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.