Volume 67 Number 7, April 2010; Pages 60–65
The web is not only providing an immense amount of new information, but also a growing variety of online tools through which to share, store and adapt it. Many schools and teachers are now exploring these new options. One trend is blended learning: the merging of traditional and online education. Tools such as Tegrity, Elluminate and Adobe Connect Pro can be used to provide online lectures, while Skype and Google Talk can be used for telephone conferencing. Some sites evaluate digital textbooks and study guides. Others, such as TeacherTube, Link TV and FORA.tv, facilitate the sharing of videos and allow students to post comments on blogs and forums. Wikis and sites such as Google Docs allow textual collaboration online. Twitter and text messaging are being explored as alternatives to email. Educators are adapting their teaching approaches to incorporate abundant free resources such as the Periodic Table of Videos chemistry resource and the Encyclopedia of Life for biology. A second trend is to provide some or all courses online, an option which suits the needs or preferences of some students or their families. The author describes a range of 'openers': developments that may alter 'where, when and how learning takes place'. Digital textbooks are now coming with features such as discussion forums and dictionaries. Organisations such as Flat World Knowledge offer free textbooks, and sell others print-on-demand, while Beyond Textbooks encourages the sharing of teacher lesson plans that address particular state standards in the USA. Mobile devices are now being used to deliver classes, particular learning resources or whole course modules as well as teacher professional development. The trend towards free textbooks will also enable students 'to mix and match several of their components'. The open source movement is encouraging the rise of e-mentors and e-coaches who offer free help for their personal satisfaction and/or professional development. Students can collaborate with peers in other countries through tools such as Ning and ePals or services such as iEARN. Other trends include the rise of international academic degrees, the opportunity for early leavers to 'virtually drop back in' to secondary schooling, and the growth of personalised learning environments.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Twitter for teachers, librarians and teacher librarians
June 2010; Pages 16–20
The article explains the use of Twitter, and describes its value for educators. Twitter is known as a microblogging application: messages posted on it are very short, but may include links, images and videos, sounds and personally selected subject terms known as hashtags. Users 'follow' other users by setting their personal accounts to pick up all the others' postings. Twitter can be applied in various ways by teachers and teacher librarians. For example, teachers are using Twitter in class as a 'backchannel' tool to interact with students: the teacher may send students questions or comments online, and students are able to ask the teacher questions privately. The article lists a range of websites that illustrate the use of Twitter for teaching. Libraries can use Twitter to locate and pass on news, and to highlight new library content. Twitter offers library patrons several delivery options, such as email or RSS feed. A wide range of applications known as 'clients' facilitate the use of Twitter. They include TweetDeck, Seesmic, twhirl, HooteSuit and BackUpMyTweets. Twitter posts are searchable at Twitter Search or by using clients such as TweetScan or monitter. Lists of educators using Twitter are available at sites including Twitter4Teachers and Listorious, and on directories such as TwitDir. Images are searchable at Twitpic. Tips for including video in Twitter are available online, e.g. in a 2009 article by Jennifer Van Grove. Twitter messages should be relevant to current or potential readers, and polite: after a message is posted it can be removed, but it may be forwarded or copied by others before this can occur. Unwanted followers such as spammers may be blocked. The article also includes a range of practical tips, including advice for new users. See also the author's blog at readingpower.wordpress.com.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
Eduators have increasingly become aware of the need to integrate digital forms of communication into literacy instruction. This paper outlines seven principles for enhancing literacy teaching and learning using digital texts and modalities. The first principle involves attending to real world textual practices through activities that make use of authentic communication contexts. Examples include the use of webcams or online mapping tools. A second principle that educators should consider is that of multimodality, the complex interconnection of elements that draw on visual, auditory, spatial, linguistic or gestural modes. Students may find it challenging to interpret texts that stretch across multiple modes, but one way they can learn to do so is by developing their own multimodal texts, such as CD covers or recorded interviews. The third principle involves addressing cross-cultural and sub-cultural literacy practices. Recognising a diversity of literacies can help create an equitable classroom by engaging those whose voices are not typically privileged within the classroom discourse. A fourth principle involves addressing the non-linear text mapping skills required for working with hyperlinked texts. Educators will need to expose students to ways of navigating such texts, as well as familiarising them with their particular features, such as their typically flexible, informal and interactive nature. Another principle involves the collaborative nature of digital texts, which often blur the roles of the reader and writer, and invite participation and interactivity. The sixth principle is that of generative practice, the ability to actively transfer knowledge into real-world contexts. Students need to be able to effectively use their knowledge, such as by interacting with and mixing different text types, rather than being passive recipients of information. The final principle covers critical literacy. Educators should engage students in evaluating and challenging the reliability of information, as well as in understanding the various ways in which a text can be interpreted. An exercise involving the examination of digitally retouched photos is one example of how this principle can be integrated into digital literacy instruction.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Leading data use in schools: organizational conditions and practices at the school and district levels
Volume 9 Number 3, July 2010; Pages 292–327
Educational policy in the USA has emphasised the need to use data in decision-making. This paper, which is part of a larger study, looks at the data use practices of 180 schools in the USA to examine links between data use and effective practice. A number of conditions were associated with effective data use. These were the accessibility and utility of data; staff capacity to consider, interpret and act on the data; and the availability of tools for collecting and interpreting data. While the principals of the schools were aware of these conditions, few took explicit action to ensure that all were met. The district leaders, however, had a significant positive influence on the schools' data use through approaches such as modelling data-informed decision-making, setting expectations for data use, and providing tools and expertise to support data use. Analysis of the schools' data-use practices found that despite having similar access to performance data, the schools differed substantially in how they used the data. Many schools tended to use data only to identify problems, rather than to examine the influencing factors behind the problem, or to propose solutions. Schools that excelled in data use tended to have a widely distributed approach to data rather than relying on the guidance of the principal or other key individual. These schools also tended to undertake formative assessment at periodic intervals throughout the school year and would make decisions about individual student learning pathways accordingly. The majority of the schools used assessment data to set goals and develop improvement plans, and to align curricula and teaching practices with external accountability measures. Qualitative data, such as that drawn from classroom observations, was not given the same authority as data resulting from standardised assessments. There remains a need to associate data less with decision-making and more with informed problem-solving.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
Students learn to read like writers: a framework for teachers of writing
Volume 50 Number 1, May 2010; Pages 49–66
Exposure to children's literature can help students recognise elements of good writing and can encourage students to incorporate similar elements of craft into their own work. A case study approach was used to examine one exemplary Grade 4 teacher's approach to writing instruction, which involved teaching students to 'read like writers'. The teacher's classroom-based writing workshops, which ran for an hour on a daily basis, were observed over a four month period. The teacher, a former journalist, adopted a social constructivist approach to writing, encouraging talk and collaboration. Despite the range of student abilities in her classroom, she treated all students as accomplished writers, letting them take the lead with their writing, and offering support and guidance as necessary. Her teaching framework involved encouraging students to notice a particular element of good writing, guided practice using this element, and incorporation of this element into student writing. She provided a range of models of good writing, at first pointing out key elements and then encouraging students to do so themselves. Once a technique or element had been pointed out, the students worked as a class to incorporate these elements into collaborative pieces of writing and then individually to incorporate them into their own work. The students were given multiple opportunities to practice their writing and were supported in their independent practice, which helped them to develop confidence in their skills as writers.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
What the students will say while the teacher is away: an investigation into student-led and teacher-led discussion within guided reading groups
Volume 14 Number 1 & 2, 2010; Pages 41–64
Discussion patterns within guided reading groups vary depending on whether they are teacher-led or student-led. Observations of a Grade 3 classroom in the USA examined the ways in which students responded to set texts when guided by a teacher, or when left to their own devices. In line with their standard classroom practice, the students were divided into three groups based on reading level: those who were reading at grade level, those reading one year below grade level and those reading two years below grade level. Analysis of the observation data found that when the teacher was present, the most common type of response was a report, where students read or relayed information straight from the text. Instances of evaluation and clarification were also evident, but with far less frequency, and students were relatively unlikely to make connections with other knowledge or experiences, or to elaborate on a point. In contrast, when the teacher was absent evaluation and clarification strategies were most common, with instances of reporting relatively low. The students, in particular the higher-achieving students, seemed to be more willing to experiment and engage with more complex strategies when the teacher was absent and were willing to facilitate others' understanding of the text. Simple closed-ended tasks or questions often failed to engage the students, while open-ended tasks tended to result in more thoughtful and complex responses. The results indicate that teachers should be careful to pay attention to the types of prompts and questions used in the classroom, and should seek to use open-ended questioning approaches to engage students in discussion about texts. A balance of teacher-led and student-led group work would provide opportunities for teacher-based modelling and scaffolding, and also for student-based experimentation with new strategies.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Group work in education
"If it's not fixed, the staples are out!" Documenting young children's perceptions of strategic reading processes
Volume 50 Number 1, May 2010; Pages 1–22
Fostering strategic reading processes is a critical component of literacy development. The Strategy Perception Interview, developed by the authors, is an instrument designed to document students' reported use of reading strategies across the key areas of pragmatics, graphophonics, syntax and semantics. The instrument was integrated into a Grade 1 literacy instruction program and was administered twice a year with three classes over three years. The most common strategies the students reported using were rereading, decoding and seeking assistance. Decoding strategies were most frequently used at the word level and rereading strategies at the sentence level, while students, particularly girls, tended to seek assistance when they encountered problems at the story level. While students of all abilities drew on the same strategies, the more able students used the strategies to a higher degree of sophistication. They were also less likely to ask the teacher for help. The weaker students had a tendency to blame external factors for any difficulties encountered. Modelling and scaffolding were found to be highly influential in guiding students' approaches to reading strategies. The interview responses were used in tandem with assessment and observational data to guide subsequent instruction. For example, strategies for reading different text types, as well as for dealing with challenges across a range of different reading contexts, were modelled. Students were also encouraged to use strategies such as pre-reading or predicting rather than seeking assistance. The teacher also worked to show how different strategies could be used together to help make sense of more challenging texts. Subsequent use of the Strategy Perception Interview indicated that the students' ability to use these strategies became noticeably more sophisticated over the year. The instrument, which is reproduced in the article, could also be adapted for use in the writing curriculum.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Volume 39 Number 3, 2009; Pages 37–52
Swedish education policy requires that schools produce both good academic and social outcomes. A questionnaire was used to examine teachers' perspectives about to what degree their principals were taking responsibility for meeting these outcomes. The participants were teachers in 24 schools in Sweden that were deemed to be producing good academic and social outcomes, or producing good outcomes in neither or only one area. The questionnaire examined 16 objectives and obligations. Overall, the teachers felt that their principals were taking a high degree of responsibility for school outcomes. They saw their principals as taking responsibility for setting their school's direction in meeting national objectives and for school development plans, but perceived that there was less emphasis on follow-ups and evaluations. The principals took on a high degree of responsibility for social objectives, perhaps due to recent policy emphases, but that they paid less attention to academic objectives, perhaps seeing these as belonging to the 'teacher domain'. However, there were notable differences between the schools demonstrating good academic and social outcomes, and those that demonstrated achievement in only one or in neither outcome area. The principals of the schools that were producing good academic and social outcomes received high ratings across all 16 outcome areas, indicating a greater involvement in academic, social, and civic teaching and learning areas. Through their involvement, these principals seemed to exert a greater influence on staff and students than principals from less successful schools. Schools that achieved good academic outcomes tended to demonstrate a higher degree of collaboration in relation to teaching and learning, while those that achieved good social outcomes were characterised by an extended teacher and school culture with an emphasis on shared assumptions, beliefs and norms. Principals in schools that achieved neither were seen as paying the least attention to national objectives and requirements.
Gender balance in primary initial teacher education: some current perspectives
Volume 36 Number 3, August 2010; Pages 303–317
Drives to increase the numbers of male primary teachers in Britain have met with limited success. The author interviewed 75 recent teacher graduates, half of whom were male, as well as their course supervisors, about current issues relating to both the recruitment and retention of male education students. No gender differences were found between the respondents' reasons or motivations for opting to enrol in a teaching program, and most noted that they felt their gender was inconsequential to their role as a teacher. However, some male respondents felt frustrated by expectations that they be 'role models', or that they should be given responsibility for running sports teams or disciplining unruly boys. On the other hand, some female teachers perceived that male teachers were at an advantage due to their gender. While support from tutors and peers was seen by all respondents as key to success in the course, the male respondents consistently highlighted the importance of support from other males. Another element that the respondents considered as essential to success in the program was having prior school experience. Notably, while most of the female respondents had previously worked in schools, many of the male respondents had not, and they felt that this had affected their initial experiences of the course. These responses have implications for recruitment policies and for the design of teacher education programs. Rather than focusing on narrow groups such as gender, recruitment drives should aim to address as broad a group as possible, and should focus on shared aspirations, values and motivations. Prospective male teachers could be supported instead through strategies that support males, such as male groupings and support networks. Schemes to encourage male students to gain prior experience in a school environment should also be considered.
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
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