Rather than taking a traditional multiple choice test at the end of their unit on weather, sixth grade students at Gilbert Middle School in South Carolina created their own live weather reports—complete with green screens and fake snow. Down the hall, seventh graders used digital tools to design memes based on quotes from a novel in their English/language arts class……..
We know how much of a difference one person can make in another’s life. But what if your goals are loftier than reaching just one person? What if you want to make a difference in the lives of a hundred, a thousand, or more? There are millions of young people across this country that need access to opportunity so that they can have successful futures after high school. What if you could play a pivotal role in providing that access? That’s the challenge NAF is working to solve. With over 100,000 students enrolled in NAF academies in underserved high schools across the country, reaching these students wouldn’t be possible without our business partners…………..
Singapore keeps getting better at English. The city-state made the top three of an annual ranking in English proficiency conducted by English education company EF Education First (EF), the highest-ever ranking for an Asian nation. Though Singapore has for years ranked near the top of the list, this year, it leapfrogged Norway and Denmark to place behind Sweden and the Netherlands. Minh Tran, the Hong Kong-based co-author of the report who frequently consults on English education for foreign companies……..
There are a lot of bad bosses out there – that’s no surprise. In fact, 65% of Americans would choose to fire their boss over getting a pay raise. But what gets lost in the midst of trying to stop an awful lot of bad behaviors is the fact that there are a fair number of good bosses out there as well. These are bosses who genuinely care for their team members and want to do the right thing by them. Bosses in the “good” category are already doing a lot of things right, but still have room to move from “good” to “great,” and drive engagement and team productivity on a whole new level……
One of the most embarrassing mistakes I made early on at BodeTree was believing that the title of CEO automatically made me a leader. It didn’t. I had power, but had yet to earn my authority. Thought I fancied myself a leader, I was just a boss. It took years of mistakes, struggles, and hard realizations for that to change. You see, anyone can be a boss, but relatively few have the drive, patience.I still have a long way to go, but I have learned three behaviors that are central to the transformation from boss to leader. Like most things of value, these behaviors are easy to accept but hard to live……
Did you know that nearly one out of five public school teachers hold down a second job during the school year? According to EdWeek, half of teachers with second jobs currently work in a role outside of education, and 5% of teachers take on a second teaching or tutoring job outside of their school districts. Some teachers work 60 hours a week, and then take on second gigs. Across the country, teachers are renting out their homes across the country. In fact, according to a new study from Airbnb, one in 10 Airbnb hosts, or approximately 45,000 people who use the service are teachers……
Consistently revising and improving education for everyone is a journey, not just a goal. With things as vital as great teaching and effective learning, teachers and students can benefit from a positive mindset of constant growth and development. According to Folwell Dunbar, the founder of Fire Up Learning, there’s a whole list of things we can start doing anytime to see immediate results in improving education.
In the Edutopia article 50 Little Things Teachers, Parents, and Others Can Do to Improve Education, Folwell lists 50 things we can practice to begin improving education right now. It’s the little things, he says, that make all the difference.
“While big, bold initiatives sound good, look pretty (cost a lot), and usually grab all the press, it’s the unheralded acts that, in the end, deliver results …”
It’s true; the little things make a big difference over time. The small steps we take today can have a huge impact tomorrow. Learn more about the small things (and some bigger things) Folwell suggests for improving education in his full article on Edutopia.
Which things from Folwell’s list are you using in your practices? Which ones would you like to try? What do you think might be missing from the list? Share it with us below.
50 Little Things for Improving Education
- Serve kids a good, healthy breakfast.
- Find out what your kids like and incorporate them into your instruction.
- Allow kids to explore topics that really matter to them.
- Use big words and encourage kids to do the same.
- Ask questions that involve thoughtful answers.
- Give kids time to answer those hard questions.
- Discuss paintings, films, books, plays, etc.
- In your discussions, expect more than “It was awesome!” or “That sucked.”
- Model the use of proper English (or Spanish, German, Chinese, etc.).
- Adopt efficient routines and procedures.
- Remove erasers: time spent erasing is time lost exploring creative ideas.
- When watching television, turn on the closed captioning.
- Make TV interactive by discussing the shows you watch.
- Post the name of the book(s) you’re reading on the door to your classroom or at home. Enthusiasm is infectious.
- Post things that inspire and ignite the imagination.
- Celebrate learning frequently.
- Create quiet and comfortable learning sanctuaries in school and at home.
- Provide feedback that’s constructive and actionable.
- Assign homework that is meaningful and engaging.
- Encourage kids to keep journals they write in every day.
- Tell and listen to stories.
- Be consistent with rules. Children flourish when they know their boundaries.
- Listen to and discuss all kinds of music
- Display student work, along with the criteria used to evaluate it.
- Use mnemonic devices and other learning “tricks.”
- Read with your child for at least 15 minutes every night, if not longer.
- Discuss, question, and debate what you read.
- Read and write just for fun.
- Keep pets and plants at home and in the classroom.
- Eliminate unnecessary distractions during the school day.
- Constantly relate what is being taught to the real world.
- Listen to audio books whenever and wherever possible.
- Allow kids time to reflect on what they’ve learned.
- Provide positive reinforcement whenever possible.
- Call on students in an equitable manner (popsicle sticks, playing cards, etc.).
- Find, bookmark, and visit great educational websites.
- Explore interesting areas in your community.
- Play intellectually challenging games like Scrabble, chess, and Sudoku.
- Take an interest in what children are learning.
- Eat well-rounded, healthy snacks.
- Have real conversations while dining. (Foreign Language tables can be fun!)
- Don’t stress out.
- Exercise regularly, and make it fun.
- Play sports of every kind.
- Don’t complain – it rarely does any good.
- Set high standards for yourself and your kids, and expect success.
- Travel as much as possible.
- Make sure your kids (and you) get a good night’s sleep.
- Practice what you teach.
- Smile a lot!
The Best Tool to Use
There’s nothing like a terrific platform for improving education in practice, and that’s what Wabisabi is all about. We’ve built an app and accompanying resources designed to make any teacher and student fall in love with learning again and again.
Wabisabi’s prime features include real-time reporting against standards, media-rich learner portfolios, a vibrant collaborative experience, quality lesson plans from teachers all over the world, and much more. Get started with it below and see the possibilities for yourself.
Your kindly Donations would be so effective in order to fulfill our future research and endeavors – Thank you
It’s the end of the school year and I’m sitting with a young principal I coach who has deep expertise, heart, and know-how. Suddenly, she breaks down sobbing. “I’m miserable in this job,” she says. “I want to stay the course, but I don’t know how to get my head above water. I just don’t feel any joy in this work.”
When we live in constant stress, our brains start to downshift. According to scholars Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine, downshifting is a psychophysiological response to threat that results in a sense of helplessness or fatigue. A downshifted person has a nagging sense of fear or anxiety and begins to lose the ability to feel excitement or pleasure.
The good news is that we can upshift our brains by actively infusing joy into our work life. Joyful experiences—even brief ones—flood the brain with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that overwhelm our primitive stress responses. So how can we find more joy?
8 Ways to Reclaim Joy
Since my conversation with the principal, I’ve been practicing and modeling the reclamation of joy. Here are eight ways you can join me.
1. Get outside during the school day. Hold a collaboration meeting, coaching session, or class outdoors to shift the group energy. So many of us spend our days locked inside the school building—stepping outside for a five-minute walk or simply to feel the breeze or sun on our face can change our perception and our brain chemistry. Even a small dose of movement can release endorphins and provide a much-needed brain break.
Recently, I met an Oakland principal and her leadership team at a nearby lake to open their back-to-school meeting. The principal led three rounds of a community circle: “Share your favorite summer moment,” “share something we don’t know about you,” and “share an artifact that tells a story about your journey as a leader.” Afterward she randomly assigned partners for a lakeside walk and talk, inviting everyone to reflect on the legacy they want to leave behind. It was simple, mobile, and powerful.
2. Bring music. If your classroom or staff room feels solemn, enliven it with your favorite music. Better yet, invite students or colleagues to share their favorite song or artist on a rotating basis. Music releases positive neurotransmitters, calms the brain’s high-alert settings, and can build cultural proficiency as community members share their musical interests.
3. Model micro-affirmations. Researcher Mary Rowe defines micro‐affirmations as “tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening.” Micro‐affirmations can take many forms, such as offering a hug to someone experiencing a setback, giving a colleague some positive feedback, or facilitating an appreciations ritual that invites people to publicly celebrate one another.
4. Start class or professional development with a guided visualization. If people seem stuck in a downshifted state, help them access joy by leading a guided visualization. Ask participants to close their eyes or focus on a soft gazing point—not letting their eyes wander—and settle comfortably in their chairs. Then lead them to slow their breathing down and imagine a moment or place that brought them joy. Invite them to explore the colors, thoughts, and feelings that come up when they think of this place. Afterward, ask people to share how the experience felt and how they can bring those feelings into the school day.
5. Cancel a staff meeting. This might be my favorite joy hack, and it was my first piece of advice to that sobbing principal. Everyone’s feeling burned out? Don’t let your task list trump the reclamation of joy. Cancel a staff meeting and give the time back to teachers.
You might plan an alternative, just-for-fun activity like a hike or happy hour, but make it optional for folks who really just need a break.
6. Write a card to someone who’s had your back. It feels great to appreciate others. Think about a colleague in any capacity at your school who holds you up in ways big or small. This could be another teacher, the custodian who cleans your room, or the person who ensures that you’re paid each month. Write that person a card and tell them what you appreciate about them.
7. Practice three to five minutes of mindfulness. Consider starting your day with a few minutes of mindfulness. Just close your eyes, slow down your breathing, and notice the rise and fall of your chest, the sounds that typically act as background noise, the sensation of your heartbeat, your meandering thoughts.
8. Keep a joy journal. I often ask my own children, who are 9 and 12, “What brought you joy today?” Ask yourself that question at the end of each day, taking time to jot down your reflections in a journal. Writing is a form of story editing, as explained in the wonderful book Redirect by psychologist Timothy Wilson. When we take time to write or rewrite the stories we carry about our work life, we can change negative narratives into hopeful ones, and reconnect with our sources of joy and energy.
As you prepare to go back to school, remember that learning should be a joyful enterprise. Look for opportunities to laugh, breathe, and smile as an educator, and you’ll find your energy is contagious.
Your kindly Donations would be so effective in order to fulfill our future research and endeavors – Thank you
I am proud that Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the institution I teach in, is committed to meeting the needs of its diverse student population. In particular, it has dedicated support to ensure equal access to students with disabilities. This support requires students to self-identify as having an intellectual, learning or mental/physical disability. For these students, and those that do not self-identify, I also have a responsibility that the online learning environment I design is accessible.
Below I have shared student accessibility strategies I have implemented in the design of my prototype and identified areas that need additional work or resources.
Formatted instructional materials for assistive technology
I used a variety of digital media tools to present course content, including text, images and video that includes audio as one of my efforts to create an engaging learning environment. The following are strategies I used or need to consider to ensure the instructional materials in these various formats are more accessible:
Text: Adding a text to speech or speech to text option is helpful for students with physical impairments and EAL students. I found the suggestion of Google Read&Write Chrome extension from a resource my classmate, Colleen, shared on Twitter. There are many possibilities for student support in this extension, including a text to speech player, translator, dictionary, picture dictionary and web search features. Students can also use the talk and text feature when contributing to the discussion board.
I found the text to speech player adequate for the text materials within Brightspace and Adobe Spark Page. However, I found the language options for the translator limited and are not representative of the first languages of most of our international students. ImTranslator, a free alternative Chrome extension, translates English to over 22 languages with audio presentation and dictionary. I tested it on my prototype and believe it may be a useful tool for EAL students.
Video: Providing closed captions and/or a video transcript is typically targeted to those who are hearing impaired. However, providing text with videos can also provide greater accessibility to students whose first language is not English and students who have special learning needs. In addition, viewing text with videos can provide greater knowledge comprehension and retention for all learners. To ensure students were aware of these accessibility options, I indicated that closed caption option and transcript below the videos I included in my prototype.
Images: Adding alternative text to an image provides students with an explanation of its contents when using a screen reader. I tested this function using Google Read&Write and found it useful with images embedded in Brightspace webpages. However, when testing with Adobe Spark Page I was disappointed this feature did not work. This is a limitation I had not considered when developing online content using Adobe Spark Page. This is an area I will need to further investigate to make this content more accessible.
Layout of content is easy to navigate and read
Consistent and logical content layout is important to enhance the user experience, especially for those who have low digital literacy skills and users of assistive technologies. Brightspace provides templates to ensure content is provided in a format that is compatible with assistive technologies, including suggested headings to differentiate blocks of text and colour contrasts to signal new topics. I was pleased with this feature within Brightspace to assist designers in increasing accessibility for students.
For students who have limited access to the Internat, each webpage within Brightspace can be downloaded and viewed offline. Currently, Adobe Spark Pages cannot be downloaded in a PDF document. When this course does go live, I will convert these pages into a format that can be downloaded.
One of the most important ways to meet the needs of students is to ask them the preferences. Students who are users of assistive technologies or require other accommodations are a great resource to ensure the instructional materials and learning environment is engaging and accessible. While I don’t have this opportunity with my prototype, I will solicit student input when it does go live.
In summary, I grateful accessibility was a suggested topic for discussion. Although I had considered basic accessibility options including offline access and closed captioning and video transcripts, I now recognize there is much more an educator can do to ensure learner accessibility in an online learning environment. Before going live with my prototype I plan to consult with our accessibility office and instructional designers to find a comprehensive solution.
Can you suggest other assistive technologies or strategies that I can implement in an online learning environment? What other benefits do you see for accessibility in online education?