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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Using Technology in the Classroom....

4 tips for introducing technology in the classroomHigh-school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano offers some suggestions for educators who are considering the use of technology in the classroom. Teachers should start small with one digital tool and spend time practicing how that tool can be best integrated into lessons, Provenzano offers. Teachers also should seek suggestions from students and other teachers about the latest technology, he writes. Provenzano's blog


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hard Decisions for Learning Disabled

The admissions process can be stressful for even the most gifted, organized students. But to applicants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities, the path to college can feel like a maze. The Choice addresses some of the issues such students face.
1. Should a student who has struggled with A.D.H.D. or dyslexia disclose it when applying to college?
The answer, like so many aspects of college admissions, depends mightily on the particular student. (Testing companies keep confidential whether a student was given extra time on the SAT and ACT, so that’s not an issue here.) Edward de Villafranca, an independent consultant and former admissions officer and high school counselor, puts it this way: “The decision to disclose or not isn’t actually one of ‘Will it hurt my chances?’ but rather one of ‘Is it helpful to know?’ ”
Disclosure early in the admissions process is often recommended for applicants who need to provide context — a legitimate reason grades might have dipped uncharacteristically from 9th to 10th grade, or why a standardized test score seems abysmally low when compared with an otherwise stellar academic record.
On the other hand, an applicant with strong grades and test scores may decide not to raise a red flag — maybe learning issues were not an academic impediment, or are no longer relevant.
“The primary risk is having the essay read by someone who doesn’t understand learning disabilities, someone who thinks A.D.H.D. is a hyperactive kid in fifth grade bouncing off the walls,” said Rachel Masson, director of admissions at Landmark College in Putney, Vt., which offers an associate’s degree and is exclusively for students with conditions that impair learning. “Legally, of course, admissions officers are not supposed to hold it against a student,” she added. “The reality is, we’re all human and there is that human factor involved.”
However, Ms. Masson suggests that once admitted but before putting down a deposit, all candidates with issues seek out the campus office that coordinates support services. (Applying for special services is typically separate from the admissions process.) Students will want to ensure that the institution has the proper experience and sensitivity as well as a community of students wrestling with similar challenges.
 2. Once the decision is made to tell, the question remains: where and how?
Students have several places to explain their learning issues on the Common Application: the main essay, short-answer portion or the very last portion of the application, where supplemental information is sought.
That’s where Rose Valliere, a 23-year-old who transferred this fall to Keene State College in New Hampshire from Landmark, chose to reveal her condition — A.D.H.D. and difficulty with reading comprehension. Ms. Valliere, who is studying to become a dietician, didn’t offer much detail. She decided, “Don’t make it the star of your application, even though it may feel that way for you.”
I asked Marybeth Kravets, co-author of “The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” about Ms. Valliere’s approach. She didn’t disagree — some students “may not want to blow it up out of proportion.” But for many students, she said, the main essay, particularly where it asks about a critical experience and its impact, is a good place to introduce a learning disability.
She imagined how a student might construct an answer: “You might note that on my transcript, there was a struggle in mathematics. Understand that in third grade, I was diagnosed with dysgraphia. It took many years for me to understand how I learn. Now look at me. In senior year, I’m in A.P. Statistics.”
(For a college that does not accept the Common Application, a supplemental essay can be attached.)
3. How does one go about assembling a list of colleges known to provide supportive environments?
While finding an institution that’s a good fit is a concern for all applicants, it’s even more crucial to students who struggle to concentrate in a lecture setting or require extra time on tests or additional instruction.
Due diligence in collecting information is essential. “Research must be done and conversations must be had with learning support centers in any college or university that a student and family is considering,” Mr. de Villafranca said, adding the admonition that “not every place operates the same way.”
Among resources are the Learning Disabilities Association of America and Ms. Kravets’s “K&W Guide” (Random House/Princeton Review), an 800-plus-page encyclopedia that lists services at each college, admissions requirements and contact information for program administrators.
Families without access to good school-based counselors can consult the Independent Education Consultants Association, whose Web site offers a searchable database (you want a counselor who has a track record of success with applicants with learning disabilities, and verifiable references from former clients; fees can be several thousand dollars).
Landmark graduates regularly go on to traditional four-year colleges, and Ms. Masson says the college has had especially good success placing them at American University, Lesley University, Lynn University and the University of Denver, whose Learning Effectiveness Program is widely considered to be strong. As is the University of Arizona’s SALT (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques) Center. Note that Denver and Arizona, and some other programs, have a multistep application — one to the university, one to the program itself. This year for the first time, the online application to the University of Arizona asks students if they are applying to the SALT Center, and links to it.
As Mr. de Villafranca reminds, a learning disability “isn’t a black mark.”
“I think the Americans With Disabilities Act has really been instrumental in helping us talk more openly about various disabilities and differences,” he said. “We are much smarter about how we learn, and that has made this whole issue less of a clandestine, ‘Shh… say nothing’ kind of one.”

Jacques Steinberg, a senior editor of The Times, moderates The Choice blog on college admission.

Be Proactive on Internet Safety!

Google it: It's a simple but often overlooked step to technical understanding and Internet safety, says Betsy Landers, president of the National Parent Teacher Association, and mother of three.

"Get online. Google your child's name. Google your family name. See what's out there," Landers says.

High school students—and their parents—need to be especially aware that what they post on the Internet is permanent, and poor online decisions can have severe consequences.

Create a Tech Challenge...

Can you help your students to learn to use search engines and find what they need?

Can they apply what they have found, synthesize and create something new from what was sent back from their search results?

This is one of the new Web2.0 technologies that we will need to be teaching our students. So start now!

Some of my students were asked to select two sites each and report on them. The criteria for these sites was that they needed to be something that would allow the user to create something new. They could not be gaming sites, or sites like YouTube that were common and known to everyone in the class.

To assist the students told them about two sites and they had to use a search engine in order to find the exact sites I wanted. They needed to validate the links to be the following:  and - both of these sites provide links to online photography, music, animation sites in addition to a variety of other applications.

Now, they are to create a presentation with panache. Some will have to look up the word and see what "panache" means. They will not be able to read directly from the screen. In order to "nail it" (slang for an A) My encouragement is to do your best.

I surprised them by offering some of sites listed below in order to help them to be more creative: - an online music studio that had many students engaged (or distracted) from their work in class. - a platform for sharing ideas - looks a bit like online mind-mapping but I haven't had time to explore it yet. - online notebooks for math and science courses that people are able to edit and contribute to. - online tool for creating podcasts. - online slideshow creation tool.

Many of us were already a little more familiar with such as,,,,

I'm looking forward to a successful project and a good learning experience not only for the students, but also for the rest of us educators.

Top 12 Ways to Increase Student Participation

Call it "active learning," or "classroom participation" -- every teacher wants more involved students and fewer apathetic ones. With a little extra planning, that is possible.

Below are four common reasons students don’t participate and techniques to solve those problems and spice up your lessons.

Problem: The content is repetitive.
Maybe it needs to be repetitive because the students don’t really “get it,” or maybe you’re reviewing for a test. In any case, they’re tuning out.

Solution #1: Assess their prior knowledge.
This could be as simple as asking students, “What do you know about (topic)?” and writing their responses on the board. You could also try a pre-test or a graphic organizer like a K-W-L chart. The goal is to find out what they already know (or think they know). You create buy-in for the students because they feel smart, and you can tailor your lesson to the information they don’t know or don’t remember correctly.

Solution #2: Try skills grouping.
Divide the class into groups based on what skills they need to practice – not forever, but for a class period or two, so they can focus on what they really need help with. So have a group that works on multiplying fractions, one on dividing fractions, and one on converting fractions to decimals. Make a group of “already got 100% on the test” kids and give them an extra credit activity or let them preview the next lesson. Then take time to move between the other groups and help them review. You’ll have more students engaged in the lesson and they’ll get specific, focused practice time.

Solution #3: Let them teach each other.
Especially good when reviewing before a test: divide the class into groups and give each group a topic. Set some guidelines and then let them teach each other. Encourage them to do interesting activities – write tests for each other, design review games, etc. – and evaluate each group on the accuracy of their content, the creativity of their approach, and how well they work together as a team.

Problem: The content is too hard.
This is really half the problem. The other half – especially with older students – is their fear of “looking stupid” by asking questions.

Solution #1: Allow anonymous questions.
Put out a “question box” where students can submit questions any time. Give each student an index card and ask them to write something about the reading assignment they did for homework. If they don’t have a question, instruct them to write a comment on the reading. Collect the cards and use them to lead a class discussion. You’ll easily recognize what parts of the reading confused a lot of students and they won’t feel embarrassed.

Solution #2: Allow them to work together.
We can’t do this all the time; individual students need to be assessed. Ask yourself: is the goal of this activity for them to learn the content, or for them to be assessed? If you want them to learn the content, why not let them work together? When they bring in their homework, do a quick survey for completeness, then put them in pairs and let them review the homework together. Encourage them to make changes if their partner’s answer looks right. When they've finished, review as a class. Students may be less embarrassed to share a group’s answer than their own and you may be able to complete the review more quickly.

Solution #3: Try a jigsaw approach.
No, we’re not talking about puzzles or scary movies. If you’re introducing new, difficult content, divide the class into groups and ask each group to master only one portion of it at a time. If, for example, you’re teaching the American Revolution, have one group focus on the Continental Congress, one on Washington’s Army, one on French support for the war, and so on.

Ask them to do a reading on their topic – to become the class “experts” on that subject. Then split up the class into new groups that include one “expert” on each topic. Ask these new groups to work together to write an essay or complete a worksheet that requires information about all the topics. They will teach each other in the process. Learn more about the Jigsaw Approach.

Problem: There’s too much information to present in too short a time.
Sometimes there’s no way around it: you simply have to get a lot of information out there in a short amount of time. So you opt for a lecture and just want your students to absorb the content. Instead, they fall asleep or stare out the window. What can you do?

Solution #1: Keep it “bite-sized.”
Remember: research shows the average student’s attention span is as long as her age. So even high school kids can only handle about 15 minutes. If you have a lot of information to convey, re-arrange your lesson plans so you never lecture for more than 10-15 minutes. Break up large concepts into smaller sections – give a brief lecture, then do an activity to help it “sink in.” Repeat this process over several days. You’ll increase participation – and improve comprehension, too.

Solution #2: Keep them busy.
Don’t allow students to stare into space while you talk. Give them something to stay connected. Try “fill in the blank” lecture notes. Delete key words and phrases in your lecture notes to create a “fill in the blank” worksheet. Then ask students to fill in the worksheet while you lecture. Another fun variation – lecture bingo.

Solution #3: Look into the future.
Before a lecture, give students a prediction activity. For example, tell them you will be lecturing on Shakespeare and ask them to predict what you will say, or give them a set of true/false statements and ask them to take their best guess.

As you lecture, instruct students to compare their guesses with what you actually say.When the lecture is over, have a class discussion and evaluate how accurate student predictions were.

Problem: The lesson emphasizes the teacher, not the students.

Solution #1: Keep them busier than you are.
The traditional classroom of yesteryear had the teacher at the front of the room, droning on while students doze. Re-imagine your classroom as a place where students are busier than you are. Keep the “sit still and let me talk to you” moments as brief as possible; get those kids working! Give them worksheets, activities, discussions, and projects. That doesn't mean you get to sit around -- you will still be busy, moving from student to student or group to group, correcting, evaluating, or providing feedback. But now everyone is busy and involved.

Solution #2: Use groups.
Homogeneous grouping? Heterogeneous grouping? Tracking? Forget the buzz words: having students work in groups is one of the best ways to increase student participation. Don’t keep them in the same groups all the time –give them a chance to be the “smart kid” who can help someone one day and the kid who needs help the next. Take a traditional worksheet or activity and give it to students in groups. Offer a reward to the group who finishes first with the most answers correct and watch them go! Note: it helps to have additional prizes available to keep groups motivated after the first group “wins.” Even high school students enjoy these competitions.

Solution #3: Give them a voice and a choice.
Do students ever get a “say” in your classroom? Of course you need to make most decisions, but there must be some things you could leave up to them – whether it’s what color chalk you use today or how long they practice a specific activity. Kids tune out because they feel like their ideas don’t matter. Show them their opinions are important and they’ll pay better attention and speak up more in class. There will always be some unreachable student who won’t respond, even with these efforts. But if you give these a try, you may be presently surprised at the previously unreachable students who just might join in!

Originally posted by: Kim Haynes from (Creative Commons License)