standardized testingI distinctly remember one terrible part of my unremarkable years of playing softball. During practice, I could hit the ball far enough for at least a base hit. Then — the game. As soon as I was up to bat, I would freeze up and choke, barely hitting the ball to the pitcher. I would have been a surefire out if it weren’t for the fact that I was so short that I had a very narrow strike zone and got walked a lot. I now know that I suffered from performance anxiety, but at the time I was devastated until I finally convinced my father that I should quit playing. I can still recall the relief at never having to bat in a game again.

Now that I teach, I recognize the signs of performance anxiety in my middle-school students in one specific area — text anxiety. While it’s true that a certain amount of trepidation and doubt are normal before any high-stakes event, their anxiety borders on debilitating. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Curriculum Associates.

There has been considerable discussion around Common Core math, as teachers and school leaders grapple with the best way to transition students to the new standards. Educator and math expert, Mark Ellis, details why students struggle and what schools can do to help all students achieve success.

Why are students struggling with many of the new Common Core math standards?

Pre-CCSS, students may have learned math skills and procedures but without a focus on the underlying meaning and sense-making. This makes it extremely difficult to apply those skills and procedures in unfamiliar situations and real-world contexts. The new standards are designed around progressions of concepts that inform procedural fluency, so if the foundational understanding is not in place, it makes it very difficult for students to progress successfully. When skills are built on a foundation of strong conceptual knowledge, students are more likely to use them more accurately and flexibly. (read more…)

Cute Blue Bird CharacterThinking about social media and how it works in regards to learning inside and outside of classrooms is endless and inspiring. Just by tweeting an idea, you can spark a connection and invite your students to experience the value of social media.

As I began to dabble with this idea, I was immediately struck by how other educators were using this tool as a way to connect, engage and enhance learning.

In the beginning, it was important to think about how I was going to model this tool and how I could relate it to something with which my students already had experience. So I took my students outside with my laptop and asked them to listen quietly to what they heard as we sat under a tree. After a moment, my students shared a variety of sounds, one of which was a bird’s chirping. I highlighted this and noted that birds have calls and tweets that they use to say hello and communicate. (read more…)

The SXSWedu Conference & Festival gets underway March 9 in Austin, Texas, and SmartBrief will be there. We sat down with SXSWedu Executive Producer Ron Reed to get a sneak peek at what’s in store for this year’s conference.

What exciting innovations and conversations can we look forward to hearing about at this year’s SXSWedu conference?

This year, we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of SXSWedu and as always, we are looking to drive meaningful conversations and action on the future of education. This year some of our highlighted programming focuses on teachers and student voice, and increased international engagement has led to more insights into education across the globe, through session and workshop programming and other components including LAUNCHedu and eduFILM.

This year’s “change maker” series showcases women in technology. Why the emphasis on women and can you give us a sneak peek at what — and who — we will see? (read more…)

What does equity look like in a one-to-one program? Does it mean that every student has the same device?

Equity in a one-to-one program does not mean that every student has precisely the same technological tool. Other factors, including instructional model, use of textbooks, access to online resources, teacher commitment to personal and professional development and a school’s willingness to “push the envelope,” all work together with the devices to create a successful one-to-one environment.

Our district – a 1,200-student district in central California – uses Macbooks, Chromebooks and iPads. We have made a point to match programs with the appropriate devices, to keep each program on the leading edge. While we have experienced some bumps along our journey, we continually aim to strike a balance between effectively supporting a few benchmark devices and allowing our individual schools the instructional freedom to learn, explore and develop their own program.

The tenet of adaption rather than replication is true in most educational settings. (read more…)