10/01/2009

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The Skills Teachers Need It’s inevitable: in the very near future, most educators will be teaching online or at least will be facilitating hybrid classes that include face-to-face and online components. (See Christiansen, or this NY Times article that outlines a recent study on the effectiveness of online learning from the US Department of Education.) We can assume the Internet isn’t going away. We can assume that today’s interactive whiteboards will continue to morph and evolve into interactive walls, tables, and desktops. We can assume that humans will continue to find new and innovative ways to organize and communicate. And, yes, we can also assume that there will be those who will find innovative ways to use the Internet for harm or for personal gain. So what skills do teachers (and students) need now so that they can seamlessly make this transition to a more connected, more technology-rich world? Here’s my list of knowledge and skill statements, which I’m sure will continue to grow and morph. Knows how to create and organize an aesthetic online environment that is user-friendly to the people who will be learning in this area and anticipates possible user mistakes or misuses. Not only knows how to quickly set up a presentation in order to bring in multimedia (see “learning styles”), but also knows how to use an interactive whiteboard to create virtual manipulatives for students. In addition, can teach students how to create their own virtual manipulatives. Can teach students how to navigate the vast world of the Internet...
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Finding Motivation to Put Forth the Effort by Matt Kuhn, One of the research-informed strategies from the book, Classroom Instruction that Works, is Reinforcing Effort. Many students don’t make the connection between success and effort. Often they think that other students achieve because of luck, who they know, or born-in abilities. If children don’t think that they have any of these factors in their favor, they may assume that they have no effect on their chances for success. It is up to the community, parents, and educators to make sure children do understand that effort can result is achievement. It’s at the core of the American Dream. McREL is often called to struggling communities where motivation is a big issue. Many of these communities have the most difficult of circumstances such as high poverty, unemployment, teen pregnancy, drug use, and violence. Yet, once in a while we come upon a community that despite the odds, is succeeding in motivating their students to succeed. Some of the schools in these communities were documented in McREL’s Schools that “Beat the Odds” report found at http://www.mcrel.org/product/231. When we look closely, we find school leaders that look for ways to motivate students. Sometimes it’s simply finding a way to reward good behavior. For instance, a high school principal in Poplar, Montana makes a small difference by realizing that students want a safe place to socialize with friends. So she provides a supervised common area for students in order to motivate them to try harder in school. They can play the Wii...

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