Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why use digital platforms for differentiation?
Digital programs connect education to real-world experiences and also promote equity, access, and opportunity for all students. Not only that, but students develop more responsibility for and control of their learning, with more choices around the pace, time, and location of online instruction.
More importantly…
Research shows technology-based instruction is reducing the time students reach a learning objective by 30 to 80 percent. Also, since our students are testing online, it behooves us to offer digital reading.
Platforms we have used.
i-Ready claims to accurately predict end of year test scores. This is comforting. But, there are many companies promising this same ability. We were looking for a reading differentiation platform that would effectively intervene.
Pros: The system is set up to diagnose and differentiate.
Cons: Students did grow, but not to the level that was expected. Our older middle school students felt that the program’s cartoons were not appropriate for their grade level and simply opted to not complete assignments. It was not appropriate for High School students.
Readtheory is free! Their goal is to always be free.
Placement test begins at 3rd-grade level. After an initial diagnosis, passages are drawn at random from within the assigned level. A student’s level only increases when at student scores 90% or above. The level decreases when a student scores 69% or lower.
Pro: students are engaged without cartoon characters. They are drawn into competition based on unique level names. Our students enjoyed learning and reading with ReadTheory!
Con: Teacher dashboard does not allow a preview of student assignments. No administrative oversight of all students and teachers. District level tools did not exist.
Enable school leaders and teachers with CERCA, a research-based approach for teaching argumentative writing across subjects.
Engage students with personalized lessons.
Spark collaborative discussions and debates in every classroom with ThinkCERCA’s differentiated, self-paced lessons.
Track real-time reading and writing progress.
Monitor growth on 21st century literacy skills with data that’s accessible to everyone, from instructional leaders and teachers to students and families.
Pros: Free and premium version is available for reading only. Students enjoy the scaffolded reading tools available. A building premium account allows EVERY teacher in the building to use the system.
Cons: Writing portion is scaffolded and involved. The learning curve for teachers and students is large. Teachers have to commit time to teaching how to follow the steps in the ThinkCERCA process. Buy-in on other disciplines using the platform has been minimal. Unless required by administration, disciplines other than ELA simply opt to not use this platform. The new expectation is that literacy is a shared responsibility. If this is not an expectation shared from the top levels of administration, the reality is that other disciplines continue as always.
WHAT IS myON? myON is a K-8 personalized literacy program that provides access to the largest integrated collection of digital books with reading supports, customized to a student’s interest and reading abilities. Created to enhance the reading experience, myON develops an individual profile for each student based on his or her interests and reading ability, and generates a recommended book list. Students read, annotate, write, and take quizzes on this platform.
Pros: Students enjoy reading on a digital platform. Students enjoy choosing books to read. Students do read! 660 students have read over 15,000 books in two months! Students do grow! Our Kindergarten and eighth graders have grown their Lexile levels in two months.
Cons: While much choice exists, popular fiction books do not exist on this platform. Students enjoy being able to discuss the current popular fiction and to share these with their friends.
What elements are essential?
  1. Facilitated Learning-Teacher is linchpin!
  2. Appropriately Differentiated Instructional Challenge
  3. Rigorous Curriculum
  4. Continual Assessment
Facilitated Learning-teacher is linchpin
As the educator’s role shifts to be the facilitator of learning, digital curriculum technology makes it possible to create even more highly engaging learning environments.Each teacher is empowered to function as a coach, mentor, tutor, diagnostician, and motivator. Teachers apply a human touch to provide extra support, remediate deficiencies, or deliver additional extensions as needed. The focus shifts to delivering empathy, understanding, and mentorship.
Using a product that excludes the teacher is simply wrong.
Instructional Challenge
In a differentiated classroom, all students should be working at a level of complexity that is just above their individual comfort levels. All too often, teachers teach to the top of the bottom third of a class while gifted students may receive additional work, or the expectation that they help their peers.
Rigorous Curriculum
A high-quality, standards-based curriculum engages students with the concepts, principles, and big ideas to develop understanding and application of required learning competencies.
Continual Assessment
Digital curriculum programs pave the way to new methods for assessment and accountability. A diagnostic-prescriptive approach personalizes learning for each student, allowing students to test and progress at a flexible pace that’s not necessarily based on age or grade level.
Ultimately, each district selects reading products based on their current need and finances. Cost should not be the primary driver. Please do not remove the teacher.
District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More technology-thrilling or daunting?

As a teacher in a school that moves its Chrome carts around,  it can be thrilling and daunting to learn that even more Chrome carts have been ordered. Thrilling to know it will all be so much easier to manage and daunting to know that what is somewhat easy now just became somewhat more difficult.

Receiving nine more Chrome carts for a school of 750 is thrilling, right? Our 6-12 ELA department shares currently two carts between six teachers and sixteen classes. Adding one more cart to the department is thrilling. This means that only two teachers will share a cart. This will help our Middle School department. Currently, each teacher uses the cart for lab hours only. ELA classes have 2-3 hours each week for intervention and enrichment using Thinkcerca, Quizlet and NoRedInk.  With the additional cart, two of our MS teachers will share a cart, rather than three. The additional carts will enable our full school to be able to complete our mandated testing in one week.

     So what could be daunting about gaining more Chrome Carts? As our access to technology extends to beyond our lab hours, this opens up the opportunity to implement even more technology. Using more technology will thrill teachers and students. Timed online writing becomes easier to manage. Implementing  the ACT Aspire Classroom Periodic becomes easier to manage. But, it is daunting. Daunting to remember that technology does not teach the curriculum. Yes,  Facebook/Summit Learning is one  personalized learning platform that teaches and and helps assess students on their learning. Our AP English students are using this platform this year to try it out for the district. But, all other English classes are still using our district curriculum largely based on Pearson Common Core 2015. There are many wonderful uses of technology contained in Pearson like access to our online textbook, workbooks, videos, and assessments! However, it is possible that teachers will spend more time on extra technology enabled assignments and less on our created curriculum. 

     I trust our teachers. Our teachers know the importance of our results on the state mandated ACT Aspire. The 2016 results helped purchase the new Chrome carts. As we anticipate the new Chrome Carts, we must keep in mind Psychologist Tanya Byron's words, "The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.”

Suzanne Rogers, M.Ed.
District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Edcamp/Ed Tech and the Digital Divide

Edcamp Arkansas brought pre-service teachers together with current teachers and college professors for the third year. The collaboration between fresh young minds yearning for a teaching position and current teachers with advice to share creates a lively atmosphere. The vision of the Edcamp Foundation is "to provide an innovative form of professional development for educators to improve job satisfaction, increase workforce retention, and impact student learning."

In rural states, the digital divide is not only between rich and poor, but according to Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center, the divide is also between urban, suburban, and rural communities. Our Edcamp this year brought up the digital divide as participants began to talk about the various schools and the differing access to student devices.  59% of Arkansan's live in areas without access to broadband. In 2015, Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, together with the Arkansas Department of Education, and the Department of Information Systems set a goal for 100 percent of K-12 public schools in Arkansas to have 200 Kbps/student of highly secure, E-rate eligible, state funded, high-speed broadband connectivity. Lofty goals indeed. The issue for Edcamp participants was more about access to devices. Some schools are better than 1-1, some schools have Chromecarts that move throughout the school, and some rural schools still have access only to computer labs. It is this digital divide that separates schools and students from the Edtech explosion.  The upside of Edcamp is that teachers shared FREE ed tech that any teacher could use

Some of the amazing free ed tech shared at Edcamp Arkansas included:

Join the Edcamp movement and attend a camp near you!

Suzanne Rogers, M.Ed
District Director of Professional development, AP English Teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Teacher as Linchpin Digital Differentiation in Reading and Writing

Teacher as Linchpin: 

Digital Differentiation in Reading and Writing

Differentiation is not new or radically different in the middle of the 21st century. Despite technology creating better tools funded by the Gates Foundation and other education funders, a teacher is still required. Why? The teacher knows the needs of a student better than any technology ever will. The various digital differentiation tools discussed in this blog are just that, tools to aid the primary teacher.

Technology creates the availability to diagnose and prescribe reading differentiation rapidly. Sounds great, doesn't it? The difficulty lies in two fundamental issues. Does the program engage students sufficiently to keep them working through the various assignments and does the student care sufficiently to be correctly diagnosed by the program? These two interdependent issues are the crux of whether a program will efficiently diagnose and prescribe differentiation for a student. The teacher continues (amazing, right?) to be the linchpin in reading differentiation.

Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?, argues " The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds." When teachers become fearful that their knowledge of a student is inferior to a digital assessment of the same student, they cease being a linchpin. Godin writes, " It’s impossible to be a linchpin if you agree to feed your anxiety." Godin goes on to argue that we have made a Faustian bargain, "in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.” #teacherleaders learn overcome their fear and continue to make the best choices for their student, sometimes in the face of controversy.

Our school began our reading digital differentiation with +curriculumassociates i-Ready.  The research on i-Ready validly predicted EOY test scores.  i-Ready diagnoses and prescribes a path for each student. Sound marvelous? True, it did allow the teacher to pull small groups, but students began to spend much longer on an assignment. It looked like a student was working on their assignments, but perhaps they were just staying logged in. Parents tried to help students catch up on assignments in i-Ready, but they encountered similar issues. The cartoon based i-Ready assignments felt childish to our middle school students. After two years, we decided to move on to a program that offered both reading and writing with no cartoon characters involved.

During the second year of our i-Ready implementation, we used ReadTheory with ourPre-AP students. ReadTheory is free. They have added writing that can be graded by the teacher. ReadTheory begins with a pretest for all students. Students are then prescribed a path which adapts based on each passage for each student. Our students liked the passages and wanted to share what they were learning. The research supports the effectiveness of ReadTheory. 

We decided to leave i-Ready on the guidance of our teachers and the experiences of the students. In January of 2016, a few teachers on one campus tried a pilot of Thinkcerca. Excited by the possibilities with this platform, Thinkcerca leader, @katycerca, provided 24 hours of open access for all of our teachers to try the full function of the platform. After a survey of all of the ELA teachers in the district, and a lengthy meeting with all of the Academic leaders in the district, the decision was made to switch to Thinkcerca for all students 6-12. Thinkcerca is not merely an ELA product. It is intended to be used across the disciplines in Math, Science, Social Studies, and ELA. 

Innovation is challenging;  it is messy. Thinkcerca requires teachers to be more hands on during lab (remediation/enrichment) time and to plan, score, comment, provide focus goals, and record grades. Unlike other platforms, teachers are critical to the implementation of Thinkcerca.  Recently, at #ECET2NJ,  @MeenooRami said, "It's teachers - not technology - that are the next big disruptors in education." With Thinkcerca, our teachers can use their artistry to develop their students reading and writing skills through carefully applied differentiation. Teachers ARE the linchpins in our students' lives. “The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin,' according to Godin.

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed @Rogers_suzanne

District Director of Professional development, AP English Teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist.

Thank you to the Teacher Practice Network, Arkansas Public School Resource Center, A Project of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, with funding by the Gates Foundation. #TPNlead

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fall Edtech: Hurry Up and Wait!

Hurry Up And Wait by Karl Hitzemann

It is that time of year. Teachers and students are impatient to begin using their latest digital platforms and lessons. But, alas, it is not that easy.

Summer and the beginning of the school year is a series training events where staff members must learn to Hurry Up and Wait.  Teachers are trained on the latest technology and are chomping at the bit to get simply after it. But, as we all know, technology agreements must be signed by students and parents, Google accounts and passwords must be created, and accounts must be created by specific platforms before a single student or teacher using the new technology. We must HURRY to be trained and then WAIT to use the new pieces of technology.

@Chris_Meyers_, a contributor to @Forbes Magazine, admits that patience is a virtue "and like most virtues, it doesn't come easily." Teachers are innovative by nature and can be compared to the startup companies that Meyers writes about in his article, "Hurry Up And Wait: How To Stay Patient And Productive, Even When Waiting."  In the article, Meyers suggests three steps to managing the Hurry Up and Wait period.
1.  Be bold
2.  Use extra time to focus on the details
2.  Stay positive and keep moving forward, no matter what

Meyers suggests, "The ability to wait isn’t particularly valuable. However, the wisdom to transform thoughtful patience into productivity and momentum is what separates winners from losers." The fall season for using educational technology can be filled with hiccups and glitches.  Teachers, who are winners, will choose to transform their Hurry Up and Wait not into patience but into productivity that will benefit the students long after the waiting is over.

Examples of productivity could include mastering the policies and procedures for using technology in a school setting. Teachers can model the various platforms from their computer while students practice on paper. Our school will certainly practice dry runs with @ThinkCERCA as suggested by our Success Manager  Steve Glaeser.

Whatever the reason for #edtech delays, remember to use the time to benefit your students.

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed

District Director of Professional development, AP English Teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist.

Thank you to the Teacher Practice Network, Arkansas Public School Resource Center, A Project of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, with funding by the Gates Foundation. #TPNlead

Thursday, July 7, 2016

#notbornahashtag Raise your voice

Please indulge me as I take a moment of reflection for young people of color who are speaking out regarding the shootings yesterday. They have learned the power of audience on social media.  All lives matter. The vocalist  Drake penned in a letter to his fans, "No one begins their life as a hashtag. Yet the trend of being reduced to one continues."

  • Please. Hear what the young people of color are saying. They are rightfully afraid. They are quoting Baldwin, Drake, Trip and Tupac.

An original poem on a blog.
All we can do now is pray, fight and speak up.
What if….
What if I died senselessly in the hands of
our city’s finest?
Would I be remembered as a humble
classmate or the loud black girl in class?
Would I be remembered as the friend who
always helped you solve problems or the
friend who had a problem with herself?
Would I be remembered as the daughter
of Wendy and Brian or the daughter of a
single mother whose father wasn’t in
their life?
Would I be remembered as the friendly
girl who always came to you with a smile
or the girl who always ignored your
Does my many years of accomplishments
matter? Or are they just being buried with
me as well?
Would they honor my life or tarnish it
right in front of my moms eyes?
Would I even be human to them?
My Black Life.

On Instagram 

  • "As I was looking for the news I didn't know the name of the victim so I searched "Black Man" and the results are just as horrible as what I was searching. Didn't we just do this yesterday? Last month? Last year? I want to ask why won't it stop? But it's relevant as to why. My prayers go out to the families of these tragedies. But we have to start acting now. The time of witnessing and mourning is over. If you don't know. A man was shot dead while sitting in his car after being pulled over for a busted tail light with his girlfriend and a child in the car. If you want more info go search and inform yourselves. But as I was watching towards the end the woman broke down from it and you can hear her little girl saying "It's ok mommy I'm here with you." Those words immediately put me in tears. THIS #@#@ WILL STOP! By our own hands and will and mind to change this system. We've done it once now it's time to do it again. That could have been any one of my family members or loved one. It could have been anyone of yours as well. This awareness through social media is beautiful but if we don't make any moves it'll forever be a hashtag with a growing list of our fallen. This is war and if you don't view it as so you're missing the point. They mad as hell when we say #blacklivesmatter not realizing we're furious to have to say it at all. Tomorrow I hope I don't wake up to watch another murder movie on FB or worse, I hope I'm not the one staring in it. #thisismorethanahashtag#TimeToFightBack #rip

Finally, Justin Cohen's words resonate.  ""If you’re a White person on the sidelines, we need you in the fight. Please raise your voice, particularly today."

Take the time to read the Washington Post article and infographic on the 990 police shootings this year that resulted in death.  In 2015, The Washington Post has investigated details surrounding those who died from police shootings. Here are six important takeaways from 12 months of the investigation.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Digital Connection in Times of Grief

Digital Connection in Seasons of Grief

This week, as we began to disconnect from school, tragedy struck our school family.
One of our middle school students died tragically.  Part of the tragedy is that middle school students were using technology in the midst of this tragic death;  some were at least tangentially aware of what was happening. I grieve for the loss of one student but grieve perhaps even more for those students who are aware of the situation and have yet to share this information with their families. Thankfully, our school is offering grief counseling for students, families, and staff members. The paradox of our digital connection is that it can keep us both closer and further away from each other all the while making it much easier to provide assistance during a season of grief.

So, how can our digital connection during seasons of grief keep us both closer and further away from each other?  Several faculty members waited at the hospital and visited with the family the day after the tragedy. We talked in hushed tones about our experiences with life and death while the details of planning a funeral swirled into and out of our conversations. Families are now able to Facetime, Skype,  and Google Hangout. Cousins and long-lost relatives can comfort each other via text, and the multitudinous social media applications. These are ways in which we can be closer virtually.  We were able to provide quietly information regarding funeral arrangements as they developed.  These are also the same ways that keep us further away from one another. We can comfort ourselves with knowing that we reached out and offered assistance in a season of grief without ever being physically present.

Two digital applications that are useful to the groups who want to offer assistance during seasons of grief include YouCaring and TakeThemAMeal YouCaring "is dedicated to compassionate crowdfunding, providing free and easy online fundraising and support for humanitarian causes." Take Them a Meal works by "simplifying meal coordination so that friends can show they care."  Friends and family can show they care with a few clicks and a credit card.

Digital connections continue to be a paradox.