TCC Worldwide Online Conference 2018: Call for Proposals

By Bert Kimura

The theme for the 23rd Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference, April 17-19, 2018, is “Navigating the Digital Landscape.” Participation in this event is entirely online. All sessions are delivered online in real-time. Sessions are recorded for later viewing.

Please consider submitting a proposal for a paper or general session related to all aspects of learning, design, and technology, including but not limited to e-learning, online learning communities, collaborative learning, social media, mobile learning, emerging technologies, international education, and professional development.

The proposal submission deadline is December 15, 2017. The submission form is available at

For a list of suggested topics and more information, see Call for Proposals.

TCC Hawaii, LearningTimes, & the Learning Design and Technology Department, College of Education, UH-Manoa collaborate to produce this event. Numerous volunteer faculty and staff worldwide provide additional support.

Contact: Bert Kimura ( or Curtis Ho (

Hashtag: #tcc23rd

To subscribe to the TCCOHANA-L mailing list, see:


TCC 2017 Worldwide Online Conference April 18-20

bert-kimura-2016-80By Bert Kimura
Co-coordinator: Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference

Join us for the TCC 2017 Worldwide Online Conference, April 18-20: Changing to Learn, Learning to Change

L-R, Malcolm Brown, Veronica Diaz, Hannah Gerber, Kumiko Aoki, Peter Leong, Mikhail Fominykh

Enjoy keynote and special regional sessions by:

  • Drs. Malcolm Brown & Veronica Diaz, Educause Learning Initiative, USA
  • Dr. Hannah Gerber, Sam Houston State University, Texas, USA
  • Dr. Kumiko Aoki, Open University of Japan, Tokyo
  • Dr. Peter Leong, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA
  • Dr. Mikhail Fominykh, Molde University College, Norway

TCC is a three-day, entirely online conference for post-secondary faculty and staff worldwide with over 100 sessions that cover a wide-range of topics related to distance learning and emerging technologies for teaching and learning.

To register:

Individuals participate in real-time sessions from the comfort of their workplace or home using a web browser to connect to individual sessions. All sessions are recorded for on-demand viewing.

For the current schedule of presentations and descriptions, see:

University of Hawaii faculty and staff: Special reduced rates are available. Contact Sharon Fowler <>.

We look forward to seeing you at TCC 2017.

What’s Wrong with MOOCs: One-Size-Fits-All Syndrome

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

The Malaysian government is taking steps to “make 30 per cent of higher education courses available as massive open online courses (or MOOCs) by 2020” (Financial Review, 2 Oct. 2016). The MOOCs are free, but there’s a fee for assessments that grant credit for courses taken at other universities. From 64 courses in 2015, the number has grown to 300 this year.

The down side, as I see it, is that they’re relying on a single MOOC management system (MMS) — in this case, OpenLearning, which is based in Sydney. This shoehorning of course design and development into a proprietary box is a clear sign that the Malaysian administrators don’t have a clue about MOOCs.

This problem of overreliance on an MMS is endemic in the vast majority of universities that are tiptoeing into MOOCs. It’s the same mindset that tosses all online courses into a single LMS. If this one-size-fits-all approach were applied to F2F courses, professors would be outraged by this brazen violation of academic freedom.

The web is an infinite frontier with limitless resources for creating a wide range of MOOCs. In contrast, boxed platforms being hawked by non- and for-profits such as Coursera, edX, and OpenLearning don’t even begin to scratch the surface of possibilities. Jumping whole hog into one of them is to automatically accept an MMS’s limited views of what a MOOC can be.  Continue reading

80 Percent of K-12 Schools Now Using Digital Content

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

A study by ASCD and Overdrive, Inc.,1 is being released today (1 April 2016). Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K–12 Classroom E-Learning is available for download here. Here are some of the highlights:

1. More than 80 percent of K-12 schools and districts are now using some form of digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks — in the classroom.

2. Of the 80 percent of respondents who report using digital content in their schools or districts, four out of 10 are using it as part of their curriculum.

3. Devices used for digital content: laptops (75 percent), tablets (62 percent), personal computers (49 percent), and smartphones (17 percent).

4. Contributors to this growth include recognized benefits such as the ability to deliver individualized instruction, allowing students to practice independently, and greater student attention/engagement.

5. As digital content continues to transform the classroom, the concept of a personalized, individualized model of schooling becomes more feasible, according to the report.

6. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place” (Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado).

7. The two issues cited most often were equity concerns about lack of Internet access at home and the fear of teachers not wanting to go digital, including teachers not comfortable or effective with digital learning.

8. Across the board, teachers most desire English/Language Arts (ELA) content in digital format (74 percent), followed by science (62 percent), math (61 percent) and social studies (56 percent).

9. Survey respondents report that digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.

10. This report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 administrators at the school or district level in the U.S.

1 Overdrive, Inc., is a provider of eBook and audiobook platforms for schools.

Creating Community: Part 2 – Hard Conversations in an Online Classroom – ‘Othello’

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

The four of us are all teachers in face-to-face classrooms, and we have all needed to have difficult conversations about race with our students in those classes. Some teachers would maintain that it is “better” to have these conversations in person in order to monitor how the students are doing and ease them over the rough spots.

All of us have also been part of an online classroom in which we needed to have those conversations about race and ethnicity as we discussed Shakespeare’s Othello and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Is one format — online or in-person — better than the other? While our response won’t be definitive, we can say that our online discussion did succeed in creating an “immediate and vital community of learning” as we insisted in Part 1 of this series. And for each of us, the learning in this class carried over to the face-to-face classes we teach.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay McDaniel

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, Tim Fraser-Bumatay, and Judith McDaniel.

Thinking about Othello

In addition to reading Shakespeare’s play, I assigned several critical articles that discussed race in the play. Kim Hall’s “Beauty and the Beast of Whiteness” and James Aubrey’s “Race and the Spectacle of the Monstrous in ‘Othello’” seemed to be the most provocative.

The issue of beauty, virtue, and monstrosity

The discussion prompt for the question about Othello asked whether Hall’s portrait of “beauty and the beast of whiteness” gave the reader a path into considering Othello as an Elizabethan might have seen him. Tim’s immediate response was “[Yes,] an in-depth look at style would tread upon the contextual setting of the play’s conception, for if one were to question why Shakespeare chooses words such as ‘beast,’ ‘horse,’ and ‘ram’ to describe Othello, it would inevitably lead to 17th century cultural opinions of Africans.”

Alongside that view of course is the parallel portrait of Othello as the most noble and honorable man in the Duke’s court. When Shakespeare introduces the “Moor” himself, he presents “an intriguing character who breaks from the stigma; he is calm, courteous, and even noble.”  Continue reading

Creating Community in an Online Classroom: Part 1 – Getting to Know You

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

Is it possible to get a “real education” from an online class? Several years ago a professor from the University of Virginia published an opinion piece about online education in the New York Times and insisted that it was impossible. “You can get knowledge,” he continued, “from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning.”2

I teach literature in a fully online Master’s program. My students enroll from all over the United States and from overseas. Our asynchronous discussion forums give students an opportunity to interact, to be thoughtful in their responses to my discussion prompts and to one another. I find the online classroom to be stimulating, diverse, and creative. It is different from a face-to-face class experience, but it can be different in ways that enhance student learning through the creation of an online community.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, and Tim Fraser-Bumatay

I am joined in writing this article by three of the students who have just completed their Masters degree in Literature and Writing in this online program. We have created an article that has two parts. In the first we talk about building community and how that happens, how students from very different backgrounds begin to interact, enjoy one another, challenge one another. In the second part of the article, we recreate some of the conversations we had about difficult subjects and difficult texts. We talked about race extensively when we read Othello and Heart of DarknessContinue reading

Free Webinar: ‘Using Technology to Engage Students’ 2/23/15 3pm EST

From Macmillan Higher Education 2/17/15:

Join us on Monday, February 23rd at 3pm EST for a complimentary webinar on “Using Technology to Engage Students” with Solina Lindahl of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo!

The 21st century classroom is getting larger, more tech-laden and full of students weaned on digital devices. How should our teaching change (or NOT change) in light of this? This talk is aimed at showing how iPads, iClickers and more can engage the face-to-face large class. Included are a brief discussion of some of the more innovative (and easy) visual presentation apps, as well as a look at using iPads to do the most old-fashioned of practices: worked problems.

edtech week

To learn more about all of our EdTech Week sessions and our presenters, please visit our EdTech Week website. You can also join our event on Facebook for the latest updates and information! We hope to see you there!

Practical Reasoning – Challenges for Teaching and Assessment

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

In a faculty brown bag lunch, Molly Sutphen, Associate Director of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence and author of the seminal book Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation, delivered a talk on Practical Reasoning at the School of Government. The talk was a nice follow-up to the Teaching Palooza that our faculty organized last summer. Since the School’s focus is on teaching adult learners, enhancing practical reasoning skills is an important objective of my instructional design work.

Molly Sutphen, Associate Director of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence

Molly Sutphen, Associate Director and Teaching and Learning Coordinator, UNC Center for Faculty Excellence

Characteristics of Effective Practical Reasoning

  • To be able to draw on knowledge from different areas, courses, or types of knowledge and use it
  • To develop a sense of salience about a situation
  • To realize the stakes of a situation
  • To put boundaries around a problem or question
  • To be able to envision different outcomes
  • To be able to construct a narrative forward and backward

Assessment and Practical Reasoning

With the pressure of constantly demonstrating impact, assessing the short term learning outcomes of practical reasoning is problematic. “Practitioners may learn, but we don’t know it – what you teach, someone will perhaps not use for another five months – or ten years,” said Dr. Sutphen. She recommends taking “a long view” instead.

Instructional Strategy: Unfolding Cases

Dr. Sutphen introduced unfolding cases as an instructional strategy to teach practical reasoning skills. Unfolding cases are underdetermined (no obvious plan or resolution), scaffolded (controlled amount of information), and orchestrated (prompting specific, relevant questioning). In a plenary exercise, she presented a list of questions to help teachers construct unfolding cases.

  • What is this a case of?
  • Where do you want to start and end?
  • How underdetermined do you want the case to be?
  • Who are the actors? At which point will they be revealed?
  • What is the arc of the narrative?
  • What information will you provide or conceal?
  • Will you give boundaries or expect them to be discovered?

Further Reading

Benner, P., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V., & Day, L. (2009). Educating nurses: A call for radical transformation (Vol. 15). John Wiley & Sons.

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Sullivan, W. M., & Dolle, J. R. (2011). Rethinking undergraduate business education: Liberal learning for the profession (Vol. 20). John Wiley & Sons.

Schwartz, B., & Sharpe, K. (2010). Practical wisdom: The right way to do the right thing. Penguin.

Gherardi, S. (2012). “Docta ignorantia”: Professional Knowing at the Core and at the Margins of a Practice. Journal of Education and Work, 25(1), 15-38.

Technology Is a Partial Answer to Improving Teacher Quality

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

On October 29, the New York Times published an op-ed by Frank Bruni1 that is based on a new book by Joel Klein (past chancellor of New York City Public Schools) and that has plenty of advice for educators. According to Bruni, Klein tells us that the primary issue in education is teacher quality.

Bruni’s analysis of Klein’s writing is good enough that everyone should read it and read between the lines too. Bruni also had the opportunity to interview Klein and asked some penetrating questions. Here are some bullet points that I have excerpted from the article:

• Stiffen the admission requirements for schools of education.
• Fix education school curricula, including ensuring teachers master their subjects.
• Create a rational incentive system for compensating teachers, a huge problem today.

You can read the article for the details. What does all of this have to do with technology? A great deal, actually, and in two important areas. The first area is teacher training. We can do much in this area, both with simulating teacher classroom experiences and with mastering subject matter. We currently train pilots with simulators before putting them in airplanes. The same thing could be done for teachers to help them more rapidly reach competency with student interaction, discipline, and engagement.

I am only intimately familiar with science education and can say that we have some great tools to advance science teacher understanding of their subjects. Too many science teachers enter classrooms unprepared to teach science for the simple reason that they do not understand the nature of science. It’s sort of like teaching chess without knowing how the pieces move. We can fix that.  Continue reading

Reading, Vocabulary, Glogster, Funding, ESL Teachers, VoiceThread


Cutting to the Common Core: The Positive Side of the Digital Divide by J. Zorfass and T. Gray in Language Magazine: The authors make the case for using digital texts to support the reading process for all learners.

Computer games give boost to English. The University of Gothenburg in Science Daily Success in the world of computer games and a good English vocabulary go hand in hand. A recent study has shown that players who are good at computer games increase their English vocabulary. The study also showed a difference between the genders. Boys spend about twice as much time a week playing computer games as girls. However, girls spend about twice as much time a week on Facebook and other language-related activities.

Tools for achieving oral fluency by Marsha Appling-Nunez in Language Magazine: The author makes suggestions for helping English language learners with their speaking and presentation skills. Glogster is a graphical blog that students can use when doing oral books reports, or other presentations. She also recommends PechaKucha Prezi, which is a method of presenting information using pictures only which requires the speaker to focus on good pronunciation, filler reduction, and vocabulary.

For Public Schools, the Long and Bumpy Road to Going Digital by Kathy Baron in Mindshift: Equipment, software licensing, training. Funding – or lack of it – is the number one issue facing school districts as they convert to the digital learning world.

Preparing Teacher Candidates to Work with English Language Learners in an Online Course Environment by Stephanie Dewing in TEIS News: The author reports on a study she did on the efficacy of an online course for ESL teachers. She found minimal evidence of transformative learning experiences. She proposes several changes in course design to try to produce a context more conducive for transformational learning.

Using Web 2.0 Tools, Such as Voicethread™, to Enhance ELL Instructor and Student Learning by Kelly Torres In TEIS News: Torres advocates using tools such as VoiceThread™, a multimedia tool that can provide a slide show with pictures, documents, and videos to engage students in online course materials by allowing them to see and hear their peers.

Can America’s Wasted Talent Be Harnessed Through the Power of Internet Based Learning?

Jim_Riggs80By Jim Riggs
Professor, Advanced Studies in Education
College of Education
CSU Stanislaus
President Emeritus, Columbia College (1997-2007)

For nearly 150 years, the American dream of a better life of economic success and advancement has been found largely through the narrow path of higher education. However, access to traditional higher education has always been limited to the top one-third of the adult population and by all indications will continue to be rationed at this level or less into the foreseeable future. Peter Smith, in his 2010 book, Harnessing America’s Wasted Talent: A New Ecology of Learning, points out that while traditional higher education will continue to serve this segment of the population, educational leaders must find alternative ways that will effectively meet the postsecondary education needs of a much larger segment of the adult population.

Smith is not alone in this thinking. There have been numerous reports in recent years that have also called for greater access, flexibility, credit portability and increasing degree completion for a much larger percentage of the adult population. In addition, many of these reports place a special emphasis on closing the growing achievement gap, which is increasingly leaving Latinos and African-Americans behind other groups when it comes to earning college degrees. Why is this important? There is a strong and growing consensus among policy makers, educators, economists and scholars that, if this country is to remain an economic superpower, a much larger and more diverse segment of the adult population must be better educated.

America’s current workforce is aging and retiring, and 85% of all new jobs now require some college education. A real crisis is rapidly developing  — America is finding itself with an escalating gap between the increasingly sophisticated workforce skill demands of the new economy and what the average American worker has to offer. In a 2011 report, The Undereducated American, Georgetown University professors Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose provide a strong argument that America will need a dramatic increase in the number of individuals with college degrees within the next decade. This increase in college graduates, according to Carnevale and Rose, is not only needed to help sustain the nation’s economic growth but will also help reverse the 30 year trend of growth in income inequity.

However, with the downturn in the economy over the past six years, we are once again reminded that a college degree alone is not a complete guarantee against economic challenges or underemployment. Economic growth and viability cannot solely depend on education. Nonetheless, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the greatest predictor of personal income and employability for Americans still is, and will continue to be, their level of educational attainment.  Continue reading

A Quality Check on the NCTQ ‘Teacher Prep Review’

John SenerBy John Sener

Lyndsey Layton’s article1 on the NCTQ Teacher Prep Review2 actually has a new message: How to use rankings to bash teacher training programs. And the larger message is: As a society, Americans still really don’t know how to value education.

Is there lots of room for improvement? Sure. But tellingly, the article mentions the stat about how few U.S. teachers graduated in the top third of their class (more rankings), compared to countries whose students lead the world on international exams (yet more rankings!). Yet not a word on the possible causes for this — you know, little things like teacher pay, prestige, professionalization, or other features that reflect a culture that knows how to value education.

Click to view the report.

View the report.

All you really need to know about the study is this sentence: “The organization did not visit the schools or interview students and faculty.” Of course, it doesn’t help that the WaPo article uncritically accepts the criteria used by the study, referring to “admissions standards and inspected syllabuses, textbooks and course requirements.” Imagine how long a restaurant critic would last if s/he bestowed rankings on eateries without actually visiting (“But I looked carefully at the menus! And I inspected their cookbooks and the reservation policies!”).

The actual “specialized scoring methodology” used by the study is very detailed but apparently very oriented toward meeting the Common Core standards:

Actually, the more I delve into the study, the more dismayed I’m becoming. The full Standards and Indicators section is almost more of a political document than a teacher quality document. The “Selection Criteria” (Standard 1) is essentially a single criterion: “academic caliber” as indicated by a 3.0 GPA or proxy measure. Think about that a minute — recall fondly your favorite teacher(s), the one(s) who Changed Your Life or made some small difference. Now, quick quiz: what was that teacher’s GPA in college? You have no idea, of course — nor should you, because reducing teacher qualifications to a 3.0 GPA is a reductionist recipe for destructive devolution.  Continue reading

‘Teaching History in the Digital Age’ – Call for a New Breed of Teachers

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

As a teacher educator, I am concerned that I am training my students how to teach yesterday’s students rather than tomorrow’s. Therefore, I was interested in seeing what T. Mills Kelly had to say, in Teaching History in the Digital Age (2013), about best practice for today’s and tomorrow’s students. As it happens, I also recently read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr, which is going to be my university’s One Book next year. Carr focuses on how the Internet has shaped how we think and view the world. Carr points out that, according to recent brain research, how we access and store information alters the physical properties of the brain. He contends that the practice of getting small amounts of information from a variety of sources may help us be more efficient information gatherers but at the cost of the ability to concentrate and reflect on what we are gathering.


Carr’s argument seems to parallel and support Kelly’s ideas in several ways. Traditionally, history teaching has relied on imparting knowledge and analysis, usually in the form of lectures, which research has shown is not the most effective approach. Perhaps partly because of this method of teaching, history is often seen by students as the acquisition of facts and not as a process of gathering and analyzing data. Also, Kelly says that the notion of perspective is often ignored, e.g., what is included, what is left out, why it is included or left out.

Kelly contends that the digital age offers historians the opportunity to help their students become historians, analysts, not just fact collectors. Not only do more students go to online sources rather than print, but today’s students are used to creating on the Internet — not just consuming. Kelly asserts that educators need to take advantage of this tendency in order to create learning opportunities that promote active engagement and not just passive acquisition through lectures and reading. He does caution that instructors must teach students that their role is not to remix or remake history. They should not give in to their desire to change primary sources so that they are “better,” a tendency that Web 2.0 savvy students may have. However, this type of engagement with history gives the instructor and students opportunities to examine the ethics of a variety of issues that can come up in projects, from plagiarism to the manipulation of information to support one’s point.  Continue reading

Sugata Mitra, MOOCs, and Minimally Invasive Education

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Sugata Mitra, winner of the 2013 TED Prize, reminds us that, as educators, we may be so consumed by teaching that we ignore learning, that there’s a fundamental difference between teaching-centered and learning-centered. Mitra is his own best model for his vision of education, or SOLE, for self-organized learning environment. SOLE is a more formal school-based version of Mitra’s earlier hole-in-the-wall (HIW) street learning environment. Both, however, are grounded in his theory of minimally invasive education (MIE).

Mitra is, by training, a physicist, but by temperament, a self-organized learner. The heart of his gift is curiosity, and his scientific training provides the rest. He didn’t begin by studying teaching. Instead, he studied learning. He placed a web-connected computer in a kiosk in a Delhi slum, left it on, invited children to play with it, stepped away, and watched. The question, simply stated, was: Can students learn without teachers?

Hole in the wall

He was amazed to learn that, yes, they can. They learn individually and in small groups, and they teach one another what they have learned. Out of his observations, he drew implications, and the most important is that both teachers and computers are technologies, or media for learning. That is, children can learn from either or both. With this awareness, he realized that in cases where schools and teachers are scarce or unavailable, computers could suffice. The question that remained, however, was: What does this mean, if anything, for traditional models of learning that rely on schools and teachers?  Continue reading

Don’t Blame Teachers for the Poor State of STEM

[The following is a response to colleagues’ comments, in ETCJ’s staff listserv, re the need for change in the way science is traditionally taught. The discussion was spurred by the 2 Feb. 2013 report, “For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence,” by the Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. -Editor]

You have to remember, I got thrown out of schools for doing all of the things that we talk about that are going to be the future. I worked with the White House. The principal called me in and said, “You can’t do this technology stuff in Arlington Schools if you want to stay.” That was not a choice to me. Teachers who did what they were told are still probably working. I was not what the schools wanted, an innovator using technology. You are preaching to the wrong person.

I can’t demonstrate my skills right now. I don’t have a place to do it. Tracy Learning Center in Tracy, CA, is where I worked to help establish advocacy. My benefactor died.

Nysmith School in Herndon, VA, and a few other schools and projects do what I love. NCLB took the steam out of STEM, the science out of the classroom, and the focus away from what was called SMET, now STEM. NCLB took me out of the classroom. I will always remember the discussion.

I was with people who are STEM evangelists in the Nysmith School, which I visited in the NIIAC times. We as a council visited the school back then. Both of the schools are not mainstream. Tracy School is a charter school, K-12, mostly minority kids, very minority. Because the school has a longer day, with another month in the school year, it has to be a charter school. We had a plan.  Continue reading

More Than Morale at Stake: Teachers in the U.S. Need to Take the Lead

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

(On 21 Feb. 2013, Bonnie Bracey Sutton, ETCJ associate editor, shared Valerie Strauss’s “U.S. Teachers’ Job Satisfaction Craters — Report” [Washington Post, 21 Feb. 2013] in our staff listserv. In response, I posted the following comment, which I’ve revised for this publication. -js)

Thanks, Bonnie, for sharing these stats. With teacher morale so low, the outlook for U.S. schools is bleak. For me, the elephant in the room is the impact of poverty. As a nation, we can’t continue to blame teachers for the consequences of poverty. We can’t expect them to resolve the causes of poverty. This is and always has been a social issue — not a pedagogical one.

What’s the answer?

For me, reading between the numbers, it means we ought to stop pushing highstakes testing and the common core. We need to allow teachers to do their job. They’re trained to determine where their students are and where they could be in terms of their classes, and for each student and each class, the profiles vary widely. This “diagnosis” is not only academic. In many if not most cases, it includes affective factors. Thus for variable portions of their classes, the teacher’s challenge may be motivation, attitude, rather than academics. For example, in writing instruction, the hurdle may be pull rather than push. How to attract students to writing may be the primary question — not how to push them toward earning higher scores on a standardized test that purports to measure writing competence.

To generate pull, teachers may decide to put their red pencils down and work with the language that students bring from their homes and neighborhoods. It may not be pretty in terms of common core standards, but it’s the reality. Preliminary goals may be to simply get students to enjoy writing and sharing their interests and concerns, in their most intimate and affective language. Giving them personally meaningful reasons for learning to write may be the fundamental pull that’s necessary to gradually incorporate the pushing of our beloved standards. We must find ways to recognize and reward teachers who are able to pull, to motivate, to change attitudes rather than simply move the needle in standardized tests.  Continue reading

Blame Poorly Designed Technology Instead of Teacher Training

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

[Note: This article was originally posted as a comment, on 11.25.12, in response to Lynn Zimmerman’s Formative Assessment and Blended Learning, Texting, Bullying, MOOCs. -Editor]

Zimmerman: “They found that teachers and pupils lack sufficient training in how to use technology as educational tools.”

What about technology being easier to use? All of the blame does not go to training.

When you realize that professional development (PD) classes for teachers provide them with required credits for retaining certification and give them time off from teaching while having no requirement for success in these classes, you can see that teachers will sit in them and bring nothing from them back to the classroom. That’s your training.

Teachers are people, too, just like students are. Without motivation and good pedagogy, PD is just a day of vacation. For these reasons, we cannot pin our hopes on training. Technology should be easy enough to use that teachers who are motivated can learn to use a given new technology in under an hour. However, applying it by inserting it into curricula may take longer, even much longer.

Moreover, educational technology should already be an “educational tool.” Technology that must be stretched, bent, and twisted to fit into classrooms does not properly belong there. And, just because a teacher becomes enamored of some technology does not mean that the students will benefit. IWBs (interactive whiteboards) are a case in point here.

The best educational technologies will fulfill two crucial goals: (1) easy insertion into a curriculum and (2) positive transformation of teaching/learning in classes, i.e., better learning outcomes. These are in addition to the obvious ones such as ease of use and low cost. BTW, the improvement in learning should be due to the technology, not the shiny new thing syndrome.

Chubb’s ‘The Best Teachers in the World’ Disses MSOs

[Note: This article first appeared as a comment to Withrow’s ETCJ article on 11.8.12. -Editor]

I was not going to respond to Frank B. Withrow‘s “Education in the 21st Century: The World Is Our Classroom.” Then I went to this meeting, and, since the recent election, I have been thinking. I know Frank. I know that he is speaking to all of the educators, but in Washington, lots of people sit on stages and affirm that there are certain practices that will change the world. I believe in Frank’s ideas and leadership. The nation turns a blind eye to the plight of children in rural, distant, unconnected and urban schools while seeking a digitized curriculum.

I don’t find it amusing that lots of the “experts,” if they have children, quickly explain that their kids go to Arlington, Montgomery, or Fairfax Schools. Never mind that lots of DC schools are in terrible need of modernity, and a few STEM schools don’t change the equation. The learning landscape is not even in DC and other places.

They just took librarians or media specialists out of DC elementary schools. I left teaching in DC years ago because of the lack of resources (Anthony Bowen is now a police station thanks to Rhee, but it is clean and no longer reeks of urine when the heat is on).

We lived through Rhee. Few have noted the ravages of her plan. Then I read Michael Keany’s “A Plan to Get the Best Teachers in the World” (11.10.12). Keany says:

In his new book, The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don’t Have Them and How We Could [Hoover Institution, Nov. 2012], Education Sector’s John Chubb explores strategies for how the United States can cultivate and retain the best teachers in the world, all with an eye toward raising student achievement. Jeff Selingo, an Education Sector senior fellow, sat down with Chubb to discuss the book at a recent Education Sector author talk.

Continue reading