Mastery Learning and Content Creation on the iPad

By Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

In this era of testing , it’s a good time to reflect on the elements of  Mastery Learning as an instructional model and see how it may benefit the 21st century English Language Learner. ESL students of every proficiency level can benefit from this approach.

ELLs routinely participate in standardized assessments that are designed for native language speakers.  Oftentimes these students cannot accurately demonstrate their mastery of a topic without yet having mastery of the English language.

With the iPad and a mastery learning approach students can create dynamic and entertaining multimedia presentations that can be used as alternative assessments that inform instruction.

Most mastery learning concepts come from Benjamin Bloom who coined the term. Mastery learning is based on individualized instruction that is targeted and informed by data. Teachers use frequent formative assessment to monitor student progress and provide high quality, corrective instruction to improve student achievement.

Bloom introduced the concept based on the premise that even though students have various learning rates and modalities, if teachers provide the necessary time and appropriate learning conditions, nearly all students can reach a high level of achievement. Research has consistently linked the elements of mastery learning to highly effective instruction and student learning success (Guskey 2010).

This approach is a natural choice for ESL students who are often faced with rigorous content demands while struggling at the same time to acquire English proficiency. As ELL advocates, we know that our ELLs need alternative strategies to access content and they are not always able to demonstrate their content knowledge through traditional means of assessment.

The iPad provides the multimedia support for content that ELLs need and also allows ELLs to demonstrate mastery of a topic, regardless of their English proficiency.

The simplest way for students to demonstrate mastery is to use the built in video camera and have students create short direct instruction videos on a topic they have mastered. Another option is to use traditional tools like PowerPoint or Keynote on the iPad to create multimedia presentations.

Finally, there are many useful apps that incorporate images, video, audio, writing and drawing to create interactive multimedia presentations and videos. I’ve listed some of them in the table below.

Guskey, T. R. (October 2010) Lessons of mastery learning. Educational Leadership,68 (2),52-57. Retrieved from  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct10/vol68/num02/Lessons-of-Mastery-Learning.aspx

Educreations is a recordable interactive whiteboard that captures your voice and handwriting to produce video lessons that you can share online. Students and colleagues can replay lessons in any web browser, or from within the app on theiriPads. There is also a community showcase on the homepage or the “Featured” tab in the iPad app to view lessons that other teachers have created withEducreations.

Audioboo is an application for recording and sharing your voice with the world. This free version allows you to create audio up to 3 minutes in length and post that to your own account on the web. You can add titles, tags, geolocation info and a photo to the recording before you upload it and it will save all that with the file. The audio can then be shared with your followers or via Facebook, Twitter & other social networks by managing your account at http://audioboo.fm.

Story Kit is an iPhone app created by the International Children’s Library Foundation. This app allows users to create their own digital book that includes video and voice recordings, images, drawings and text. The book is stored on the apps bookshelf to be edited or read at any time.  

Videolicious allows users to create videos without having significant editing expertise. Users choose from videos and photos stored on their iPad, place them in order and then stitch together that media. It enables them to use transitions, visual effects, and logos. Once users have picked the media they want to use, all they have to do is tap the videos while narrating over them, and they can later add soundtracks.

Explain Everything lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations andpresentations.Explain Everything records on-screen drawing, annotation, object movement and captures audio. Import Photos, PDF, PPT, and Keynote fromDropbox, Evernote, Email, iPad photo roll and camera. Export MP4 movie files, PNG image files, and share the .XPL project file with others for collaboration.

 

Creating Educational Experiences: The iSchool Initiative

Recently we had the opportunity to attend a mobile learning expo with guest speaker Travis Allen of iSchool Initiative.  This young man shared an amazing timeline of events that led him to create the iSchool Initiative.

This student-led, non-profit organization is dedicated to raising awareness for technology needs in our schools.  Travis spoke passionately of his interest in helping others create educational experiences like those that have changed and improved his own college career.

Travis stated, educators must find, filter, and apply technology into the classrooms. The impact of technology and mobile learning in schools continues to broaden opportunities for ELLs.

How will you use technology to create these educational experiences for ELLs?

For more information on the iSchool Initiative: http://ischoolinitiative.org/

Flipping the Classroom for ELLs

Why the blended learning model is a good choice

One of the latest trends in the education world is blended learning. So what is blended learning and how can it help English Language Learners? The term blended learning has been used in education for many years. It involves the integration of traditional classroom instruction and educational technologies and can take different forms.  Nowadays, the newest model is the flipped classroom.

In a flipped learning environment, the traditional format of in-class lectures followed by at-home student assignments is turned around or “flipped”.  The student is required to watch an instructional video or lecture at home and then complete associated tasks or projects in the classroom.  While students work through assignments in class, teachers can better identify and target each student’s needs and facilitate differentiated instruction.

Another objective of this individualized approach is to empower students to direct their own learning by coming to class prepared to ask questions and problem solve with their peers after viewing the subject matter on their own.

For English language learners the model has some obvious advantages. While watching a video at home, students can take notes, work at their pace and re-watch the video as many times as necessary.  Watching video naturally lends itself to language learning, since the visual content is more readily accessible to students of all proficiency levels than complex textbook syntax and vocabulary.

The next day, teachers can spend less time lecturing in the front of the room (a la “chalk and talk”) and have more time to spend engaged with students, giving more personalized instruction, while the students use class time to complete tasks alone or collaboratively.

This brings me to the next and perhaps the most important advantage of the flipped classroom for ELLs.  When English language learners are given more opportunities to interact with their peers in class, opportunities to think critically, and use English to connect authentically with others to acquire knowledge increases dramatically.  

To read more about the flipped classroom and blended learning visit the following links:

http://mindshift.kqed.org/2012/02/whats-blended-learning-ask-salman-khan/

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/02/09/a-first-hand-look-inside-a-flipped-classroom/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning#cite_note-Horn.2C_Michael_B._2011-1

Using Digital Media to Create Authentic Writing Experiences for Students

by Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

With all the buzz about ebook readers, it is time for teachers to explore ways to incorporate epublishing into their student writing assignments.  There are several applications available that allow students and teachers to create remarkable, user-friendly ebooks that can be published on the web, printed, shared, or saved and stored locally.

eBooks allow students to follow the five step writing process: brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing, with renewed interest in the final step.  The audience must be carefully considered and is no longer limited to simply the teacher or classmates.  In addition, ebooks allow students to support their ideas and content by embedding video (mp4) and image files into their writing pieces. For little or no cost, students can now create authentic multimedia viewing and reading experiences and publish them digitally (.epub) for a variety of audiences.  

ePub Bud is a free website that allows you to create a new book with their application or upload any sort of document and convert  it to the open .epub format.  You can store your books online and even sell them on Amazon and the Apple Bookstore. They also provide a forum for teachers to share teaching activities that incorporate epublishing.

If you are an iPad user consider downloading Book Creator by Red Jumper Studio.  This app costs $6.99 but is well worth it.  It is easy to use and the resulting ebook is polished and professional.

We learned about an excellent example of epublishing in the classroom at the NYS TESOL Conference.  ESL students in Amityville worked with education consultant Annette Shideler to create a book entitled “Surviving in Amityville.  A guide written by middle school English language learners for all English language learners.”

While reading “Swiss Family Robinson” students discussed the themes of adaptation and survival.  They connected the themes to their own experiences as newcomers in Amityville. Every student had a story to tell and advice to offer.

Then the ESL students collaborated on the survival guide. Each chapter provides an individual students unique perspective and advice.  The end result is an eleven chapter book that includes video and photos. The ebook is an authentic published work now available through iTunes.

For more information about this project read “Students pen middle school survival guide”

 

 

 

 

 

RTI for ELLs: “Our Kids” or “Their Kids”

by H.Parris-Fitzpatrick

Last week we presented at a NYC Conference for the CEI-PEA Children First Network.  The theme was RTI for ELLs and the audience consisted of both teachers and administrators who work with ELLs, but who are not Bilingual or ESL educators.  This audience analysis is a critical piece of information as it points to future trends in ESL pedagogy and the growing demand for information about our students.  

I can’t speak for everyone, but in my past experience, ELLs were not the center of the local or national education agenda.  In most districts, the ESL program was tucked away in a corner of the building and the responsibility for the academic success of ELLs rested primarily on the shoulders of the ESL teacher.  As an ESL professional, I shouldered this responsibility with pride and knew “my kids” needed me to navigate through the school system.  The ESL teacher still facilitates many things for their students; however, now there appears to be some relief on the way.

Call me Pollyanna, but we addressed a room full of teachers who were not trained in ESL methodology and they were warm and compassionate and eager to learn about how they can help “their kids”.  This is a big shift in school culture and I have some theories about why this has happened, but I’m not going to address that at the moment.

What is important to note, is that ELLs in education is a hot topic.  People want to know more about the instructional needs of ELLs.  The emphasis on literacy that is at the core of RTI, has brought to light this diverse population that is an equally important part of the general student body.  

So how can RTI help?  What exactly does it mean? In brief, at the Tier One level, RTI is a reminder to all content area teachers that academic tasks should be tiered and scaffolded for ELLs and that direct and explicit academic vocabulary instruction is required in order for them to be successful.  It is a reminder that teachers must monitor content and language comprehension.  It is an acknowledgement that we are all English language teachers.

As mentioned in a Practicioner’s Brief from The National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST), intervention designed to improved literacy for ELLs is multifaceted. In “A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners, the authors highlight the need for comprehensive teacher training, http://www.nccrest.org/Briefs/Framework_for_RTI.pdf “less than 20% of the 56% of public school teachers in the U.S. who have at least one ELL in their class are certified to teach ELLs (Waxman, Tellez & Walberg, 2004). Thus, most teachers lack the training, expertise, and experience in teaching reading and other subjects to ELLs.”  

So, how do we address this need and maximize this time in the spotlight? The article provides guidelines that all districts need to consider when implementing RTI for ELLs

It is indeed ironic that this focus on ELLs comes when there is rising hostility regarding immigration and when economic times have depleted resources and programs. Yet, with every crisis, comes opportunity.

As ambassadors for our English Language Learners we are in a unique position.  People are ready to listen.  Get the word out.

 

Esparza-Brown, J., & Doolittle, J. (2008).  A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners

 

 

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Advantages of Mobile Technology

Nothing could have prepared Dorothy for the events that were to take place during her journey to see the Wizard of Oz; but, what if Dorothy had GPS to guide her home?  What if her smartphone had allowed her to make a few calls?  If only Dorothy had the capabilities of WiFi or Bluetooth, she would have used her small, portable device and “dreamt” up a quicker way of getting home.

In today’s world, information is ubiquitous and students are accustomed to fast-paced easy access to information – when they want it and wherever they want it.  Mobile technologies maximize communication in environments never before imagined.  Just like Dorothy, our students are in a new world and need to use technology to navigate their journey.

Smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, and laptops allow teaching and learning to take place inside and outside of the classroom.  These technologies strengthen interactions between students and teachers and support differentiation of instruction for English Language Learners.    

English Language Learners bring the world into our classroom.  As Milton Chen explained at the 2011 Celebration of Teaching & Learning Conference, the key to educational innovation is to make School life = Real life.  As educators, we must provide our multicultural English Language Learners with authentic learning experiences that provide “real life” communication and relevance to their own lives. 

Here are a few apps that allow students to access information whether they are inside or outside of the classroom.

Dictionary.com app delivers trusted reference content from Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com. No internet connection is needed to search nearly 1,000,000 words and more than 90,000 synonyms and antonyms in the thesaurus. 

SAT Vocabulary Visuals and Audios app includes unique illustrations for thousands of SAT words and explains their meanings using audios from professional narrators. This app translates words in Spanish, French, Chinese and 50 other languages.

iTranslate app translates words and whole words in sentences in 52 languages, and uses text to speech with 43 voices in 16 languages. iTranslate now includes voice recognition and an exclusive conversation and 18 free voices.

Star Walk app allows the user to point the iPad or iPhone at the sky and see what stars, constellations, and satellites you are looking at in real-time.  Star Walk also allows you to find information on stars, planets, and satellites. 

Leafsnap app is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

Moon Globe app turns your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad into a precision instrument for viewing Earth’s Moon.  Hold the Moon in your hands. Satellite imagery and topographic laser altimeter data are combined to render the Moon with realistic lighting in realtime 3D.

 

 

 

 

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 2

What if? History Project

During our visit to the poster sessions at the conference, we learned of an interesting project conducted by students attending the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The teacher, Diana Laufenberg, created a counterfactual or alternate history project that focused on the investigation of historical events through research and creativity.

Students were responsible for identifying a point in American History where they would change the outcome.  After reading background information and identifying the point of divergence, students researched three events preceding their point of divergence, and then introduced three new events in history leading up to 2011.

The essential questions addressed three main ideas for this project:

How do the actions of individuals impact the historical record?

How do systemic changes impact the historical record?

How influential can one decision be in the historical landscape?

Students worked independently and collaboratively with their peers in developing their presentation of ideas.  The project included an organizer, a work contract and a journal to record the process. Projects were assessed using a rubric and presentations were uploaded onto the school website.

American History can be one of the most difficult subjects for English Language Learners because of the unfamiliarity with historical events in the U.S.  The research needed for a counterfactual project can help ELLs gain an understanding of the impact these events have had on our lives today.

Just imagine the alternate history that would be created if a student had never moved to the U.S.  How would this have affected their lives, schools, or communities?

For more information on the What if? History Project please visit:

http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 1

The ISTE conference in Philadelphia was one of the most exciting events we have recently seen.  Everything we attended provided us with new insights into tech and education.  

We left Long Island at 6:00 a.m. and arrived in Philadelphia bright and early ready to tackle the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  We found a parking lot for $10.00 just four blocks away!  That was a great start to a great day.

Our first workshop was “Tammy’s Top 20 Favorite Free Web Tools.”  Tammy Worchester demonstrated a variety of websites for educators.  Here are some of our favorites for English Language Learners:

Bibme.org is a fully automatic bibliography maker. It’s a very easy way for ELLs to learn how to build and format a works cited page.

Qwiki.com is a great way for ELLs to search for information.  The information is delivered in a storytelling format that uses visuals and audio.

Wolframalpha.com is a knowledge engine that generates results by doing computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods.  This is useful for ELLs because unlike typical search engines, results can be found for many different academic tasks.

Fur.ly is a site that shortens multiple urls into one.  This is a useful tool for teachers and students alike.  It makes it easy for ELLs to navigate and categorize webpages.

After the workshop, we met Tammy Worchester in the exhibition hall at the Visions Booth.  Visions publishes a large collection of classroom resources that incorporate technology.  For more information on their products visit www.toolsforteachers.com.

Digital Storytelling for ELLs

Developing Writing and Oral Communication Skills

Teachers are enhancing their content-based lessons using 21st Century tools to develop ESL students’ language and communication skills. They are discovering that digital storytelling projects increase motivation, creativity and overall achievement in the language classroom.  Not only do learning projects like this enhance the acquisition of English, but the students are also acquiring transferable 21st skills.

Free or fee-based  online subscriptions to sites such as discoveryeducation.com provide teachers with a variety of media that can be searched by subject, grade or media type as well as lesson plan resources and classroom management tools. Teachers have the option to download full video or video segments and to save what they like so that students can view and review them anytime or anywhere.

Teachers and students can script, record and edit their own digital stories. The Flip camcorder is portable and easy to use, but we don’t use their editing software.  Instead video clips can be imported into Windows MovieMaker or iMovie to create video lessons and study prep guides on content area topics.  Both MovieMaker and iMovie allow the user to import additional sound and picture files to create a movie project that is polished, professional and tailored to the learning objectives of the class.

Hall Davidson, www.discoveryedspeakersbureau.com, an expert on digital storytelling and teaching with media technology states: “What veteran teachers suspected the research has proved: 21st Century students are different. With different attention spans, higher IQ test scores, and social networks, their sophistication comes earlier—with a different skill set. There is a silver lining: We can teach this “New Brain” more effectively, more efficiently, more engagingly. We have the technology! Media has evolved and education must evolve to match.”

A Multicultural Perspective on Women’s Rights

Women’s History month is the perfect time to raise awareness that multicultural views and perspectives must be part of the curriculum all year around. Wow! By far one of the best group projects I have seen recently is about Women’s Rights, created by Larry Reiff, an English teacher from Roslyn High School, NY.

Using Proboards.com, Mr. Reiff has set-up an online forum for his students’ group based discussion on women’s rights around the world. Each group is assigned a video clip for viewing along with several thought provoking questions to discuss together during class.  When they go home each student must watch the remaining videos and blog the answers to their questions using Proboards.

Proboards allows teachers to set up free forums for their classes to interact on.  Mr. Reiff set his pages up so that the students could easily find their assignments by clicking on the tab that had their group number on it.  More importantly, the content of each video expressed authentic, real-life struggles and successes of women from around the world such as the Dowry Killings in India or the moving speech “Ain’t I A Woman” read in honor of the author and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

This is exactly the kind of rich multi-cultural content that ELLs and all students need exposure too.  When it is delivered to the students through tools such as Proboards and video,  the diversity of the world comes to life in the classroom, the content is more comprehensible and the students will remember it!  By the way, I discovered that Mr. Reiff is currently a participant in the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  Congratulations to him!