibly lighten up the presentation of some of your content, or try and inject some creativity into your project based learning. I recommend checking out Go!Animate. You’ll find this web based publishing program at www.goanimate.com and it does require an email to create an account, but the service is free and FUN!! Here’s an example of something I put together in about 15 minutes, and I am still learning the interface. Your students will amaze you!!
Get Creative!!

Spelling City

Here’s a great way for elementary teachers or parents to help your students practice for those weekly spelling tests that we all know and love!  Also, you can search for a huge number of provided lists that cover a large range of age appropriateness, and content specific subjects.

As a teacher or parent, you can very easily create a “weekly spelling list” that can be accessed at home with a username and password of your choice. You have the choice of making your list public and searchable, or keep it private so only your students will know how to find it.  No email or identification is required of the student, and when they log in, they will be presented with several very interactive ways to learn their words. They can hear their words, take practice tests or play one of several games.
Jump in and give it a try!  I am using it with my children and they really seem to enjoy it.  I am sure you’ll find the same results with your students.  Let us know how it goes, and if you’ve shared any great new lists!

5th grader, Dalton Sherman, was the keynote speaker for the Dallas Independent School District Convocation for the school year 2008-2009. His motivational speech is incredible.

Do you believe in your students? If you can spare 8 minutes and 55 seconds, I urge you to watch this and show your students that you believe in them.

If you are watching this from school, the video below will not play because YouTube is blocked. Instead, please click here. The full text of his speech is available here.

(crossposted from here)

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