A New Era of #SpecialEducation–a video

Illuminate Education has an interesting video (on-demand) about Navigating a New Era of Special Education. Here’s a preview:

Research shows that more students will not meet grade-level benchmarks this fall due to COVID learning disruptions. In this on-demand webinar, experts provide guidance on how to ensure students receive adequate supports while reducing unnecessary special education referrals. Watch it now.

If you’re looking for more resources on special education in your classroom, check out our resources:

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

How Wearable Technology is Changing Education and Easing Disabilities

Favorite Shortkeys for Special Needs

How Smart Tech and IoT are Making Educational Spaces More Accessible

Is Orton-Gillingham Right For Your Students?

A Helping Hand: Assistive Technology Tools for Writing

3 Great Special Needs Digital Tools

Long list of Special Needs Websites

@illuminateeducation @illuminateed #specialneeds #specialeducation

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Getting up to Speed: Teacher Prep and Technology Integration

We know technology is a challenge for veteran teachers. It wasn’t part of their teacher training program so they rely on school PD to fill the many holes in blending tech with education. What is surprising is that many teacher programs don’t prepare their graduates well for the rigors of using technology to meet current educational requirements. That is made worse by the demands of a post-pandemic classroom that often operates online, remotely, or a hybrid. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Christian Miraglia, 35 years as a teacher and now an educational consultant for T4Edtech, has a good discussion on that:

For many years I served as a master-teacher for prospective teachers from various universities in my area. In my interactions with the candidates, I found that although their coursework focused on methodology and practice, it invariably lacked a technology integration component. It was clear that as I  worked with these up-and-coming teachers, their first exposure to the integration of technology was in my classroom. I can only imagine a teacher entering the workforce now who has to contend with the basics of teaching and then realizes that there is a whole other component of the equation that they were inadequately prepared. 

In the report, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, published in 2017,  the Office of Technology Education recommended that:

“Institutions responsible for pre-service and in-service professional development for educators should focus explicitly on ensuring all educators are capable of selecting, evaluating, and using appropriate technologies and resources to create experiences that advance student engagement and learning. They also should pay special care to ensure that educators understand the privacy and security concerns associated with technology. Institutions cannot achieve the goal without incorporating technology-based learning into the programs themselves.”

And here lies the problem. The pandemic affected every school district in the nation, yet many of the university programs still lack the technology component in their programs three years later. Exposed now are deficiencies of utilizing online learning management systems that school districts face. There should be a concerted effort to focus on this area.

Moreover, sending teachers into the workforce without adequate training is equivalent to sending doctors out to practice without learning to treat specific ailments. The student today learns much differently than students did five years ago. Moreover, the general use of technology has changed. There is an increased movement towards personalizing the educational experience, practiced with student agency and choice on assessments. For a teacher, this translates into knowing what students use and understanding these platforms themselves.

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Remote Learning Varies Around the Country

Remote learning used to be for snow days or virtual schools–alternatives to the traditional. Now, all public schools are coming up with remote learning plans. But they vary. Here’s a great article in K-12 Dive on that subject:

Geography, socioeconomics created significant variation in pandemic learning plans

Remote learning plans filed by school districts last year in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming varied by connectivity, geography and poverty levels, according to a report from the Regional Educational Laboratory Central. For example, 73% of districts with high connectivity included plans for social and emotional learning and support — compared with 50% among districts that had less connectivity.

Read on

For more about teaching during the pandemic, check out these articles from Ask a Tech Teacher:

10 Digital Platforms to Teach Remotely

10 Tips for Teaching Remotely

Teaching During #CoronaVirus–An Old Strategy That’s Perfect

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Artificial Intelligence in Education: Anecdotal Evidence

Artificial Intelligence has made its way into our classrooms. Good or bad, only time will tell but some early reports say there are some real positives about using AI-powered program to boost literacy. Here’s an article from Hechinger Report, a national nonprofit newsroom that reports only on education, that’s pretty interesting:

Can an AI tutor teach your child to read?

When Jaclyn Brown Wright took over as principal of Brewbaker Primary School in Montgomery, Alabama, she knew she needed to figure out a way to boost literacy rates. At Brewbaker, which in 2020 served more than 700 students in pre-K through second grade, nearly 20 percent of her students are English learners and 71 percent are economically disadvantaged. In 2019, a year before Brown Wright was hired, less than 20 percent of students were proficient on the school’s reading assessments, the principal said. Brown Wright knew the stakes were high: In Alabama, students can be held back if they are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Read on…

We’ve discussed artificial intelligence often at Ask a Tech Teacher. Here are a few articles you may find interesting:

Digital Assistants in the Classroom

8 Practical Ways to use AI in Learning

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Using Tech Wisely in your Classroom

With everything going on–remote and hybrid teaching, worries about COVID safety, stress of adapting to seminal changes in education–it’s easy to forget that technology is a huge plus. The challenge is to keep it simple, safe, and sane. APN News has a great article on tools that make that possible.  Here’s a peek:

Top 5 online learning tools for a healthy development of your children’s mind in 2021

The introduction of technology in the education sector has played a pivotal role in offering various opportunities for young learners. The benefits of e-learning are tremendous. For this reason, the country has witnessed an exponential boost in the use of online learning platforms.

Read more…

Check out these other articles from Ask a Tech Teacher on similar topics:

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3 Ways To Foster Digital Citizenship in Schools

#ISTE had an interesting discussion on how to foster digital citizenship in schools. This is especially critical because students are spending so much more time than ever before online. Here’s a peak at their conversation and then a link to the rest:

3 Ways To Foster Digital Citizenship in Schools

For teachers, it can be difficult to know when and how to instill digital citizenship skills. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to weave digital citizenship into the school day and for parents to reinforce it at home. ISTE has a few suggestions:

Read on…

For more on Digital Citizenship, check our K-8 curriculum here and these additional articles:

Digital Citizenship Week–Here’s What You Need

Tech Ed Resources for your Class–Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship (Middle School)

Digital Citizenship (High School)

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4 ways to use Tract in the classroom

If you haven’t heard of Tract, it’s a new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. The platform focuses on student growth and learning rather than state or international standards (it does meet them–just don’t look for that in the detail). The purpose of its videos, hands-on projects, and more is to spark student creativity, empower them to explore their own passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by high school and college-age peers who clearly show their love of the subject. Students engage through tasks, projects, and peer interaction. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by teachers to ensure its educational rigor.

Click for a more detailed review of Tract or visit Tract’s website here.

When I dug into Tract, one (of many) pieces that appealed to me was how well it fit into so many parts of a student’s education journey. Here are a few of my favorites:

Afterschool program

It’s challenging to persuade students to think deeply, especially after a long day of learning. Using Tract as an afterschool program changes that. This can be a one-day activity or longer.

Here’s how it works:

  • Students pick a subject from the many offered by Tract, watch a peer-presented video on the subject (like how to make mac and cheese or what are some careers with animals), and complete a project which is shared with classmates.
  • If students are inspired to dig deeper than what is shown in the Tract learning path, you can have them research in the ways used in your school–online, classroom books, or something else.
  • When the project is finished, students present it to classmates, maybe parents, as an evening event, a virtual event, or during the program time.

Summer program

I often use student-choice activities in summer programs. They are student-directed, student-driven, and provide a plethora of differentiation for varied student interests. The problem is, too often, they become complicated to administer and confusing to follow. That won’t be the case with Tract. It offers plenty of choices to students, presented as an easy-to-understand step-by-step process that is intuitive and clear, and fulfills the platform’s promise to be inspiring and engaging.

Here’s what you do:

  • After students sign up for your summer class, ask them to pick either among Tract’s many learning paths or from a group suggest by you that fits the summer school theme.
  • Students can work individually or in groups as they dig into the topic and complete the project(s).
  • If students require it, offer training in video production for youngers or those not comfortable creating their own learning path.
  • Students present their completed missions to the group or parents.

Depending upon the length of the summer program, you can offer one or more learning path opportunities. This option is easily adapted to remote or hybrid learning because everything can be done online, including the presentations (using a platform like Google Meet or Zoom).

Enrichment program for high achievers

Enriched learning for high-achieving students, like GATE (Gifted and Talented), Honors, AP (Advanced Placement), and IB (International Baccalaureate), often requires teachers augment daily class activities with additional lesson plans and resources. Tract simplifies that process to where it barely takes any additional teacher time. Students who finish regular work select and pursue topics offered through the Tract platform that build student creativity, critical thinking, and independence.  Because these learning paths are intuitive and peer-to-peer, they require minimal adult guidance and give students considerable independence in their work.

Here’s how it works:

  • Students finish the regular curriculum requirements and then access the Tract Learning Paths to select one that appeals to them or one from a group suggested by the teacher.
  • Because these projects are designed to be student-driven, teachers can expect students to work independently at their own pace.

Tract is available online which means inside and outside the classroom, anywhere the student is. High-achieving students appreciate that learning isn’t confined to the four walls of the school building.

A nice side benefit: These projects are enticing enough that other students will want to try them. Of course they can, once they, too, finish the assigned work.

Develop SEL 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. The importance of SEL has made it a sought-after add-on to a school’s curriculum. Unfortunately, too often when I talk to colleagues, SEL has become another layer on top of an already bursting education day. There are SEL curricula, rubrics, toolkits, videos, parent guidelines, and more. You’ll be happy to know if you’re enrolled in Tract, you don’t need any of those:

“Using Tract can help to promote the development of social-emotional learning skills as students become self-aware as they design their own project and track growth, build social awareness as they learn from their peers, and build relationships during the learning process.” – Rachelle Denè Poth, Getting Smart

The most effective way to develop social-emotional learning in students is to make it integral to their education. That’s what Tract does.

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If you want to put project-based, peer-to-peer learning into practice, you’ve found the right platform with Tract. Be one of the first 1,000 to request access at teach.tract.app. Use the access code ASKATECHTEACHER to get your free Tract teacher account.

–This post is sponsored by Tract. All opinions are my own.

#tractapp


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.

Tech to Help With Masks

The pandemic has changed teaching in many ways–remove vs. in-person vs. hybrid for one, the need for internet access in homes for another. Schools struggle to find the right technology to address these many changing needs. One that caught my eye was reported in The Dispatch–technology to address the sometimes garbled communication that results from speaking through masks. Here’s their interesting story:

New tech installed at SOCSD helps with teaching through masks

Starkville High School student Peyton Willoughby sat in his 10th grade English class Thursday not worried about struggling to hear his teacher because of new technology installed in the classroom.

As his teacher discussed poems and literary elements, information flowed throughout speakers across the entire room, giving Willoughby the assurance that he was obtaining all of the necessary material.

“For me, I really love (this new technology),” Willoughby said. “I think it’s absolutely amazing because the teacher can be up and vocal and moving around while still maintaining that audibility … it makes the teaching much more engaging and more enjoyable.”

Read on…

For more about teaching through COVID, here are a few more articles:

Teaching During COVID-19

Teaching Online During COVID-19

8 Ways Parents and Teachers Support Remote Teaching


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How Tech-savvy Teachers Do It

Education Week had a great article on how teachers are expanding their use of technology in the classroom. Here’s a peak:

5 Practices of Truly Tech-savvy Teachers

Education Week caught up with select teachers and instructional coaches who shared their thoughts on some essential practices to effectively implement technology into the practice of teaching. Some were discovered or honed during the pandemic. All offer lessons for job seekers wanting to present in-demand knowledge and skills, as well as districts and schools that are seeking truly tech-savvy teachers.

Click for more…

Here are some articles from Ask a Tech Teacher about teachers using technology in their classes:

19 Ed Websites to Fill Spare Classroom Time

Digital Assistants in the Classroom

Tech Ed Resources for your Class–K-12 Tech Curriculum

Classroom Activities for Earth Day

How teachers address cell phones in class

How Tech Enhances Class Performance

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