Ideas, Thoughts, Things, & Awesome Things to Look Into - from the Computer Lab
COVID-19 caused some huge changes in education. I hope we learn some of the best lessons and return to a blended classroom with 1:1 technology from now on, especially at the secondary levels. Edutopia did a semi-scholarly evaluation of the academic research from the 2020-2021 school year and summarized them nicely and efficiently here:
The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2020
The outline of the article and a few of my thoughts on it:
1. TO TEACH VOCABULARY, LET KIDS BE THESPIANS
"When students are learning a new language, ask them to act out vocabulary words...nearly doubles their ability to remember the words months later." "It’s a simple reminder that if you want students to remember something, encourage them to learn it in a variety of ways—by drawing it, acting it out, or pairing it with relevant images, for example."
I am glad to know that research is bearing out strategies I learned to use with ELL and Gifted endorsements. SWIRL is one ELL specific strategy that works well with Gifted education as well. It basically involves a students Speaking, Writing, Illustrating, Reading, and Listening to new vocabulary and contextual words. One strategy that I always wondered if it was missing was the Acting. I will hereby give vocabulary and suggest students work with each word using “ASWIRL.” I teach AP and upper level courses in computer science and programming, so, I don’t necessarily give word-lists to students, but I would have a word-wall of sorts. If the assignment is that they do “ASWIRL” for a particular vocabulary word, even if it is out of context, then those are made available to the rest of the students, then they can collaborate and use each other as well. hmmm….speak write illustrate read listen act collaborate — swirlac.
How about? SCRAWL and DO -
Speak, Collaborate, Read, Act, Write, Listen, and Draw, Organize
2. NEUROSCIENTISTS DEFEND THE VALUE OF TEACHING HANDWRITING—AGAIN
Brain scans indicate that students learn best while handwriting and drawing, "handwriting and drawing produced telltale neural tracings indicative of deeper learning."
"It would be a mistake to replace typing with handwriting, though. All kids need to develop digital skills, and there’s evidence that technology helps children with dyslexia."
3. THE ACT TEST JUST GOT A NEGATIVE SCORE (FACE PALM)
"ACT test scores, which are often a key factor in college admissions, showed a weak—or even negative—relationship when it came to predicting how successful students would be in college."
4. A RUBRIC REDUCES RACIAL GRADING BIAS
" Articulate your standards clearly before you begin grading, and refer to the standards regularly during the assessment process."
"The reason? Four-year high school grades, the researchers asserted, are a better indicator of crucial skills like perseverance, time management, and the ability to avoid distractions. It’s most likely those skills, in the end, that keep kids in college."
5. WHAT DO COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS HAVE TO DO WITH LEARNING? PLENTY
"When three coal-fired plants closed in the Chicago area, student absences in nearby schools dropped by 7 percent, a change largely driven by fewer emergency room visits for asthma-related problems."
I am all for fewer environmental factors impacting student achievement and even attendance.
6. STUDENTS WHO GENERATE GOOD QUESTIONS ARE BETTER LEARNERS
"In the study, students who studied a topic and then generated their own questions scored an average of 14 percentage points higher on a test than students who used passive strategies like studying their notes and rereading classroom material."
Ah, my students will find out that they are going to have to teach their "monsters" how to code.
7. DID A 2020 STUDY JUST END THE ‘READING WARS’?
The study sounded the death knell for practices that de-emphasize phonics in favor of having children use multiple sources of information—like story events or illustrations—to predict the meaning of unfamiliar words, an approach often associated with “balanced literacy.”
As a former reading specialist (with a heavy O-G phonics bias), I could have told you that Lucy Calkins "failed to explicitly and systematically teach young readers how to decode and encode written words." It was too hard for teachers to teach. There were too many parts to it that were unnecessary, with teacher resources stacking in the inches.
8. A SECRET TO HIGH-PERFORMING VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS
Remote teachers should use a single, dedicated hub for important documents like assignments; simplify communications and reminders by using one channel like email or text; and reduce visual clutter like hard-to-read fonts and unnecessary decorations throughout their virtual spaces.
9. LOVE TO LEARN LANGUAGES? SURPRISINGLY, CODING MAY BE RIGHT FOR YOU
The researchers discovered that mathematical skill accounted for only 2 percent of a person’s ability to learn how to code, while language skills were almost nine times more predictive, accounting for 17 percent of learning ability.
10. RESEARCHERS CAST DOUBT ON READING TASKS LIKE ‘FINDING THE MAIN IDEA’
"In effect, exposing kids to rich content in civics, history, and law appeared to teach reading more effectively than our current methods of teaching reading."
AP courses are hard because they are college classes taught to high school students. For students, they can earn college credit which means they save money. The stakes are very high. AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A are both heavy on the project based learning because both courses are in the CTAE pathways.
This is a nice Edutopia video discussing the value of project based learning in AP courses.
Reinventing AP Courses With Rigorous Project-Based Learning
When we all went to asynchronous learning in March 2020, I began my research and this student-side of the website was born. Because my school district used so many platforms that were initially less than friendly for elementary and ELL students, I created this website to store my resources I used for asynchronous learning. I started with this article from Brown University, and built from there.
Asynchronous Strategies for Inclusive Teaching
For several years now, my district office has been expressing an interest in having me move to the high school level to teach computers. I have had an overall, really good experience at my elementary school because of my principal and my awesome team of fellow specialists. So why would I rock the boat, so to speak, and make such a move after the crazy COVID-19 school year? It is time. I have taught logins and passwords and keyboarding for long enough.
When I was teaching at a middle school, an 8th grader and I had this dialogue.
Student - Why do you care so much about me?
Me - Why would I not care about you?
Student - You don't know me?
Me - I don't need to know about someone to care about them.
Student - That's stupid.
Me - Maybe so, but I'd rather live in a world were people care about each other, even strangers.
Student - That's stupid too.
Me - Maybe, but I still care.
High School is the other extreme. Now I have big kids with big problems, attitudes, and bigger abilities. I have taught this age before and I am looking forward to the change. I was once a high school student, but times have definitely changed. I am teaching six classes in a field that was not taught until college in my high school days. We had one computer lab with 30 or so computers that were reserved for drill-and-kill or typing exercises. The business ed classes still had typewriters that dinged at the end of each line. I am teaching two Advanced Placement courses. This makes me slightly less nervous because I have actually taught real college programming courses back in the day. So, I know what was expected then at the college level. Now they have moved that content to the high school level. Does that mean all high school students will be ready to take it and pass it? I am about to find out.
Heather M. Miller
This is a space where I post my thoughts on things and ideas in the Computer Lab. I am a K-12 certified Computer Science, Business Education, and Engineering and Technology teacher with ESOL and Gifted Endorsements.