Category Archives: Research

Ask the kids!

On my way to work yesterday, I listened to a NPR story about automobile makers turning to kids (elementary kids) for feedback on new car designs. Imagine the ideas a kindergartener would come up! Then, I just read about a multi-year innovation study Children’s Future Requests for Computers and the Internet conducted by Latitude which asked kids around the world to draw their answer to this question: “What would you like your computer or the Internet to do that it can’t do right now?” More than 200 kids, age 12 and under, from across the world responded to the question and came up with some remarkable ideas. (I’m not surprised, are you?) The three main themes that emerged are:

1. The digital vs. physical divide is fading.Kids think of technology as an extension of themselves. The distinction between “online” and “offline” is disappearing. I love this seven year old girl’s idea, “I’d like to touch the things that are in the screen – feel and move them.”

2. Computers becoming more human. Kids shared wanting to interact with robots and virtual friends/companions, relying on more intuitive methods of input and responsiveness. Think about how intuitive an iPad is for young children.

3. Technology can improve and empower us. Children envisioned technology that engaged with them, taught them something, or helped them make something.

Click here to see some of the students’ drawings – they are really great and powerful. And, click here to see an infographic that summarizes the results of the survey. The report also highlights the cultural differences, which are very interesting.

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Speak Up survey findings

Project Tomorrow released its annual report detailing the findings of the national Speak Up survey.  Over 380,000 K-12 students, parent, teacher, and administrators were surveyed.  Here are some interesting findings:

  • Forty-two percent increase over last year in the number of middle and high school students who own smart phones.  (Not surprising, I know.)
  • Fifty-three percent of middle and high school students said the largest obstacle they encounter when it comes to using technology in school is not being able to use their own smart phone.
  • Forty-six percent of high school students said they use social networking sites to collaborate with their peers on school work.

So, not surprisingly, kids are using technology tools outside of school for more than simply social purposes and are frustrated that they have to ‘power down’ when they walk into a classroom.

  • Here’s the major gap:  in response to the question, “Is your school doing a good job using technology to enhance learning and/or student achievement?”, 74 percent of high school teachers and 72 percent of high school principals said yes, while only 47 percent of high school students agreed.

Of course, we could chalk this up to the ‘generation gap’ between digital natives and immigrants… but is that still an acceptable argument these days?  What if we asked students to design a school and curriculum?  What do you think they would come up with?  Or, better yet, what if we included parents in the discussion… another new trend that emerged from the survey – “parents as co-teachers”.  Read the eSchool News article on the survey here.

Enhancing Educational Effectiveness, Efficiency and Productivity

Yesterday IAAK hosted The Next Generation ActivClassroom at Iolani School for Hawaii Schools of the Future.  Sonny Magana, Head of Global Research for Promethean, shared the latest findings from the Marzano study on the effects of the ActivClassroom on student achievement as well as a lot of interesting, relevant tid bits on learning and its supporting research.  While the first phase of the Marzano study found that by integrating the ActivClassroom in the classroom, students showed a 16 percentile gain as measured by a pre/post-assessment.  The second phase of the study focused on identifying those conditions (coupled with the ActivClassroom) that do or do not make a difference in academic outcomes.  One of the findings – across all subject areas, grade levels, and teacher experience levels students still showed a 16 percentile gain.  Dr. Gene Glass, father of meta-analysis research methods, conducted a peer review of the Marzano research, translating the findings to say that students can experience 12 months of achievement in a nine month school year.  Impressive.  Sonny went on to hypothesize why the ActivClassroom has such a significant impact on student achievement, highlighting two main reasons:

  • The ActivClassroom supports learning that is multi-sensory, which as brain research tells us, leads to enhanced knowledge construction.
  • ActivExpressions or ActiVotes (LRS) allow for immediate, real-time feedback, which translates to a high metacognitive value.  He shared a graph that showed the relationship between the time delay of feedback and metacognitive value.  Summative assessments (high-stakes testing) have a high time delay (sometimes students never learn of their performance on such tests) which correlates to a low metacognitive value.  Some formative assessments such as quizzes and/or assignments, graded and returned the next day, have a lower feedback time delay, and therefore, offer more metacognitive value.  Whereas, the ActivExpressions or ActiVotes provide immediate feedback (no time delay) to students which has a very high metacognitive value.  Makes sense, right?

And, of course, Sonny was presenting on the new ActivBoard 500PRO, with pen and touch capability.  It promotes a natural way of interacting with the technology modeled on real world behaviors and gestures (think iPhone gestures).  It can also accommodate multiple users collaborating on a single task – an essential student skill for the future.  Images can be easily moved, scaled and rotated with finger touch in conjunction with real life “pen” tasks such as writing and drawing across the whole surface, increasing engagement.  Very cool.

Sonny shared lots of interesting and thought-provoking ideas about teaching and learning productivity.  He referenced Mitch Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT’s Media Lab which I hadn’t thought about in awhile.  Many of you may know Scratch, the programming application, which Resnick’s team developed.  Resnick boils down learning to this sequence:  imagine – play – share – reflect.  So simple and so powerful.

Ed-Tech Success: Key Factors

Today’s Digital Education post shares Project RED’s findings from the recently released report.  The team identifies factors that most strongly link with ed-tech success:

1. Technology is integrated into all intervention classes;
2. Principals and school leaders set aside time for professional learning and collaboration for teachers;
3. Students use technology to collaborate;
4. Technology is integrated into core curricula at least once a week or more;
5. Online formative assessments are administered at least weekly;
6. The lower the student-to-computer ratio, the better;
7. Virtual field trips are used monthly;
8. Students use search engines every day; and
9. Principals receive training on how to encourage teacher buy-in, best practices for technology implementation, and learning transformations as a result of technology.

Nothing too ‘out of the box’ but what I thought was interesting was the emphasis on use – frequency makes a difference – and collaboration.  Nothing referenced capitalizing on technology’s ability to diagnose and prescribe individualized instruction which has so long been touted as a main benefit of using technology for learning.  Also, the team makes the point that there is greater positive impact on student outcomes when all nine factors take place. 

The findings also refer to the cost-savings when technology is properly integrated.  “It estimated that total national savings on copying costs could grow to $739 million in high schools alone if all high schools moved to a learning management system. Other cost savings come from reducing redundancies in data collection and software, tracking and identifying the best instructional materials for specific populations of students, and lowering drop-out rates.”

Rote learning – is it really that bad?

Ah, two very interesting pieces that discuss the impact of ‘rote learning’ in the overall learning and growth process.  First, HechingerEd’s piece discusses the value of rote memorization, referring to it as ‘learning by heart’ (less negative connotations).  Then, Curriculum Matters’ post that argues there is indeed a difference between ‘rote memorization’ and ‘learning by heart’. 

HechingerEd’s post argues that there is value in rote memorization in that it is a challenge (and one that can be accomplished with pride), it is good exercise for the brain, and finally, that through the process of memorization new insights are revealed such as play on words, analogies, etc.  In essence, staying true to the rhythm and pattern helps to uncover language delights.  I thought it was interesting (and logical) how memory was attached to engagement.  Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, states, “If you’re really engaged, memory comes pretty automatically.”

It’s All About Numbers… today

Math is on the brain this morning… first, I read an Education Week article sharing that U.S. significantly lags behind nations in producing high-achieving math students.  In fact, 16 countries had at least twice the percentage of high-achievers in math.  What’s particularly interesting about this study is the focus on advanced math level – many studies focus on the average performing group of students. Then, I read an interesting article about the importance of parents talking to their toddlers about numbers and how that effects a child’s numeracy.  So much emphasis is placed on building toddlers’ vocabulary for reading readiness, while not much emphasis is placed on talking about numbers.  The study, “What Counts in the Development of Young Children’s Number Knowledge?” found that “…parents who used more number words in discussions when the child was 14 to 30 months old were more likely at 46 months old, or just at preschool age, to be able to answer accurately when shown two sets of four and five blocks and asked to point out the set of five.”  It’s not rocket science but as a mom of a toddler I appreciate the findings – especially as my daughter has just taken a huge developmental leap in numeracy and is counting with brilliant accuracy!

TED Talk: Sugata Mitra – The child-driven education

I learned of Sugata Mitra’s TED talk from Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant blog.  In the talk, Mitra, Education scientist, shares his findings from real-life experiments across the world.  In his experiments he gave children access to technology (the Internet) without adult supervision.  In some experiments he let them explore freely.  In others, he asked them to unravel specific questions or concepts.  The results are interesting.  Essentially, left with their peers, children demonstrated that they are resourceful and inquisitive, and are natural teachers.  A couple of takeaways (I’m paraphrasing here):

  • If a teacher can be replaced by a machine, he should be.
  • There is education where there is interest.

The talk left me thinking… the students (from all across the world) proved that they can find and access relevant content (via technology), using their problem-solving skills (i.e. translate questions from English to Italian to answer question).  And, that they can retain the information (paper-based test six months later).  I guess the next question is – can they effectively apply/transfer that content to another unpredictable problem/scenario?

More research to support the impact of Promethean IWB on student achievement

Findings from a robust two-year study were released highlighting that with effective professional development, interactive classroom technologies can significantly impact student achievement.  Read more about the findings here.  Here is a quick summary of the research pulled from the press release:

More than 5,000 students and 170 teachers from a broad range of schools and districts contributed to the study. For the second year in a row, the research found that student achievement is higher (16 percentile points) when teachers use interactive instructional tools. Conducted by Dr. Robert Marzano, a former English teacher with almost 30 years of education research experience, this multi-year study is both mathematically sound and statistically robust.

Research Roundup

Lots of interesting research findings to share… thanks to Education Week’s excellent blogging and reporting.

  • Algebra achievement and technology:  An IES funded four-year study found that Algebra I teachers who were trained in and used a program that allowed them to monitor their students’ progress on graphing calculators led to improved algebra achievement.  Given that it was an IES funded study, a quasi-experimental design was utilized.  I thought this finding was particularly interesting:  “Through qualitative analysis, researchers also found that teachers using the technology engaged in deeper and more conceptual discussions with their students about math principals than teachers who were not using the technology.”  Check out Digital Education’s blog post summarizing the findings with links to more info.
  • Online Teacher PD makes a Difference:  The e-Learning for Educators (efe) Project, a ten-state initiative dedicated to expanding a state’s ability to deliver high-quality online PD, conducted four randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effects of online PD on teachers’ knowledge and instructional practices and on students’ knowledge and practices.  Teachers who participated in the online PD improved their content area knowledge and instructional practices which ultimately led to increased student achievement.  The teachers participated in three 30-hour online PD courses developed by the Education Development Center’s EdTech Leaders Online, or ETLO.   Check out the executive summary
  • K-8 Model Holds More Promise:  A study of New York City public schools published in the journal Education Next finds that students who move to a middle school may face an academic disadvantage compared to those who attend a K-8 school.  The study also finds that students who attend a stand-alone middle school are more absent often.  Very interesting implications for school reform!  Learn more by reading EdWeek’s article on the study.   

Why students learn

For those of you who know IAAK well, you know that we are very interested in motivating students.  We feel strongly that when students are engaged, they learn.  Hence, we ensure that all of our curricula integrates principled design components, intentional interactivity to appeal to today’s diverse learners.  We also integrate performance-based rewards and recognition into our programs as we have learned (through experience and review of research) that students become more competent when they feel more competent. 

Education Week’s Inside Research blog shares some interesting study findings on motivation.  In the latest issue of the London-based Institute of Education journal Research Matters the article “Learning, Performance and Improvement” highlights that why students learn, as well as why teachers want students to learn, makes a significant difference in achievement. 

Chris Watkins, Institute reader in education at the University of London, conducted a review of over 100 studies (U.S. and abroad) and found that, “The research suggests two parallel motivations drive student achievement: “learning orientation,” the drive to improve your knowledge and competency; and “performance orientation,” the drive to prove that competency to others.”  Those students who had both types of motivation were high-achieving.  While those who focused too much on “performance orientation” thought less critically and performed less well academically.

Ok, nothing too eye-opening yet, right?  As educators, we know that when students want to learn simply for the sake of learning, the learning is richer and achievement greater.  What is interesting about these findings though is that teachers’ motivation for student learning makes a difference.  “Students of all grade spans proved highly attuned to their teacher’s motivation in the classroom, even if she or he did not explicitly state a desire to improve test scores. One included study showed 10-year-olds mirrored their teacher’s performance orientation even in unrelated tasks outside the classroom—and performed poorer on those tasks as a result.”  This makes teaching even more complex given the U.S.’s emphasis on state/national assessments as a primary measure of accountability.   

Another interesting finding:  One strategy that teachers often use to foster this notion of “learning for the sake of learning” in students is to build in metacognitive exercises (like journaling).  However, Watkins points out that simply layering in these practices isn’t enough.  He states, “… students in classrooms have to see themselves as learners before the focus on meta-cognition really takes off.”