Tagged “Connecting Digital Learners”

Andrew Miller

Active Game-Based Learning

OK, so I am a gamer. Not that I have the time anymore, but I do venture now and again into a game, whether a first-person shooter or role-playing video game. I am also a big promoter of Game-Based Learning (GBL) and Gamification. To clarify, GBL is when games are used to balance the learning of subject matter through gameplay with specific learning outcomes in mind. Gamification is applying the concepts of game design to learning to engage in problem solving. Again, both are geared toward building student engagement and learning important content. GBL is one method that creates not only a great opportunity to engage students in content, but also an opportunity to keep them active.

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Klea Scharberg

Sixth Grader Builds iPhone Apps and Sparks Learning in School

Thomas Suarez is a 6th grade student at a middle school in the South Bay of Los Angeles who has been fascinated by computers and technology since before kindergarten. With the introduction of software development tools, he started building applications for the iPhone and iPad.

"A lot of kids these days want to play games, but now they want to make them. And it's difficult because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program," said Suarez on October 22 at the TEDxManhattanBeach Transforming Learning Conference. "For soccer you can go to a soccer team, for violin you could get lessons for violin. But what if you want to make an app? Their parents might have done a lot of those things when they were young, but not many parents have written apps."

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Klea Scharberg

Improve Student Learning Through Teacher Effectiveness

Virtually every study that has examined the role of the classroom teacher in the process of educating students has come to the same conclusion: an effective teacher enhances student learning more than any other aspect of schooling that can be controlled by the school.

But that doesn't mean blaming teachers for low test scores. Starting tomorrow, ASCD's Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning focuses on how schools can support teacher effectiveness in a balanced way that addresses all of the factors research indicates improve student learning. Follow the conference learning online with Conference Daily and join the conversation on Twitter through the #ascdfc11 hashtag.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Professional Learning Communities Saved My Career

Gwendolyn Todd

Post written by Gwendolyn Todd, a secondary instructional resource teacher in the Charles County (Md.) Public Schools. This post was originally featured in ASCD Express.

When I began my teaching career just a decade ago, professors and veteran teachers warned me that teaching is a solitary profession. Although both groups continually taught me strategies to facilitate collaborative learning for my students, they also emphasized that my professional life would be lonely.

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Klea Scharberg

Engaging, Supporting, and Connecting Parents and Families in Learning

It isn't a new concept that parent and family engagement in children's learning is key to student success and development. But we are introducing and working with new technologies that can improve, reinforce, and support the engagement and communication. Microsoft Education in the United Kingdom offers resources to allow educators get the most from information technology investments and has worked with the Department for Children, Schools, and Families to share the stories of five schools that are using technology in innovative ways to better engage parents in their children’s education.

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Walter McKenzie

Open Campus, Open Network, Open Possibilities

It's a bright, sunny Tuesday morning, and students are entering Roosevelt Elementary school with excitement and energy. No backpacks. No luggage on wheels. Just lunch bags and handheld devices.

As they enter the renovated 75-year old building, students find places to settle in. No homerooms. No morning announcements. Everyone busily logs in to the network system using their personal devices, indicating they are present for the day, reading school announcements, and reviewing their individual schedules for the day.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

More Learning Time Without More Money?

Post submitted by Educational Leadership Senior Editor Deborah Perkins-Gough.

Lengthen the school day! Shorten the summer break! Keep U.S. students in school longer to make them more competitive with their international counterparts! To realistic educators, enthusiastic calls for expanded learning time may seem like pie in the sky. In tight fiscal times when schools are scrambling just to maintain current programs and staffing, how can we possibly afford to expand instructional time?

More learning time doesn't necessarily require more resources—just flexible use of the resources we have, according to Ben Lummis, vice president of the National Center on Time and Learning. In a May 12 webinar sponsored by Schools Moving Up, Lummis described how some schools are using creative staffing, flexible scheduling, community partners, and technology to expand learning time without adding cost or asking teachers to work a longer day. Some examples:

  • Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School in Palo Alto, Calif., incorporates a 100-minute learning lab into each school day. Students engage in computer-based math and reading lessons, supervised by paraprofessionals. Teachers use data from the students' online assessments to individualize classroom instruction.
  • A.C. Whelan Elementary School in Revere, Mass., employs a coach from the nonprofit group Playworks to teach six periods of physical education each day. By partnering with this community organization, the school increased students' physical education time and freed up teachers' time for collaboration and individual student support.

Lummis stipulated that expanding learning time is a complex and complicated endeavor, and the best approach will vary from school to school. But it is possible, even with limited resources. And it's an investment that has the potential to yield big dividends in terms of student learning.

Do you agree that extending the school day or year should be a priority for schools? Has your school found innovative ways to do so?

Andrew Miller

Building Student Capacity in the Middle Grades

Project-based learning (PBL) is being embraced by schools nationally and across grade levels. Educators know that each grade level comes with its challenges as students are in a variety of developmental levels and abilities. However, through practicing 21st century skills in a PBL environment, students can build their social, emotional, and cognitive capacity. 

Because the middle grades are a paradigm shift for most students, middle-grades teachers are presented with an exciting opportunity to engage 21st century learners, but they also need to keep in mind that these students need unique scaffolding.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Eight Tips to Engage Your Students

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Tymeesa Rutledge

"We cannot use the excuse 'I've always done it this way,'" said speaker Laura Erlauer Myrah.

In the ASCD Annual Conference session "Instructional Tips to Tell Teachers," Laura Erlauer Myrah provided eight tips for educators and teachers to engage their students and allow them to remember concepts taught in class. The eight tips cover categories such as the body and brain, movement, emotional environment, collaboration, relevant learning, enriched environment, and Net Generation learners.

In the first category, "body and brain," Erlauer Myrah referred to research that supported children needing oxygen and water so that their brains would not become dehydrated. She suggested that teachers open windows in the classroom, have plants in class, allow students to carry water bottles, and educate parents about the need for students to get adequate sleep.

But students need more than proper sleep, hydration, and oxygen to remain engaged in the material. Erlauer Myrah offered a tip on how to make a lesson that students can be engaged in. She provided research from Sheryl Feinstein, "Handling Specific Problems in Classroom Management" in The Praeger Handbook of Learning and the Brain (2006), as the basis for her tip on how to change the lesson plan to accommodate how the brain works: You should capture your students' attention in the beginning of a lesson. For example, when you begin class, instead of using the first 10 minutes to take attendance or review daily tasks, use that time to teach the most important concepts. This is the time that students are most engaged, according to Erlauer Myrah. For the next few minutes, allow the students to "pair and share" what they have learned with one another. Then, use the next seven minutes of prime time to teach some more concepts.

The four main takeaway points that teachers should want for their students are: know the concept, want to know more about the concept, know what was learned, and know how students can use and apply the concept.

A 1st grade teacher from Southern California enjoyed the session and felt that she could use the tips for her students.

"What I really enjoyed about the session were the practical tips given," said Lisa Taylor.

Another member of the audience was also inspired by Erlauer Myrah's tips.

"I loved the session. It was inspirational, motivating, practical, and respectful of the hardships and challenges within the education world," said Marcia Richards after she had finished dancing a two-step to Kool and the Gang's "Celebration." She also has hope that teachers will "continue to make a difference in children's lives."

This session suggested that in the 21st century, teachers should embrace the changes that are happening in the world and allow them to be available to the students. The old ways of teaching are of value, but if the students aren't engaged and learning anything beyond the classroom, they will not be prepared to thrive in this new world.

Tips that can be used in the classroom:

1. Body and Brain

  • Open windows.
  • Have plants in classrooms.
  • Allow your students to have water bottles.
  • Educate parents and students regarding the need for adequate sleep.

2. Movement

  • Ask your students to stand instead of raising their hands.
  • Questions around the room
  • Clapping rhythms
  • New location for important material

3. Emotional Environment

  • Make every student feel unique and secure.
  • Meet and greet.
  • Give recognition.
  • Listen and show interest.
  • Expect respect from all.
  • Relationships transcend everything.
  • Emotions and memory

4. Collaboration

  • Collaborative learning/projects
  • Pair and share (tell students to talk to classmates and practice answers)
  • Connections with other levels
  • Connections with community

5. Relevant Learning

  • Make the relevance obvious to students.
  • Make it interesting and fun through your delivery.
  • Experience learning.

6. Enriched Environment

  • Challenging problem solving
  • Physical classroom
  • Play music during tests or writing.
  • Use of music: a. Primer; b. Carrier; c. Arousal/Mood

7. Assessment and Feedback

  • Know it well.
  • Remember it always.
  • Use it readily.

8. Net Generation Learners

  • Youth don't see working, learning, collaborating, and having fun as separate experiences.
  • They believe in, and want, these experiences occurring simultaneously in school and in future careers.
  • This generation wants to problem solve and innovate.


Laura Varlas

The King of Ish-ful Thinking

Peter Reynolds - 2011 ASCD Annual Conference

When Peter Reynolds' teachers dared him to teach others, through art and storytelling, they uncorked the genie of Ish-ful thinking.

At the second general session of ASCD's 2011 Annual Conference in San Francisco, the award-winning children's book author, illustrator, and software designer (FableVision), shared some of the backstory to Dot and Ish, and how educators can incorporate the maxims from these books into their classroom culture and practices.

Dot encourages readers to "make their mark and see where it takes you." Ish builds on this theme, advocating that there are no prescribed "right" ways of imagining and creating.

How well do all schools reflect these values of creating something meaningful to yourself and the world and breaking free of conformity and standardized thinking?

Reynolds suggested six essentials for classrooms that support creative ideals:

  • Environmental Cues: How does the physical space of our schools encourage creativity?
  • Open-Ended Invitations: A blank page, or a blank screen, invites creative thinkers. Let the good stuff come from you and your students, not scripted curriculum, said Reynolds. "Bottled-up creativity leads us to consume, not create. We need to make more."
  • Expressive Tools in the Hands of Students: Reynolds demonstrated a digital drawing tablet that turns a computer mouse into a pen. "Technology lets us explore and share ideas, and see what else is possible."
  • Time and Freedom: Reynolds said teachers need more time and freedom to dive more deeply into learning. "We're much more creative than standardized testing. Standardized testing is like dial-up in a broadband world."
  • Visionary, Enlightened, and Engaged Leaders: Reynolds aimed this appeal not just at school leaders, but political leaders who need to "get it" that creativity is not just a once-a-week art class. It's every day, across curriculum. Art can connect the dots between the subjects and fun.
  • Love: Let every child know they exist and they matter. Ask students, who are you? Where have you been, where are you going, and how will you get there? Reynolds' middle school math teacher noticed him and connected the dots between doodling in class to using art to teach lessons through stories. Know that you change the lives of your students for the better, and let that prompt you to do it even more.

ASCD's Annual Conference is an "opportunity to stop and imagine what next year could be like," noted Reynolds. He called on educators to express themselves bravely; to be kind, creative, and generous and to "let no one squish your ish or the ishes of the ish-ful thinkers around you."


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