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.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Just in Time Learning

Just In Time Learning

Educational technology is our future, but not for a different version of the 20th-century school.  Most schools in our area do have technology devices. The use of these devices is often  for engaging activities and testing. We need more innovative teachers willing to blend their textbooks and their devices. Often the device is used simply as a library with a research, read, and write cycle. This practice does not revolutionize education. Our admins, teachers, parents and students need to value the idea of  "just in time"* learning that can happen with technology. Instead, schools often lock up the technology and deny students access to their personal mobile technology. Admins deeply desire educational strategies to be  timely, appropriate, and best practice.

All too often schools are terrified by the idea what students might do with technology. Our state monitors which  websites are being accessed by students. Rather than lock down access to every possible harm, we need to educate our students to the positive powers of technology. Encourage students to use technology for their own "just in time learning."  +Common Sense Education offers courses in K-12 Citizenship for teachers, students, and parents.

Low tech version:  As a second-grade student I witnessed a tornado funnel cloud forming during recess. I pointed out the cloud formation to a classmate and then we ran to the library so that I could show her evidence of this type of cloud formation. Together, we found the reference books and poured through the material learning more about funnel clouds. While we were out of our assigned location, we did experience "just in time" learning.

"Just in Time" learning is timely. Students have access in 2016 to enough technology to allow the flexibility needed for "Just in Time" learning. Three years ago, prior to our next generation testing regime schools were not ready. It is now the time to empower our students and allow them to answer their own questions, not just in "genius hour" classes. We should expect our students to become their own genius in areas that they are interested in learning.

Higher Tech version:  Student asks a question in class regarding the validity of Shakespeare as the true author. The reality is the teacher may not have the knowledge, time, or resources to immediately respond to the student. With technology, the student could quickly gather resources to present a 5 minute lesson on the topic by the next class period. Student one learns, lesson progresses, and the whole class benefits from the original question. While this scenario does require flexibility on the part of the teacher, it is more likely to inspire students to want to learn and to continue to learn which is what teachers should be modeling daily.

It is time to take the tethers off of teachers and students and empower our students to own their own "just in time" learning. Although personalized learning incorporates this idea, it does not embody it. Allowing students to move at their own space and pace is not the same as allowing a student to discover the answer to their questions.  "Just in time" learning is timely, appropriate, and best practice.

Does your school allow "just in time" learning?

Digital Citizenship-Common Sense Education
Theory of "Just in Time"

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
Avid mom of two college cubs, AP English teacher, Instructional Facilitator, District Professional Development Director

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Time IS on Their Side! Important #edtech device

I have come to an awkward realization. My love of educational technology needs to include a watch at the top of the list. Why? Simply, because students do not see the value in a watch and most do not own one. They use cell phones, instead. But, a watch may be the most important item they put on during practice and testing days.

Two years ago, I offered extra credit to students who would wear a watch for a practice Timed AP test.  This year, the students who don't wear watches simply snicker. But, they are also the students with lower ACT and AP scores. I, too, use a smartphone. I tend to wear a watch for cosmetic reasons.
But, when attempting to stay on time during a test, I need to use my watch.

Last year, universities in several countries began banning all types of watches during entrance exams. And, yet, it is not the time to abandon our watches.  I was taught not to rely on a clock, but to use my watch to ensure that I was using my time wisely. Yes, I understand that many tests are now online. A timer starts when the test begins and stops the test when time is over. But, I still insist that teaching students to use their time wisely is a critical test prep skill. It is all too easy to spend more time on one passage or question than needed.  As Mick Jagger sang, "Time is on my side, yes it is." Time can also be on our students' side if they are taught the value of a watch for testing purposes.

Why do schools not provide watches to students? A watch can easily be purchased for $20 or less. Schools tend to purchase $200 calculators instead.  For Tiger parents desiring the latest in Testing Technology, for less than $40, there is an ACT/SAT Testing Timer can help students practice and test with confidence.

 "Knowing exactly how to pace yourself throughout the test is crucial, and using the watch is the easiest way to do that. My students stay calm knowing that they are on track.(...)To me, that says it all.”
-Linda Larson, Director and Tutor, SAT Prep Sandpoint

 Of course, I continue to use and recommend a wide variety of software, hardware, and apps that can help my students. They particularly enjoy apps that can be utilized on their phone. If it is on their phone, they are more likely to practice, study, and remember than if low tech versions are shared.

It is only a matter of time before all phones are banned in testing rooms. It is difficult to tell the difference between a watch and a smart watch. But, in the meantime, I will advocate for my students to purchase an inexpensive watch for test prep and testing situations.

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed

Friday, April 8, 2016

Gamification with Quizlet-LIVE

I'll be honest, as an English teacher, I have not been particularly interested in the gamification of education despite the prevalence of information on the topic.
While our students do use online platforms, the gamification is aimed directly at the students by differentiating for each student. This week, I tried out Quizlet-LIVE Beta. This is gamification that interests me. WOW!  

Our district created individual Quizlets for all of our 6-12 ELA vocabulary words in our Pearson curriculum. All of our teachers have access to the Quizlets and can add them to their account very easily. Games, Tests, and printable flash cards are just a few of the capabilities built into Quizlet.  

I'm especially enthralled with the idea that Quizlet was created by a 15-year-old! Quizlet's mission is stated on their website.
"Every person on earth deserves access to free, powerful, and inspiring learning tools - and our mission is to build them."
Yes! I applaud Andrew Sutherland for this mission statement! Even better, there is an app for Quizlet. Students can appear to be playing a game, but instead, actually be working on classwork.

Quizlet Introductory Video 

Quizlet-LIVE allows the teacher to share their Quizlets with the world and invite anyone to join in a game. How fun is that? Essentially, the LIVE version enables students to collaboratively study while playing a game against their classmates in LIVE time. The teacher selects a Quizlet, creates the game (minimum of 6 players), provides the 6 digit code for the game, students enter the code and their name. Once everyone is listed, the teacher clicks start.  LIVE encourages ACCURACY over SPEED. IF a team answers incorrectly, the team loses all of their points. Very empowering moment! The teacher can narrate the progress of the game. I like that the collaboration of team members is built into the game. I like that I can resort the students with each new game. Students who are homebound or on a field trip could still participate if they have the game code.

Quizlet-LIVE demo

If you are interested in our Quizlets or in having our classes collaborate with each other using Quizlet-LIVE please contact me! Want to view our Quizlets?


Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
Proven to go the extra mile while striving for academic excellence.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Intervention Decisions

Purveyors of digital intervention programs often have beautifully illustrated data packets that show the effectiveness of their program as applied in particular school districts. Districts can be lured into purchasing these programs in their efforts to raise test scores. Districts need to be very careful when considering which program to purchase.

A few things to consider

1.  Cost to implement including hidden costs such as loss of effective teaching
2.  Technology needs and costs-devices and infrastructure
3.  Comparing apples to apples regarding data

The cost to implement a new program often appears to be clear.  The required professional development may not be included, or what is provided may not be sufficient to appropriately train teachers to use the program. An additional cost is the time lost for effective teaching While a program may be able to diagnose a student's level, it may not be able to provide the instruction necessary to bring that same student to grade level.

A secondary issue involves the infrastructure necessary to run the digital program. The specifications need to be read by and considered by an IT specialist. The data demands of all students using a digital platform may be more than a school can currently provide. The cost to upgrade devices and infrastructure must be clear to decision makers.

Finally, when considering those as mentioned above beautifully illustrated data packets, districts must compare apples to apples. If a student grows 136% BUT is still not on grade level, decision makers need to understand that this may be considered normal growth and the student may well have grown more working with a teacher or in a smaller class size.  Research on RTI published this fall showed that students in RTI did worse than their virtually identical peers.

More and more schools are investing in digital intervention. Districts need to monitor the data and make the best decisions for their students. Remember to compare similar schools and ask to speak with other teachers who have already successfully implemented a program.

More and more districts are looking for digital intervention tools to help prepare their students for digital tests including ACT Aspire,  and PARCC. Teachers need to speak up regarding these products. Which products do you use? Do they work?

Teachers, please speak up!

Study:  RTI Practice Falls Short of Promise

Suzanne Rogers

 AP English teacher, Instructional Facilitator, and Arkansas Teacher Practice Network

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Putting It All Together with Donors Choose #bestschoolday

Don't you just love it when things come together nicely?  I certainly do!  This week has been a whirlwind of expectations and pieces oddly fitting together. I'll try to share a bit of what has happened so far. Yes, it has something to do with Educational Technology!

On Monday, my AP Lang students took their Quarterly Exam, which is worth ten percent of their grade. As they wrote their response to the 2010 Synthesis question regarding Educational Technology, I giggled.  My classes politely suffer through trying various new technology products and yet I was still asking them to evaluate issues in educational technology even in their timed writing. I was pleased that most of the students evaluated educational technology to be helpful in most cases. They did admit that it is very easy to be distracted and to use it as a crutch.

One issue came up this week as our students were beginning to film their Poetry PBL projects.
Our teachers were asked to be flexible and to use our school issued iPads rather than cell phones to videotape the projects. While we do have Chromebooks at our school, they are in use this week for ACT Aspire Interim II testing.  Cell phones were simply our first work around. The Poetry PBL is intended to have an authentic audience by using Youtube to broadcast the winning entries.

Our ELA team met at Moe's for our department meeting this afternoon shortly before a Prom fundraiser. As I sat delightedly with my colleagues, I realized that we accomplished out meeting without any technology. Our meeting was less stressful, and our objectives were met quickly. We discussed that flip cameras would be a wonderful technology purchase for the school and that a flip camera would solve our issues for the Poetry PBL filming.  I agreed but realized that it probably wouldn't be possible this year.

After I had driven home, I checked my school email. I opened a letter from  Oh. My. Goodness! Why not create a quick project for five flip cameras? Amazingly, in less than thirty minutes, I had created and submitted the project. Within a few more minutes, I received approval for the project and was notified that it was posted!  I don't know what will happen on the #BestSchoolDay but I am glad that that I put the pieces together with the help of my students, my colleagues, and  Going to try with a little help (or a lot) from my friends.

*Do you teach or live in a rural area? Donors choose can help!
" makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America create classroom project requests, and you can give any amount to the project that inspires you."

Flip Cameras for Our Students 21st CenturyPBL projects

Sunday, February 21, 2016

AP Lit Digital Learning Day

I have cross-posted this from my English blog as it crosses the boundary between English and Educational Technology.

AP LIT Digital Learning Day

On Wednesday, my Advanced Placement students did something unthinkable until tAhat day!

What do you ask?  My students were able to use their cell phones in class to participate in a Twitter chat. Now before you get too excited, please realize that this was a carefully aligned and planned event for just for AP Lit students.  Students and teachers interacted pleasantly, analyzed poetry carefully and learned important lessons about social media.  Students across the nation participated in #aplitdld throughout the day.

Matt Brown @ibMrB and Susan Barber @susanclaireb developed and facilitated the #aplitdld Twitter chat.  They chose the AP level poem "An Echo Sonnet" and developed the timeline of analysis questions to engage AP English students in the text during the Twitter chat. You can view both the poem and the questions in the Google doc below.

You can view the process of the chat through this @Storify.

The event was daunting to my students in the beginning. As they walked in the door, I suggested that they should go get their phones out of their lockers. They wondered aloud if I was trying to trick them I assured them that I was not and would not.  Many did not have a Twitter account and a few felt too self-conscious to tweet. Those that did were truly attempting to answer the predetermined questions related to the text. Sadly, a few of the students later deleted their tweets to preserve their anonymity and to hide their "AP nerdiness" from their friends.

My principal, Mr. Fatih Bogrek,  kindly provided permission the morning of the event. Thanks to Susan Barber,  I was able to provide the outline and rationale for the chat.  Unfortunately, due to the tight timeline, I was unable to prepare my students for the expectations of a Twitter chat. As expected, my students rose to the challenge.  I was able to use the chat as an opportunity for a simultaneous discussion of respect and accountability on social media. I placed the Twitter feed on the whiteboard so that students not actively participating could still read the chat feed and follow along. All the students had a paper copy of the poem with the questions. Susan Barber emailed me later to say that they plan on more of these chats later on this spring.

My final thoughts on our #aplitdld Twitter chat include the appreciation of my AP colleagues who dared to bring adolescents together on social media to discuss poetry. I know that future chats will be beneficial and may deepen the analysis my students are willing to do if they know they have a global audience reading their analysis. The idea that authentic audiences are important in developing strong writers continues to resonate.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

UPDATED: ACT Aspire-Even more positives with linking studies

ACT Aspire

At first blush,  ACT Aspire provides teachers with actionable data to use this year.   Arkansas dropped PARCC and decided to use ACT Aspire for the required state assessment.  In the eyes of the state legislature, ACT Aspire will help prepare our students for the ACT college entrance exam.  It will take years of data before we can say that is true. But, using the tests that are available this year, there are many positive outcomes for our students with the newly provided linking charts. We are now able to see the relationship between the interim scores and the potential Summative scores. We are also able to link our student's ACT Aspire score with their NWEA RIT score!

Our school has chosen to give three ACT Aspire Interims this semester.  The interims do allow the students to practice the question types.  But, sadly only the English test is currently allowing teachers to see the actual questions so that they can be reviewed in class.
(Interims do not contain the writing test, nor any open response questions)

The data available to teachers following an interim is impressive.
Reports include
1.  Individual student reports that contain their score on each test given
2.  Student performance by grade or class
3.  Subject proficiency by group (groups students as above or below the group average to help teachers group their students based on the report)
4.  Skill proficiency by group (groups students by broad skill category)
5.  Subject proficiency by student

The most helpful report is the last one.
6.  Response Content Analysis- teachers can use this report to view the questions/standards that the students missed as a grade, class, or individual. We review each question with individual students to help them learn how to answer each type of question they missed.  As with all tests, knowing HOW to answer is as important as knowing the correct answer. For example, the pronoun questions on the English test can be answered by looking at the sentence and matching the pronouns, usually.

Our school has decided that the Classroom Periodics are encouraged but not required. Each Classroom Periodics is a short five question 15-20 minute test aligned to one or two standards. Our ELA department has decided to try out these periodics during our Saturday Camps. Today, we completed our first Classroom Periodic in Reading. My ten intervention students completed the five questions in roughly 15 minutes. The test results were ready as soon as the students completed their test. As with the Interim, the actual reading questions were not available to view. We were able to log in as a different student and work through the questions with the correct answers on the board.

MOST EXCITING! This week, teachers received linking reports from ACT Aspire and NWEA. These linking reports are critical to understanding how our students are performing. I've provided both of these reports in the Resources section below. The good news is that even more of our students appear to be proficient/Ready or capable of meeting or exceeding the ACT Aspire Benchmark.

If you are interested, you can view the ACT Readiness Benchmarks on page 4 in the pdf below. The scale scores for each test are also provided. Three descriptors are provided to help parents understand the score. (Ready, Close, Or in need of support)

ACT Aspire Linking Interim to Summative Assessments
NWEA Linking study that correlates ACT Aspire and NWEA
Understanding ACT Aspire results video
Understanding Results pdf
Scale Scores

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dreaming Big! Students Can Remember logins

In a perfect world, Chromebooks could be prepared and rolled out to students on a yearly basis ready on the first day of school. This idea is my dream. Though, perhaps not a realistic dream. As more and more schools begin to purchase devices for their students and intervention platforms to remediate or advance, schools have the need for students to access easily all of their platforms with one sign on. It has been estimated that 25% of class time is wasted simply trying to help students sign on to a platform.

Many companies are promising this service for a fee. Districts have limited funds and often the administration is truly unaware of exactly how difficult this process can be for teachers. As an example, in our ELA classrooms, our students regularly access the following digital platforms

Google-(including Gmail, Blogger, Classroom, and Drive)
@PearsonRealize and Pearson EssayScorer
i-Ready @curriculumassoc

We have also tried @ThinkCerca, @SpiralEducation, and many other platforms this year.

So what is a teacher to do? Some keep a notecard file on their desk with every login for every student. I suggest that we teach the students to be responsible.  Each student should keep a Google folder with all of their logins and passwords. Students can then add to the list as needed.  The Google Doc can contain the link with the name of the platform, along with the username and password. Students can easily share this Google Doc with their parents and teachers. Ideally, the students choose login with Google whenever possible.

I don't long for the days when I only had to worry about pencil and paper. Just as in those days, we need to empower our students to be responsible for their materials. Their current materials just happen to include usernames and passwords.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Want Critical Thinkers? Try ThinkCERCA

As an ELA Coach, it is usual for me to receive many forwarded emails. I received one from my building principal last week. I am so glad that I took the time to read the email. +ThinkCERCA
"is a flexible critical thinking and literacy framework that empowers whole school teams to improve student growth across disciplines by engaging students," according to their website. Intrigued, I asked our wonderful Freshman teacher, +Andrea Moser  (#shoutout!), to try out the platform using the FREE trial items. I was awed by her enthusiastic reply and actions.

Andrea replied immediately and began learning how to use the system. She read background information and watched videos. The very next day, she implemented +ThinkCERCA  with her Pre-AP Freshman. This particular group of students grasped the power of the platform and is excited about using the full cycle in class. Andrea and I talked about how helpful it could be if the platform was used across the disciplines. Using a common platform and a common language for the details of writing could really empower a school! 

While this platform would not replace our current Common Core-aligned curriculum, it could be an advantageous addition to our ELA lab classes. All of our middle school students receive ten hours of instruction in both ELA and Math. +ThinkCERCA  could be useful as it is possible to group students by ability or by grade level. These groups then work through a CERCA cycle. 

             The CERCA Framework teaches students how to: make claims, evaluate evidence, explain                   their reasoning, develop counterarguments, and choose words that will appeal to their                           audience. What’s more, the framework strengthens speaking and listening skills through                     peer-to-peer discussion and debate."  

Teachers can receive a FREE poster just by visiting their website!  Click here  
Signing up is FREE and takes less than 30 seconds. Try out the free close reading and academic writing items and decide for your school if helping your students to think critically is worth the expense. I know that I am intrigued.

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Power of Google Classroom as a teacherleader

The Power of Google Classroom

Google Classroom is simply a godsend.  As a teacher leader,  I am a teacher and an ELA coach to 6 teachers.  Google Classroom is a tool that I easily utilize for both positions.  As an ELA Coach, I can schedule meetings, share professional development and request feedback and other responses using Google forms.  As a high school AP teacher, I need a way to interact with my students easily. The writing demands and the constant contact require both a way to receive papers and a way to provide assignments, feedback and various messages.

As an ELA Coach,  Google Platform uses the power of Google Apps to power our department. Anything in Google Drive can very easily be shared through Google Classroom as a private or public post.  Private communication is enabled within the department. I also like that teachers can more easily return to a suggested resource. Our school email accounts can quickly become overwhelming.
Google Classroom allows us to concentrate only on departmental work.

As an AP English teacher, Google Platform provides a secure way to provide access to assignments and a secure way to receive the return of assignments. The very best part of Google classroom is the ability to provide feedback DURING the writing process rather than merely AFTER it is turned in.
When students access and create an assignment during class, I can immediately begin to click on papers and provide feedback and encouragement to the students!  Students are always surprised the first time they see my icon on their Google doc. I can type on their document and help along the way.
Communication in this way is much more private than oral conversations during writing workshops. Once students submit their papers to me I have full ownership and they can no longer edit their paper. Google keeps track of all changes and the date and time of those changes, just in case there should be parental concerns. Most recently, we learned the power of sharing one set of Google Slides and allowing each student to create their own slide. They can all provide feedback and encouragement to each other safely within Google Classroom. As the teacher, I can see all the work easily.

Additionally, Google Classroom allows me to post messages such as essay contests, ACT dates, opportunities, and last minute school reminders. The students receive notifications via their phones or email regarding each post within Google Classroom. Students can respond to the whole class or me privately, but cannot privately message another student.

Having tried numerous LMS over the years, I currently find Google Classroom to be preferable due to the ability to connect not only to Google Apps but also to so many other websites because it allows me to manage more easily two of the hats I wear at school.

Please DO comment and share how you use Google Classroom!

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
I have taught in private, public, and public open-enrollment charter schools

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Freedom of Speech and the importance of civil discourse in public schools

In 1644, the notable English author, John Milton, appealed  to Parliament for the liberty of free speech in 1644 when he said, "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."  As a United States citizen, my freedom of speech is  protected by the First Amendment. The United States Department of Education recently clearly clarified that Freedom of Speech is to be protected in our schools while protecting and promoting the safety of students.
Protecting free speech means protecting the ability of your students, faculty, staff, and members of the public to hold and express views that may be at odds with your institution’s strongly held values. Schools should not ignore the dissonance that this creates, but should instead consciously use these moments as opportunities for reflection, discussion, and increased understanding.
Free Speech is integral to our democracy and to civil discourse. I am comforted that our early American leaders were in favor of free speech. George Washington in 1783 when speaking to his army officers said that without the freedom of speech "we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter."  Likewise, Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Edward Carrington suggested that he would prefer to be without government  rather than without free speech.

When discussing the importance of free speech, it is also important to promote civil discourse. Teachers must ensure the physical and psychological safety of all their students at all times, but especially during class discussions.  Teaching Tolerance provides useful FREE materials to teachers to help teach civil discourse.  These materials have won  two Oscars, an Emmy, and numerous publishing awards due to the excellence of the materials through the support of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Follow the links below to these free materials to help promote free speech with civil discourse in your classroom.

Civil Discourse in the Classroom
Additional Classroom Resources

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
I am an AP English teacher, ELA Coach, and a PD facilitator.
I have taught in private, public, and public open-enrollment charter schools.