How many times have you experienced teachers who based report card grades on how well students complete classwork, homework, and quizzes? They mistakenly conflate these exemplars with learning. For example, a book report may require a certain number of written (or typed) pages or paragraphs rather than evidence that the student drew conclusions and summarized knowledge.
That’s changing. Today, many educators want to not only evaluate progress at a point in time but optimize that against the ongoing standards their school mission is built on such as Common Core, International Baccalaureate, NGSE, or TEKS.
What is Standards-based Grading
To accomplish this, many schools and Districts have turned to Standards-based Grading. According to Tomlinson and McTighe, standards-based grading (SBG) “measures student proficiency on well-defined course objectives.” This means students have clear guidelines for how to define success over time, making it easy for all stakeholders in a student’s learning to determine if they are accomplishing what must be done for college and career. It de-emphasizes subjectivity by providing an objective delineation of requirements.
Here’s a good four-minute video overview of SBG:
Over the years, I’ve struggled to teach in ways my students would understand. Standing at the front of the classroom stopped working so I researched (and tried in some cases) Whole Brain Teaching (WBT), Socratic Method, Understanding by Design, Mindfulness, and a lot more options that colleagues mentioned as helpful with their differentiated student groups. They all worked for a while and then, maybe when the novelty wore off, I was back to the same Bell curve of successes, failures, and those in between.
The same could be said of Standards and curricula adopted in my varied teaching gigs. That includes everything from Common Core to the IB philosophy, from Depth of Knowledge to Project-based Learning. I confess, I found it frustrating. Everything worked for a while and nothing worked in the long term.
That’s when I heard about John Hattie at an education conference I attended and his concept of Visible Learning. John Hattie is a teacher but more significantly, he’s an education researcher. His life’s goal is to determine what education strategies work best for the largest number of students. He engaged in a fifteen-year evaluation of over 50,000 research articles and something like 240 million students — making it the biggest evidence-based education research project ever — and discovered something no one expected and few believed: Almost any approach will work if delivered well. The one foundational element required for success is passionate, involved, committed, flexible teachers:
“The remarkable feature of the evidence is that the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers.”
How can that be? According to John Hattie, what he came to call “visible learning” happens when we teachers look at what we’re doing:
“Visible teaching and learning occur when there is deliberate practice aimed at attaining mastery of the goal, when there is feedback given and sought, and when there are active, passionate, and engaging people (teacher, students, peers) participating in the act of learning.
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m taking a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: Organizing your classroom
18 webinars (more added as they become available), approx. 30 minutes each, show how to set up your classroom to be tech-infused.
For years, my teaching revolved around textbooks as my resources. When the Internet arrived, I — as did my colleagues — adopted it mostly for two reasons: 1) research — in place of the library, and 2) rote drills, such as supporting math practice. But that has changed. Using the Internet in classrooms has morphed from optional to organic. In fact, it’s transformed 21st-century education, offering a normative tool for adapting to varied student needs, a scalable approach to differentiating for student learning styles, and a collaborative must-have with its vast offering of virtual meeting and storage options. It is regularly called the “present and future of education”, “one of the central features of modern school reform”, and “the newest way to personalize education”.
For many teachers, it’s fundamental to a style of teaching called “blended learning” (sometimes referred to as “hybrid learning” or even “flipped classroom”). Blended learning occurs when an education program combines Internet-based media with traditional classroom methods. For example, a unit on space is supported by a virtual chat with an astronaut from the space station or his Houston training facility. What used to require school buses and lots of time now is accomplished more effectively for less money through the Internet.
But blended learning is more than simply replacing lectures and books with web-based technology. If you follow the SAMR model, this type of substitution is the lowest level of the pyramid. When technology is mixed agilely with traditional teaching methods to deliver a more rigorous, more purpose-built program, it moves your class to the top SAMR levels — Modification and Redefinition — by replacing less-effective approaches (like pictures) with more-authentic methods (like a virtual visit to a zoo).
Created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design (UbD) is a lesson planning approach that visualizes the end result (what students should understand) to better select learning activities (the path that will get students there). Tens of thousands of educators use it for unit and course planning; hundreds of districts and schools use it as the basis for their curricula. Look at who has adopted UbD:
- the College Board, to guide the revision of its Advanced Placement (AP) subject matter courses and for the development of its courses AP Seminar and AP Research
- the framework for the national curriculum in the Philippines and Puerto Rico
- the state of Massachusetts, for its Race to the Top federal grant program to create more than one hundred exemplary units and associated classroom videos
- the Next Generation Arts Standards
Additionally, the two largest textbook publishers, Pearson and McGraw-Hill, use the UbD framework in many of their textbooks and programs, similar to this example from Pearson’s biology curriculum.
Today’s guest writer is Finja Kruse, a teacher experienced in different educational tools and engaged in creative writing activities in school. You can contact her via LinkedIn. Her article today can be summed up by a line in the last paragraph:
“Technology is not your enemy…”
Educators aim to equip students with an understanding of the world, its fragility, & opportunities, by teaching them various common subjects like math, language, or science. By learning various subjects simultaneously, integration between them and relativity to the world outside of academia can sometimes get lost in translation. Luckily, this is where effective explanation comes in, and thanks to 21st-century technology there are plenty of ways to explain just about anything.
Topics like health, history, geography, music, etc. are often integrated on the web, whether lessons are on the same video hosting site, LMS system, or free online academy. So, the emerging approach of blended learning is becoming more bound by technological glue per se, and tools that provide a broad spectrum of knowledge intake or creation and allow for a wider range of application opportunities are becoming more and more popular.
Using the cloud to store, share, and collaborate in the classroom is relatively new. A decade ago, accessing schoolwork from home was just about impossible. Now, it’s easy through sites like Google Drive and OneDrive.
Mary Davis, a guest writer for Ask a Tech Teacher, specializes in cloud computing. Here are her thoughts on how cloud computing is transforming today’s education:
Cloud computing technology is certainly having its moment these days. Growing in popularity and with no signs of slowing down, the cloud is said to be the “way of the future”. In short, the access to online storage and applications that today’s cloud technology provides us with is significantly easier, cheaper and more secure than any form of memory storage in the past. This is of a particular importance to the way educational institutions are run, as it allows for a streamlined experience that can be more easily maintained by the teacher, the student, and the IT department.
The collaborative properties of cloud computing are appealing to both students and teachers. Gone are the days where group projects require huddling around one computer with the slowest classmate typing. Students can now collaborate with other students and teachers in real time, without necessarily even having to be in the same room.
Students learn best when they are relaxed, happy, and feeling loved. It is challenging to include those characteristics in classes when you are concurrently trying to achieve school goals, comply with curriculum timelines, juggle parent concerns, and blend your lessons with those of colleagues.
This is where mindfulness becomes important. It reminds teachers that the fulcrum for learning is the student’s emotional well-being.
Let’s back up a moment: What is mindfulness? Buddha once said:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
If that’s the plan, mindfulness is the path. It teaches students how to quiet themselves — get to a place where their mind is settled sufficiently to pay full attention to the task at hand. Experts offer many suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your classroom experience. Consider:
- pause and take a deep breath before beginning an activity or in the middle of performing it
- reflect on an activity as a group
- reflect on the student’s own experiences and background and how that relates to the topic
Delving into these rudimentary steps isn’t the goal of this article (find more about that in Janelle Cox’s TeachHUB article). Today, I want to show you how to take the incorporation of mindfulness into your classes to the next level. Here are five ideas:
In these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.
Today’s tip: #126: 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech
Sub-category: Teaching, Pedagogy
Here are seven ways to differentiate instruction every day:
- While some students take their time to carefully finish a project as suits their learning style, others slam through the steps, looking for ‘what’s next’. Both are fine. Have a lot of authentic activities going on in your classroom so students are encouraged to work at their own pace. Let them self-manage their education. Be clear about your expectations, and then trust them to find their way. Have links on the class internet start page for organic learning like keyboarding practice and sponge websites that tie into subject area inquiry.
- Let students communicate ideas with not only text, but layout, color, and images. These can be graphic organizers like Venn Diagrams or pyramids, or an infographic made in ly. Let students
- Show students how to add pictures, borders, and fonts. Some students will tolerate the words to get to the decorating.
- Use online tools like Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker to review concepts. Move away from rubrics and study guides. Anything that gamifies learning will go down easier with students. They are digital natives so let them learn in a more natural way.
- In fact, gamify anything possible. There are an amazing number of high-quality simulations that teach through games–Minecraft,iCivics, Mission US, Lemonade Stand. Here’s a long list. There’s probably one for every subject. Take advantage of them.
- If students aren’t excited by the tools and widgets you offer, let them suggest their own. If they can make the argument for it, let them use it.
- Always offer do-overs. I call them ‘Mulligans’. In a differentiated classroom, let students redo an assignment. What if they didn’t understand? Or were sick? How does trying harder defeat education’s goal of learning? With technology, all students do is open their project and continue work based on your feedback. That’s cool. Rest assured: When you offer this in your classroom, most students won’t take you up on it. It’s too outside-the-box. You won’t be deluged with double the work. But, be happy if you are.
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four topics cover every aspect of our life. Science is our natural world, from the land we live on to the oceans and space we aspire to visit. It’s the weather that changes our picnic plans to the natural disaster that destroyed a town in our own state. Technology includes the iPads toddlers play on, the smartphones we use to guide our days, the apps that turn our lights on and off–or start our car. Engineering is why traffic flows smoothly on crowded roads and why bridges survive despite massive loads of trucks, and is the foundation for much research into global warming and alternative energy. Mathematics happens everywhere–at the grocery store, the bank, the family budget, the affirmative nod from parents to update a child’s computer to their agreement to add apps from the app store.
Every corner of every life includes STEM, which explains the increasing interest in STEM-educated students to fill the nation’s jobs. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. According to the Bureau of Labor and Management:
… jobs in computing and mathematics are projected to grow by 20 percent.
Significantly, STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. The reason: Students trained in STEM subjects think critically, develop creative solutions, solve problems rather than look to others for solutions, and create logical processes that can be duplicated in all parts of their life. STEM-trained students understand how to look at the forest and find the particular tree.