Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Factors Impacting Effective Technology Use: Small Group Instruction

After spending years conducting classroom walkthroughs, I believe I have witnessed most forms of small group instruction. I've seen everything from self-directed centers at the Pre-K-2 levels (and even on a few high school campuses) to a small cadre of middle school students engaged in an anchor activity quantifying results from an online survey about campus bullying. Research has shown that properly structured and well-managed small group configurations can generate powerful results in terms of student learning, retention, and overall college success.

As a former classroom teacher, I remember the first time I organized stations for my 9th grade students. Aside from the initial struggle, my high schools students encountered working collaboratively, conducting peer evaluations, and self-monitoring their own behavior. I did notice how natural it was for them to exchange ideas, develop their own voice, and tackle complex problems beyond what they were willing to do on their own.

As a technology consultant, I also recall one instance where we spent the entire summer working with teams of middle school teachers on Project-Based Learning (PBL) and the use of the 5E Model prior to the arrival of their grant-funded mobile devices. Similar to adding oil to a hot frying pan, as soon as the digital tools arrived in early December, the aggregate LoTi Level increased from a LoTi 1 to a LoTi 3/4 almost overnight.

Later this month, we at LoTi will be releasing nationwide the LoTi Digital Age Survey 20th Anniversary Edition that explores the connection between variables such as small group learning (e.g., learning stations/centers, cooperative grouping, and/or individualized instruction) and the Level of Teaching Innovation (LoTi). My hunch is that results will show a strong correlation given the elements embedded at the higher LoTi Levels (e.g., collaborative problem-solving, student generated questions, real world connections, rich uses of technology) and the fundamental structure of small group learning.

This blog post is the final entry in a series of fourteen online entries highlighting factors that impact the effective use of technology in today's classrooms. This series focuses on each of the research variables used to conduct comparative analyses as part of the LoTi Digital Age Survey 20th Anniversary Edition.