As of midnight on March 20, our 2016 scholarship is now closed and we are busy enjoying the beautiful efforts from our applicants. This year, we had 5 times the applications from last year (so we may need to extend the date by which we contact awardees…we’ll keep you posted)! Meanwhile, here are some fun facts and stats on our applications.
Our biggest pool of applicants came from California at 15.9%.
Though the scholarship is available to students from high school seniors to college juniors, the vast majority were high school students.
Of our two prompt options, most preferred to respond to “What is your opinion on how education affects the quality of life?“
The creative writing medium was the most popular again this year with 48.5% of the applications.
In a fit of sentimentality, I recently looked up my old grade school: Laguna Road Elementary. After soaking up memories of scraped-knees on the blacktop, Oregon Trail in the library, and art projects in the patios, my thoughts turned to the crowning glory of those years: the sixth grade play.
Moments from our class’ rendition of Into the Woods are forever etched in my memory–my absurd shoe-fitting as wicked stepsister Florinda, the princes’ hilarious performance of “Agony,” our paper mache Milky White cow. My thoughts also turned to my older sisters’ productions of Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oliver!, and another Into the Woods.
My reminiscences were suddenly interrupted, however, by a startling parent review on GreatSchools.org.
“They spend too time on the 6th grade play and little time reviewing for the CST (California State Testing).”
Another parent wrote:
“Best part of all….when they get [to their new school], our kids will not be wasting their 6th grade at this new school putting on a play.”
I was shocked. Perhaps these reviewers’ children were simply disappointed at the roles they received for their plays (I know I surewas at first). Maybe they just felt uncomfortable with public speaking. Or maybe they do in fact value standardized testing over performance arts.
If the latter is true for these and other parents, my question is, are the arts really a waste? And what happens to schools when we strip them away?
At the recent passing of legendary David Bowie, Stephanie wrote a brief but thought-provoking reflection on why everyone was taking the time to exchange favorite songs and memories. Her bottom line? “Because music matters.”
The case for the arts in school is also well-backed by research. One study at the University of California Los Angeles found:
“…”arts-engaged” students from low-income families demonstrated greater college-ongoing rates and better grades in college. As an example, low-income students from arts-rich high schools were more than twice as likely to earn a B.A. as low-income students from arts-poor high schools. Moreover, the UCLA researchers found the students engaged in the arts were more likely to be employed in jobs with potential career growth and more involved in volunteerism and the political life of their communities.”
The list goes on; other studies spanning the last couple of decades detail the many irreplaceable benefits of the arts for kids, ranging from greater proficiency in academic subjects to increased capacity for community connection to higher graduation rates.
As for me, the answer to what would be left without the arts is–very little. I honestly remember almost nothing else from sixth grade–least of all the testing. But I will forever and vividly recall that play. Furthermore, I don’t find it a coincidence that sixth grade was a major turning point in my confidence and interest as a learner.
What has been the longterm effect of the arts in your life? And would you have traded it for more time testing?
As we read yet another news article about a high school paralyzed by a student’s social media threat, or a student pushed to the brink by cyberbullying, it makes us question. Are these just anomalies? Kids acting out despite all the support they’d received in digital participation? Perhaps.
But we still can’t help but wonder whether there’s a pattern here. A pattern rooted in the neglect of one essential 21st century principle: digital citizenship.
When high schools experience online-related trauma, they sometimes turn to programs advertised as prevention measures. And maybe such programs prove helpful. But we contend that if we’re waiting around until high school to cultivate meaningful digital citizenship, we have waited far too long. Here are three reasons that lead us to this conclusion:
The Digital Age is Their Birthright.
One of our favorite definitions of digital citizenship is as follows, “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” And it is every bit as relevant to our kindergartners as those units on traditional citizenship.
“…things have changed. We don’t only want students to be good citizens of their physical spaces and geographic regions, but now we’re all global citizens, connecting with people all over the world through digital means.”
Most teachers already value and teach citizenship from the youngest ages, which helps students understand that they belong to a community. But we must expand this priority in helping them realize how they belong to a digital community, too. Because Will Richardson reminds us, “If you think that your kids won’t be interacting with strangers on the Internet the rest of their learning lives, you’re crazy!” We must teach safety, etiquette, literacy, and responsibility–both online and offline.
Waiting until high school gives kids more time to cement the idea that tech is just a toy.
Encouraging deep understanding of the multifaceted nature of technology is no one-time lesson. It takes authentic modeling. It takes opportunity for exploration. And it takes continual in-depth discussion. Only then will our students gradually discover that resources like Youtube can be incredible learning tools–not just entertainment.
But the issue with neglecting digital citizenship reaches beyond just shallow personal amusement. As we mentioned earlier, cyberbullying and threats of violence crop up in news feeds on a regular basis, and each time, administrators and policymakers ask how it can be prevented. Introducing and cultivating digital citizenship from a young age can curb this kind of abuse. After all, when students have been encouraged to see themselves as members of a real global community, they are less likely to see themselves as anonymous outsiders, and more likely to recognize the impact of their online actions.
Kids are capable of positive online social interaction much earlier.
We’ll let recent tweets from hashtags like #Comments4Kids, #HourOfCode, and #MysterySkype speak for this point.
Sure, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media may be a great place for exchanging selfies and cat videos, but what about when you come across legitimate information in social media that backs up your research?
Over the course of the past couple decades, we have moved from card catalogs, to library computer searches, to articles published online, and now on to social media! It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the most modern methods of research, especially when it comes to the various APA or MLA citation formats. Hopefully, this post will be a useful resource for you as you decide when and how to cite social media finds!
The TeachByte graphic below is an excellent general guide for both MLA and APA citations. However, as anyone who has done any research knows, certain instances can get more complicated than general guidelines. For instance, what if you want to cite an expert who sent you a personal communication, and it’s not publicly visible for audiences to click on? Or how do you know how to cite in-text vs. your bibliography reference list? The official APA blog answers these questions and more in greater detail using examples from their post in October!
As with all research, you will want to make sure there is plenty of variety among your sources. Just because it is now acceptable to cite social media does not mean it should consume most of your bibliography. Additionally, because of the unique nature of social media Tweets, posts, and videos in that they can go viral even if they are inaccurate, you will want to be particularly careful when considering whether to use one. The information literacy website, EasyBib, provides an excellent Infographic to help you in that decision-making process.
…It’s all about giving each individual the credit they deserve for their efforts and ideas! When in doubt, discuss your concerns with your teacher or professor!
You’ve probably heard the buzz around Flipped Learning online or around your school. If you are contemplating implementing this teaching approach, we would encourage you to carefully consider several areas addressed in this article.
When teachers flip their classrooms, they flip around their use of classroom time and homework time. To sum it up quickly:
Traditional class structure: lessons during school → practice during homework.
Flipped classroom structure: practice during school → lessons during homework.
Efficiency and relationships: Proponents frequently submit these as two principal benefits of Flipped Learning. With the lectures transformed into much more efficient, shortened videos, teachers can dedicate class time for more personalized interaction with students. This in turn can also better enable differentiated instruction (see youtube video below)
Revolutionizing Homework Time: Homework critics have long asserted their view that student practice at home without any teacher guidance is an ineffective, frustrating use of students’ time. Flipped Learning has the potential to address this frustration when that practice time is instead brought to the classroom (source)¹.
Data Support: Formal studies examining the effects of flipped learning have yet to come, but many positive experiences have been shared. For instance, Clintondale High School reported that when their teachers used three 5-7 minute lessons per week to flip their classes, math and English failure rates dropped from 44% to 13%, and 50% to 19%, respectively. They also had a sharp decrease in discipline cases. (source)².
Actually a Time-Tested, Old Idea? Others bring up the point that Flipped Learning is just a modern strategy to implement a proven, John Dewey-coined pedagogy: centering the learning more around the learner than the teacher (source)³.
Some (free!) Resources
Homework Side of the Flip:
Screenr: Records a video of what you do on your computer screen (ie, a PowerPoint, Prezi, or Word Document), while simultaneously recording your voice as you explain the content. Easy to share through Youtube or embedding.
Educreations: Records your voice as you draw your lesson. You can also prepare the slides before you start recording your voice to be more efficient through your lesson.
Sophia: Allows you to bring in content such as PDF’s and Google Documents. You can even attach quizzes to your lessons!
Youtube: Great if you want a full-blown video with your face. Make sure the lighting and sound are high quality, though!
Respond to questions inspired by homework lessons: Start the lesson with exploring student-raised questions that came up during the homework. To allow you time to consider and prepare for those questions, you can even include in the homework assignment for students to email you at least one question.
Require students to take notes: This approach would be especially appropriate for older grades. Just make sure you model to them effective note-taking while watching a video (see article addressing this practice).
5 Ways to Encourage Student-Centered Learning in the Flip
1. Understand Flipped Learning’s Direct Instruction Design
The official FLN (Flipped Learning Network) definition of flipped learning says, “”Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space…” (source)⁴ In other words, flipped homework videos are intended almost exclusively for direct instruction use.
For this reason, we strongly encourage every educator to be extremely selective in when and how they choose to flip lessons. If many of your class lessons are already inquiry-based, only use flipped learning on the occasion direct instruction is needed–or perhaps, even after your inquiry lesson to extend and reinforce the big ideas students discovered. If most of your lessons are currently direct instruction, we feel that flipped learning is just one step in how you can approach your teaching in a way that reaches more learners, and on deeper levels. (see points #2 and 3).
We have seen articles mentioning that one benefit of flipped classrooms is that students who are absent won’t get behind (source)⁵. However, this perspective suggests that students wouldn’t miss much if they had to skip the classroom inquiry time–that the teacher-centered, direct instructional videos would be sufficient. However, we maintain that it is critical for teachers to possess the reverse perspective if they are to cultivate a student-centered focus.
2. Don’t Depend on Flipped Learning Alone to Inspire!
To illustrate this point, we would like to reference a few educators that have discussed the topic of Flipped Learning in the context of inquiry-based instruction:
“Questions and curiosity…are magnets that draw us towards our teachers, and they transcend all technology or buzzwords in education. But if we place these technologies before student inquiry, we can be robbing ourselves of our greatest tool as teachers: our students’ questions. For example, flipping a boring lecture from the classroom to the screen of a mobile device might save instructional time, but if it is the focus of our students’ experience, it’s the same dehumanizing chatter–just wrapped up in fancy clothing. But if instead we have the guts to confuse our students, perplex them, and evoke real questions, through those questions, we as teachers have information that we can use to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.” (source)⁶
Edna Sackson, author of blog WhatEdSaid, shared her perspective:
“It’s not so much about flipping as about rethinking altogether. [emphasis added]. Learning isn’t linear. It’s not a step by step, one size fits all process. It doesn’t go in a sequence from remembering to understanding to analysing… and finish with creating. And it doesn’t necessarily have to go in the reverse order either. It depends on the learner and on the situation.” (source)⁷
Many individuals discussing flipped learning promote the idea of moving lower-level Bloom’s Taxonomy skills (remembering, understanding) to the homework lessons, and higher-level skills (creating, evaluating) to the classroom (source)⁸. However, educator Shelley Wright suggests flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy as well! She writes, “Here’s what I propose. In the 21st century, we flip Bloom’s taxonomy. Rather than starting with knowledge, we start with creating, and eventually discern the knowledge that we need from it.” (source)⁹
3. Start With the Why
Author Simon Sinek gave a TED Talk a few years ago about what motivates people, stemming from his “Golden Circle” model. He explains that what has always set apart innovative and inspiring leaders, such as the Wright Brothers, is that they they focused on their beliefs or their Why, rather than the How or What.
This concept absolutely applies to how we approach learning. Think about your Why as a teacher: is your end goal for students to just pass your class and move on in the system, memorizing your content just long enough to pass your tests? Or do you hope for their sights to be raised in wonder and possibility, taking their learning further by building upon it throughout their lives? If we focus only on results, then all of our most carefully-constructed worksheets, projects, and activities will stem from the How and What, and will likely lead to very little. However, if we focus on the Why first, we will find increased levels of student ownership and engagement as they set their own visions higher. (check out Edna Sackson’s post on Differentiating Learning for additional ideas for raising our own sights in this approach!)
4. Design Homework Videos to be Accessible & Useful to Students
Particularly in higher education levels, we have seen examples of teachers and professors approaching the homework side of the flip in ways that can be overburdensome and/or ineffective for students. For example, creating videos that are especially lengthy may work in isolation for your class; however, if a student has multiple instructors who have flipped their classrooms, it may be prove overwhelming for students. Additionally, one benefit of flipped classrooms is students’ ability to pause, rewind, and replay the videos as needed to better absorb the information. Therefore, if your 1-hour video is one among several assigned in an evening, students will be less likely to thoroughly engage, regardless of their age Jonathan Bergmann, a pioneer in flipped learning, recommends no more than 1 ½ minutes per grade level (source)⁸. On the other hand, instructors should also take care that the content of their video adequately covers the concepts to be practiced in class. Finding the balance between these two ideas will come with trial and error, so be sure to seek student feedback as you do so!
As you consider how to make your videos as practical and engaging as possible, don’t forget about accessibility, either! Many students prefer to access flipped homework videos via smartphones, so make sure the platform you’re using is available on both desktops and mobile devices!
5. Have a Realistic Troubleshooting Gameplan
No internet, computers, or mobile devices at home? This is becoming a less frequent problem all the time, but it still exists! While we have come across several potential solutions to this problem, (including burning videos to DVD’s or flashdrives, using the public library, using the school computer lab after school, or watching with a friend or borrowed device), not every idea will be practical at your school. To guide your search, seek your students’ input to find out not only what they would prefer, but for how many of them this is an issue. Consider factors such as your own time constraints for burning DVD’s or how many computers are even available for students at your school. You may need to take an alternative route altogether and watch the videos during class. See the video below to see how this works:
Some students don’t watch the homework videos? Establish a formative assessment each day to check for understanding, whether it’s ExitTickets.org, emailed questions, or note-taking. If you have computers in your classroom, you may decide that students who missed it can watch the video in class, but make sure you still have measures in place to encourage accountability (ie, the students would then have an extra assignment based on the practice they missed).
We’ve all snored through text or slide-heavy Powerpoints before. The next time you have to create a presentation, consider some of these more engaging alternatives!
These 3 resources each explore the what (how the resource works), the when (uses in the classroom), and the how (how they can replace Powerpoint)!
Take any image and turn it into an interactive dream as you link in videos, pictures, articles, and comments! They work particularly well if you have a classroom blog or other website your students can access. The Thinglink above contains more links with details on introducing you to this fantastic resource.
Introduce yourself to your students in a fun new way!
Instead of assigning your 30+ students to all make Powerpoint reports (taking endless hours afterwards presenting in class), assign them to make Thinglinks, publishing them to a class account or on the class blog!
Rather than taking class time to go through a Powerpoint, give them a homework assignment to explore a new Thinglink that gets them thinking! You can just put up an image with questions for them to start wondering and thinking (see example below), or include multimedia to really familiarize them with the subject before doing further study in class!
Say you want to present to your students information on documents and systems that helped influence the United States Constitution: the Magna Carta, the Iroquois Confederacy, the Mayflower Compact, and the Articles of Confederation. With a powerpoint, this would be a very linear discussion, covering each topic consecutively, perhaps with videos sprinkled throughout. With a Thinglink, however, you can link all the videos, media, and thinking questions into one image, and then publish it to a classroom blog or another platform your students can access. Students can then explore all the links in a manner that best suits their learning–re-watching videos that were confusing for them, or reading articles at their pace that give them even more information! Check out an example of how we put this together below.
A Prezi is a zoomable presentation that engages viewers as it flows from idea to idea in unexpected, animated ways. The video above chronicles the development and benefits of using Prezi as it goes through an actual Prezi!
You can embed a Prezi into your classroom website any time you want your students to be able to explore a concept at their convenience.
Great when you want to help your students really “be there” with regards to your big idea in presenting. The Prezi below does a beautiful job of this!
Especially amazing when you want to teach about anything connected to timelines. Check out the Prezi below for an example of what we mean!
A Prezi can be used exactly as you currently use Powerpoints–in fact, it even has a feature for you to upload existing Powerpoint slides into a Prezi template! Only, then, you get to play with the 3D templates and zoomable features to help bring it to life!
Skype Virtual Field Trips
The definition of what makes a Skype virtual field trip is confined only by your own imagination! Watch this video on Skype’s education page for a wonderful introduction! Connecting through Skype, you can interview activists, have docents show your students around museums, or even take students on virtual road trips (see that field trip described in more detail here, along with 4 other amazing examples)! An article from Scholastic explains how it provides “customized curriculum” and “global connections.” You can either pick existing lessons from Skype’s page on classroom use that you can schedule right away, or connect with other teachers around the world with similar project goals using your Skype account and profile!
Give students an opportunity for authentic learning experiences when budgets for actual field trips are tight!
Explore other cultures as you connect with people and places outside your own country!
Forget making a Powerpoint with the who, what, when, where, and why of wolves in North America: Schedule a Skype interview with an actual wolf expert for students to interview and learn from after they have prepared some questions! Not only does this dynamically bring learning “off the page,” but it hones students’ communication skills as well!
If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management. So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?
The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today! Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:
Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!
Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.
Multimedia Literacy: Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters. However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources. Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!
Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit. However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!
Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting! Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!
Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March! If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.
Simple Steps for Success
Pick a Platform: Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget. Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account. You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school! Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!
Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging! You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!
Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all! However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started! For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).
Internet Safety & Respect: Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas). Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal! Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!
Establish clear expectations: Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs. If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning. Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!
Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use. We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.
Math:Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!
Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year! Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May. For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.
Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle. Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!
Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.
Science/Social Studies:Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!
Introduce one at a time: Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and practicing just one resource at a time! Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting. We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.
MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!! Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource. Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference. Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!
Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work! Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!
Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:
Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs! You can always get creative and craft a few of your own! For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!
Quadblogging: This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours! Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments! One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!