Posts Tagged "lesson plans"

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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Models Matter

Instructional ModelsWhen selecting materials, one important criterion educators should consider is the instructional model on which the material is based. Resources should mirror and support the model the district uses or else instruction may become disjointed.

Over the next few months, Learning List’s blog will discuss the instructional models most frequently implemented in the products we review. Our discussion will seek to highlight the key attributes of each model and clarify where a particular model may or may not be an appropriate structure for content.

Learning List has reviewed more than 1,000 instructional materials in the four core content areas and Technology Applications. In the process of our reviews, we have become familiar with products that incorporate a variety of instructional models. We’ve reviewed products that organize instruction using well-known models, such as 5E, Universal Design, and Understanding by Design (UbD), as well as lesser known models targeted to particular subject areas and specific learning needs.

Generally speaking, each model presents a recognizable structure that seeks to order content in a way that supports engagement and helps students make sense of what they are learning. Models compress the learning cycle into a predictable set of routines that may be effectively implemented in classroom schedules at the elementary, middle, and/or high school levels. Each model provides an underlying framework for instruction that provides consistency and coherence within and across grade levels, structuring learning experiences in ways that enable teachers to plan effective lessons and allow students to purposefully explore content.

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How to Save Time Creating Standards-Aligned Lesson Plans

best_Time_-_good.305184206_stdHaving attended almost 10 years of legislative hearings, I’ve heard countless educators lament that with so many demands on teachers’ time, lesson planning is often relegated to a last-minute “to do”. They recount relying on lesson plans from prior years or hastily scribbled notes as a substitute for a lesson plan. Moreover, though educators realize the need, few have the time to make sure that the materials they assign to the students are aligned to the standards and reinforce their lessons. I thought to myself, how can students be successful when teachers don’t have lesson plans to help them cover the knowledge and skills students need to learn? It’s like driving to a destination without a map or at very least, a good sense of direction.

Helping teachers overcome that challenge was one our motivations in designing Learning List’s detailed alignment reports. For each instructional material reviewed, Learning List provides an independent verification of the publisher’s correlation, checking that the citations (e.g., page numbers, units, activities, videos, etc…) the publisher lists as aligned to each standard truly are aligned to the standard’s content, context and cognitive demand (i.e., “performance expectation”). If a citation is not aligned to all three dimensions of the standard, Learning List provides a comment explaining which part of the standard is not addressed.

Subscribing educators can consult Learning List’s alignment report for the instructional material their district uses to ensure that they assign the portions of the material that will help their students master the standards.

Just as our alignment reports and editorial reviews help districts and campuses streamline their selection processes, educators can use Learning List’s independent alignment reports to create standards-aligned lesson plans more efficiently and effectively. Most importantly, Learning List’s alignment reports help give educators confidence that their lessons are preparing their students for success.

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Asking Key Questions

One of the keynote presentation speakers at the recent Texas ASCD Conference was Dr. Jackie Walsh.  Her presentation was, “Questioning for Thinking:  Helping Students make Connections”.  Dr. Walsh talked about the importance of asking quality questions and developing effective questioning strategies to activate, support, and sustain student thinking.

Dr. Walsh shared the impact that teachers have on student learning when they think of the types of questions they want to pose while developing their lesson plans instead of thinking of them spontaneously while teaching.  As a teacher of teachers, I have observed how the quality of questions asked by teachers increased when they took the time to think of effective questions before teaching the lesson.  Their questions became more open-ended and required responses that were at a much higher level of thinking.  Students were more engaged and the discussions became much more in-depth.  Teachers would comment on how difficult it was to think of effective questions at first, but then the more they practiced, the easier it got.  They began to help students ask questions of each other and that’s when teachers really started seeing student progress increase.  Students were taking responsibility for their own learning!

As with any new learning, teachers need to reflect on the questions asked after the lesson to analyze the responses given by students and how the questions could be improved.  Teachers not only need to carefully think of the questions they ask of their students, but they also need to analyze the type of questions presented in instructional materials before making any purchase.  LearningList.com can help educators be assured that the type of questions asked in instructional materials align with the level of thinking required in the standards.

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Learning List – A Real Time Saver

Some teachers get excited when a new online product is purchased for the campus or the district, other’s don’t. Why is that? For one reason, teachers will have to spend time during the day (or evening) getting to know the product – how to navigate through it, how to input students’ names, how to assign lessons and assess students and how to create reports. More importantly, teachers often feel as if they have to review lessons completely themselves to make sure they align with the standards before they assign the lessons to their students. Most teachers are already burning their candle at both ends; they cannot find an extra minute in the day to review lessons in a new product.

Learning List to the rescue! Learning List verifies each product’s alignment to state standards, either to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) or to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). When educators subscribe to Learning List, they have at their fingertips an alignment road-map for each product – a report listing multiple, specific citations (lessons or page numbers) that align to each standard addressed in the product. Teachers can assign with confidence the citations contained in Learning List’s alignment road-maps, knowing that they align to the content, context and cognitive demand/rigor of the standards.

With Learning List as a resource, teachers may even have time to work out or to see a movie.

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