Education Trends

5 Things to Look For If Selecting Online Materials

5 Things to Look For If Selecting Online Materials

Recently, at a friend’s birthday party, the conversation quickly turned to back-to-school issues. Several friends began discussing their school district’s continuing adoption of online materials. One friend commented that when her older son’s school had moved to online materials almost exclusively last year, he did fine in his Economics class but really struggled in Physics. She told him to check out a textbook for that course, and almost immediately, his grades improved. My friends then began comparing how their children each learn and debating the relative virtues of printed versus online materials.

That conversation reminded me of the blog post we published recently about a Hechinger Report article titled, “A Textbook Dilemma: Digital or Paper?” Several of the points in this article align with distinguishing features we observe in our reviews of online materials. 

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Print Versus Digital Materials: What the Research Says

Print Versus Digital Materials: What the Research Says

If your district is gearing up for an adoption this year, part of your selection calculation likely will be whether to purchase print or digital/online materials.  An article in the Hechinger Report  titled, “A Textbook Dilemma: Digital or Paper?” may be useful.

The article discusses Patricia Alexander’s review of research on this topic. Ms. Alexander is an educational psychologist and a literacy scholar at the University of Maryland. Despite numerous (878) potentially relevant studies on the topic, Ms. Alexander pointed out that “only 36 [studies] directly compared reading in digital and in print and measured learning in a reliable way.” Despite the need for further research on this topic, Ms. Alexander found that numerous studies affirm the finding that: “if you are reading something lengthy – more than 500 words or more than a page of the book or screen – your comprehension will likely take a hit if you’re using a digital device.” This pertained to college students as well as students in elementary, middle, and high school.    

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Teacher Shortages

With school starting, districts across the country are scrambling to find teachers for their classrooms.  Yesterday, educators and policymakers gathered in Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend the Oklahoma Teacher Pipeline Summit to discuss long-term solutions to the teacher shortage.  Some of the policy-based solutions that were discussed include:

  • State-funded loan forgiveness, scholarships or signing bonuses for university-prepared teachers who commit to working in a public school;
  • State funded paid student teacher internships;
  • University-created courses to prepare future educators for subject specific knowledge (e.g., the Tulsa University is creating a STEM minor for future teachers), pedagogical knowledge, and skills educators need to support today’s students, including courses in childhood trauma.

An interim legislative study on policy solutions to address teacher shortages is anticipated.

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The Role of Instructional Materials in Shaping Teacher Practice

In a recent op-ed appearing in The Hill, ThinkCerca’s founder and CEO, Eileen Murphy Buckley, describes the challenges she faced as a novice English teacher working at  Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, one of Illinois’ best high schools and Michelle Obama’s alma mater. Like many first-year teachers, she struggled with classroom management, planning relevant and engaging instruction, and mastery of her content area. She received sage advice from veteran colleagues, but she “confesses” that her strongest supports as an inexperienced teacher were the instructional materials she used in the classroom.

She writes:

So, there is my confession after all these years, but I make it to say that the products we use in schools matter. The quality of those resources matter so very much because they are what empower students, regardless of which teacher they end up with. The materials shape teachers and teacher practice, and they shape the teachers they raise through years of side by side work.

These products must answer to students and teachers as well as buyers — the admins and school boards who are the stewards of our future, our culture, our democracy. Products have material impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren — who will be caring for us and our country in the very near future.

Simply put, reading materials impact the quality of teaching in much more significant ways than you might know.

At Learning List, we understand the importance of high quality materials. We recognize that instructional materials influence how teachers teach as well as how and what students learn. And this understanding shapes how we review products.

Our editorial reviews examine the supports each material does or does not provide for teachers. Our reviewers explain whether teacher resources include background in content and pedagogy; provide pacing information, lesson plans, and guidance in differentiating instruction; and offer professional development opportunities and professional communities that facilitate collaboration and sharing with other teachers who use the same product. Our reviewers note when they feel a product is particularly appropriate for novice teachers. Such products include comprehensive discussions of the required content knowledge and pedagogy, and offer detailed, often scripted, lesson plans to support instruction. [Read more…]

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Changes to the Lexile Framework

ThermometerThe increased emphasis on ensuring that all students are able to read and understand complex texts has prompted MetaMetrics, the developer of the widely used Lexile Framework for text complexity, to extend the Lexile scale to enable more precise measurement of text complexity in grades  K-2.

In the past, the Framework identified texts with Lexile levels below zero (i.e., 0L) simply as Beginning Reader and included a “BR” code without an associated Lexile level. With the extension of the scale, BR texts will now include a numeric Lexile value after the BR code. For example, BR100L represents a Lexile level of -100L and BR300L represents -300L. [Read more…]

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Use Your Learning List Resources for T-TESS Coaching Support

Individual coaching conversations, professional learning communities, grade level team planning, and other informal learning situations are perfect opportunities for linking Learning List tools to support just-in-time learning.

In Administrators, Are You Using Learning List to Plan for Observations?, we provided sample coaching questions related to the T-TESS Dimensions for planning and instruction. As you continue to provide coaching support, you may want to leverage Learning List’s resources once again.  Accessing these tools takes only a few moments, and more importantly, saves you time in researching additional resources.  Below are the T-TESS Dimensions for planning and the Learning List tools that will assist you and the teachers you are supporting. Goals, Plan, Success

T-TESS Planning Dimension 1.1: The teacher designs clear, well organized, sequential lessons that reflect best practice, align with standards and are appropriate for diverse learners.

  • Learning List’s Alignment Comparison tool assists teachers in determining which of the district’s resources are aligned to the standards that they will address in the lesson(s) they are planning.
  • Learning List’s Spec Sheets and Editorial Reviews provide information about any adaptions the instructional materials provide to help teachers plan instruction for students with diverse learning needs.
  • Learning List’s Spec Sheet helps you identify materials that work on your district’s technology and the Spec  Sheet helps you quickly understand the technology requirements of materials you are considering or using. Both inform technology integration.

Planning Dimension 1.2: The teacher uses formal and informal methods to measure student progress, then manages and analyzes student data to inform instruction.

  • Learning List’s Spec Sheets and Editorial Reviews contain information about the assessments and monitoring tools provided in each instructional material.
  • Learning List’s Alignment Comparison tool and detailed Alignment Reports identify the citations in each material (e.g., lessons, pages, videos) that Learning List has verified to be aligned to each standard. When planning for differentiation or RtI, teachers can use these resources to identify materials aligned to standards students are struggling with.

Planning Dimension 1.3: Through knowledge of students and proven practices, the teacher ensures high levels of learning, social-emotional development and achievement for all students.

  • Learning List’s Spec Sheets and Editorial Reviews provide information about the adaptions each instructional material provides to assist teachers in planning for diverse learning needs.
  • Learning List’s search filters and Product Comparison tool make it easy to assess the vertical alignment of a material across grade levels.  Comparing the vertical alignment of a product across grade levels can assist teachers in planning intervention support.

Planning Dimension 1.4: The teacher plans engaging, flexible lessons that engage higher-order thinking, persistence and achievement.

  • Learning List’s Alignment Comparison tool assists teachers in determining which of the district’s resources are aligned to the standards they intend to address in the lesson they are planning.
  • Learning List’s Spec Sheets and Editorial Reviews provide information about the adaptions each instructional material provides to assist teachers in planning for diverse learning needs.

Coaching is an important part of your work as an educational leader. Leverage Learning List’s resources to save time, enhance teaching and accelerate learning in your district.

While the descriptors of practice may be different, suggestions for use of Learning List resources will likely fit any model of teacher evaluation and support.


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