On December 17, a global audience tuned in to a provocative webinar sponsored by itslearning and presented by Alan November who has been named one of the nation’s 15 most influential thinkers of the decade by Technology and Learning Magazine. Titled “Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success,” the one-hour webinar focused on the ways that leveraging of educational technology can completely transform learning, and November referenced the findings of influential researchers and thought leaders as well as the work of successful educators.
November declared that the number one characteristic of instruction that fully leveraged technology would be students’ learning to self-assess. He also stated that the biggest barrier to achieving this was the reluctance of many teachers to shift control over to students. November also discussed the following learning approaches:
• Peer assessment and interaction
• Enabling students to make meaningful contributions via their work
• Building an authentic audience for students beyond the classroom and
• Using technology to talk a lot less and listen a lot more in order to really learn about students
November described the last two approaches as two of the weakest areas of American teaching with technology.
Along with research findings, November cited real-life examples of the approaches he discussed. One case was the classroom Twitter account of Cathy Cassidy, a first grade teacher in Moose Jaw, Canada. Her Twitter account follows similar classrooms in Italy, Vietnam, Argentina and other countries around the world for the purpose of learning and building relationships.
Cassidy’s first graders enthusiastically write tweets and look at tweets from other first graders, and they are highly influenced by what those other children are doing. So, when her students saw their peers in Vietnam painting masks, they wanted to talk about and duplicate the activity. Also, the students in Vietnam were able to help Cassidy’s students assess their work as a form of peer-to-peer instruction. “I am concerned that many of our classrooms, even though they are connected to the Internet, have not understood the power of social engagement of children,” said November. “We can take this all the way through high school.”
Another example that November shared related to student motivation generated by meaningful work. He talked about a student who designed a tutorial that garnered 85,000 views on mathtrain.tv. Although the tutorial was extremely useful for both teachers and other students, the girl who created it stated that she had received the greatest benefit. She said the activity really helped her learn math concepts, and before she started designing tutorials, she didn’t know how to learn. She also admitted that she used to spend as little as time as possible on her homework, but she spent three hours designing and redesigning the tutorial.
November also recommended tools such as Minecraft, which he said can cause children to work for hours, developing a work ethic, one simply would not see with another medium. “Sometimes just changing the medium can have a really powerful impact,” he said. He recommended that elementary schools in particular tap different mediums to accommodate different learning styles. He also explained how a free app called PRISM could be used as formative assessment for an English language arts class.
Just before November began the question-and-answer section of the webinar, Lisa Dubernard, itslearning’s U.S. director of educational strategy, spent a few minutes explaining how teachers could use the itslearning platform to achieve many of the changes that November had recommended. Among her suggestions were using the assignment tool to enable students to give each other concrete, actionable feedback, creating surveys to encourage student self-reflection, letting students use the platform’s blogging feature to reach an authentic audience, and using its e-portfolios for self-reflection or to create work for external groups and purposes.
The “Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success” webinar is available for viewing at no cost at https://vimeo.com/149321663
Educators can access this new webinar recording that details strategies, tools and examples for creating powerful student learning environment.
Posted on January 4, 2016
by David Hyde