Archive for category student motivation

A Brand New Day: 10 Questions For a New Year

Tomorrow begins a brand new day… a brand new year.  Although I have been teaching part-time and taking college courses all summer (such is the life of an educator), tomorrow is the beginning of the fall semester at my main job and the fall always signals change.  My main job is working at a blended learning program with a huge online component. It is an experimental branch of education (maybe all of education is experimental?) and there are lots of things to ponder walking into school on that first day.

As I get ready to start my 7th year of teaching, I’m trying to mentally prepare.  These questions keep coming to mind:

  1. What changes is our school going to make?
  2. How can I improve and advance my courses?
  3. How have I grown as an educator?
  4. Can I make this school year better for my students then it was last year?
  5. How can I help my kids learn more given what I’ve learned over the summer?
  6. How can I get more of them to aspire to go to college?
  7. Is there more I should be doing?
  8. What obstacles can we overcome to make learning more accessible?
  9. How will I lead my kids to success?
  10. How can I avoid letting my subject get in the way of teaching?

I will do my best to answer these with the help of my kids, my school, and my personal professional development, all of which help me think a little more each day.  Even if I can’t answer these right away, I’m making a promise going into this year:  I will try to exceed their expectations, and I will use their words to answer many of my questions.

Mr P


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Using Video Essays in Class

I’m getting ready to really promote Video Essays with my students in my online courses. They are easy to make.  Webcams are readily available for most students.  They emphasize creation and analysis and they offer quality accommodations for students with written expression problems.  In my project blog I detailed how kids could use this in my class if you feel like reading, or you could just check out the short video below.

Have you used video essays (vlogs) as a tool in your courses?  How did it go? Do you have any suggestions?

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Online Learning’s Promising Practices

NACOL just released a report addressing the promising practices of online schools working with at-risk students.  Based on a study of 5 online or blended learning schools, they came up with the following key lessons demonstrated by those successful schools:

Motivating students who have failed in the traditional classroom setting is a key to success for credit recovery programs. The flexible and self-paced nature of online courses can motivate; these attributes can also remove the social stigma of credit recovery. Online courses may be more engaging to some students than traditional face-to-face classes. In addition, programs that use online courses can address mobility issues of students who move regularly from one school in the district to another.

This is the hardest part of our job.  We need to develop better methods of engaging students. Florida Virtual School states they pass 90% of their at-risk kids in credit recovery courses. Does that mean online schools should just design separate credit recovery courses in addition to mainline and advanced courses? There is no separation at our school and we pass half that amount.

Online learning is particularly well suited for students recovering credit because it allows for individualized instruction, both by the teacher and through the use of course management technology. Online curriculum must be rigorous to ensure that students are learning the material, and not simply moving through the course. Diagnostic testing that allows students to demonstrate mastery of the elements of a subject that they learned in their previous attempt to pass the course, and to move on to the parts of the course that they need to focus on, keeps students engaged.

I’ve long been a proponent of diagnostic testing but none of our courses currently offer this.  The rigor of a course has to be enforced by the administration.  Individualizing instruction (and assessments) is the role of the instructor but if your school employs instructors who are trying to teach traditionally online than this won’t happen at your school.

The self-paced aspect of online courses is particularly valuable to at-risk students, who may associate education with difficulties and stress, compounded by learning deadlines imposed  by arbitrary calendars or school hours.

This is also one of the most difficult aspects.  Often these students do not have basic organizational skills or the ability to evaluate course responsibilities and schedule accordingly.

Providing credit for work or community service allows students to be engaged in a valuable activity outside of school and to have this experience count towards graduation. It also
motivates students to complete the program.

Most online programs serving credit recovery and at-risk students—but not all—have a
significant face-to-face component. The blended approach is important because it provides
expanded student support and face-to-face contact. The online component—whether fully
online or blended—provides 21st century skills to a group of students who often have less
than average exposure to computers and technology.

We have kids come in once a week for four hours of face-to-face contact.  Should we increase this to make it “significant?”

Programs that keep students from dropping out or attract students back into the school
system may pay for themselves—or at least defray costs—by capturing the state public
education dollars tied to those students. Online programs are particularly scalable and able
to expand more easily than programs based entirely on brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Success stories and anecdotes regarding the benefits and value of online learning for both
at-risk students and the schools serving them abound. The need exists for federal funding of
quantitative research in this area.

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Designing Global Classrooms -Alan November – Necc08

Live blogging:
Questions by Alan November
NECC 2008
November Learning has resources for researching on the web
His new book is called Web Literacy for Educators

Opening story about 17 year old son- only people who are not connected are his teachers.  Schools have become the learning police.  We are so worried about children safety that we block learning possibilities.  In an effort to protect children are making them unemployable.

Alan is asking questions and ideas below are based on group poll:
Right now government regulations own the learning but students should own the learning.  Lack of leadership, type of curriculum, and lack of vision are the biggest barriers.  District filters big barrier to students working globally with other students because block IM, Skype, and blogs.

We are not doing a good job of teaching students how to facilitate their own learning.  Example, teachers do not allow tests where students can research answers using the Internet. Not utilizing “open source” ideas.

Step 1 in teaching kids to be globally competitive is to understand how Internet works and learn specific syntax and grammar. Examples below:

site: countrycode
= for Google results from specific country
view: timeline = organizes Google research by dates
link: url = to find out how many links are going to a site

Recommends creating own customized search engine in Google with own reviewed sites.  Kids should do this, build it in class.  Schools can design and share with community.

Teachers shouldn’t be allowed new technology (pd) unless they bring 2 kids with them.  Kids will spread what they learned quickly.  For some children it might be easier to learn from kids rather than teacher.

We need more voices delivering content!
Kids need to own the learning, change the job description of children.

Collaborative web tools in class. Kids can all produce one presentation together (google docs), so all students have access to all the content all the time.

Wikipedia isn’t just an encyclopedia, its a publishing center.  Use it as a tool to get kids publishing., place where kids can make a contribution to online information.  Loan money to entrepreneurs.  Get money back later.

6 Jobs to Restore Ownership of Learning to Students

1.  Every classroom should have a student researcher, at least one.
2.  Every teacher should have a student led curriculum tutorial design team.  These tutorials should be available for Ipods and Dvds.  Ex.  Students create screencasts (jing) on how to solve different problems or teach how to do something in class.
3.  Can create podcasts that help teach class.
4.  Google Docs – Kids help edit writing or presentations together, official scribe team.
5.  Teach kids to add value to the world.  ex.  go to Wikipedia and add content.  Can have kids work collaboratively on an entry for an assignment, then can monitor the changes through an RSS feed of the history.
6. Teach kids mathematics of investment into global groups and link it to curriculum.  Have kids raise money for this.

There was a 7th job but ran out of time, so need to go to sites for complete notes on session.

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In Their Words Video

I created this video from over 2 hours of student interviews and dozens of still images.

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