Tag Archives: Resources

Thinking About Differentiated Instruction Within Jazz

Recently I’ve been reading about Differentiated Instruction. It’s one of those things that I hear alot about, but needed to really learn so I can connect my instructional technology practice to the current pedagogical practices teachers are learning.

So, I just finished Carol Ann Tomlinson’s book, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners.

As I’ve been reflecting, I suddenly realized that the “local time” during the Jazz workshop is when we differentiate instruction.

Jazz Schedule
For those of you who haven’t participated in Jazz, the daily schedule looks something like this:

  • 30-90 minutes “local time”
  • 120 minutes “simulation time” (Read Around the Planet, MysteryQuest, ASK,  etc.)
  • 30 minutes “local time” & 30 minutes lunch
  • 60 minutes guest speaker time (GNG and other content providers or guest speakers)
  • 30 minutes “local time”
  • 60 minutes small group time (groups meet across sites)
  • 30 minutes “local time”

Solving Math Problems

Solving Math Problems

What is Local Time?
Local time gives the participants a break and includes the following:

  • Housekeeping time (reminders, signing up for jobs, etc.)
  • Instruction on Skype and GoogleDocs
  • Instruction on finding VC programs
  • Video clips
  • Optional activities such as learning Twitter or Glogster
  • Debrief and reflection time

Why Differentiated Instruction?
We continue to struggle to assist new facilitators with local time. Those of us who have taught Jazz for a long time have a sense of where the participants are, what their needs are, and we adapt and are flexible throughout the week.

New facilitators are overwhelmed by the choices and find it hard to know where to start.

Differentiated instruction includes

  • differentiating content (materials and mechanisms)
  • differentiating process (activities)
  • differentiating product (ways students demonstrate learning)

As I read about differentiated instruction, I realized that in Jazz, we differentiate instruction in two major ways:

  1. We scale the activities and responsibilities for new facilitators.
  2. We adapt the local time activities based on the needs of the participants.

So what’s new?

I realized that some new facilitators (and veteran facilitators) may not be familiar with the instructional tool of adapting instruction to participants needs or being flexible in training. So, I made a little overview of differentiated instruction for our facilitators that we can use each year during our planning meetings. It includes:

  • A quick overview of Differentiated Instruction
  • Picture examples of differentiated instruction in action
  • Prompts to think about assessing participants
  • Items to decide and plan for local time

Your Turn

  • Jazz facilitators, what do you think? Will this help us? What did I miss? Is it too complex? Understandable?
  • Past Jazz participants: did you ever realize that what happens during Jazz looks like differentiated instruction? What connections do you see?

Lit Review: Video Conferencing in the Classroom

Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.

Arnold, T., Cayley, S., & Griffith, M. (2004). Videoconferencing in the classroom: Communications technology across the curriculum. In T. Arnold (Eds.). Available from http://www.global-leap.com/casestudies/book2/index.htm

Summary: This book of 97 pages is still one of the best resources for an overview to videoconferencing and how to use it in the classroom/curriculum. Authors include Mike Griffith, of Global Leap fame. It was originally published in 2002 and was updated in 2004.

The first chapter reviews the components of videoconferencing and provides suggestions and guidelines on purchasing equipment. This of course is a little dated, with ISDN still listed first, and concerns expressed about the quality of videoconferencing over the regular Internet. These problems aren’t as much of an issue as they were in 2004 and earlier.

The Getting Started section has suggestions for setting up, getting training, and some introductory videoconferences just like Cheryl is offering for her schools. There are step by step guidelines for making your first exploratory sessions a success.

The next section has extensive detail on how to plan for “the use of videoconferencing across the curriculum.” For each major curriculum area, there are a plethora of ideas for collaborations as well as connecting to experts. Non-UK readers will need to translate the references to the Key Stages.

The next section gives a detailed overview of the Global Leap website and the resources and tools found there for subscribing schools.

Section E has detailed information on preparing for the videoconference, including a nice list of best practice tips. Section F goes into further detail on videoconferencing technology and all the options and choices, followed by a detailed glossary.

The authors reflect on the future of videoconferencing in Section H, with specific requirements that would be useful for vendors hoping to improve their products for educational videoconferencing.

Comments: If you’re new to videoconferencing, this book is a must read! Download it now and review it carefully. Even experienced VCers will find tips and tricks to make videoconferencing in the curriculum more effective.

Is videoconferencing "enrichment"?

I just finished reading Eric Jensen’s book, Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner’s Potential. Eric Jensen is a leading educator in the area of applying neuroscience research to practical classroom applications.

As I read, I kept reconsidering my reluctance to use the word enrichment in talking about videooconferencing. I prefer “curriculum videoconferencing” to emphasize the use of VC to meet curriculum goals. To me, enrichment sounded like an “extra”, like something expendable in high-stakes, tight-budget times.

What is Enrichment?
But then, all through the book, I kept encountering Jensen’s insistence that all students need to experience enrichment. What does he mean? First, it’s important to understand his definition:

Enrichment is a positive biological response to a contrasting environment, in which measurable, synergistic, and global changes have occured (Jensen, 2006, p. xii).

A careful read of the book shows the importance of understanding that enrichment is the response to a contrasting environment, not just decorating an “enriching environment.” Enrichment is what happens to the brain in a contrasting environment. I encourage you to devour this book to understand this fully.

So, what is a contrasting environment?
A contrasting environment is where the student experiences a “contrast” from what he or she is usually getting. There are seven factors or maximizers for contrasting environments. They are:

  1. Physical Activity (voluntary gross motor)
  2. Novel, Challenging, and Meaningful learning
  3. Coherent Complexity (not chaotic)
  4. Managed Stress Levels (not boring or distressful)
  5. Social Support (at home, school, and community)
  6. Good Nutrition (balanced and healthy with supplements)
  7. Sufficient Time (not rushed, plenty of sleep) (Jensen, 2006, p. 178).

Jensen’s suggestions for whole district improvement are way beyond anything that I can impact in my work – eliminating grade levels, 20-30 minutes of recess daily, pull out programs, acceleration, student choice, exploratory learning, social connectedness, etc. He describes a major change to traditional schooling. While it’s inspiring, it’s beyond the scope of my current work at least right now.

Novel and Meaningful Learning
Thankfully, he also has suggestions for teachers and principals. The one that seems to be in an area that I can impact is that of Novel, Challenging, and Meaningful Learning.

  • Have you ever wondered if kids like VC just because it’s novel? Why is it that Monster Match is such a great relief from Michigan state testing and Read Around the Planet relief from NY and TX state testing? Could it be because it’s a contrast from their regular work?
  • Why is it that teachers comment especially on the reaction of special education kids in a videoconference? Why do special ed kids gain a lot from a videoconference? Could it be because it’s a contrast from their regular experiences? Interestingly, Jensen spends quite a bit of time on how at-risk, poverty-challenged kids can benefit greatly and make significant gains in learning when they are in a contrasting environment.
  • Is it actually a good thing for students’ brains that VC is novel? that it connects them to real-world meaningful learning, we agree already. But novel?! I thought that novel was kind of a bad word in education, that an innovation should be sustainable, sustained, institutionalized.

Don’t misunderstand me or Jensen! Short one time VCs are hardly a drop in the bucket of the contrasting environment that students need. Be sure you understand the huge scope of what he is suggesting.

Still, I think we can take away a small application by understanding that the novelty and real-world connection of a curriculum-based videoconference is stimulating to students’ brains! (Talking to an author, talking to kids in Australia, Canada, or Wales, interacting with scientist… that’s all real-world.) Probably not enough to make a significant (countable, measurable) difference; but yet another little tool in the teacher’s arsenal of tools for creating a contrasting environment for students.

What do you think? Have you read Jensen’s work? Am I off base? Is it too much of a stretch to apply this, even in a small way, to the use of videoconferencing? Are you going to use the word enrichment or “contrasting environment” when describing VC? Please comment!

Using VC for Homebound Students

Here’s an interesting article published in Feb/March. Did you read it?

A Healthy Education

Videoconferencing allows a Florida boy with an immune system deficiency to attend school for the first time.

Kevin O’Connell is a typical third grader at Spring Hill Elementary. He jumps up from his chair and recites the Pledge of Allegiance with his classmates. He huddles with his small reading group and reads a story when it’s his turn. And when he knows an answer, he raises his hand and patiently waits for his teacher to notice him in the back of the classroom. The only difference is, he’s actually attending class at home.

Take a moment to read it. It’s a pretty cool example of using VC to bring full courses to students.

K12 VC Learning Theory

I like to see what search terms people type in that get to my blog. Often I learn about new resources and tools that way. For example, someone found my blog with the search “k12 videoconference learning theory” so I tried it to and found:

Strategies for Using Videoconferencing Technology in the K-12 Classroom:
A Teacher’s Digital Handbook

This site is a wealth of information laid out in a creative engaging manner. You should definitely take some time to explore it. For example, what is your model of videoconferencing? and this is the page that applies learning theory to videoconferencing. Check it out & consider how you are using videoconferencing. Do these frameworks apply to you?

Overcoming Teacher Tech Phobia

Here’s a great article from Techlearning that I stumbled across recently: Three Steps to Eliminating Teacher Tech Phobia. While the article is focused generally on technology and mostly on Internet resources, the principles and concepts can be applied to videoconferencing as well.

First, the article makes some great points about the busyness of teachers and their need to see a direct curriculum application to any technology we’re encouraging them to use. We must always remember that curriculum drives teachers’ perception of resources. They won’t use VC just for the fun of it! And they shouldn’t either!

There are three tips given which we can apply to helping teachers use videoconferencing appropriately in their curriculum:

  • Database. The database idea is an interesting one, and you should read the whole description in the article. Now for videoconferencing there are several tools for finding VCs that apply to your curriculum, but they still aren’t “next to the teacher” as described in the article. So we still need media specialists and building coordinators to see what’s available and suggest options to teachers. This filtering of resources and opportunities is a nice fit for a media specialist’s work. Some of my coordinators forward emails to specific teachers; others print descriptions of programs and put it in the teacher’s inbox.
  • Survey. This is an interesting idea too. Ask the teachers what media they need. Or in VC’s case, ask them what curriculum topics they are focusing on. This information helps you make connections between the teachers’ curriculum topics and the opportunities available.
  • Weekly Email. Well, weekly might be a bit too often for VC. But emails of opportunities are a great way for teachers to find out about the options. There are still many teachers in my county who only know about the VC opportunities that I email out. They don’t have time or the energy to check out my website and do their own searches.

What other tips can you think of after reading the article?

VC is Green

Have you thought about how using videoconferencing for meetings instead of driving makes a positive impact on the environment?

TANDBERG has just released a website called SeeGreenNow that lets you calculate your carbon footprint from travel, take a quiz to test your Green-IQ, take a pledge to reduce your business’ carbon emissions, and read about success stories.

How often do YOU videoconference instead of traveling?