New Reviews: Center for the Collaborative Classroom’s Being a Writer

collaborative_classroom_logoThe Center for the Collaborative Classroom’s Being a Writer is a supplemental language arts resource for students in grades K-6. Resources are available in print and online formats. Instruction focuses on developing skillful, creative writers and socially adept learners. At grades K-2, Being a Writer addresses students’ ability to communicate stories by drawing, telling, and using written letters, words, and simple sentences. Instruction at grades 3-6 addresses the writing process (i.e., drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing) and specific genres of writing.

Being a Writer focuses on developing writing and social skills. Writing instruction is supported by the “6+1 Trait Writing Model” that emphasizes seven traits of quality writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation. Across grades, students learn to communicate their ideas logically and with creativity and expression. Social development is addressed through the use of “Cooperative Structures,” such as brainstorming and small group and partner activities. Cooperative experiences teach students to work collaboratively and to treat others with care and respect.

being_a_writerBeing a Writer encourages teachers to grow as writers and as collaborators (i.e., with colleagues) and includes extensive training in teaching writing content and using program resources. Teacher materials support work in teacher teams and professional learning communities.

About Center for the Collaborative Classroom*

The Center for the Collaborative Classroom is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to providing continuous professional learning for teachers and curricula that support the academic, ethical, and social development of children. The organization brings to bear 51 years of collective experience from two leading educational nonprofit organizations: Developmental Studies Center (DSC) and Cornerstone Literacy, Inc. (CLI).

We believe that how we teach matters as much as what we teach. Our professional development honors all teachers and empowers them to create the conditions for learning that will meet rigorous state standards and nurture the needs of the whole child. Our programs and carefully selected trade books help children appreciate the ideas and opinions of others, learn to agree and disagree respectfully, think critically about big ideas, and become responsible citizens of the world.

*The content in this section is provided by or adapted from the Center for the Collaborative Classroom.

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Introducing Learning List Spec Sheets and Explorer Tool

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Cindy Ryan 512-852-2132

Learning List’s New Spec Sheets and Explorer Tool Help Districts Transition Successfully to a Blended Learning Environment

Austin TX, October 1, 2015 – Learning List launches new Spec Sheet reviews and Explorer tool at the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin, Texas.

According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas school districts have already spent over $250 million this school year on new instructional materials. If history serves as a guide, many of those products will go unused because they will not live up to the publisher’s claims.

The challenge of finding high quality instructional materials is exacerbated as districts increasingly transition to a blended learning environment with either 1:1 or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives. Now, not only must administrators find instructional materials that meet their students’ academic needs, but the materials must also work with multiple devices, browsers and operating systems. District staff seldom has the time and/or expertise to thoroughly review the academic attributes and technology requirements of instructional materials before the district decides which products to buy.

Learning List’s new Spec Sheets and Explorer tool help districts meet that challenge. The Explorer tool helps educators navigate the vast (and expanding) universe of K-12 instructional materials to find products the meet their academic and technical specifications. The new Spec Sheet, Learning List’s two-page checklist of a product’s key academic attributes and technology requirements, will help curriculum and technology teams quickly narrow the list of available products they need to review themselves.

For each material, the Spec Sheet includes several criteria within each of the following categories:

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“We have found that reviewing the technology specs of a product is just as critical as reviewing the academic side of materials. If your district’s technology is not compatible with the specs of the product, your teachers won’t be able to use it.  So regardless of how good a product is instructionally, if the square peg doesn’t fit in the round hole then you are just wasting money. Learning List’s new Spec Sheets are going to make shopping for instructional materials much less time consuming and will give districts of all sizes greater confidence in the products they select,” Matt Tyner, Textbook Manager for Dallas ISD and Executive Board Member of the Instructional Materials Coordinators’ Association of Texas (IMCAT).

The Spec Sheets are consistently formatted to make it easy for educators to compare critical product features. These at-a-glance reviews complement Learning List’s more in-depth Alignment Reports and Editorial Reviews. Subscribers now get three independent, professional reviews to help inform their buying decisions.

Learning List is an instructional materials review service for schools and districts. With subscribing districts in five states serving over a million students, Learning List has reviewed more than 1,000 preK-12 products in the four core subjects. Learning List reviews both textbooks and digital instructional materials upon subscribers’ requests.

“Learning List is a service for schools and districts. Our subscribers asked us for help verifying and comparing products’ technology requirements. The Spec Sheet and Explorer tool are our latest response to districts’ need for high-quality, transparent information in the rapidly evolving K-12 instructional materials marketplace,” said Jackie Lain, Learning List’s President.


About Learning List –Learning List is the industry-leading instructional materials review service for schools and districts. Like Consumer Reports®, Learning List provides independent reviews of preK-12 instructional materials to help administrators choose and teachers use materials effectively.

For further information about Learning List’s Spec Sheets and/or new Explorer tool, contact Cindy Ryan at Learning List 512-852-2132 or



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Are Digital Resources or Textbooks More Effective? OECD Weighs In

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Source: OECD

Are digital resources more effective than textbooks? They are certainly more trendy these days. Although Learning List has reviewed hundreds of instructional materials in both formats, it’s difficult for us to say that one format is better than another. Online adaptive products that individualize learning for each student have the potential to differentiate instruction and keep all students challenged, while textbooks are easier to use, particularly for students without Internet access at home. As more digital content providers are entering the K-12 marketplace, we are paying close attention to research and policy discussions about the effectiveness of online products. We thought our readers might be interested in a recent Bloomberg View that summarizes findings from a 2015 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report.

standardized_testThe report’s key finding is that “increased computer use in classrooms leads to lower test scores.”  The OECD compared test results from the 2009 and 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for groups of students who did and did not use digital resources for instruction. Results indicated that “the use of computers was negatively correlated with improvements in student performance” in both math and reading. That is, students who did not use digital resources performed better on the PISA tests, though there were some anomalies.

In addition, students in Japan, China, South Korea and other Asian economies where fewer students use computers, also did better on computer-based assignments. These students were no less comfortable using technology than students in Australia and Northern Europe where computers are more prevalent in instruction.

The reason? The report concludes:

Gaps in the digital skills of both teachers and students, difficulties in locating high-quality digital learning resources from among a plethora of poor-quality ones, a lack of clarity on the learning goals and insufficient pedagogical preparation for blending technology meaningfully into lessons and curricula create a wedge between expectations and reality. If these challenges are not addressed as part of the technology plans of schools and education ministries, technology may do more harm than good to the teacher-student interactions that underpin deep conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking.

Learning List’s Alignment Reports, Editorial Reviews and new Spec Sheets help educators overcome two of the challenges identified in the OECD report: finding high quality digital resources and blending digital resources into lessons and curricula effectively.

multitasking-mobile-devices-557x362The new Spec Sheets are Learning List’s two-page checklist of each product’s key academic and technology attributes. The Spec Sheets complement our more comprehensive Alignment Reports and Editorial Reviews to help educators quickly identify high-quality digital products that meet their students’ needs and can be implemented successfully using the district’s current technology. We hope that this at-a-glance review will help districts’ curriculum and technology teams quickly narrow the list of products to review themselves.

Learning List’s Alignment Reports also help educators integrate digital instructional materials into their lesson plans/curricula for more effective instruction. These detailed reports identify multiple citations (i.e. page numbers, lesson names) that Learning List’s subject matter experts determined to be aligned to the content, context and cognitive demand of each standard. Only by assigning the parts of the material that are aligned to each standard can teachers have confidence that their students are learning the knowledge and skills the standards require.

Stop by our booth (#1817) at the TASA/TASB Convention this weekend, and let us show you how our service and our new Spec Sheets can help your district choose and use instructional materials more effectively. If you won’t be at the conference, request a webinar at your convenience, and we’ll be glad to introduce you to our service.

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