Ask a Tech Teacher is a group of tech ed teachers who work together to offer you tech tips, advice, pedagogic discussion, lesson plans, and anything else they can think of to help you integrate tech into your classroom for education.
In these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.
Today’s tip: #25: My Desktop Keyboard Doesn’t Work
Q: I need to type a lesson plan, but all I get is a cursor that blinks… and blinks… but goes nowhere. What do I do?
A: The first culprit to investigate is the keyboard. Try these solutions:
Is keyboard power light on? If so, check your screen. Is something preventing you from typing? Maybe a dialogue box wants an answer? If the light isn’t on, continue down this list.
Check plugs. Maybe the cord that connects keyboard and computer is loose or fell out.
Reboot. Sometimes the stuff in the boot-up sequence that makes the keyboard work gets lost. Restarting allows it to re-establish itself.
Do you eat at your keyboard? Doesn’t everyone? I offer this next solution hesitantly: Bang on the keys. Sometimes they get stuck. If that doesn’t work, turn the keyboard over and see what falls out.
If you use the VARK model of Student Learning, you know why I’m excited about it. VARK started as a questionnaire to help students and teachers understand their best approach to learning but has since become more of a guideline for teaching and learning. The questionnaire is deliberately short (thirteen-sixteen questions, depending upon which version you take) in order to prevent student survey fatigue.
The acronym VARK refers to four learning modalities — Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. Though often classroom lessons focus on the Visual, with a bit of preparation, they can be taught using all four modalities thus accommodating students who learn best in a different way. Why go through this extra effort? VARK’s creator, Neil Fleming, explains it this way:
Students’ preferred learning modes have a significant influence on their behavior and learning.
Information that is accessed through students’ use of their modality preferences shows an increase in their levels of comprehension, motivation, and metacognition.
For me, that extra time and effort is a no-brainer. Let me back up a moment and explain how I got to that point. I realized after a few years of teaching that something was wrong with the methodology I had been taught. Lots of clever, smart kids weren’t getting what I was putting out. I taught in a way that addressed how the majority learned (because that covered most kids, didn’t it?) but that turned out to be more like a plurality. Or less. In fact, where that plurality of kids might be the biggest group in the class, those that weren’t learning in this prescriptive manner was an even bigger group. To say it another way:
What the Bell Curve considers the “typical student” was always far outnumbered by those who weren’t.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Fleming reports that Kinesthetics (the K in VARK) is the most common learning style though not the most common teaching style.
It was time to shake things up.
Differentiated instruction, also called “personalized learning”, addresses the truism that every student learns differently. How they absorb, process, comprehend, and retain information often doesn’t match how their neighbor does. For example, when I teach coding, some students jump in and learn by doing, not getting frustrated by how many times they must debug, retry, and redo. Others start by reading instructions, watching videos, and observing the work of their neighbor. Still others follow a hybrid of both.
Learning better when information is presented a certain way has nothing to do with intelligence.
Just as someone who can’t see would fail if all instruction were visual, many of us absorb knowledge better when presented in a certain way.
What is VARK?
VARK is a learning style inventory. The acronym refers to the four most-common learning styles — Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetics found within educational theorist Neil Fleming’s model of student learning.
Visual: information presented as maps, spider diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, labeled diagrams, and all the symbolic arrows, circles, hierarchies and other devices that people use to represent what could have been presented in words.
Auditory/Aural: a preference for information that is heard or spoken such as lectures, group discussion, radio, email, mobile phones, speaking, web-chat and talking things through.
Reading/Writing: information displayed as words, text-based input and output. This includes all forms but especially manuals, reports, essays, and assignments.
Kinesthetic: a preference for gathering information through experience and practice, simulated or real, either through concrete personal experiences, examples, practice or simulation. It also includes demonstrations, simulations, videos, and movies, as well as case studies, practice, and applications.
The VARK model acknowledges that students process information differently, referred to as “preferred learning modes”. This has a significant impact on the student’s ability to collect and disseminate information and should be matched with appropriate learning strategies. When that is done properly, students show increased ability to comprehend it, use it, and relate it to other knowledge.
VARK used to be referred to as VAK until Reading/Writing was highlighted as significantly different from the Visual modality.
How do you get started?
Start with an open-minded assessment of the student’s learning style using the VARK questionnaire or one of several other learning style inventories. The goal is to uncover how the student learns best. At the end of the VARK questionnaire, students get a report that analyzes their answers and draws conclusions as to what their best learning style is. Students use these results to understand their preferred modality and in a bigger sense, come to terms with why learning challenges they’ve faced in the past have less to do with their intelligence and more with how the knowledge was presented. Follow up this written report with varied activities from all four modalities and pay close attention to the types of intelligence students display as they complete tasks.
Like students, teachers also have preferred teaching modalities. VARK offers a teacher questionnaire to help teachers understand how they teach. Here’s mine:
Because often teachers don’t understand how to teach using these different modalities, train faculty to not only recognize these learning preferences among their students but to be open-minded about accepting them and be capable of teaching in all.
A note of caution: VARK is intended to start a conversation about options in learning styles that might help students themselves become better learners by thinking more about circumstances that aid or stifle learning. Neil Fleming says:
“[VARK] … is a beginning of a dialogue, not a measure of personality. It should be used strictly for learning, not for recreation or leisure. Some also confuse preferences with ability or strengths. You can like something, but be good at it or not good at it or any point between. VARK tells you about how you like to communicate. It tells you nothing about the quality of that communication.”
When students realize that everyone learns in different ways, Dr. Fleming reports their common reaction is:
“At last I know I’m different not dumb.”
The idea of individual learning styles is so popular because it makes sense. We see it in action. We notice it in ourselves. Learning-styles theory is endorsed by 93 percent of the public and 76 percent of educators.
Wait — what? 24% of educators don’t think it exists? Here’s how implementing the results of the VARK questionnaire would look in an education ecosystem:
Teachers understand why students don’t always understand their well-constructed lesson plans.
Teachers begin to present materials in multiple ways, accepting that students learn in different ways.
Teachers allow students to complete their work in ways that work for them, as long as what they do satisfies lesson goals.
When teaching, Gardner recommends two steps: 1) Individualize teaching for students, and 2) pluralize teaching to include as many of the intelligences as possible.
When teaching keyboarding, teachers play music so students can pace themselves with the beat.
Instead of checklists, teachers use brainstorming and mindmaps to help students organize their ideas.
Popular Multisensory Teaching Approaches
Once modalities have been identified, there are a variety of approaches available for implementing multisensory teaching. The most common and one often used to teach writing is sand trays. Often these are integrated into a teaching strategy like:
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences
Whole Brain Teaching
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences
In 1983, Howard Gardner published what would become a seminal discussion on what he called a learners’ multiple intelligences and became one of the best-known of the discussions on learning styles. Since then, it has grown to an approach to teaching based on the most common multiple intelligences:
Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is a multisensory approach to teaching that includes vocal directions mixed with hand gestures, inflections, full body movement, head motions, and chants. It uses “model and repeat” in a fast-paced class that at first blush, visitors would probably call chaotic. Students call it fun. Parents call it effective. Click for more detail.
Officially labeled “Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Structured Language Approach”, this teaching style relies on using all the senses — visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. Where it was first applied to those with reading problems, when O-G was expanded to all classrooms, it excelled. Click here for more detail.
Now, after more than a decade of teaching in a manner that addresses student personal learning styles, I can see that the time invested up front quickly paid off in student success. And once I learned to structure lessons that meet students where they learn, it actually saved time in not having to re-explain, provide after-school tutoring, and discuss with them and their parents why they didn’t do well when we all knew they were smart enough.
Have you had a similar experience? Or a different one? I’d love to hear from you.
— image credit: https://youtu.be/Ji38aUS4w2w
— published first on TeachHUB
More on VARK:
The VARK Questionnaire to determine your learning modality
EasyBib, the first name most educators think of when citing sources, has created a useful summary on MLA guidelines for citing sources. Best of all, it’s an infographic you can grab and post on your wall (with proper citation, of course):
Knowledge is meant to be shared. That’s what writing is about–taking what you know and putting it out there for all to see. When students hear the word “writing”, most think paper-and-pencil, maybe word processing, but that’s the vehicle, not the goal. According to state and national standards (even international), writing is expected to “provide evidence in support of opinions”, “examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately”, and/or “communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose”. Nowhere do standards dictate a specific tool be used to accomplish the goals.
In fact, the tool students select to share knowledge will depend upon their specific learning style. Imagine if you–the artist who never got beyond stick figures–had to draw a picture that explained the nobility inherent in the Civil War. Would you feel stifled? Would you give up? Now put yourself in the shoes of the student who is dyslexic or challenged by prose as they try to share their knowledge.
When you first bring this up in your class, don’t be surprised if kids have no idea what you’re talking about. Many students think learning starts with the teacher talking and ends with a quiz. Have them take the following surveys:
Both are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Harold Gardner’s iconic model for mapping out learning modalities such as linguistic, hands-on, kinesthetic, math, verbal, and art. Understanding how they learn explains why they remember more when they write something down or read their notes rather than listening to a lecture. If they learn logically (math), a spreadsheet is a good idea. If they are spatial (art) learners, a drawing program is a better choice.
Here are seven categories of tools that address specific learning styles, with suggestions:
A picture is worth a thousand words–what better way for a writer to understand the intricacies of a story than to draw them. Daniel Tammet, a high-functioning autistic savant, is famous for seeing the answers to math problems as a colorful landscape across the horizon of his brain. He always communicated his math artistically, as fit his learning style. The link shows a picture of Pi.
Here are five excellent online drawing tools:
Lunapic–filters, animations, quick editing and more. This tool enhances an existing drawing rather than creating new ones
Audio “writing” is simply taping words rather than putting them on paper. They are not distracting, can be consumed without eyes (great if you’re driving or watching TV), and appeal to learners who have difficulty with traditional writing methods. Its popularity for presentations is the engine behind the burgeoning growth of podcasts: In 2014, Apple had over 1 billion people subscribed to podcasts.
There are three great options for audio writing in your classroom:
Desktop publishing blends a wide variety of media–pictures, text, audio, visual, color, and layout–to communicate a message. Students must be comfortable in multiple media, by a master of none. Here are suggestions:
LucidPress–provides professional-looking templates for brochures, magazines, fliers, and more
MS Publisher–the same approach as LucidPress, but from Microsoft
Glogster–digital posters that include text, images, video, and more
For some students, it’s all about music. Celine Dion’s wildly popular Titanic song (“My Heart Will Go On”) drenched millions of listeners in the debilitating emotion of a lost love. Nothing “examines complex ideas” better than music.
Here are three popular intuitive choices for composing music:
GarageBand–turns an iPad into a single instrument or a full band
Slideshows have long been the alternative to the written report, used when the written word required an oral presentation. Most slideshows include bulleted draft text, images, sounds, videos, color, and movement. Here are three popular tools that accomplish this task and more:
PowerPoint–software from Microsoft
Slides–online free slideshow tool from Google
Haiku Deck–app for creating iPad- or web-based slideshows
For numbers-based communication, nothing turns data into information better than spreadsheets. Here are several traditional options:
MS Excel–from Microsoft
Google Sheets–from Google
For students who aren’t writers and have difficulty presenting to a group, a video is unintimidating and stress-free. Here are three options:
Animoto–add text, images, and music and turn the result into a video
Goanimate–animate ideas using stock templates and pieces and turned into videos
Stupeflix–create videos from music, video, text, and pictures
The next time your summative assessment is a report, let students choose their ‘writing’ method. Grade the result on whether they fulfilled your expectations, not on the quality of their prose.
Ask a Tech Teacher routinely shares favorite websites and apps that make a difference in the classroom. Over the last month, readers voted on which tools had the greatest impact on readers. To award this Best in Category badge, we asked them to look for the uncommon resources (meaning: not the ones everyone knows about), the ones that made them say Wow and rush to share with colleagues everywhere.
Then we looked for the following qualities:
how dependable is it
how versatile is it for time-strapped teachers
does it differentiate for the varied needs of students and teacher
do educators like it (fairly subjective, but there you have it)
how did it work when exposed to your students
was it easy to use and intuitive to learn
did it fulfill promises and expectations
has it become a beloved tool in your classes or a failed experiment
Here are the 2017 Best-in-Category and Honorable Mentions for the following Categories:
The problem is, tomorrow’s adults must be math proficient which means our kids must be. A preponderance of jobs today’s kids will get when they join the working world will require technology — and with that, the critical thinking developed by math. It’s no surprise conscientious schools are looking for more effective and reliable ways to teach that math.
If your school has decided that what’s always worked doesn’t and will be evaluating math programs to find one that provides a real solution to the math aptitude problem, here are seven of the most popular you want to include:
Pearson’s enVisionMATH Common Core-aligned curriculum develops K-6 students’ understanding of math concepts through problem-based instruction, small-group interaction, and interactive learning with a focus on reasoning and modeling. The textbook is filled with colorful pictures, illustrations, and attempts to present practical, real-life examples of using math in the world.
Despite including teacher manuals and student workbooks, EnVision Math is affordable enough to serve traditional and homeschool needs.
When I read reviews of EnVision Math, complaints spanned the gamut of being too easy to too complicated, not challenging enough for bright students to boring for others. The solution for you: Preview the book and see if it’s right for your student group and your teaching style.
McGraw-Hill’s Everyday Mathematics is a comprehensive PreK-grade 6 Common Core-aligned mathematics program developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. The spiral curriculum (meaning concepts are presented in one unit and returned to often in subsequent units) is designed to ensure students master and remember key concepts by revisiting them in a variety of contexts over time. It is an effort to take the “bore” out of Math, remove drills, and infuse it with thought-provoking approaches to math skills. Students learn hundreds of ways to problem-solve (such as the “lattice method” for multiplication) allowing them (according to the program experts) to choose the one that best fits their learning style.
Every year in the US, about 220,000 classrooms use Everyday Mathematics. Lots of teachers love (or don’t love) the spiral nature of teaching and the many options presented for solving math problems.
Everyday Mathematics teaches math in non-traditional ways which makes it difficult for traditionally-schooled parents to help students with homework. Of all the math programs included in this list, Everyday Mathematics is the one with the most complaints and the most passionate detractors. People love or hate this program for reasons varying from the presentation style to student success. Many consider it to be “Reform” or “Constructivist” rather than rigorous and skills-oriented.
Houghton-Mifflin’s GO Math! is a comprehensive K-8 mathematics program developed to support the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the NCTM Curriculum Focal Points. The program emphasizes Essential Questions and Big Ideas with depth of understanding as the goal.
Like Everyday Mathematics, Go Math! provides multiple ways for students to solve problems. It is also known for its individualized instruction and gamified approach.
Detractors call it No-Go Math! Reasons vary from lack of depth to no number lines to boring because of its repetition. Evaluate it with your students and your teaching style in mind to determine if it’s a good fit for your needs.
Winner of Google’s Project 10 to the 100 ideas to change the world, Common Core-aligned Khan Academy is unlike any other online math program. It has no books, is entirely online, student-paced and video-delivered, doesn’t require an account (though that helps in tracking progress), has no ads, and costs nothing (yep, it’s free).
Where many (most) math curricula are hampered by linking material to the grade level, Khan Academy doesn’t. Students take a test, start learning, and progress according to their abilities. Third graders can do 5th-grade material without being held back or 1st-grade material without feeling “dumb”. It offers an almost unlimited number of practice exercises organized by topic with instant feedback and progress data. Students track their proficiency with a dashboard that populates through their account ID. Teachers (which includes parents) can track all students under their tutelage.
The videos, because they are so detailed, can be boring to certain students. As a result, this may not work for you.
Singapore Math’s K-6 and 7-8 curricula is a mastery-based math curriculum that focuses on conceptual understanding. If there is a gold standard for math programs, Singapore Math is it. It teaches concepts as well as memorization and has a Common Core-aligned option.
Many consider its strongest characteristics as its clear and multi-pronged presentation of concepts as well as its effective mix of drill, word problems, and mental calculation instruction.
There are three versions, varying depending upon if you live in California, if you live in a Common Core State, or if you’re something else.
ORIGO Education’s K-6 Stepping Stones 2.0 math program is versatile, easy-to-use, and nicely differentiated for varied learning and teaching strategies. It is available in English and Spanish with versions aligned with Common Core Standards or the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Its unique system of scaffolding lesson-to-lesson and circling back on important concepts not only reinforces learning but enhances higher order thinking skills. Teaching materials include an abundance of resources, professional development, and videos. Lesson plans are delivered via a granular combination of rigorous critical thinking activities, real-world problems, and interactive digital games.
Instructions include cross-curricular connections that link math to other subjects. Online resources including virtual manipulatives, interactive tools, and games allow students to practice skills through meaningful and engaging activities. An all-encompassing K-6 Scope and Sequence lets teachers see what topics are taught in which grades.
Embedded videos provide teachers with professional development and pedagogy needed to effectively address standards in classroom instruction.
Teacher materials are digital only, but can be printed through the Resources tab. I’ve found many schools are transitioning away from paper to all-digital, so this may not bother you.
Thinkster Math is a K-8 math tutorial program aligned with Common Core and based on well-known international math programs such as Singapore Math. Offered in thirty countries and used by thousands of students, it teaches via digital worksheets, video tutorials, feedback from human coaches, and a long-term plan developed with the student that encourages students to learn at their own pace, wherever they are, on a device that they love.
Somewhat like Khan Academy, it creates a learning plan for students based on where they start, not based on what should be learned at a particular grade level. These are popular with students, teachers, and parents who want no artificial boundaries on what students learn, the only limits being their interest and aptitude.
Video tutorials help students with difficult problems. When they submit work, they get personal feedback from their assigned coach who is always a qualified math teacher. You can ask them anything about math. Students can complete lessons without wifi, using downloaded worksheets.
It is worksheet-intensive. If you want to avoid that approach to learning, this may not be the best approach for you. And there are not yet education accounts where a teacher can enroll all students and track their progress (as you see in Khan Academy). I’m sure that’s coming.
Every math program will have pros and cons, attractors and detractors. What you must do is pick the program best suited to your student group.
Teaching technology is a difficult profession because people learn in different ways and at different rates. However, one thing that can make it easier for students to learn is for teachers to include instructions on basic academic skills like vocabulary, keyboarding, digital citizenship, and research.
The better a student’s vocabulary, the easier it is for them to improve their comprehension and express themselves in oral and written form. The better a student learns how to use a keyboard, the faster and more accurately, they can work with a computer. The better a student’s digital citizenship, the more safely they can navigate the Internet websites, staying away from scammy links. Finally, the better a student’s research skills, the easier it will be for them to sort out the true from the false.
Technology has made it easier than ever before to do research. Besides an abundance of sources, the Internet provides ways to sift and sort through massive amounts of information through the use of search engines and advanced filters. Compare this to the old school way of doing research: spending hours in a large library and slowly filling out flash cards. Now research is as efficient as doing a Google search to find relevant websites and then bookmarking the site for later reference.
However, besides these online tools, tech teachers can also benefit by borrowing research tools used by historians.
How to Teach Research
Here are three techniques used by historians that could apply to almost any type of research project:
The effective use of primary documents.
Much of the information we gather comes from secondary sources. This means that we repeat information that we have read elsewhere. However, just because a number of people agree on an idea and it’s possible to provide a large body of citations to prove that many people believe the idea, this doesn’t make it true. How, then, do you prove it’s true? By looking for primary, or original, documents, records, and artifacts. So if a historian wants to ascertain a certain fact, then they may use historical autographs to prove a fact. By finding an authentic letter or manuscript in which a famous person reveals something of enormous interest about himself or relates some significant event that he orchestrated, it’s possible to prove that the person is responsible for the event and that the event happened.
The benefits of developing good writing skills.
Historians often write papers where they argue a point-of-view. For instance, is it or is it not true that Thomas Jefferson was one of the most brilliant presidents of the United States? How would a historian prove whether this was factually true or mere political propaganda that had been blindly accepted as true? A historian would look for evidence, perhaps, referring to Jefferson’s love for playing the violin, his ability to speak six languages, and his archeological investigation of mounds. In addition, Jefferson had a 10,000-book library. Since these became the foundational beginnings of the Library of Congress suggests that these books weren’t paperback thrillers. In short, a historian would use well-developed writing skills to prove his point. Moreover, evidence would be supported by citations, so that the reader could find out for themselves.
The development of critical thinking skills.
Besides proving the validity of something, a primary document also teaches critical thinking skills. Many times a document has to be interpreted. This can be due to the fact that language changes over generations. It takes some effort, for example, to follow the dialogue in a Shakespearean play; some interpretation is needed. Similarly, a history paper has to be written in a clear, logical way to be informative. It takes critical thinking skills to organize a large body of assorted facts into a meaningful, articulate composition.
Why Research Matters
The reason research is such an important academic skill is because the truth is not obvious. It’s easy enough for a politician, the news media, or some source of authority to hoodwink us with misinformation. At times, this misinformation can be deadly. For instance, aspartame is commonly used in packaged foods and promoted by the food industry as a harmless artificial sweetener, but researchers have traced its influence in brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation and numerous other serious illnesses.
–from Sara Stringer, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor. Sara is a former medical and surgical assistant who now does freelance business consulting. She enjoys blogging and helping others. In her spare time (translation: the time spent doing what’s most important), she enjoys soaking up the sunshine with her husband and two kids.
Education is changing. Again. This time, it’s not about iPads and Chromebooks; it’s 1:1 computing. More than 50% of teachers report they have one computer for every student (on average) and that changes for the better every year. Digital devices, be they iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, Macs, or PCs, give students access to endless amounts of web-based resources for research, inquiry, collaboration, sharing, and more. Schools are no longer reliant on years-old (or decades-old) textbooks written for the average student, whoever that is. It has become increasingly possible to personalize learning–adapt resources and assessments to student skills and needs and differentiate lessons that are pushed out to individual students or small groups (read: Shifting my Teacher Mindset with Micro-credentials).
To do that requires competencies most teacher training programs never considered. As a result, an increasing number of schools are making micro-credentialsa fundamental piece in their professional development plan.
What are Micro-credentials?
Micro-credentials are short, low-cost, focused, online classes that are self-paced and student-driven, offering competency-based recognition for skills educators want to learn to buttress their teaching.
Because they aren’t long tedious seminars, expensive college classes, or comprehensive certificate courses, they were ignored by administrators in the past. Not anymore.
Micro-credentials enable educators to better meet the needs of increasingly diverse student populations and school districts who want to shift professional learning from broad topics to competency, from seat-time to knowledge, from sporadic seminars to acknowledgment that teachers are life-long learners. Because they’re authentic and practical, micro-credentials result in powerful, personalized, skills-driven learning for students.
Four primary characteristics of micro-credentials are:
competency-based. Teachers pick specific skills that fill the holes in their education toolkit. They learn these topics and then demonstrate competency via varied forms of assessment.
on-demand. Most (all?) are offered online in a self-paced environment. Educators can start anytime and continue at their own schedule, their own pace, on their own time. Teachers spend as much or as little time as they have available, finish when they can.
personalized. Educators create a professional learning journey aligned with their specific needs by selecting only the micro-credentials that fit their plan.
shareable, with evaluators, posted on social networks, displayed within the schools learning management system (LMS), curated on professional blogs, and added to resumes to demonstrate the educator’s specific skillset.
In partnership with groups such as Verizon Innovative Learning Schools and the Dynamic Learning Projects (with Google), as well as numerous school districts, Digital Promise has become a prominent provider of micro-credentials to educators. Their ecosystem includes educators, content developers, districts and state-level educational agencies. They offer over three hundred micro-credentials addressing all levels of personal learning (more on that later).
Complete the requirements by collecting the required evidence. This will vary between topics.
Submit the evidence through the online platform.
Wait while assessors review the evidence. If you successfully demonstrate competence, you will receive the micro-credential in the form of a digital badge.
How Micro-credentials Support English learners
Perhaps one of the most critical areas in today’s education landscape, and an area where Digital Promise micro-credentials are making an immediate impact, is supporting English learners. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an average of 9 percent of students in U.S. public schools are English Language Learners (ELLs). Other surveys report this as high as 5 million students–12 percent of the total US school population. With 14 million new immigrants arriving in the United States in the last ten years. English language learners are the fastest growing group of students with an increase of over 70% since the early 1990s. Despite this, the predominance of teachers possess little training in effective methods for supporting English learners.
Digital Promise offers ten micro-credentials that specifically focus on supporting English learners:
Language Fundamentals – Role of Language in Content Learning
Mathematical Language Routines – Facilitating Student Ideas and Language: Stronger and Clearer Each Time
Mathematical Language Routines – Developing Student Abilities to Critique and Clarify the Reasoning of Others
Mathematical Language Routines – Designing and Using Information Gap Activities
Supporting Student Argumentation – Understanding Structure and Language of Argumentation
Supporting Student Argumentation – Helping Students Evaluate Evidence in Arguments
Supporting Student Argumentation – Fostering the Language of Argumentation
Each includes three components:
About the micro-credential: This is a summary of the micro-credential including some or all of the following pieces: an overview, key methods, preparation, engaging in the task, formative assessment, discussion, analysis, reflection, conclusions, and/or other components as fits the topic.
Research and resources: This includes videos, readings, and other resources as fit the topic
Submission requirements: This includes guidelines, evaluation criteria, overview questions, work examples/artifacts, and reflection.
The ten topics above are also curated into four stacks of lessons. ‘Stacks’ are related content that support and scaffold the topic. These four stacks are:
Assessing Conversations: Educator observes, records, and assesses paired student conversations to gauge how constructive they are with respect to turn-taking, building of turns and ideas, and conversational focus. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Helping Students Clarify and Support Their Ideas: Educator uses teaching strategies and scaffolds appropriately to help students develop ideas that are clearly stated and supported with evidence. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Creating Effective Conversation Prompts: Educator designs effective conversation prompts that include several key features to support more productive student conversations. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Understanding the Role of Language in Content Learning: Educator engages in language-focused task analysis to identify language, analytical, and content demands and better understand the role that language plays in content-area learning. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Mathematical Language Routes includes three micro-credential:
Stronger and Clearer Each Time: Educator supports students in improving their ideas by designing and facilitating an activity in which students share and improve upon ideas with multiple peers. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Designing and Using Information Gap Activities: Educator designs and uses activities that have information gaps, which means that each student brings unique information to the conversation and wants or needs to share it with others in order to accomplish a meaningful task. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Develop Students’ Abilities to Critique and Clarify the Reasoning of Others: Educator helps students analyze and critique flawed responses to sharpen their own thinking about how to solve problems and use mathematical principles to justify their reasoning. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Supporting Argumentation includes three micro-credentials:
Understanding Argumentation: Educator observes, records, and assesses student arguments to gauge their quality with respect to structural elements, such as claim, evidence, and justification, as well as the role that language plays in the argument. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Evaluating Argumentation Support: Educator evaluates evidence that the students provide to support their claims, to help students select and communicate the most relevant and supportive evidence and justifications for their arguments. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Fostering the Language of Argumentation: Educator designs and facilitates an activity in which students focus on argumentation language and then analyze that language. This competency is vital for educators in all content areas and grade levels, and especially crucial for educators of students classified as English learners.
Note: The links take you to the item in a curated list. If you don’t see it, use Ctrl+F to search for the topic.
All Digital Promise micro-credentials are designed to take educators through their instructional practices to recognize the role they play in students’ ability to leverage language to access content. While each micro-credential is unique in its distinct focus, all require educators to reflect on how their instruction influences actual student language use and development – an invaluable skill for today’s educators who lead increasingly complex and diverse classrooms.
Man is a thinking creature. We like evaluating ideas and sharing thoughts. That’s a good thing. The more we collaborate, the smarter we all become.
Implicit in this is that we don’t claim someone else’s ideas as our own. In fact, it’s illegal to do this. Read through this rephrasing of American copyright law:
“The law states that works of art created in the US after January 1, 1978, are automatically protected by copyright once they are fixed in a tangible medium (like the Internet). BUT a single copy may be used for scholarly research (even if that’s a 2nd grade life cycle report) or in teaching or preparation to teach a class.” –Jacqui Murray, Ask a Tech Teacher
When we claim someone else’s work as our own, be it text, artwork, movies, music, or any other form of media, it’s called plagiarism:
“[Plagiarism is the] wrongful appropriation of another author’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions”
The rules and laws surrounding plagiarism aren’t nearly as well-known as those that deal with, say, driving a car or illegally crossing a street. The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics surveyed 43,000 high school students and found that:
59% of high school students admitted cheating on a test during the last year. 34% self-reported doing it more than twice.
One out of three high school students admitted that they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.
One note: Laws addressing plagiarizing differ throughout the world. This article deals with commonly-accepted international guidelines and specific rules aligned with the laws of the United States.
Myths about using online material
Lots of adults — including teachers — think they understand the legalities of using only images, videos, audio, and other media forms. Do these sound familiar?
I can copy-paste anything posted to the Internet. Creators know that will happen and are OK with it.
Wrong. Can you grab products from a store shelf just because the clerk is busy? You need to find out what permissions the website allows you when visiting their site.
I can copy-paste anything as long as I give proper credit.
Wrong again. Yes sometimes but no other times and you better know the difference. For example, you can’t copy Nelson DeMille’s latest thriller and post it to your blog and think that’s OK because you gave him credit. If you do that, you’re infringing on his rights. You can post a small amount of his book but you better check with his publisher to see what they consider to be a “small amount”.
I searched the site and didn’t find a copyright so there isn’t one.
Wrong. If you can’t find the website’s media use policy, DON’T use it. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The courts will not accept an argument that “you tried”. Likely places to find media use guidelines are tabs or sections labeled “Privacy”, “User terms”, “Legal stuff” or links by the picture that say “link credit”, “copyright”, “rights reserved” “terms and privacy” or anything else that is even close to those terms.
When is it plagiarizing and when isn’t it
In general terms, you must cite sources for:
facts not commonly known or accepted
exact words and/or unique phrases
reprints of diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, or other visual materials
statistics (because these might contradict other statistics so you want to cite the authenticity of your source)
opinions that support research
…and you don’t have to cite online material in these instances:
No one owns facts. If it’s a fact, like “Mt. Everest is 29,029 feet tall”, you can share that without giving credit to anyone.
Common knowledge — what most people know is in the public domain so no need to cite. This is information like the location of the Grand Canyon and how many planets are in the Solar System.
Artwork (writing, pictures, movies, all media) older than seventy years past the creator’s death is in the public domain (with some exceptions). You can use it without asking permission or providing credit.
It is generally accepted that you can share a small amount of someone’s creation without permission. This is why you can quote from a book you read when you review it.
How do you know if you plagiarized?
It seems like an easy question, doesn’t it? All creations are automatically copyrighted when created. Novels, artwork, music — all are owned by the creator and you can’t use them without permission. So, if you take someone else’s work and call it your own, it’s plagiarizing.
Specifically, you’ll know you plagiarized if:
you directly copied someone’s creative work.
you changed a few words in someone’s work but it’s still recognizable. For example:
“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers…”
“87 years ago, our predecessors…”
you rephrased someone’s opinions and presented them as your own.
you purchased a paper and submitted it as your own.
you copied your own work for a new purpose without confessing to that.
How do others know you plagiarized?
It’s a lot easier to recognize plagiarism than most people think — especially those engaging in it. Here are a few ways:
changes in their writing voice. They sound older than their normal writing style.
their font changes. Often what is copied includes different fonts and sizes. It’s not as easy as it sounds to normalize that.
a quick Google search of a phrase turns up on Google credited to someone else.
the author writes about something they don’t understand or have no reason to know. This is easily checked by asking the purported author a few questions that dig into the topic.
How to cite sources
Lots of people don’t want to plagiarize but don’t know how to give proper credit. Here are suggestions:
Even the best-intentioned writers slip up. We forget to give credit or lose the citation and then don’t get around to following up. Here are steps you can follow to find plagiarism in your own work:
use a program like Turnitin to evaluate whether you pulled more than what was legal from someone else’s work. Other plagiarism checkers include Grammarly and Quetext
read through your document and see if it sounds like you. Are there parts you don’t understand (even though you wrote it)? Those are places you may have inadvertently copy-pasted someone else’s work.
I know. This is a lot of information with quite a few norms and protocols but becoming proficient in these will make you a better writer and give you a reputation as the author with reliable sources and facts. Whether you’re a student, an academic, a journalist, or a parent, that sort of reputation is welcome.