guest written by Karen Greenhaus
There are a lot of resources and advice out there these days to support teacher’s use of social media in their classroom. From creating classroom blogs, wiki’s, Facebook accounts, and podcasts, to how to incorporate Twitter into formative assessment – you name it, you can probably find it. However, for many teachers, the thought of using social media is an overwhelming task, especially trying to incorporate it effectively into instructional practice, particularly with the controversy surrounding student safety and privacy issues. What I think is more prevalent, (keeping in mind my only proof is my personal observations and anecdotal evidence), is that there are a handful of teachers in any given school that might be using social media in some form in their classroom, but for the most part, teachers are not using social media in any consistent, pervasive way.
Is this a bad thing? My feeling is yes, because social media offers so many opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate with others, learn and connect globally, and instill communication and creativity into learning. Which leads to another question – how do we get teachers using social media as an instructional tool? There are, of course, probably several answers to that question, but one thing that won’t work is simply telling them they must use social media and offering a day or two of training on specific social media tools and expecting them to change their practice. That doesn’t work with anything (if you haven’t already figured that out). My suggestions – start small and start personally. This means make social media a learning tool for the teacher first, allowing them to see and experience the power of the medium for them personally, and then build from there into classroom integration and use with students.
What do I mean by making social media a learning tool for the teacher first? As in any profession, teachers must and should be continuing to learn – learn more about content, new technologies to improve instruction, new instructional strategies. Teacher professional development is a requirement for recertification but also an obligation of any teacher to improve their practice for the benefit of their students. Just as we wouldn’t want a doctor using an outdated method of surgery when there are new and better methods, we shouldn’t want our teachers using outdated instructional tools and strategies when there are new and better ones available. Teacher professional development is an important need for all teachers, but unfortunately, especially in this era of budget woes, professional development is one of the first things eliminated or reduced. My suggestion therefore is to use social media as a tool for providing teachers with professional development to improve their own knowledge about their craft. This will allow them exposure to the power of social media while providing a cost-efficient resource to support continuous teacher learning – learning about their content, their practice, and how to enhance their practice to help their students.
How to start? Start small and start personally. Choose only one thing (start small) – i.e. a blog, a Twitter account, department wiki, etc. to begin. Make it personal for the teachers (start personally) – relevant to their needs (content, instructional, time) and relevant to their technical ability and interests. Below are some of my suggestions from both an administrative view, for leaders who are trying to get social media into your school as a whole, and from a teacher view, for individual teachers who want to get started in social media but are not quite sure where to begin. (Note: My suggestions are not necessarily recommending specific tools or services, but more from an overall perspective, focusing on trying to create a culture of use and a beginning point. Any specific social media I do name is based on my own personal experience with social media, which is still in its infancy – I am a novice, starting small and finding my own personal meanings as well).
Getting Social – School Wide/Administrative Suggestions
Getting Social – Teacher Suggestions
Clearly, this is only a few suggestions on how to get started – I know there are so many other things that someone can do to start using social media. The key is to start – start small and personal. You will find it leads to some amazing learning opportunities and connections. Those of you out there with other suggestions please share them – I want to learn myself, as I am still just beginning this journey of being social.
About the author: Karen Greenhaus is currently the Director of Education Technology Outreach for Key Curriculum (http://keypress.com), a math technology company that sells The Geometer’s Sketchpad (http://keypress.com/gsp), TinkerPlots (http://keypress.com/tinkerplots) and Fathom (http://keypress.com/fathom). She provides professional development for teachers all over the country via face-to-face workshops, blended learning, webinars, and online courses. Karen taught in public schools for over 17 years as a math teacher and math administrator at the middle and high school levels. She has a BA in math from Virginia Tech, MA in Curriculum & Education from Virginia Commonwealth, and is currently working on her Ed. D. dissertation on professional development in education technology at The College of William & Mary. Her passion is helping teachers integrate technology effectively into classroom instruction. Karen blogs at http://greenhauseducation.blogspot.com
guest written by Shahar Link of Mindspire Tutoring & Test Prep
Many people believe that the basic ingredients of success on challenging tests like the SAT or ACT are 1) talent at math or language, 2) how much you learned in school, and 3) how smart you are in general. Both students and tutors can have this belief. It is, however, wrong.
Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, calls such a belief a “fixed mindset,” which essentially means that a person is stuck thinking that he or she is more or less born with talents for some things and not for others, and it is not really possible to get smarter at doing things that you’re “just not good at.” On the other hand, there is another attitude, a “growth mindset,” which is the idea that if one works hard at something, and really tries to get better and smarter, then one can become highly skilled at virtually anything.
Dweck, a psychologist who has researched the psychology of learning at Stanford University for many years, shows convincingly that people with fixed mindsets don’t get smarter, while those with growth mindsets do. Growth-mindset individuals show much greater adaptability to challenging circumstances, are better equipped to navigate both failure and success, and learn more quickly. Obviously, these are crucial elements in test preparation.
Other researchers have recently come to similar conclusions. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, writes on his blog: “If you distilled all the new science about talent development into two words of advice, they would be ‘practice better.’ That’s it. Practice. Better.” In other words, genes, “potential,” etc. have nothing to do with it.
Students and tutors who simply assume that there is some innate potential limit to what they can accomplish as they prepare for a test are setting themselves up for failure. Having worked in the test prep business for almost 15 years, I know that there are a lot of people who have the fixed mindset, and what they do is teach the “facts” and then hope students “get it.” The truth is, anyone can “get it” if they put in serious effort, don’t get hampered by failure, stay motivated, and have the right coaching. And tutors can do a lot to make that happen.
Anyone can acquire a “growth mindset” at any age. It’s about a new way of thinking about the meaning of failure — that failure actually means you are learning, because you are pushing against your limits. Once you realize that, you begin to: a) change the way you think, b) challenge yourself more, and c) work harder. Those are the real key ingredients for success on standardized tests.
It is a privilege to be able to provide this lesson to my students, because it is about so much more than test preparation – it is about how to succeed in life.
Carol Dweck’s book elaborates in much further detail how this all works in the brain, and shows the results of hundreds of studies, as well as how teachers, parents, coaches, and even spouses can apply these findings to get better at everything they do, and help others do so as well. Clearly, one’s mindset is a foundational element of success on standardized tests, and if you are working to get a high score, or help others do so, I strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with Dweck’s research. It will certainly improve your results on tests, but more importantly, make you a more fulfilled person in general. And that’s the goal of this whole business really, isn’t it?
About the author: Shahar Link is the founder of Mindspire Tutoring & Test Prep, a tutoring company built on the idea that anyone can get better at anything if they set their mind to it.
guest written by Kimberly Joki of Grammarly
When it comes to web tools for teaching writing, many educators are wary of writing editors and automatic checks that don’t so much “teach” as “tell.” How does a student learn to write if a program does all the editing and revising for him? This article is meant to explain how Grammarly, the world’s most accurate automatic grammar check, and its family of services utilize a learning approach based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to help students perfect their writing themselves.
Before we begin, it’s important to be somewhat familiar with the services and features that Grammarly.com provides. The primary service is a subscription-based writing and grammar check, the Grammarly Editor, that reviews texts for over 150 grammar, punctuation, usage, spelling, and citation errors. There are also two free services: Grammarly Answers, a Q&A forum for the discussion of English grammar and writing, as well as Grammarly Handbook, an online reference tool that explains elements of grammar and writing using practical examples. All of these services, when used together, create a great environment for learning and perfecting writing, but how do they actually use Bloom’s Taxonomy to accomplish this?
Knowledge and Comprehension
Both of these categories of the taxonomy are used throughout the Grammarly experience. After students run a review in the Grammarly Editor, notes for revision are listed for their review. As students read through the notes, they are guided back through their texts to correct errors or make edits. Each note highlights an error or makes a suggestion that is named and briefly explained. This forces students to recall information from class and facilitates knowing. Additionally, the short and long explanations that accompany each note require students to understand the concept before being able to identify it in the highlighted sentence and make the correction.
Additionally, when students participate at Grammarly Answers, which is integrated into the Editor, they can ask and answer questions related to their writing. At Answers, the dialogue that they can have about their writing promotes both knowledge and comprehension, particularly because they have a great opportunity to explain what they know and have learned to others.
Finally, the Grammarly Handbook aims to provide explanations of different writing elements to encourage recall of classroom lessons as well as to improve understanding so that knowledge can be practically applied.
Application of new understandings of grammar and writing elements generally occurs right in the Editor as students review the correction notes, learn, and correct their writing. They may, however, also find opportunities to use their understanding of a particular writing concept on the Answers forum.
When using Grammarly, particularly Answers because it is a public forum, students will need to be able to distinguish between facts and opinion. Also, the Grammarly Editor makes a number of suggestions regarding style and diction, which do not necessarily require a change to the student’s text. In these situations, students will need to learn to asses how certain edits will impact and change the meaning of their writing.
During the writing process, and while using Grammarly, students will need use information from all sources — classroom, Grammarly’s services, and others — to complete and improve their writing composition. Students can create (and re-create) their work right in the Grammarly Editor, then save the Editor’s notes as a PDF.
As students continue through the cyclical process of writing, they will have to judge and select those suggestions and improvements that are most helpful for their composition. Because the Editor does not simply make corrections for the students, they will be continually forced to evaluate the relevance of a given suggestion to their writing. Likewise, students using Answers will need to choose, from a various contributions, which advice or information from the forum is most accurate.
Looking at Grammarly’s services through the lens of Bloom’s Taxonomy helps to see how this can be a helpful tool for the improvement of student writing. However, there are additional benefits to using this web tool alongside traditional classwork.
First, it takes a lot of anxiety out of editing. Students, particularly those who are only becoming comfortable with writing, are not completely responsible for identifying potential errors and fixing them. The guided approach of the Editor, along with the ability to get feedback from others via Answers, make the proofreading and editing process more relaxed.
Second, the ability to check and review some writing issues before entering into peer-editing or writing conferences with a teacher or professor can give students more confidence to address the problems that they have as well as to suggest corrections or enhancements to other’s writing during conferencing.
Third, with regular reports from the Grammarly Editor, students can begin to see patterns in their writing. Knowing these patterns helps students see where they have had progress and where they can continue to improve.
Finally, teachers can similarly benefit from the feedback from the Grammarly Editor. Each time a text is reviewed in the Editor, a list of errors and suggestions for that writing is generated. This report can be printed and reviewed by the teacher as a way to confirm comprehension and application of in-class lessons. This information can inform coursework. For example, if an educator were to see that many students had frequent errors with modifiers, he could develop a lesson to address this lack of knowledge, then test for comprehension by using the Grammarly Editor or by posting a relevant text on Grammarly Answers and having students explain the error or correct it.
Grammarly.com has great services for helping students and teachers perfect student writing In addition to being a useful writing tool, the service is convenient. All of the Grammarly tools are completely based online, which means users can easily set up an account, can access the service from any place with an internet connection, and have no updates to download. Finally, Grammarly is easy to try out. All new individual accounts receive a 7-day free trial and new bulk or institutional licenses may also be eligible.
Test-taking preparation and the right attitude can give any student a better chance of succeeding in their classes. Here are 10 tips for you to follow that will enhance your scholastic performance:
1. Preparing for tests in college should begin after the first day of classes. This should include completing daily homework assignments (even assignments that will not be handed in), and reviewing study materials on a regular basis, (e.g. notes and handouts are extremely important).
2. Time management is essential. Make sure that you budget your time to comfortably cover all of the material.
3. Go the extra mile and meet with teachers during office hours to get to know them on a personal basis. Go to review sessions and pay attention to certain hints that the instructor may give about the test.
4. Ask the instructor to specify the areas that will be emphasized on the test. Make sure that you ask them about the format as well, (e.g. multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer or essays)
5. Make sure you give yourself enough time before the class starts to ask any final questions to the teacher that you are still not 100% sure about.
6. Go over all material from practice tests, pervious homework assignments, sample problems, review material, the textbook, and class notes.
7. Eat before an exam. Having food in your stomach will give you energy and help you focus. An energy bar or a piece of fruit is an excellent source of nutrition.
8. Don’t ever try to pull an all-nighter. Get at least six hours of sleep before the test.
9. Make a review sheet from all of the main ideas and information that were in your notes or handouts. This makes your materials much more organized and easier to retain the key concepts.
10. Try to show up at least 10 minutes before the test will start. Mentally get “in the zone” and be confident that you are fully prepared for the exam. Bring #2 pencils, pens, calculators or anything that you will need for the test. A few deep breaths never hurt either!