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Showing posts in January 2012  Show all posts >

Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day – Don’t Miss It!

Digital learning day

Have you heard of Digital Learning Day yet?  It’s happening tomorrow—February 1, 2012—and will be a celebration of the innovative use of digital technologies in education to engage students in rich learning experiences.  Digital Learning Day is likely to contribute valuable insights into the projected continued expansion of digital technologies in schools throughout the US.

According to the ed tech experts, in 2012:

  • Digital learning will help solve results and budget challenges. Digital learning will play a greater role in education as budgets continue to shrink.  Technology will help education improve results and lower expenses through blended learning models, with charter schools likely leading these efforts. 
  • Technology & content will continue to come together for more personalized instruction. A student learning revolution is coming that will be led by the integration of technology and digital content, resulting in a greater shift toward data driven instruction that addresses each student’s needs.
  • Teachers will build capacity to implement blended learning programs. In response to this student learning revolution, there will need to be a distinct change in teacher training and staff development to provide greater facility with blended learning models.
  • Student voice will be amplified. Competency-based learning will create a global push for more personalization and deeper learning through innovative online delivery.  Blended and online learning also will play a part in engaging students by allowing them to control some aspects of their learning experience, giving students a voice and providing adults new ways to advocate and support their pupils.
  • Gadgets and games that students love will play a greater role in teaching and learning. There will be more use of iPads and game-based learning programs in schools.
  • Improvements to tech infrastructure and social media will deliver connections and content we can’t yet predict. With greater broadband access for students both in and out of school, we will find improved content and resources to support learning. Educational efforts also will gain additional support through both learning analytics and social networks that connect teachers and other professionals.

Given these predictions, why not check out what Digital Learning Day has to offer?  Visit the Digital Learning Day website to sign up for the webcast or town hall meeting, learn about contests you and your students can enter, download toolkits (there’s a kit for just about anyone – from parents and teachers to school district and state leaders), and more.  You can also search “digital learning month” to find out how your state is celebrating digital learning all February long.

And finally, be sure to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already.  Because here, nearly every day is Digital Learning Day!

Reference:

See the full text of the experts’ predictions at: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/01/04/experts-share-their-ed-tech-predictions-for-the-new-year/

Related Reading:

10 Big Benefits of Using iPads in Schools

5 Ways to be a Better Teacher in Today's Classroom

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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Helping Low-SES Students Thrive

Helping low-SES students thrive

Studies and statistics have clearly demonstrated the link between low achievement and low socioeconomic status or SES. Still, studies have also shown that given the right conditions, every student – including those from less fortunate circumstances – have the opportunity to succeed. Not only that, but the kinds of changes that can increase achievement are available to every household, regardless of SES.

Factors linked to low-SES have been shown to have an effect upon readiness for school and achievement once a child has entered school. Circumstances include a household’s lack of financial wherewithal to devote to learning resources such as books, supplies and computers. Other contributing factors include lack of parental involvement; only 36% of low SES parents read to their kindergartners, compared to 62% in the highest SES students (Coley, 2002). In addition, parents of low SES households tend to be dual-income or single parent families who have limited time and energy at home to devote to meaningful engagement with their children.

That said, many successful students do come from low-SES homes. While some of this success can be attributed to the simple innate resiliency and drive arising from within the student, research has been able to tease out a number of common factors in such homes, where certain practices are clearly contributing to student success. 

Factors for Success

In 2006, Allison Milne and Lee Plourde studied this population, selecting six second-grade students from a Central Washington elementary school who came from low-SES homes but were also high achievers. While the number of students in the study was limited, Milne and Plourde outline a number of common factors in their homes that likely contributed to their success:

  • Educational content in the home: In all households, these students as early learners all had access to learning materials, such as books, writing material and structured time. All students attended preschool or Head Start.
  • Placing value on education: All parents held having an education as an important value, and made efforts to ensure that their children understood this value. Of the participant families, all parents had completed at least through the 10th grade.
  • Positive, supportive relationships: Regardless of family structure (single mother, guardian, two-parent, etc.), successful children’s families demonstrated patterns of support and open communication. Such parents expressed wanting open, respectful relationships with their children, and spent time with them having more adult-like conversations. They also indicated that they spent time together and had fun with one another. Finally, these families all had support systems of friends and family nearby to lean on in times of need.
  • Understanding of the parental role: When it came to questions about their job as parents, all expressed “eerily similar” answers, such as providing support and guidance at home, and making sure their children understood the essential nature of a good education. They also made sure that they set examples through their own behaviors that communicated such values to their children.

Even though this study was limited in its sample size, the implications and the opportunities are far reaching. If low-SES children have the support and understanding that we see in these households, financial status does not have to be the ultimate determinant of academic achievement.

For further reading:

Factors of a low-SES household: what aids academic achievement?

Education and Socioeconomic Status, American Psychological Association

Related Reading:

Changing the Culture of Poverty by Doing Whatever it Takes

What Educators Can Do About Poverty in American Schools

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Categories: Education Trends, Family Focus, Reading & Learning

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What Does The Marshmallow Experiment Tell Us About Self-Control?

Marshmallow experiment

What is the mark of a good student? Is it innate intelligence? Is it attention span? Is it drive? Studies show that a major contributor to success might be as simple as having self-control. Take, for example, the marshmallow experiment.

Place a single marshmallow in front of a four-year old. Tell them they can eat it now or wait 15 minutes and have it along with a second marshmallow.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Walter Mischel of Stanford University performed this very experiment with over 500 nursery school children. What percentage do you think was able to control their impulses and hold out for marshmallow number two? In the end, fewer than one in three children were able to wait it out for the two marshmallows. At four years old, they simply had not developed the ability to delay gratification required for the challenge.

Paired with recent follow-up studies with 155 of the same individuals, the marshmallow experiment has come to shed fascinating insights on the inner workings of motivation and gratification, and how the two contribute to future success in school and life.

In the end, these studies have shown that children who were able to resist that first marshmallow were also more likely to be able to “avoid substance abuse, maintain a healthy body weight, and even perform better on the SAT than peers who couldn’t resist temptation.” In another study by Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania, self-control was a better predictor of academic success than IQ.

Self-control: Innate or teachable?

Given the proven connection between self-control and life success, the question arises: Is it possible to develop tools that help people enhance self-control?

As it turns out, self-control is the result of processes in two parts of the brain. Our rational thoughts, such as “If I wait, I get the second sweet,” take place in the pre-frontal cortex. More urgent decisions take place in the more primitive ventral striatum. Decisions like these that connect to deeper desire and reward depend on the environment around us. In this second case, the thought process might be, “Gee, that marshmallow sure looks soft, sweet and yummy, and I really want it. Right now.”  Research has shown that the rational thoughts can often be derailed by the primitive limbic system; this is no surprise, given the importance of these systems to the survival of our species over the eons.

So, can we strengthen the ability of the rational side to win out over the impulsive side? One solution might just lie in helping young people change how they focus on the environment around them, such as helping them differentiate between “hot” and “cool” cues.  The limbic system deals with “hot” cues, activating emotions like impulse, anger, sadness, happiness and satisfaction. On the other hand, “cool” cues are processed in the frontal lobe and activate cognitive systems that control functions like planning, problem solving, working memory and reasoning. Returning to a variant of our marshmallow experiment, studies have shown that students who were coached to focus on “cool” attributes like color or shape were better able to resist temptation than those who focused on “hot” cues like taste.

Toward impulse-control interventions

Research is now underway to figure out how educators can better harness some of these insights into the power of impulse- and self-control to help students better achieve success. At the KIPP Academy School in New York, the marshmallow experiment has been used as a way to initiate discussions about self-control with 6th graders and help them make better, more rational decisions.

Ultimately, the ability to produce concrete strategies and tools that help students learn to control their impulses will depend upon the results of investigations that are still in the works. But eventually, if we are taking the research to heart, success will likely follow.

For now, if your students seem a bit impulsive from time to time, a chat about marshmallows might be just the thing to get them thinking.

Further Reading:

Study Reveals Biology Behind Self-Control

Related Reading:

Tips for Teaching Positive Behavior

Building Your Child's Self-Confidence

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Categories: Brain Research, Family Focus, Reading & Learning

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Seldon’s Story: Testing Out of Special Education

This post is the eighth in a series aimed at sharing the success stories, both personal and professional, that Scientific Learning employees witness every day.

“I think one of the reasons that this job has been so different from my other jobs as a classroom teacher or working in print has been my journey as I have grown to understand the Scientific Learning programs and how effective they are.  

The one student that I can call to mind very vividly is Danielle.  She was a 3rd grader and she had just recently qualified for special services.   Her district was having her use the [Fast ForWord] program over the summer.  

I had the chance to visit her and her district representative as she was going through the programs. She was having some real attentional problems and was also having difficulties in reading. She was really excited about going through the program and by the end of the summer she had really grown so much that when she went back to school in the fall, she actually tested out of her special education label. 

I was invited to attend the [Admission, Review, and Dismissal] Meeting and it was amazing to see her teachers look at the data and say ‘Wow - this happened over the summer!’ They were really in awe and, at first, disbelief.  They then realized she was able to focus, pay attention and be successful at the tasks she had to do at school.  She was able to be much more independent and be successful on her own.”

Related Reading:

Corey’s Story: My Son No Longer Needs Intervention After Using Fast ForWord

Sara’s Story: From 6 Months Behind in Reading to the Accelerated Reading Class

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Categories: Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Special Education

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Poverty in American Schools: What Educators Can Do

 

Poverty in American schools

PovertyInAmericanSchools

Many children from poverty arrive in schools with a host disadvantages, including low self-esteem, unstable relationships, and brain differences.  But with support, encouragement and the right interventions, every child can maximize their ability to learn and succeed.

Learn more about "teaching with poverty in mind" in our on-demand webinar by Eric Jensen, full of actionable ideas for getting the most from learning time with students, building learning capacity, accelerating the learning process, and getting better buy-in from educators and students.

Related Reading:

Changing the Culture of Poverty by Doing Whatever It Takes

Building a Foundation for School Readiness for Low Income Children

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School District Technology: Plan or Blueprint?

School district technology plan

You are looking to make changes to your school district’s technology infrastructure or offerings. You have a plan for what you would like.  But is it a blueprint?

Many times our school systems are put in the very difficult position of “expanding technology” or “finding online solutions” because funding becomes available on short notice or parents of students are putting pressure on the school system to buy more technology.  We get excited to go out and execute a plan.

Immediately talks happen to purchase tablets, desktops, interactive white boards, servers or maybe run new wire.  A plan is underway. 

The challenge from this is that many times expenditures come in higher than expected and we end up purchasing technology that does not ultimately serve as a solution to a specific problem, like declining test scores.  We have teachers with tablets in hand or interactive white boards on the wall, but with no direction on how to use either and for what.

Free Download
PDFDistrict Technology Blueprint
Template

We do not have a blueprint.

A blueprint ensures that your technology purchases have a measurable impact on a problem your school or school system faces.

So, how do you build a blueprint that will ensure that technology expenditures are building a measurable, core foundation in your schools and ultimately providing a solution to a specific problem like lagging reading scores? 

Here are a few things to consider when building a blueprint:

  1. Start with the end result in mind.  What result must be realized from this purchase?   (For example.  As a district, we would like to have a five point gain in writing scores in seventh grade from this purchase.)
  2. Know the scale of your purchase.  Does this need to truly serve every student or is a smaller scale a smarter direction?  There is no harm in starting small, piloting and expanding within your comfort level.
  3. Understand what supporting technology (software) will be needed to achieve the desired results.  Do your homework and pull research and results studies. 
  4. Know the specs of the supporting technology so that you can implement with fidelity.  The first time.   Does a school need a dedicated server?  Can the software run via web and if so what kind of pipeline will be needed to run it smoothly?  What processes need to be in place to install?
  5. Locate existing technology already in use to determine conflicts and/or updates needed.
  6. Put a training program in place for each site.  For virtual training, you will want to be able to monitor online participation to ensure that your expenditures are being used by the staff and not sit idle.
  7. Finally, build a multiyear blueprint for update.  You want to insure that you are looking out into the future for possible expenditures a planning ahead.

Technology is changing, fast. 

Statistics show that currently there are four students for each piece of instructional technology, which is significantly different from just a decade ago when it was twelve to one.  Even though students have more access now than ever, know that this number will change even more in the next five years.

Are you prepared?  Do you have a blueprint in place to make sure it is not just technology for every student, but technology that provides a solution to a specific set of problems?

Position the technology with a blueprint and engineer your way to results you can measure.

Related Reading:

Blended Learning Implementation Strategies for the K-12 Classroom

Using Data Effectively in School Districts: Tips for School Administrators

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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Building Your Child’s Self-Confidence

Vocabulary development

As parents, we want our children to have confidence but not conceit.  That is, we want our children to monitor the outcomes of their behaviors realistically, to be polite and considerate of others, but retain a sense of self that is positive and assured. I believe the mistake parents often make is thinking that constant praise of a child is the route to self-confidence. It is an easy mistake to make, especially in a society in which so much emphasis is placed on making our children feel loved and building feelings of self-worth.

I, like most new parents, constantly praised my oldest child for everything she did from swinging at the park without falling to reading a stop sign as we drove to preschool. But the problem with that is that excessive praise may create unrealistic expectations for the child when they are in the “real world” where people do not praise them all the time. I did not realize that for my daughter this was creating tremendous pressure to be successful at everything she did. Conversely, some children who hear constant praise at home may feel confused or dejected when others are not as enthusiastic about their feats and develop a fear of failure.

A young client of mine, whose mother worked very hard to build self-confidence in her children by praising them continuously, developed a host of voice problems associated with stress in elementary school.  I have worked with other children who developed a “need” for constant praise that affected their ability to enjoy competition if they could not win.

Since a large component of human brain maturation involves increased self-awareness and improved capacity for self-monitoring of behavior, parents have the opportunity to be instrumental in helping a child develop this advanced skill. By encouraging self-appraisal that is realistic while avoiding being overly judgmental, parents help their child build confidence. 

Instead of constant praise, parents can try to use praise more naturally to encourage behaviors the parent believes are worthwhile or beneficial. Statements like, “I like the way you shared your toys today” or “You seemed to be having a lot of fun on the climber, do you feel like you are getting better at that?” may help a child learn to value effort and progress as well as to self-evaluate.

It is important to remind ourselves that to adequately develop the ability to monitor our behavior we have to understand mistakes as well as achievements. It is very difficult for a parent to watch a child fail at something, but as adults most of us are well aware that some of the best lessons we had as we grew up came from our failures, as rough as they may have been at the time.

Building your child’s self-esteem ultimately will help them succeed in endeavors both in school and in life.  One of the most important jobs for parents is to help your child successfully through life’s challenges and successes, help them feel good about themselves along the way, and learn to accept mistakes as an opportunity to do better next time. 

Related Reading:

Ok, So You Made A Mistake. But Look What You Learned!

Shaming Some Kids Makes Them Aggressive

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Categories: Family Focus, Reading & Learning

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Six Reader-Selected Posts in Honor of Our 2nd Blogaversary

Second blogaversary post

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been two years since Dr. Bill Jenkins, Dr. Martha Burns, Sherrelle Walker, and a host of staff bloggers launched the Science of Learning blog.  In those two years we’ve learned a lot and had a ton of fun while creating posts we hoped you would find valuable.

In honor of the occasion, we’d like to share some of our readers’ favorite blog posts to date.  Here are just a few of the posts that readers have told us they’ve liked best: 

Kathy recommends: How Learning to Read Improves Brain Function

“As an adult literacy tutor, I was fascinated to read Stanislaus Dehaene's research showing that students who don't learn to read may experience severe difficulties with other forms of instruction as a result. This underscores the critical importance of funding such programs as Second Start Adult Literacy in Oakland, a city with a high level of adult illiteracy. And, fact-based research like this gives us a more powerful defense than emotion-based anecdotes, as we fight to protect city and state literacy funding. Thank you, Scientific Learning!”

Jennifer recommends two posts:

The Question Formulation Technique: 6 Steps to Help Students Ask Better Questions

“In a learning environment that tends increasingly towards 'teaching to the test,' our nation’s students are losing the skills crucial to a lifetime of knowledge acquisition.   Without good questions we cannot find good answers, good solutions, or grow good thinkers. This article outlines a tested method for teaching children how to go about formulating a complex and well thought out question.”

School Gardens: Sowing the Seeds of Experiential Learning

“School gardens are an invaluable interdisciplinary learning tool that gets students out of the classroom and allows them to use classroom knowledge in a real world scenario. A school garden acts as a place to learn, test out theories, and acquire life skills, as well as providing a space of beauty and an object of school pride.  In my time as a garden educator, I found the bounty of opportunity to teach in the garden near limitless, and believe that all children should have the opportunity to see what they can discover in the garden.” 

Teresa recommends two posts:

The Magical Combination of Love and Limits: Tips for Teaching Positive Behavior and Kindergarten Math Readiness and the Cardinal Principle

“All of the blogs have good information for parents, educators and caregivers, but the one I like the most is the one about love and limits. I think this post is applicable to all children.  The math readiness post is a close second, as I did not know about the "cardinal principle." If more parents knew about the information in the love and limits article, we would have happier and more well-adjusted children.”

Linda recommends: Bringing Learning to Life in the Classroom: Technology for 21st Century Schools

“I've got my backpack ready to take a 3-D field trip in learning!  This mode of education sounds incredibly exciting for students.  The sky will be the limit for learners who become engaged in this technology. Thank you Scientific Learning from a retired Maine Elementary School Counselor!”

Thanks so much for your readership and feedback.  We are already hard at work on more high quality posts for the new year, and are looking forward to sharing them with you.

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Brain Research, Family Focus, Reading & Learning

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Blended Learning Implementation Strategies for the K-12 Classroom

Blended learning strategies

Blended learning, the combination of independent online learning with supervised brick and mortar programs, is on the rise.  While there were 2.94 million students participating in a hybrid learning program in 2010, it is expected that the number will be 10.07 million by 2015.  

This growth pattern surpasses homeschooling, virtual schools and online charter schools.  Schools employing these methods believe that students are more engaged with a 24/7 access model and have seen improvement in both district achievement and graduation rates.  It does require a culture shift that includes a strong emphasis on trust, but there are many benefits.

Through a blended learning program, educators can move beyond the “one teacher, one textbook model” of education in a host of ways, including:

  • Allowing students to move at their own pace and excel
  • Providing “just-in-time” intervention
  • Grouping students more effectively
  • Providing real world experiences
  • Helping students construct meaning rather than just memorizing (and forgetting) facts
  • Creating learning opportunities across grade levels, subjects, departments and between teachers and students
  • Teaching problem-solving in multidisciplinary units
  • Encouraging 21st century collaboration through videoconferencing with authors, speakers and other students from around the world
  • Increasing productivity – both for themselves and students
  • And more

The trend toward blended learning within a district often begins in a specific school or grade level.  For example, some districts start using blended learning strategies with their alternative education program, as the students are monitored by teachers at the alternative school but are supported by their general education teacher’s instruction, which can be delivered virtually.  Others have found it makes sense to prepare students taking AP classes by providing virtual summer reading groups that include discussions and self-assessments in pre-class learning.

As blended learning takes hold with the starting group, the enthusiasm often quickly spreads when teachers see the opportunities for stronger student engagement and enhanced learning.  Some districts also have found it helpful to implement online professional development programs as another way to help teachers gain acceptance and make the transition to blended learning.

Teachers can build powerful learning systems over time by adding online components to their classes.  Starting gradually allows teachers to learn at their own pace and gives them a better understanding of what is needed on the teacher’s side to make blended and online learning more successful for students.  A simple way to begin is with a blogging program, posting stimulating questions to foster student discussion, then guiding students in ways to respond appropriately to their peers in writing.  Once the initial tools and processes are mastered by teachers and students, teachers can expand the initiative by asking students to turn assignments in electronically, encouraging students to participate in discussion boards or providing online quizzes that are self-graded.

Incorporating a virtual option into their classroom model enables teachers to more easily and effectively communicate with parents, collaborate district-wide via online communities and distribute curriculum materials.  When curriculum maps are loaded into the district learning platform, students, parents and teachers can see where they are in the curriculum, and where they should be, at any given point in time.

The addition of virtual learning options can also solve pacing disparities that are more difficult to address in standard classrooms, such as providing more rigorous programs and college courses (engineering and biomedical classes, etc.) for advanced students.  Similarly, students in need of credit recovery can be grouped in virtual learning programs that help them catch up and move forward, rather than re-teaching in the traditional environment.

Transitioning to a blended learning model is not about spending more, but about reallocating resources, changing mindsets and creating a paradigm shift within an existing culture. Most importantly, though, it’s about doing what is right for kids.  The world they live in is fast, flexible, and online, and their schools should be, too.

References

Blended Learning Strategies for K-12 Leaders

Hybrid Learning Pushes Personalization Forward

Related Reading:

The Trend to Blend: The Debate Over Online and Blended Learning

Individualizing Instruction Through Understanding Different Types of Learners

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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