This is the first blog post in SmartBlog on Education’s new Friday Feature series where editors will highlight reader comments, popular blog posts for the week and ultimately create a space for educators to engage, innovate and discuss. Thanks for visiting and happy reading!

On Nov. 21, education author and instructional-design expert Kevin Washburn published a post on what he feels is a crucial — and frequently overlooked — ingredient in every student’s learning process: effort.

“Several studies suggest a strong correlation between effort (or perseverance or grit or willpower) and achievement — not just academic success but improved life quality beyond graduation day,” Washburn wrote. “If this aspect of ‘character’ is so vital, how can we give it more intentional emphasis in education?”

He shared three ideas: Use stories that highlight the connection between “struggle and eventual success” in lessons and discussions. Focus on effort-result relationships in evaluating students’ progress. (read more…)

Senior education editor Melissa Greenwood is blogging this week from ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2012 conference in Atlanta, Ga. Here is a blog inspired by a recent conference session on student engagement.

Does school have to be fun? No, but it should be engaging, according to Tim Dwyer of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.

Dwyer recently presented the session “Sharing Creative Ways to Engage Students” at CareerTech Vision 2012 where he offered innovative ideas for increasing student engagement and success. While Dwyer shared a range of strategies, including team-based learning and tests that give students partial credit for partial knowledge, it was his discussion of the role that quick response codes, or QR codes, play in his automotive class that struck me — and other attendees — as particularly interesting. Here’s a quick breakdown of his process:

Dwyer assigns students a specific car part and asks them to explain in a video how the part operates. (read more…)

One of the things that I see happen far too often is people stressing over how they are going to create lessons around the new piece of technology they have in their classroom. It is this approach that is causing headaches to many and giving tech tools a bad reputation in the classroom. There is a right way and a wrong way to infusing technology in education.

The wrong way

The absolute wrong way to deal with educational technology is to look at a tool and try to build a lesson around it. I have seen administrators tell teachers to use a specific tool in a specific lesson. This is a recipe for disaster. Some tools do not work for certain lessons. They are not needed and can just cause more confusion than anything else. Tech tools are not easily interchangeable with all lessons in all subject areas. This concept needs to be understood by all stakeholders when it comes to infusing technology into the classroom. (read more…)

Twitter has been a topic for educational bloggers for several years now. I believe that those educators using Twitter are drawn to those posts, while other educators, not using Twitter, are driven away. Maybe the problem is the emphasis or focus of the blog posts. Maybe the focus should be on relevance and not mention of Twitter. Are educators relevant in our technology-driven society? The obvious answer is that some are, and some are not. A more important question is which of these two groups is growing?

I earned an advanced degree in educational technology over 30 years ago. From the day that I received that degree, things have evolved at an unbelievable pace, driven by technology. Not one piece of the hardware or software that I used to earn that degree existed five years later. How does any educator keep up with the changes, not only in technology and methodology of the profession but the content of subject matter itself, as well as worldwide change? (read more…)

In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world — often mirrored in our schools — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder if you’re making a difference. All teachers want to be better, don’t they? And since no one has ever finished learning to teach, continued improvement is a priority of any effective teacher.

Remember that to be better does not mean to be perfect. And becoming more effective does not always mean doing something complicated or time-consuming. Oftentimes, small changes make the biggest difference.

Would you like to make a few small changes and see immediate results? Here are five things you can do tomorrow — without spending money, without learning new programs and without adding stress to your life — that will improve your effectiveness, thus improving student learning and behavior.

  1. Say hello and goodbye. The old saying “Students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is as true today as it has always been.
  2. (read more…)