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Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Tech Savvy Students Ready for Online Learning

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

According to research eighty-seven percent of all youth between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet.  This is a familiar medium for young learners today, one which has already captured students’ interest. Students enter an online program with a sense of confidence with the medium. Outdated technology programs and tools will turn these techno-savvy students away from online learning, so online programs need to be on the cutting edge.

Online instruction for k-12 students is still in its infancy and educators are just beginning to recognize its value. America’s young people have embraced the computer and the Internet as their own. Half of all students age eight or older use the computer every day and nearly seventy-five percent have a computer at home. Students use the Internet for information gathering, email, and chat. Internet-based learning is a natural extension of their use of the Internet and online learning programs can provide focus and guidance to increase students’ natural need to learn (Angulo, 2001).  Quality programs provide all instructional material, give immediate feedback, facilitate use of email, and monitor programs like Twitter and Facebook to create forums for online communities.

Web-based instruction encourages students to share their work, providing a safe and familiar environment to do so. Students’ familiarity with the medium fosters feelings of competence and self-confidence.  Online learning additionally provides educators the opportunity to guide students to quality information on the Internet. Students learn how to use critical thinking skills to become even more skilled in navigating the wealth of information available on the Internet.

Seven Governing Goals for Online Learning

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Online education powerfully combines aspects of distance learning and open learning with the expertise of an experienced online instructor who guides the learning process.  Distance learning is generally defined as any mode of learning where the study takes place wholly at home but the materials are still “physical,” like computer programs, books, cassettes, CD-ROMs, and videos. Open learning is where study takes place off site the majority of the time, but requires some infrequent attendance at a center. It includes mediums that are both physical and electronic. Online learning is where the study takes place over the Internet, either live or via email lessons sent to the student’s inbox.

The online instructional program should include seven governing goals:

1. An online community is established and interaction is monitored by an educator.  An online community of learners increases the likelihood of success for students.   Without a social or emotional connection, technology further distances the learner from the desire to connect with the content (Palloff & Pratt, 1999).

2.   Online instruction should follow a set format and needs to be consistent according to preset specifications across all programs, while adhering to core standards for learning.

3. Assessment that includes immediate feedback should be customized to align with student progress through smart software which monitors results of student-self assessment, parent assessment and  program/educator assessment.

4. Parents need to be part of the teaching-learning process.  Online learning lends itself well to parental involvement.  The flexible nature of online learning is ideal for parents who don’t have time to meet with educators.  Parental resources should be available for parents to review 24/7.   Programs need to be simple and easy to use so that parents have equal access to the important information available to them.  Children may be able to help their parents, but this should not be an expected part of the program.

5. Age appropriate Internet links need to be a part of each online lesson module, with smart programs checking for dead links. The links should support the concept or skill being taught in the instructional program.

6. Instructional material should be available for a broad cross-section of students from grades K-12.

7. While completing instructional material, students will learn that the Internet is a tool that can enhance learning, independence, self direction and can provide for the efficient use and validation of reliable information.

Misconceptions About Online Learning

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Current data is misleading, referring to any and all instruction that occurs via the Internet as “online learning” when much of the instruction is nothing more than scanned copies of materials used in the traditional classroom.  The term “online learning” has been muddied as those claiming to use the medium either do not understand the qualitative difference between traditional classroom instruction and online instruction, or they claim use of technology in order to fulfill administrative requirements for such, without providing authentic online instruction. Lack of  training for innovative, thoughtful, and creative use of technology often stymies effective teaching online.

Online education powerfully combines aspects of distance learning and open learning with the expertise of an experienced online instructor who guides the learning process. Distance learning is generally defined as any mode of learning where the study takes place wholly at home but the materials are still “physical,”  like books, cassettes, CD-ROMs, and videos.  Open learning takes place off site the majority of the time, but requires some infrequent attendance at a center. It includes mediums that are both physical and electronic. Online learning study takes place over the Internet, either live or via email lessons sent to the student’s inbox.

Current research would have us believe that the need for online learning is already being met, that K – 12 online learning is the direction education is already headed. Research states that seven hundred thousand students across the U. S. in grades K – 12 were enrolled in online learning in 2006, and 2007-2008 enrollment estimates were at 1,030,000 (Picciano & Seaman, 2009) and that K – 12 Internet-based education is growing by 30 to 47 percent each year (Newman, Stein, & Trask, 2003; Picciano & Seaman, 2007). “Forty four states have significant supplemental online learning programs, or significant full-time programs” (Watson, et al., 2008, p. 8). Other states are in the planning stages for online learning programs. Seventy one percent of school districts that currently offer distance education programs are planning to grow their programs in the next year (NCES, 2008).

While these statistics may be accurate, what is lacking is a clear definition of what online learning looks like in practice.  Defining online courses, as those that rely on eighty percent of instruction online is merely the first step in defining online education. We propose a definition that clarifies some of the misconceptions teachers, administrators, and students may have about online education. These include concerns that online instruction leaves the  teacher out of the educational process, that average or below-average performing students in traditional classrooms fare even more poorly in online courses, and that online courses are inferior to traditional classroom settings (Picciano & Seaman, 2009).

The model online instructional program provides the following:

  • The program meets National Goals for Learning in the areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Science and is designed for students from kindergarten through grade twelve.
  • Each lesson module has several parts including an introduction, vocabulary, a lesson problem, statement of curricular standards, resources, study guide, activities, extended learning, and quizzes and exams.
  • An adequate number of lesson modules are provided to fulfill the instructional requirement for students.  These modules include a wide range of topics, informational web sites and interesting activities that help to create a unique learning experience.
  • The program provides immediate feedback to students and parents. Multiple choice questions follow each study guide to check for comprehension and understanding of concepts learned.
  • The program includes student and teacher/parent resources, discussion area, homework help, and unique email features.
  • Lesson modules are written by educators in multiple subject areas. Students can work at their own ability level and at their own pace. The lesson modules emphasize achievement in basic skills for learning.
  • The most important key to online learning is student success and students are more likely to succeed if the information is interesting and relevant for them.
  • The original content of the lesson modules apply to real life situations that students can relate to, such as, creating a budget or reviewing a movie.
  • The program is fully accessible through the Internet. There should be no plug-ins, or additional software with the program.
  • The depth of content, use of graphics, activities and inclusion of web sites make the typical online instructional program unique when compared to other educational programs and sites on the Internet.

101 Ways to Praise A Child

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Wow • Way to Go • Super • You’re Special • Outstanding • Excellent • Great • Good • Neat • Well Done • Remarkable • I Knew You Could Do it • I’m Proud of You • Fantastic • Super Star • Nice Work • Looking Good • You’re on Top of it • Beautiful • Now You’re Flying • You’re Catching on • Now You’ve Got it • You’re Incredible • Hot Dog • Dynamite • You’re Beautiful • You’re Unique • Nothing Can Stop You Now • Good For You • I like You • You’re a Winner • Remarkable Job • Beautiful Work • Spectacular • You’re Spectacular • You’re Darling • You’re Precious • Great Discovery • You’ve Discovered the Secret • You Figured it Out • Fantastic Job • Hip, Hip Hurray • Bingo • Magnificent • Marvelous • Terrific • You’re Important • Phenomenal • You’re Sensational • Super Work • Creative Job • Super Job • Fantastic Job • Exceptional Performance • You’re a Real Trooper • You Are Responsible • You Are Exciting • You Learned it Right • What an Imagination • What a Good Listener • You Are Fun • Beautiful Sharing • Outstanding Performance • You’re a Good Friend • I Trust You • You’re Important • You Mean a Lot to Me • You Make Me Happy • You Belong • You’ve Got a Friend • You Make Me Laugh • You Brighten My Day • I Respect You • You Mean the World to Me • That’s Correct • You’re a Joy • You’re a Treasure • You’re Wonderful • You’re Perfect • Awesome • A+ Job • You’re A-OK-my Buddy • You Made My Day • That’s the Best • a Big Hug • a Big Kiss • Say I Love You! •

P.S.  Remember, a Smile Is Worth 1000 Words!

The Family: A Safety Net

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Much has been written about what to do after problems arise with children and adolescents, yet many problems can be prevented.  One way we can prevent problems is by taking care of our children’s needs.

The need for physical and emotional safety is essential for all of us, but especially for children.  Physically and emotionally safe environments help children grow up happier and healthier.  This is also a lot of truth in the saying, “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

There is today a great need for parents to create an island of safety in the home.  A safe environment can help prevent problems or reduce their severity as children are growing up.  In creating safety, parents lay the foundation for trust, mental health, and happiness.

A safe home environment involves more than just the house itself.  It also includes the neighborhood.  When you know your neighbors, you can let your kids know which ones you trust and who they can go to for help if you are not at home.  You also help to create a safe environment when you introduce your kids to your friends and when you encourage your children to have friends of their own.  Every child needs at least one good friend.  Friends….people who look out for each other….create a sense of safety in our lives.

Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction

The Value of Play

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Everyone senses on some level that the ability to be spontaneous and to play is a basic need and an important characteristic of healthy human beings.  However, not everyone can channel this force for ultimate health and happiness.  Unfortunately, learning to play is something we must do as children; if we do not learn how to play as a youngster, often it is a skill that cannot be learned as an adult.  Teach your child how to use her brain, body, emotions and imagination as vehicles for celebrating her higher self.  When you teach your child to play, you are showing her the path of intellectual, social and emotional transformation…a path which ultimately leads to self-actualization!

For our young children, everything they do is learning.  Adding fun to the doing and learning will make even the tedious seem like a game.  The more your child plays and does, the more opportunities, she has for finding favorites.  Imagine if you will, what would have happened if Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s family had never set him on a piano bench and place his little hands on the keys?  Nothing.  What a loss that would have been for the world.  One of your most important jobs as a parent is to find out what natural talents lie within your child.

When a child is born, he has over a hundred billion brain cells.  Through play, trillions of synapses develop connecting these hundred billion cells in the brain.  Each time your preschooler plays a game, listens to music or stories from picture books and interacts with you, new synapses develop and the child’s intellect is enhanced.  Play, although it sounds simple, must be taken seriously.  Play is your child’s work!

Are There Different Kinds of Smart?

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Not long ago, most viewed intelligence as a single quantity …an immutable, monolithic construct known as “intelligence quotient” or “IQ.”

Today we’re pretty sure that is wrong.  Thanks to Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking work and to corresponding developments in neurobiology, most experts now suspect there are at least several different kinds of intelligence.  Rather than a single quantity, intelligence is now largely seen as a grouping of capacities, each defined by Gardner as “an ability to solve a problem or fashion a product that is valued in one or more cultural settings.”

How many are there?  At last count, Gardner list 8 1/2 … Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Visual-Spatial, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalist and half for Comedic Intelligence.

How many are likely to emerge?  Nobody really knows, but ultimately the question of precise numbers misses the point:  a more important question may be, “How do we use our many skills most effectively?”  And the answer seems to be.  “Use them often.”

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Summer Activities

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

While the following suggestions for family summer activities might seem obvious…..some of us need a gentle reminder once in awhile.

Encourage your children to join a community youth group
Visit the library with your child
Get your child a library card. It is a great gift
Check telephone listings for agencies and community groups that offer free parent and child materials. Don’t forget to check the Internet for these resources.
Take advantage of public recreation
Take nature hikes
Visit museums, zoos, and parks
Take your child to plays and concerts
When traveling with your children in a car or bus, discuss the sights you see along the way.

Overcoming Conventional Wisdom

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

TowerFor centuries, people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all times and surely he could not be wrong. All it would have taken was for one brave person to take two objects, one heavy and one light, and drop them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one stepped forward until nearly 2000 years after Aristotle’s death. In 1589, Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same time. But the power of belief in the conventional wisdom was so strong that the professors denied what they had seen. They continued to say Aristotle was right.

Considering the Best Measure for Quality Education

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The other day a neighbor visited me while I was working in the garden. She wanted to talk about the changes occurring at the local school. Comparing the education she and her husband received with that her children were receiving, she had determined that they were getting an excellent education. Both parents were pleased their children were learning “so much more” than they had.

I had to agree with my friend, that, we most often use this standard of measurement for our children’s schooling. I certainly did when my children were young. But is this the best measure for quality in education? I asked the neighbor to consider how the world had changed, in the time since she was in school, and the amount of information we and our children have at our finger tips. It seems reasonable to assume that our children would, and should, be learning a great deal more of the information that took us years to assimilate. For the most part, our children begin school having access to more information than their parents had. By the time a child has completed one year of schooling that information has almost doubled. When I was in school it took many years for information to change. That provided me and those of my generation a certain consistency with learning information that is not available today. Therefore, I’m not certain that the same paradigms for learning, that served my neighbors and me, are adequate for today’s student.

Unfortunately, I do not have an easy answer for what should be or could be. I do know that when I hear about educators who continue to teach they way they have for many years, it concerns me. I have seen wonderful teachers who are very good with their students, but who are missing the mark in preparing their students for this fast paced world. That human aspect is so very important to teaching, but what of the child who does not receive adequate information to be successful in ensuing years. What a dilemma it raises for those of us who work with these well intentioned people on a daily basis. The tried and true paradigms of the past, that served us well, that prepared our youngster for a successful future, are not adequate today. We all have to try harder to challenge our own methods of educating and of evaluating schooling.