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Education reform

5 reasons why outdoor learning is vital for young children

Great reminder about the importance of play from one of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors

Outdoor education might sound like a modern fad to many. However, there are so many advantages to this that it is critical for young children. Continue reading to find out why.

  1. Dispel the myth that learning only occurs in school

Many people, not just children, believe that learning only happens within the school building. It is something formal, something strict, and something planned. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, teachers aren’t the only educators in a child’s life; parents, siblings, grandparents, club leaders and so on all play a part.

  1. Apply learning in different contexts

If children only learn about the value of money within a classroom, they may not be able to apply that skill to their own lives. For example, a child who has the opportunity to go to the shop and spend a dollar will understand the concept of exchanging money for an item far better than someone who only completes a worksheet based on it. The same goes for skills like measuring. Why should children only be made to measure the length of things within a classroom? In the great outdoors, people building enclosures for their animals, a new fence for their garden or setting up a campsite will all need to use the skill of measuring. Furthermore, understanding the use of technology within life outside of school is vital too. Many teachers encourage the use of an electronic device to help measure or a website to support learning.

  1. Promotes active lifestyle

“Stop running!” School buildings are a place where you must not run or jog, unless of course, you are a teacher in a rush. Rules can be broken then. When classrooms are done badly, they create passive individuals. Learners who follow the rules, but who are not fully engaged in what they are doing. Take the pupils outdoor,s and what do they do first? They run around! There are fewer limitations imposed on them and it allows them to not only be active in terms of their engagement, but also their physical selves. Who says that a child can’t successfully learn their times tables while taking part in games outdoors?

  1. Learn through play

Learning through play is the most common method of education for young children. Play comes naturally in the great outdoors as there are fewer limitations and more opportunities. This preschool Utah outdoor space just shows what is possible. Although a classroom setup may have a role play area, for example, it also has more formal areas in which children know they will have to sit and learn. Spending time outdoors and allowing the children to create their own opportunities for learning is essential. Anna Ephgrave’s Planning in the Moment approach is perfect for this.

  1. Physical and sensory approach works for younger children

Many children rely on a physical and sensory approach to learning when they are young. The outdoors is the obvious choice for many to have this opportunity. It seems much more acceptable to encourage water and messy play outside.

Although we feel strongly that children should be actively encouraged to spend time outdoors during their early years of education, the advantages can certainly continue into later life too. It is also vital to ensure the environment itself is fit for purpose, providing prompts and apparatus to support their learning.

More on play and learning

Kid-created Games That Teach

How to Blend Learning with Play for a Kid-friendly Summer

Should You Unschool?

Learning and Playing and Why Both Matter for Teachers


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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Curriculum-based Assessments–A Powerful Diagnostic Tool

Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA), often equated with Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), is any form of assessment that measures progress toward fulfillment of a stated curriculum. More succinctly:

“…repeated, direct assessment of targeted skills in basic areas using materials taken directly from the teaching curriculum”

While CBA is assessment based on the curriculum, it isn’t chapter tests from a text. The latter measures student achievement of a particular set of lesson knowledge while the former measures student achievement of the broader class goals. CBAs are useful not only to measure student learning within a unit but over time toward larger goals.

How does it work

There is no setup required to start using CBA — no website signup or software download. What you will have to do — and may already do — is identify the criterion you are committed to accomplishing with students. These will be beyond what is required of the State or National standards and may or may not align perfectly with the textbooks you use. They are developed by you, likely in conjunction with grade-level teammates and your school administration. They help you identify your goals and the resources required to achieve them and then measure progress toward their completion.

Once these are in place, you devise the assessments — formative and summative — that will provide the evidence of achievement. This is done exactly as you would normally develop assessments during a unit of inquiry to evaluate progress and — at the end of the unit — to evaluate success with one big difference: Curriculum based assessments evaluate progress toward broad learning goals rather than textbook chapters or lesson plans.

You continue to teach classes as you normally would, with lesson plans, projects, and resources aimed to teach critical standards laid out by the school, the State, or the nation. These may be augmented with a scope of criterion — sometimes replaced with a Scope and Sequence or Curriculum Map — to be used as references in measuring learning. Here you will carefully identify the criterion CBA will use to provide and measure evidence of learning. These can be 1) measured against what is expected (called “benchmarks”), or 2) measured against prior assessments.

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5 Ideas for Teaching Students the Most Important Skill They’ll Need

Every teacher I know  understands it’s not the 3R’s or science or even history that provides fundamental skills for thriving in life. If you doubt that, read the quote below from a Harvard professor about the half-life of learned skills. No, it’s something more basic, more intuitive, and happens to be the holy grail of teacher goals for students. 

Learn how to learn

Here’s how to make this easy, from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor:

***

In the past, a university degree provided a majority of graduates with the skills they needed to succeed in their chosen careers. In the 2020s, this is no longer the case. Today, according to research conducted by Harvard Business Review and Deloitte, a college degree typically provides students with skills that have a half-life of only 5 years.

That means it won’t be long before even college-educated employees will need to upskill or retrain to remain employable.

The main takeaway: Learning how to learn is the single most important skill that our students will need to master if they hope to participate meaningfully in the fast-paced, technology-driven workplace of the future.

Yet many students do not have a solid understanding of how to effectively go about the process of upskilling. According to research published in the Instructional Science journal, individual students experience a broad variety of differentiation in their understanding of how to undertake the learning process. Sadly, it is possible for some students to make it all the way through twelfth grade without ever fully grasping the basics of how to learn.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how this could happen. As educators, we are each tasked with teaching our students a specific body of knowledge. The knowledge typically encompasses highly focused topics such as reading or math or biology. We know our students will be tested on the knowledge that we’ve been trusted to impart to them. Our livelihoods directly depend on whether or not they will excel at the resulting tests. There isn’t room in our workdays to deviate far from the material that will be covered on the tests. 

Rarely, it seems, is anybody ever specifically tasked with teaching students a step-by-step course in how to learn. Yet, collectively, if we fail to teach them this skill, we ultimately fail in our mission to equip our students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in their careers — and also to succeed as functioning members of a technologically advanced society.

How, then, can we take action to teach our students how to learn? The following are five ideas we might each have the opportunity to implement as we approach the task of teaching our everyday curriculum to our students:

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Categories: Education reform, Online education, Teaching | Leave a comment

13 Teaching Strategies to Shake up Your Remote Teaching

As we struggle with adapting our classes to remote learning, I know lots of teachers who are realizing that their normal approach isn’t suited for remote teaching. They need to come up with a transformative tool that will reach students more comprehensively, more rigorously, more granularly online. Here are thirteen accepted pedagogical teaching strategies with proven records of success. Read through them then think how they might be applied to solve the problems you’re having with online teaching. For more information, click the link:

Depth of Knowledge (DoK)

DoK is not a taxonomy (like Bloom’s). Rather, it itemizes ways students interact with knowledge.

Frayer Model

Frayer Model uses a graphical organizer that asks students to describe words by much more than a memorized definition. 

Growth Mindset

In a Growth Mindset, people believe ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. The cerebral and physical traits they were born with are just the starting point. Students are responsible for setting the patterns and strategies that allow them to succeed, by evaluating what they can do at any given point and making a plan for learning everything else.

Habits of Mind

In the face of mounting evidence, education experts accepted a prescriptive fact: student success  is not measured by milestones like ‘took a foreign language in fifth grade’ or ‘passed Algebra in high school’ but by how s/he thinks.  Habits of Mind lists sixteen of these.

Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham is not a packaged curriculum, rather a prescriptive program designed for each individual student. The O-G teacher incorporates phonology and phonological awareness, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax and semantics into a personalized methodology 

Project-based Learning (PBL)

John Dewey suggested the education focus be switched to students when he introduced “learning by doing”, today referred to as Project-based Learning (PBL).

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Categories: Classroom management, Education reform, Teaching Strategies | Tags: | Leave a comment

How to Assess Digital Literacy

digital literacyOn my blog, Ask a Tech Teacher, I run a column called Dear Otto where I answer teacher questions about how to integrate technology into their classes. Of late, the most common question is, “How to I assess student digital literacy?” with a close cousin, “I am the tech integration specialist. How do I assess faculty digital literacy so I can teach them what they don’t know?”

Happily, both can be accomplished the same way. But before I tell you how, let’s step back and talk about the meaning of “digital literacy”.

What is digital literacy?

The definition of digital literacy is pretty much what you’d expect:

“the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” –from the American Library Association

In the past, I discussed the eight skills required for students to be considered digitally literate. Today, I want to focus on the need to assess digital literacy and what tools are available to do this.

Why assess it?

Especially today–in a COVID-19 world–this is a good question. Here are the five most common reasons schools feel the need to assess student and faculty digital literacy:

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Why College Matters for a Successful Career in Tech

There is a lot of conversation about college vs. career–the pros and cons of each weighed against the needs of individual students. Here’s a thoughtful article from Peter MacCallister, an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, on why college is a good idea even when considering a career in tech:

Why College Matters for a Successful Career in Tech

Technology is one of the areas where self-education, or autodidacticism, can bring outstanding results and allow an individual to achieve professional success without holding official certifications to prove his knowledge and skills. Self-taught people study better without guidance and prefer to have full control over what, when and how they study. Why would such a person interested in a tech career spend thousands of dollars to go to college instead of learning at home? The reasons are plenty so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

A Prestigious College is a Playground for Networking

Getting into a highly-ranked college or university can give your career an incredible impetus if only for the fact that you’ll be surrounded by intelligent and accomplished people with similar interests. Colleges offer countless possibilities for networking both with professors who are experts in your field and with fellow students.

Imagine having attended classes with Elon Musk or Warren Buffet as a fellow student at an elite institution like the University of Pennsylvania. Good colleges and universities are filled with incredibly driven and passionate students from whom you can learn a lot and with whom you might collaborate professionally one day. Having many bright minds in one spot increases your chances of meeting future visionaries in your field.

Colleges Have an Extensive Network of Resources

At first glance, it seems that programmers, software developers and other tech professionals need little more than a computer with an Internet connection to develop their skills. However, no matter how motivated and passionate you are, there is a cap to self-education. A point comes when you need serious output from the external world to continue to grow at the same rate.

Libraries, laboratories, expensive software licenses, access to reputable academic journals and career assistance – all these represent only a part of the wide range of resources that a good university provides to students so they can excel in their field. Hunching over your computer for weeks and months to find a solution to a problem that your peers have solved long ago is counterintuitive. Meanwhile, having access to valuable resources allows you to keep in touch with the latest developments in the sector and make sure you stay on track.

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Categories: Education reform, High School | Tags: | 1 Comment

Teaching Online During COVID-19–More from my Inbox

I am so proud of how the education community has stepped up to the challenge teachers face to continue the learning despite apocalyptic changes in the delivery system. Definitely this means teachers, administrators, parents and students, but I also include the companies and resource providers in the education ecosystem.

Here’s a sampling of the many and varied emails I got this past week offering help:

  • New Remote Learning Tools and Resources
  • How to teach remotely

New Remote Learning Tools and Resources

Zoom is also offering a free upgrade to educators to help them to teach remotely during the pandemic. Here are a few tips on using Zoom to teach remotely:

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Categories: Education reform, Online education | 1 Comment

Resources You Need During COVID-19

My inbox–probably yours, too–is flooded with suggestions, how-tos, and don’t-do’s, on teaching online as a strategy for dealing with Covid-19. Though I’m not happy about the reason, I’m thrilled at the interest in online classes. I’m an adjunct professor – online only–for a variety of major universities (CSU for one). I’ve taught many years in both environments and love online teaching because it is flexible, diversified, self-directed, and self-paced. I agree with many studies—that online is more effective (one from IBM).

As I received the onslaught of teach-online resources, I collected those that made the most sense. Below is a short curation of the most useful articles, links, resources, and webinars to help you through this challenging environment:

Online articles:

Resources, tips and more for remote and e-learning (teaching online) — from Educational Technology Guy

Tools to prepare for school closures–suggested by Common Sense

Advice for new Online Teachers–from EdSurge

Navigating Uncertain Times: How Schools Can Cope With Corona virus–from EdSurge

Understanding the Impact of Coronavirus on K-12 Education–from EdSurge

Newsela COVID-19 resource center (and free access to their paid products this school year)

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8 EdTech Trends to Watch Out for This 2020

As always, education is changing. There are so many new ways to differentiate for varied learners, back-fill for some while enriching others without slowing anyone down. Being a teacher and a learner today is awe-inspiring. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Wally Clipper, has a great run-down on 8 trends you’ll want to watch in 2020:

8 EdTech Trends to Watch Out for This 2020

Technology has vastly disrupted and improved numerous sectors around the world, be it the government and banking, or retail and marketing. Unsurprisingly, technology is also impacting the world of education. In fact, a study on Forbes found that global education technology (EdTech) is one of the fastest-growing segments today, and is expected to be worth $252 billion by the end of this year.

While EdTech has been helping schools and other educational institutions a lot since it was introduced, its benefits have grown even more this year. From digital certificates to learning analytics, here are eight EdTech trends to look forward to in the coming months.

Video-assisted Learning

Gone are the days when teachers had to drag TVs into classrooms to let students watch films. Now, nearly every classroom is at least equipped with a screen and projector. Additionally, Chron reports that some schools have even replaced the usual blackboard and whiteboard with smartboards this year. These devices double as both a whiteboard and a screen. Plus, they have apps that let you interact with whatever’s projected onto them with the touch of a finger.

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10 Great Virtual Reality Apps

The potential impact of Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom can’t be overstated. It has become the most exciting education device in a decade, enticing students to become engaged in pretty much any topic that includes a VR overlay. As a learning tool, it’s affordable, inclusive, and worth the moderate learning curve required to get it up and running.

Let me step back a moment and explain what VR is. HowStuffWorks defines it this way:

using computer technology to create a simulated, three-dimensional world that a user can manipulate and explore while feeling as if he were in that world. 

Marxent explains it simply as:

the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Virtual Reality’s most immediately-recognizable component is the head-mounted display (HMD). 

If you (desperately) want to unpack this revolutionary tool in your classroom, there are lots of online resources — some free, some with a fee — available to address a wide variety of education needs. Here are my favorites:

900 VR Expeditions

If you use the Expeditions app (see below), here’s a curated spreadsheet of 900 free expeditions available to you and your classes.  It is crowd-sourced and sorted by tag, name, Panorama title, location, brief description, link, with a cell where teachers can note any additional required materials.

On a separate tab of the spreadsheet is a similar curated list of augmented reality expeditions, for those who have that technology available.

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Categories: Education reform, Teacher resources | Tags: , , | Leave a comment