Tag Archives: Research Articles

Mentoring: Lost in Translation

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference

Orland-Barak, L. (2005). Lost in translation: Mentors learning to participate in competing discourses of practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 56(4), 355-366.


This article focuses on the “competing discourses of practice” between mentoring and teaching. Instead of focusing on what is similar between the two, the author focuses on what is different, suggesting that mentoring for teachers is like speaking/learning a new language.

The study is based in the Israeli education system where there are formal programs with “school mentors” for new teachers within a school, and “outside mentors” who are assigned to a school and often teach part-time elsewhere. The mentors observe, evaluate, organize and conduct workshops, lead staff development, and assist with curriculum.

Challenges in this role include:

  • Finding it diffcult to implement a new curriculum in their own class while trying to mentor novice teachers in the same thing
  • A dual sense of accountability to teachers and principals/inspectors
  • Trying to make sense of being a mentor and being a teacher and differing behaviors for each
  • They believed in mentoring as “collaborative and democratic,” but their actions were more “prescriptive and controlling”
  • They might be an expert in teaching, but a novice in mentoring, which causes dissonance

Skills mentors need:

  • Confidence in themselves and their profession
  • Ability to develop relationships with teachers
  • Evidence of master in their content area
  • Ability to understand the “power relationships with new accountabilities”
  • A clear vision of what it means to be a good professional in changing contexts

In this study, the education system is centralized and focused on product, whereas the universities are focused on process. This scenario pulls the mentors in different directions.

Application to VC

Similar challenges?

  • Do educational service level agency VC support personnel or our VC coordinators run into any of these challenges?
  • Are there any competing expectations that make life difficult for our VC coordinators in the schools?

I haven’t heard anything that sounds quite like the level in this study. However, there may be similar challenges:

  • Competition for Time: VC Coordinators who support VC on top of their regular job (teacher coordinators and media specialists who teach full time)
  • Competition for Tech Integration: VC Coordinators who are responsible for promoting and supporting the integration of technology in their school. Is there enough time for VC plus all the other technologies?
  • Competition for Curriculum: A tightening of the curriculum with little room left for creative teaching.

Your Turn

What do you think? What are other challenges that school level VC coordinators face in trying to mentor teachers to use VC in the curriculum?

Mentoring: Sharing Teacher Knowledge of Technology

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference

Margerum-Leys, J., & Marx, R. W. (2004). The nature and sharing of teacher knowledge of technology in a student teacher/mentor teacher pair. Journal of Teacher Education, 55(5), 421-437.


This qualitative study examined the mentor relationship between a student teacher and her mentor teacher, in the light of teacher knowledge (content, pedagogical, and pedagogical content knowledge), and the use and application of educational technology.

Educational technology is an area in which mentor teachers are eager to access content knowledge held by student students. … They also perceive that student teachers’ teacher education coursework will have contained more educational technology information than their own coursework (Margerum-Leys, 2004, p. 423).

Student Centered Learning & Information Technology
Another interesting quote makes connections between the move from computer as a logic teaching tool to a information and communication portal and the movement towards student-centered learning environments. The author suggests these two have occurred in parallel.

Sidenote: This article is from a dissertation written in 2002. The author suggests education is moving from acquiring hardware to focusing on educationally sound applications. Are we now focusing on the “acquiring of tools” still to the detriment of focus on educationally sound applications? I’ve heard rumblings of this from the recent NECC. Something to think about.

Learning to use the remote in the Jazz workshop
Learning to use the remote in the Jazz workshop

Learning From Each Other
The heart of the mentoring relationship in this study is that student teacher and mentor teacher learn from each other, and sharing knowledge about educational technology creates professional development on both sides of the relationship. In several example scenarios shared, one modeled a lesson for the other, and the other then taught that same lesson in later periods (it was a middle school with 5 sections). Sometimes the student teacher took the lead with a new technology tool, and sometimes the mentor teacher took the lead. The mentored each other throughout the process.

  • The mentor teacher took the lead in pedagogical and classroom management.
  • The student teacher often (but not always) took the lead with content knowledge of educational technology.

Pedagogical content knowledge

The author defines pedagogical content knowledge for educational technology as the

knowedge of appropriate instructional strategies specific to the implementation of technology-enhanced learning activities. (Margerum-Leys, 2004, p. 433).

The development of this knowledge builds on existing knowledge of content and pedagogy. The author suggests this can best happen by placing student teachers where there is access to technology and they can learn to use it well in the classroom.

Teachers Plan a VC Lesson Together
Teachers Plan a VC Lesson Together

Application to VC

  • Pre-service teachers. Wouldn’t it be great if all pre-service teachers could experience VC in their student teaching? With only 30% of schools in the U.S. having access to VC, it may be unlikely. But what are YOU doing with the local universities to make sure student teachers experience VC? Two of our local universities have VC experiences at Berrien RESA every year. Roxanne’s Bluebonnet program is another model.
  • Learning to integrate VC in the curriculum. It’s obvious from this study (and our experience) that you can’t just teach a teacher how to dial, click, type, hit buttons. There MUST be some modeling and learning how to use it in the curriculum. You can’t expect teachers to make the jump from “here’s a tech/tool” — now figure out how to use it in the curriculum.
  • Mentoring. We’ve talked about this already, but mentoring includes modeling and assistance on how to use VC in the curriculum.

What do you think? What is included in pedagogical content knowledge for using videoconferencing? Do you have a relationship with the local university that helps teach pre-service teachers about VC? Please comment!

Mentoring: The Leader as Mentor

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Gibson, J. W., Tesone, D. V., & Buchalski, R. M. (2000). The leader as mentor. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 7(3), 56-67.

Summary/Interesting Notes
Leaders nowadays are “coaches, facilitators, and team leaders.” One of the most potent ways to influence someone is to mentor them. The variety of ways of mentoring are usually related to the goals of the organization. Informal mentoring could include teams (think Jazz) and luncheons (think Roxanne’s end of year celebration).

Why people become mentors can be explained by the social exchange theory (think of a relational calculator of costs & benefits) and the communitarianism theory (people help others without direct personal benefit to build up the community).

Wheatley (1999) suggests that leaders are evaluated by the number of new leaders they develop.

Dancing in the Jazz Workshop
Dancing in the Jazz Workshop

A master is defined as someone who started before the learner (Zukav, 1979, 1990) In the ancient tradition the job of the master is not to teach, but to dance with the learner. In this sense the master is following the learner’s path of inquiry by presenting only the information that is asked for by the learner. The master begins this dance with the essence of the knowledge, the core of what there is to know and builds outward from that core in directions driven by the learner (p. 61).

Enforcing mentoring or formal mentorship programs tend to have more challenges than informal mentoring.

The paper included a focus study group with 10 managers from hotels and independent properties. They found effective practices for mentors:

  • It’s best to learn to be a mentor by being mentored
  • Informal mentoring is more effective than formal programs
  • Informal mentoring is for all levels, not just new employees
  • There are only three ways to learn management: trial and error, modeling and mentoring; mentoring is the most efficient way to learn

“Mentoring is the leader being the master of learning – and learning is the leader sharing the essence of a lifetime of experience.”

Application to VC
Yesterday we thought about the VC coordinator mentoring teachers. Today, think about the district level or educational service agency level person mentoring the VC coordinators (in light of a complete support structure).


  • What are the cost/benefits to providing mentoring to your VC coordinators?
  • I see the costs as mostly time, but the benefits are the schools using VC more, and the VC coordinators becoming more independent.

Building the Community

  • How are you building up the community of VC coordinators in your area?
  • I like Roxanne’s model with user groups where the coordinators get to know each other and share tips with each other. They learn from each other, not just from Roxanne. Read more here, here, here, here, and here.

Doing the Hokey Pokey in Jazz

Dancing with the Learners

  • How are you dancing with your VC coordinators?
  • “The master is following the learner’s path of inquiry by presenting only the information that is asked for by the learner.”
  • How are you providing just-in-time learning?
  • For me, this means starting each year with a VC coordinator training (which I hope to take national this fall. Interested?). Then, I offer other trainings, usually again in the fall. Short bits of: Scheduling, Troubleshooting, Using Your Document Camera. Usually 2nd or 3rd year coordinators attend these trainings. Then of course there is all the phone calls and quick VC advice sessions throughout the year as needed.

What about non-functioning VC Coordinators?
As I think through this process, I’m starting to think more about my coordinators who don’t take advantage of these services. Whose schools aren’t using VC very much. I don’t usually think about them because the others keep me so busy. But as I reflect over the summer, I wonder how I can pull them into the learning community?

Your Turn
What do you think? Do you support VC coordinators? How are you “dancing” with them?

Mentoring: Learning to Teach (with Technology?)

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Fairbanks, C. M., Freedman, D., & Kahn, C. (2000). The role of effective mentors in learning to teach. Journal of Teacher Education, 51(2), 102-112.

Note: This article is specifically about mentors in the process of learning to teach. But I wonder if the findings can apply to learning to teach with technology also? Let’s think about it!

The qualitative study focuses on mentoring relationship between the student teacher and the mentor teacher. The authors reference Britzman (1991) that learning to teach is a social process where the student teachers sort through the contradictions between the pedagogical knowledge they learned and the realities of teaching. The article also makes connections to Lave and Wenger (1991)’s situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation (which is a great model for the gradual taking over of teaching that happens during student teaching).

The major categories of assistance and mentoring that occurred during the student teacher / mentor teacher relationship are:

  • Helping student teachers survive their beginning teaching experiences and define their teaching lives
  • Establishing relationships based on dialogue and reflection (negotiation with each other, finding balance between leading and following, articulating craft knowledge)
  • Building professional partnerships (partnering to teach a lesson, developing new curriculum together)

They ended the relationship more as a team than as a mentor/student relationship.

Mentor Teacher Exposition
Mentor Teacher Exposition

Application to VC
So think with me just a wee bit about how this same process goes on as teachers learn a new technology, such as videoconferencing.


The videoconference coordinator / site facilitator / VC champion, if she has a teaching background, often leads the lessons to begin with. The VC coordinator:

  • Chooses the program based on the teacher’s curriculum
  • Signs up for the teacher
  • Helps to prepare the students for the videoconference
  • Stays in the room during the videoconference to help run the camera and facilitate the dialogue


Then, hopefully, the partnership moves to more dialogue and reflection. The VC coordinator:

  • Negotiates with the teacher and starts to encourage the teacher to participate in the process
  • Finds a balance between leading and following, starting to let the teacher take the lead
  • Articulates knowledge about VC: how to sign up, how to prepare students, how to use the remote to mute & use presets


Finally, there is a professional partnership.

  • Teacher and VC coordinator plan lessons together
  • Teacher and VC coordinator create new curriculum (collaborative projects) together
  • The VC coordinator moves into a “supporting” role instead of a “promoting” role

Your Turn!

What do you think? Does this model apply? Which stage are YOU at with the teachers in your school? If you’re at the educational service agency, are you moving through these stages with your school level VC coordinators? Is anything missing at any of the stages?

Please comment! How are you mentoring your teachers in using VC in the curriculum?

Mentoring: Student Technology Mentors

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Butler, T., & Chao, T. (2001). Partners for change: Students as effective technology mentors. Active Learning in Higher Education, 2(2), 101-113.

This article described using university students as technology mentors for faculty. I realize this is a higher ed article, but I thought the lessons could still be applied. One of the elementary schools in our county uses students as technology helpers for teachers – making PPTs, assisting with the printer problems, etc. Could a school have a VC Team that helped teachers use VC? Something to think about!

The University of Alberta’s Arts Technologies for Learning Centre uses undergraduate and graduate students to work part-time as technology mentors. The faculty come to ask for assistance, and students are assigned to them to advise, guide and coach the instructors. The goal is to help the instructors feel more comfortable in using instructional technology. The benefits include growth for both the faculty member and the student. Sometimes the faculty ask for instructional design assistance beyond the level of the student; then the student consults with others to bring the necessary assistance to the faculty member.

The students must have technical and interpersonal skills to be selected, as well as the ability to learn quickly, listen well, and be patient.

The students benefit from increased technical skills, increased communication skills, and the benefit of thinking more about teaching and learning. The faculty were saitsfied with the services and the found the mentor support helpful.

The authors believe the success factors were:

  • An emphasis on change for the faculty, not just getting work done for them
  • Student mentors are from the same field as the faculty members
  • Respect for the students’ load
  • Student mentors who are willing to learn and innovate

Challenges included:

  • The student turnover rate
  • The need to provide an instructional strategies orientation for the student mentors

Implications for VC
Of course, K12 students are not college students or graduate students. However, let’s brainstorm some ways students could help teachers during a VC:

  • Dialing the far site; redialing if the call drops
  • Managing the microphone (muting/unmuting)
  • Managing the remote (camera presets)
  • Managing the visuals (document camera, computer, etc.)

How could students help teachers before a VC?

  • Could students help search for programs that are at a specific grade level, cover a specific topic, and are within a certain cost range?
  • Students could also help to gather the materials and props necessary for a VC.
  • Students could follow a checklist to make sure phone numbers, IP numbers, etc. were gathered for the event

Would it work best to have one student in each classroom trained to be a VC mentor?

Would it be better to have a team of students? Would they be able to leave class to help start a VC?

Young students help teachers bring technology tools into their lessons. Credit: Edutopia

Some other models

What are some other ways mentoring relationships could be set up in K-12 schools?

Your Turn
What do you think of this idea? Can students provide some mentoring support to teachers in integrating videoconferencing in the curriculum? Have you tried any of these ideas in your school? Please comment!

Mentoring: Effectiveness for Mentors

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Allen, T. D., & Eby, L. T. (2003). Relationship effectiveness for mentors: Factors associated with learning and quality. Journal of Management, 29(4), 469-486.

Mentor Picture from Creative Commons @ Flickr

This study examined the mentor relationship from the mentor’s perspective. They received surveys from 249 mentors in the accounting and engineering professional fields. They found that in mentor pairs, perceived similarity between the mentor and protégé related significantly to mentorship quality and mentorship learning. They also found that the duration of the mentorship affected the importance of perceived similarity – it was more important in shorter mentorships than longer mentorships. Gender similarity was found to be not significantly related to mentorship quality and learning.

The authors reference Kram (1985) suggesting that a reward of mentorship is to shape the other person to see characteristics of themselves in that person. Mentors desire to create a mirror image of themselves to fulfill generativity needs. However, in a mentor relationship of  a longer duration, the perceived similarity is not as important for the mentor’s sense of benefit from the relationship.

Application to VC
As I read this article, particularly with it’s emphasis on the mentor learning from the protégé, I found myself thinking of those who mentored me, such as Sue Porter, co-founding mother of TWICE; Arnie Comer, who taught me how to run the ASK program for my schools. I thought about how I’ve mentored others (you know who you are!) in scheduling and organizational tips for videoconferencing, in the ASK program, in running projects for your schools. There’s also the mentoring the goes on in Jazz – in all directions! We are always learning new strategies, new training tips, new resources, new technology tools, new VC project formats from each other, whether new Jazz facilitators or old-timer lead facilitators.

All of my mentoring has been voluntary, which this study referred to as “informal.” Most (if not all) of my mentoring relationships result in more videoconferences for my schools. To me, this is a huge benefit of mentoring in my work. I’ll say it again: The more people you know, the more videoconferences you can do!

I learn from the people I mentor as well: new technology tools, new formats for projects, new ways to facilitate videoconferences, new ways to teach best practices to our schools.

I thought the perceived similarity part of the study was interesting. What similarities do I see in my mentors and mentees?

  • We all have a passion for education.
  • We’re all dedicated to bringing quality learning experiences to kids.
  • We all have a collaborative / giving / sharing spirit.
  • We all believe in constructivist learning.
  • We all believe in life-long learning – WE keep learning!
  • We all like to CREATE programs and events for kids.
  • Most of us are on Twitter and Skype. Ok I just had to throw that in! I’m sure no one has done a study on if twitter can be a communication vehicle for mentoring!!

These are also the characteristics that I want to see replicated in others, so that curriculum videoconferencing can be expanded throughout the world.

Your Turn
So, think about it! How are YOU mentoring others or being mentored? Is there another VC coordinator somewhere in your area or elsewhere that you’ve found during a collaborative project? Who can you continue to learn with & from?

The trick then, is to keep doing projects together, to VC and chat about how things are going once in a while, to ask questions such as “how do you do this or that”?

Please comment… how are you learning with others?

Mentoring: What's a Mentor, Anyway?

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

It is my belief that the school videoconference coordinator is critical to the successful implementation of curriculum videoconferencing in the school. I also believe that it’s critical that the school videoconference coordinator have appropriate support so that they can be successful. I think that those of us at the educational service agency level can mentor and/or coach our videoconference coordinators. So this investigation into the research and theory on mentoring and coaching will hopefully inform and improve my own practice, and maybe yours too!

Article Reference
Mertz, N. T. (2004). What’s a Mentor, Anyway? Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(4), 541-560.

The article begins with an overwhelming and almost frustrating review of all the definitions of mentoring and various supporting relationships and bemoans the lack of consistently used definitions.

Next there is a review of research and theory on mentoring, showing that there are different kinds of supportive relationships, different levels of commitment on the mentor’s part, and varying benefits from the relationship. Theories of interpersonal relationships, such as social exchange theory, can help us understand how people behave in a mentoring relationship. There are different costs and benefits in the mentoring relationship.

So the authors propose a conceptual model for mentoring that includes two main concepts of intent and involvement. Intent is the perceived purpose of the activity and the involvement is the amount of time & effort required.

They also suggest distinguishing between career advancement mentoring and professional development mentoring. Clearly supporting VC coordinators fits into the professional development category.

The model starts at the bottom with the lowest level of involvement and the intent and expands the involvement and intent. The higher levels could also include the lower levels. The level of involvement is represented by the number, and the intent by the words in brackets.

  • Level 1: Role Model, Peer Pal, or Supporter (modeling)
  • Level 2: Teacher or Coach
  • Level 3: Counselor, Advisor, or Guide (professional development / advising)
  • Level 4: Sponsor or Benefactor
  • Level 5: Patron or Protector (career advancement / brokering)
  • Level 6: Mentor

Application to Videoconferencing: Intent
Hmm. So does this model help us think about how we support our school videoconferencing coordinators?

  • Role Model or Supporter. We are role models when we model best practice use of videoconferencing.
  • Teacher or Coach. We teach in training our VC coordinators how to schedule, how to participate in programs, projects, and events, how to find partners for collaborations, how to support teachers, and how to troubleshoot videoconferences.
  • Advisor or Guide. We informally assess their current skill, and help them learn the next skills. We provide them with tips & tricks for supporting VC in their school. We share strategies that have worked for us.
  • Broker. The broker levels of this model and article focus on “getting ahead” and advancing professionally. I don’t think this applies to this situation. Do you agree?

Application to Videoconferencing: Involvement

The article suggests that there are several levels of involvement and that some are easier for many people than others. How many videoconference coordinators do you support? I have 70 schools, so about 100 coordinators. Some schools have two teachers/educators sharing the responsibility, and I would include district technology coordinators in the list as well. How about you?

  • Levels 1 & 2. It takes time to give advice, provide guidance, and lead a friendly ear. Do you ever listen to your coordinators share their challenges in their school? I think this is an important role. It may not require much of an emotional investment to show concern and help a person through challenges and problems.
  • Levels 3 &4. At this level, the article has the educational advisor in mind and includes activities such as sharing information, monitoring progress, advising to gain tenure, etc. This type of formal commitment isn’t applicable to the situation of supporting videoconference coordinators. Still, it is important to share information and monitor the progress of our schools in implementing VC, and provide assistance where problems arise.
  • Levels 5 & 6. At this level, mentors use their networks and “reputation to support their proteges for advancement” and share power and influence. A higher level of trust is required and both parties share thoughts, understandings, and dreams. At this level, a mentor can only interact with a few at a time. As I think about my own videoconference coordinators, I can think of only a few where we talk often enough to approach this level. They call me to report on progress, to vent, and I nudge them to the next level of supporting VC, passing off more and more responsibility for test calls, scheduling etc. This could be stretched to mean advancement, but not strictly as the article describes.

Your Turn
So, now that we’ve both learned a bit more about what mentoring really means, think about your videoconference coordinators (or your teachers if you are supporting VC in your school). At what level are you coaching/mentoring them? Did some new ideas pop into your head of how you could support them? Please comment!

Marzano: Generating and Testing Hypotheses

This post is part of a series on integrating the McREL research on classroom instruction that works with videoconferencing.

Setting Objections: Generalizations

  1. The generating and testing of hypotheses can be approached in an inductive or deductive manner.
  2. Teachers should ask students to clearly explain their hypotheses and their conclusions.


Use these to improve your practice.

  1. Make sure students can explain their hypotheses.
  2. Use a variety of structured tasks to guide students through generating and testing hypotheses (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 2002-2003).

Brainstorming for Videoconferencing

This is a strategy that you miss quite a bit of the depth if you only use the technology reference book. The handbook has much more detail. While you might think that generating and testing hypotheses is only done in science experiments (think of COSI’s Gadget Works program)… actually there are six types of student tasks, each of which makes for a great videoconference.

1. Systems Analysis
Have students predict what might happen if one part of the system changes. To do this students need to:

  • What are the parts of the system? How does each part work?
  • How do the parts affect one another?
  • Pick a part of the system. What might happen if that part did something differently?
  • Change the part to test your hypothesis or act it out or think it through (Marzano, et. al., 2001, p. 201)

These steps should be taught to students with content that is familiar to them.

What are some systems that student could analyze and share their analysis with each other via videoconference?

  • A computer & it’s parts
  • An ecosystem
  • A business
  • A transportation system
  • A quadratic equation
  • Can you think of more?

After explaining their analysis, students could ask each other:

  • What did you learn as a result of doing the analysis?
  • What did you learn as a result of listening to our analysis?
  • What other system is this like? (metaphor)

2. Problem Solving
This strategy is particularly designed for unstructured problems – those with no obvious solution, no clearly goals or constraints – messy problems! To solve these problems students need to ask these questions:

  • What am I trying to do?
  • What things are in my way?
  • What are some things I can do to get around these things?
  • Which solution seems to be the best?
  • Did this solution work? Should I try another solution? (Marzano et. al., 2001, p. 211).

What are some unstructured problems for various content areas? I think I want to look at our MI curriculum more to get better ideas. But here are a few:

3. Decision Making
To use this strategy, students need to understand criteria as value laden preferences, on which decisions are based. The process includes these steps:

  • What am I trying to decide?
  • What are my choices?
  • What are important criteria for making this decision?
  • How important is each criterion?
  • How well does each of my choices match my criteria?
  • Which choice matches best?
  • How do I feel about the decision? Should I change any criteria and try again? (Marzano et. al., 2001, p. 221).

This format makes me think of Tammy Worcester’s decision making spreadsheet. It’s a great tool for following this process. The Marzano Handbook has a suggestion for using a similar graphic organizer to assist in decision making.

What topics could students practice decision making and then share their logic/rationale with another class?

  • elections – national, state, and local
  • current issues
  • deciding on a major, career, or college
  • the most important invention in your content area
  • the most ____ character in 3-4 books (fill in the blank with a desired characteristic)
  • what other ideas do you have?

4. Historical Investigation
This is done on events where there is no clear agreement on what exactly happened. There should not be any quick answers. Students will have to construct a possible resolution to conflicting scenarios. Students will need to be able to collect and analyze evidence to make a decision. They will probably need instruction on the difference between evidence and opinion and how to interpret different materials. Students could practice on a simple event in the local paper and make hypotheses about what really happened. They will need to follow these steps:

  • What historical event do I want to explain?
  • What do people already know about this event?
  • What confuses people about this event?
  • What suggestions do I have for clearing up these confusions?
  • How can I explain my suggestions? Is there evidence that my scenario is plausible? (Marzano et. al., 2001, p. 232).

What topics could be used for this? These are from the Handbook (2001).

  • Did George Washington really chop down a cherry tree?
  • What happened to Amelia Earhart?
  • What happened when the Titanic sank?

Clearly these would need to be topics that are included in the curriculum, and not just obscure little known events. A careful review of the curriculum for your history class may find more topics.

5. Experimental Inquiry
This isn’t just for science!! Inquiry can be used to describe observations, generate hypotheses, make predictions, and test them – in many content areas. Students will have to use their prior knowledge to make the predictions and then be able to apply their knowledge to new situations. The steps for this process are:

  • Observe something and describe what occurred.
  • Explain what was observed.
  • Based on the explanation, make a prediction.
  • Set up an experiment to test the prediction.
  • Explain the results of the experiment and compare to your earlier explanation. (Marzano et. al., 2001, p. 232).

It’s easy to think of examples and scenarios for doing this with science – LEARNnco‘s programs, Science Seekers, etc. Imagine the students doing an experiment together; designing an experiment for the other class to do; comparing their solutions and results to an experiment.

6. Invention
Invention isn’t just creating intimidating big things! It’s also any solution for anything. “Isn’t there a better way to….” Students could brainstorm solution/inventions to improve a situation. The steps for this are:

  • What do I want to make? What do I want to make better?
  • What standards do I want to set for my invention?
  • What is the best way to make a rough draft of my invention?
  • How can I make my rough draft better?
  • Does my invention meet the standards I have set?(Marzano et. al., 2001, p. 253).

The challenge with this strategy is that there aren’t any really good examples out there for regular content. Work needs to be done!

I think if I was in the classroom, I would want to try this about half way through the semester or school year, and ask students – what do you see around school that could be made better? Wouldn’t it be interesting to have classes share their results on this? Do we have time for this with state testing? Maybe not. Maybe that’s why there aren’t very many examples. Still, check out a few here: Generating and testing hypotheses & technology resources. This Invention at Play site is kind of cool. Could students share their little inventions with each other & share what they learned? What ideas do you have?

Any comments or thoughts? New ideas? Content you want to try these out with? Please comment!

Reference: Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marzano, R. J., Norford, J. S., Paynter, D. E., Pickering, D. J., & Gaddy, B. B. (2001). A handbook for classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marzano: Homework and Practice

This post is part of a series on integrating the McREL research on classroom instruction that works with videoconferencing.

Homework: Generalizations

  1. The amount of homework assigned to students should be different from elementary to high school.
  2. Parental involvement in doing homework should be kept to a minimum.
  3. The purpose of homework should be identified and articulated.
  4. If homework is assigned, it should be commented upon.


Use these to improve your practice.

  1. Establish and communicate a homework policy.
  2. Design homework assignments that clearly articulate purpose and outcome.
  3. Vary approaches to providing feedback (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 187-188).

Practice: Generalizations

  1. Mastering a skill or process requires a fair amount of focused practice.
  2. While practicing, students should adapt and shape what they have learned.


Use these to improve your practice.

  1. Ask students to chart their speed and accuracy.
  2. Design practice assignments that focus on specific elements of a complex skill or process.
  3. Plan time for students to increase their conceptual understanding of skills or processes (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 188).

Brainstorming for Videoconferencing

This is a tough one, because obviously kids aren’t going to use videoconferencing for homework, at least not room based videoconferencing! In addition, based on these recommendations, they really need to be able to do the homework on their own. If you’re teaching, you may want to review additional principles on assigning homework to refine your own teaching practice.

So, what about practice? How are students practicing skills already in videoconferences?

The first thing that pops into my brain is the Math Marvels format by Linda McDonald, Katy ISD. Sorry I couldn’t find them on your site, Linda!

There are many adaptations of this where two classes practice problem solving skills and then compare with each other the methods they used to solve the problems. I think this counts as practice right? Maybe this strategy best fits the math content area. What do you think?

If so, how do we improve our practice in giving students practice?

  • Do the students understand clearly what skill they are practicing?
  • Do they understand the expectations for performance?
  • Do you have practice schedules for practice outside of the VC time?
  • Are students evaluating their practice and adapting it to improve?
  • Are students keeping track of their improving performance?
  • Are there opportunities to practice specific components of the skill?

Hmm. Super Math Girl aka @sparky1fan, what do you think? Can we improve Math Marvels or are we doing it well already?

What other ways can you think of for practicing skills during a videoconference? Please comment!

Reference: Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marzano: Identifying Similarities and Differences

This post is part of a series on integrating the McREL research on classroom instruction that works with videoconferencing.

Identifying Similarities and Differences: Generalizations

  1. Presenting students with explicit guidance in identifying similarities and differences enhances their understanding of and ability to use knowledge.
  2. Asking students to independently identify similarities and differences enhances their understanding of and ability to use knowledge.
  3. Representing similarities and differences in graphic or symbolic form enhances students’ understanding of and ability to use knowledge.
  4. Identification of similarities and differences can be accomplished in a variety of ways and is a highly robust activity.


Use these to improve your practice.

  1. Teach students to use comparing, classifying, metaphors, and analogies when they identify  similarities and differences.
  2. Give students a model of the steps for engaging in the process.
  3. Use a familiar context to teach students these steps.
  4. Have students use graphic organizers as a visual tool to represent the similarities and differences.
  5. Guide students as they engage in this process. Gradually give less structure and less guidance (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 168).

Brainstorming for Videoconferencing

This instructional strategy has great potential too. But we must remember it’s similarities and differences about the important content the students are learning, not just the strategy. So while students may practice their similarities and differences skills comparing their communities; unless you’re learning about communities it isn’t really on task instructionally. The key is to identify the important characteristics.

So, how are students identifying similarities and differences already?

  • In today’s Down in the Deep videoconference, two first grade classes compared the features and adaptations or behaviors of animals in the ocean. i.e. what they eat, how they move, how they hide or protect themselves.
  • In Monster Match, students compare to find where they could have written their descriptions more effectively.

How can we improve our current practice?

  • Identify what to compare and make sure it ties to the important content to be learned.
  • In the Down in the Deep/Animal Exchange, students could have an empty venn diagram worksheet ready to fill in with the similarities and differences (either with words or drawings depending on the students’ level).
  • As students are more comfortable with comparing, they could wrestle with choosing the meaningful characteristics to use to compare. I’m thinking of the EcoConversations project. What if students could wrestle a little more with the differences between their communities and the respective problems and issues around carbon emissions?

Having students classify words, objects, books, etc. also is a structure/guide under this strategy. I had a vision in my head of students with big poster words hanging around their necks, moving around in the room for different types of classification. Would that work!? What if two classes took a set of vocabulary words (great academic vocabulary site by the way) and made posters. Then connected together to work on classifying if different ways, and then explaining to each other why they classified the words that way. (See the game cards/word lists on the left of the page.) Can you think of other ways to classify together during a videoconference?

Questions the students should ask while classifying include:

  • What do I want to classify?
  • What things are alike that I can put in a group?
  • How are these things alike?
  • What other groups can I make? How are things alike in that group?
  • Does everything fit in a group? Do any of the groups need to be rearranged?

Creating Metaphors

Metaphors are another way to deepen understanding. Some examples are:

  • a cell is a factory
  • the graph of the sine function is a rollercoaster
  • the United States is freedom and promise
  • the eye is a camera (Marzano et al, 2001, p. 32-34)

To create a metaphor, students need to ask:

  • What is the important information or basic elements.
  • Say it in a more general way / summarize.
  • Find a new situation or scenario that also uses the general pattern.

What if students simply shared their metaphors in a videoconference? They could show a visual to complement their metaphor. Groups of 4-5 students could create and illustrate a metaphor in a specific content area and then share them with the other class. Do you think it would work? Would teachers have enough supporting information to do this? If you search the Internet for examples, most of them are writing related, and not content related. Here’s an example with a video clip. What do you think?

Creating Analogies
Analogies als0 help us understand concepts. Analogies come in different types:

  • Similar concepts
    chat is to talk as email is to write
  • Dissimilar concepts
    pixelation is to smooth video as choppy audio is to clear audio (are you allowed to use two words in analogies?)
  • Class membership
    blogs are to Web 2.0 as static websites are to Web 1.0
  • Class Name or Class Member
    Outlook is to email program as Firefox is to web browser
  • Part to Whole
    microphone is to videoconference cart as mouse is to computer
  • Change
    I can’t think of a tech example for this one. Can you?
    caterpiller is to butterfly as tadpole is to frog
  • Function
    programmer is to software as MCU/bridge operator is to bridge
  • Quantity/Size
    VC project is to VC statewide meeting as one minute is to an hour
    (Well sometimes feels like it…)

Wouldn’t it be great for students to practice solving each other’s analogies? I’m thinking of the math riddles and animal riddles I’ve seen classes share in a VC. Why not analogies? If desired, the topic area for the analogies could be narrowed to match the curriculum/content area. Visuals would be critical to assist in solving/understanding them.

I’m starting to think that I want to set aside some time next year to try some of these formats with middle & high school students. How about you?

Take some time to explore the resources for this strategy here. What other ideas come to mind? Please comment!

Reference: Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marzano, R. J., Norford, J. S., Paynter, D. E., Pickering, D. J., & Gaddy, B. B. (2001). A handbook for classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.