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Our expert researchers, evaluators, and veteran educators synthesize information gleaned from our research and blend it with best practices gathered from schools and districts around the world to bring you insightful and practical ideas that support changing the odds of success for you and your students. By aligning practice with research, we mix professional wisdom with real world experience to bring you unexpectedly insightful and uncommonly practical ideas that offer ways to build student resiliency, close achievement gaps, implement retention strategies, prioritize improvement initiatives, build staff motivation, and interpret data and understand its impact.

Rethinking homework, Part 1 of 2

By Blog, Classroom Instruction that Works 8 Comments

Out of all of the instructional strategies originally identified by Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock (2001), homework continues to be among the most controversial. Every time I get to this strategy in our workshops, I inwardly steel myself for some lively conversations. At its best, homework is a fun way to bridge classroom learning with out-of-school experiences. At its worst, it is a mundane set of worksheets, math problems, and lower level questions. While educators see the benefit of the former, they far too often see the latter and it is this that brings such controversy. In recent readings and Twitter connections, I came across two very different homework strategies that teachers are using that I think show the dynamic learning experiences that can happen if homework is structured, purposeful, and (by all means) engaging. I’ll post these in two separate blog posts.

In the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology, chemistry teachers John Bergmann, Aaron Sams, and Brian Hatak described how they began creating vodcasts (PowerPoints with animation and recorded audio) of their chemistry lectures. Now, their chemistry homework is a quick, “just-the-facts” session while precious class time is used for labs, experiments, and discussions. These vodcasts can be found on the teachers’ Web sites (linked to their names). Delivering the basic content in digital format taps into this generation’s comfort of getting information when they need it, listening at their own pace, and being able to repeat sections that didn’t make sense the first time. Likewise, it actually enriches what happens in the classroom. No longer do they need to sit and listen to a lecture in order to get basic details. Now they can use the concepts and details to which they’ve been introduced to evaluate, generate and test hypotheses, and think critically.

In Part 2 of this post, I will describe how a teacher uses cell phones and the President’s address to Congress to engage her students in out-of-classroom learning.

Written by Elizabeth Hubbell.

Community involvement

By Blog, Everyday Innovation No Comments

To build community involvement and root learning in the real world, Golden Independent School in Golden, Colo., works with the local Chamber of Commerce to connect local businesses, organizations, and universities with students. When the school needed binoculars for their students, Pentax donated them in exchange for the positive publicity they received for helping the school. Likewise, the school benefits the community as a whole by offering classes, entertainment, and group activities to more than just their enrolled students. Sounds like everyone wins when everyone shares.

Wanted: Everyday innovations

By Blog, Everyday Innovation 2 Comments

CS_fall2008In our fall 2008 issue of Changing Schools, we wrote that “Everyday, educators across the country are finding new ways to improve student learning. Too often, though, their innovative ideas and approaches to teaching and learning remain isolated. As a result, as an enterprise, education fails to build on these everyday innovations.”

Knowing that educators across the country are continually finding new ways to improve student learning, we asked educators to share their “everday innovations” with us and others. As a result, we received—and continue to receive—several examples of ways that educators, are everyday, doing what they do a little better.

We’ve decided to post the innovations we collected into this section of our blog and encourage you to use this space to submit your “everyday innovations.”

Vocabulary jewelry

By Blog, Everyday Innovation One Comment

Tired of word walls and vocabulary clusters? The leadership team at Bayless Intermediate School in St. Louis, Mo., has come up with a creative way for teachers and students to put vocabulary front and center—by wearing it around their necks and hanging it from their ears. As part of a six-week initiative on research-based vocabulary instructional strategies, students and staff are sporting vocabulary necklaces and earrings, made from construction paper and displaying a word, the student’s own definition, and a drawing that represents the word. Why not?

Starting where students are and building

By Blog, Everyday Innovation No Comments

Global Educational Consultant Kevin Simpson finds that “Starting Where Students Are And Building” (SWSAAB) never fails to bridge the gap between student needs and educator expectations. With ever-increasing pressure to focus exclusively on end results, it’s up to the educator to step back and figure out what it will take for the students to achieve those results. It might be more than a mouthful, but it’s not so hard to swallow.

Appreciative inquiry

By Blog, Everyday Innovation 2 Comments

Having trouble resolving “sticky” situations? Bowling Green Junior High School in Bowling Green, Ky., uses Appreciative Inquiry—a process of improving an organization by emphasizing what works, rather than focusing on what doesn’t—to develop their school improvement plan. They’ve been rewarded with increased “buy-in” from stakeholders and have resolved many difficult issues. Wouldn’t we all work harder if we were praised for our qualities rather than criticized for our shortcomings?

Paperless classrooms

By Blog, Technology in Schools One Comment

A teacher at the John Carroll School in Maryland has eliminated all paper from his classroom. Supported by a 1:1 computing environment, Richard Wojewodzki uses blogs and wikis to take the place of paper. Beyond the obvious savings on paper and resources, paperless classrooms can explore the dynamic resources made possible by the technology behind “Web 2.0.” The idea has generated considerable interest in the media, at the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Technology in Education, and even the Australian Department of Education. The invention of the computer promised to lead us to a paperless society but has failed to deliver on that promise. . . until now, perhaps?