RT to Help At-Risk Students

Linda Darling-Hammond, Molly B. Zielezinski, and Shelley Goldman just published Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning. This thoughtful review of more than seventy recent studies found that educators using technology to improve student learning have had mixed results. Often, the promise of ed tech has failed to meet the high expectations policymakers have heaped on the sector, however, there have been many successes and the authors sought to reveal promising approaches for technology implementation.


In one study, several 9th-grade English classrooms were given technology to practice skills and create new content. Those classrooms outperformed advanced placement sections that studied the same material without technology. The teacher reported that technology allowed for more active instruction that could be differentiated to meet the needs of individuals and that students wanted to be a part of that personalized and active environment.

The following bullets may be retweeted without crediting me. Feel free to hashtag them #SCOPE, or #AtRisk. They came from a Twitter barrage that summarized and highlighted the sections of the report that resonated with me as an ed tech enthusiast, who has worked with large numbers of at-risk students over the last 11 years. These students deserve access to effective education technology. Getting these tips out to policymakers and education thought leaders is one way to make that happen.

  1. 16M Students live below the poverty line. 8M get free lunch. Children in poverty are 50% of US students.
  2. Many schools serve 100s, or 1,000s of users with the same bandwidth as a single home user.
  3. 30% of households don’t have high-speed broadband. Slow connection rates are in nonwhite and low-income households
  4. Research shows that if at-risk students gain access to technology, they can make substantial gains in learning
  5. Drill and practice activities in low SES schools tend to be ineffective.
  6. Uses of tech are disproportionate in high-SES schools where they achieve positive results.
  7. A benefit of well-designed interactive programs is they allow students to see concepts from multiple perspectives.
  8. Students learn more when they use technology to create new content themselves rather than receiving of content designed by others.
  9. Researchers found that 1:1 availability is important for lower-income students’ ability to gain fluency.
  10. Teacher assistance seems to be mandatory for the online learning of underprivileged students.
  11. Reports of the flipped classroom are generally positive overall. Students prefer interactive classroom activities
  12. College students in flipped classrooms are more likely to watch video lectures than to complete readings
  13. Tech policy should aim for 1:1. At-risk students benefit from opportunities to learn that include 1:1 access to devices.
  14. Technology access policies should ensure that speedy internet connections are available.
  15. At-risk students benefit from technology that promotes high levels of interactivity with data & info in multiple forms
  16. Coupled with PBL & support for teachers, digital learning can shift school culture & strengthen 21st century skills
  17. Plan for blended learning environments to have high levels of teacher support & interaction between students
  18. Instructional plans should enable at-risk students to use technology to create content as well as learn material.

This report complements the findings of Pollock et al (2014) who characterized the types of support teachers should provide in hybrid classrooms. The SCOPE report reiterates that replacing teachers with technology will not be a successful formula and that teacher assistance “seems to be mandatory for the online learning of underprivileged students.” This report was released by the Alliance for Excellent Education and Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). A copy of the full report is available here: https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/scope-pub-using-technology-report.pdf

20 Qs for BL Networks

Joe Ableidinger recently authored an interesting thought paper that provides snapshots of blended learning networks. Building blended learning networks may help implementation in traditional school models. Educators could pilot test instructional models and collaborate on solutions to scaling up problems. Networks may constructively critique each other’s ideas and foster connections that will help grow programs.

The paper created five categories for 20 key questions: (a) Desired outcomes. What will the network ideally do or create? (b) Recruitment, screening, and selection. Who should be in the network? (c) Training and support. What will the network provide to its members? (d) External partners. Which outside experts should be involved, and in what ways? (e) The pioneering cohort. How should the network get started?

BL Models

Creators of blended learning networks will need to answer the questions below. The answers to these will shape the character of the network and the ultimate effects of the network over time. Research has not given us the correct answers. The “correct” answers to these questions will depend on the willingness of education leaders to meaningfully implement blended learning.

  1. What are you attempting to introduce that does not already exist, and what impact do you hope to achieve?
  2. What are the metrics by which you will judge your success in creating a strong blended learning network?
  3. Of what value to the city’s schools, teachers, and students is having a vibrant education technology ecosystem?
  4. Do you want to develop or network creators or users of education technology (or both)? What are the metrics by which your success in creating a strong education technology ecosystem will be judged?
  5. Will your network aim to connect creators with users?
  6. Will you bring together innovators or innovative ideas?
  7. Do potential participants self-select into the applicant pool, or is the pool pre-selected by network organizers or created through a nomination process?
  8. What criteria should you use to vet prospective network participants? What questions should you ask as part of the application or selection process?
  9. If you are planning to create a network of innovators, should you focus on individuals or teams?
  10. To create a network of proponents of innovative ideas, what stage of development should you target?
  11. Should the network focus on blended learning at the whole-school level, at the classroom level?
  12. Should the network be limited to particular grades and/or subjects?
  13. Should the network be limited to certain geographies?
  14. Should the network be limited to educators, or open to innovators?
  15. What types of training and support should the network provide?
  16. Should network activities be loose, or prescriptive?
  17. What are the best roles for external experts to play in supporting the network?
  18. What structure do you want to create for mentoring relationships in your blended learning network?
  19. Should you gather the best available candidates to pilot the network, or work with a preselected group?
  20. How much should the first cohort be about “getting it right,” versus serving as a test case for future iterations?

Unfortunately, most brick and mortar schools have not leveraged blended learning techniques that may turn students’ online time into increased instructional time. Ableidinger’s thoughtful work may provide those tasked with bringing blended learning to the masses a framework to consider before setting up field tests.


Hello Fellow MOOCers

Hello Fellow MOOCers,

Welcome to Improving Teacher-Student Relationships. We are excited that over 800 of you have decided to join us for this course. We have spent the summer curating resources for this MOOC. It has been a wonderful intellectual journey for us. We hope it becomes a rewarding endeavor for you and helps you improve the relationships in your classroom.

While Mr. Thomas is an experienced online educator, I have been more of a traditional classroom teacher throughout my career. Last year, I became a 1:1 iPad educator, which not only helped me lower my class fail rate by 50%, but also helped me forge deeper relationships with my students.

I have used student surveys for years. We will talk more about them in Week Three. Classroom surveys have definitely helped me learn what is important to my students. Last year, working in a 1:1 environment also helped me personalize education and connect with more students. For the first five weeks of the semester, I had a student who I will call Valerie (not her real name). I knew she was very smart, but she wasn’t engaged in class, wasn’t completing her classwork, and wasn’t doing any of my homework. She was painfully shy and would not interact with me or the other students.

Life Preserver

After a survey revealed that approximately 90 percent of my students had internet access at home, I started offering extra-credit assignments online. To my surprise, Valerie became my early adopter. She started posting to the class discussion boards even though she would never contribute to discussions in class. She began participating in virtual field trips and engaged in every online assignment that I offered. Within five weeks, her grade had gone from an F to a C and it was rising each week.

I began talking to her about comments she had made online. It was evident that she understood the World History readings and could connect the materials to modern day problems. One day, I lobbed a softball her way by asking her a question she had answered on the discussion board. One of my particularly domineering student’s head swiveled in astonishment as Valerie completed her answer. “You know how to talk and you know what you are talking about,” he gasped. I saw a little flash of a smile slide across her face and she never looked back. Although, Valerie never blossomed into what I would call an extrovert, she began actively participating in most class activities and finished the year with the highest grade in the class.

As I reflected on the year, I realized that if it weren’t for the 1:1 environment, I probably would have written Valerie off and she most likely would have failed my course. I was only able to reach her via online methods. After we built a virtual relationship, she felt comfortable enough to establish a real relationship. This school year, I was pleased to see Valerie hanging out on the quad with another student from our class. She has turned her high school life around.

Happy Grad

Teaching can be such a rewarding profession, but it is not easy. Sometimes students make it near impossible to build positive relationships with them. I know I am frequently haunted by thoughts of the students that I have been unable to reach. We all know what life is like for high school dropouts. Educators save lives one at a time. I hope this course helps you find and connect with the Valeries in your classes. I look forward to spending the next six weeks with you.

Improving Teacher-Student Relationships

Many schools and districts are examining MOOCs as a method for “flipping” professional development for their teachers. Improving Teacher and Student Relationships is one of more than 30 Canvas Network courses that start this month. Canvas has hosted over 300 MOOCs from 125 organizations. The breadth of these offerings provide districts with methods to meet the intrinsic motivation needs of technology-dependent staff members, differentiate instruction for their non-tech using staff, and allow teachers a greater amount of choice in their professional learning overall.

Sylvain Labeste_2009

Reichert & Hawley (2014) found that the teacher-student connection does not merely contribute to or enhance teaching and learning; this relationship is the very medium through which successful teaching and learning is carried out. Research indicates that the factors described in successful teacher student relationships can be developed. Teachers who effectively establish positive relationships with their students are characterized by: reaching out, often beyond standard classroom protocols, to locate and meet particular student needs; locating and responding to students’ individual interests and talents; sharing common interests and talents; sharing common characteristics, such as ethnicity, faith, and learning approaches; being willing, when appropriate, to disclose personal experiences; being willing to accommodate a measure of opposition; and being willing to reveal some degree of personal vulnerability.

Canvas Badge

Researchers are still defining what barriers teachers perceive in improving relationships with their students and how online and traditional teachers differ in building teacher student relationships. The goal of this course is to help teachers develop growth mindsets about improving their relationships with students. Playlists of video lectures, readings, and discussion board activities will allow teachers to thinkaloud and practice with relationship-building tools within a caring instructional community. This course will review contemporary research and pedagogical programs that you can implement in your classroom to enhance teaching and learning. Enroll here.

Online Consortia: Course Sharing (Part of a Series)

High quality insights from Dr. Keith Hampson on the conflicts unfolding while Universities debate how to increase capacity in online education. It is interesting to note that while UC seems to be reducing the number of online courses they offer, Forbes recently estimated the market for online education at $1.07B per year. Publicly-funded organizations cannot afford to sit by while private companies build superior positions. and crowd out innovation. Thanks to @PhilonEdTech for bringing this post to my attention.

Higher Ed Management


We heard a couple of months back about Unizin launching a consortium of large state universities to share course content, content systems, and analytics. More recently we learnt about UC Online Education‘s decision to slow down its already tepid push into a system-wide collaboration to offer online courses. These initiatives join a long list of efforts to expand online education by sharing resources across institutions.

The logic of building collaborations is infallible: joining forces can potentially bring down costs, reduce risk, access to better resources, stimulate innovation, ward off competition, and more. But there are more a few failed efforts to ward off any naive assumptions that academic collaborations — particularly those that concern shared courses — are fool proof. There are more than 50 consortia in North America and almost as many types of consortia. There are right ways to do it, and wrong ways.

Having had a…

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