Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Quantifying Success at the End of the Year

As schools close down for the summer, a bit of reflection is generally in order relating to campus goals. At our LoTi Digital Age School campuses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, each school created a Next Steps Action Plan at the beginning of the school year that targeted three primary indicators: Student Achievement, Student H.E.A.T. (Higher order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections, Technology use) and Teacher Innovation (LoTi).

Though student achievement results will not be released until later in the summer, a close inspection of the student H.E.A.T. and LoTi data at the end of the year will tell us how well we prepared students to showcase what they know and are able to do. Since the underlying thread to both the LoTi and H.E.A.T. frameworks are a set of evidence-based practices referred to as Digital Age Best Practices, we possess great confidence that the resulting achievement data will correlate to the amount of growth that occurred during the school year in both the level of teaching innovation (LoTi) as well as the amount of student H.E.A.T.

Our action research has shown that the best way to prepare students for intensive, multi-dimensional state assessments (e.g., PARCC, Smarter Balanced, PSSA, STAAR) is providing challenging and thoughtful instruction on a daily basis that mirrors the rigor found on many state assessments. As an ex-college football jock, let me offer a fundamental football cliché as a question… Does the physicality of our daily operational curriculum mirror the physicality of the state assessment in terms of cognitive complexity and real-world connections?

If yes, we can exude the same confidence of “…the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.” In other words, we did our best to address the pertinent content standards that students will need as they matriculate to the next grade level. If not, then perhaps, we need to brainstorm additional strategies that can help promote increased daily student engagement in the classroom. As we all know, providing high caliber instruction on a daily basis is difficult, challenging, and time-consuming. The key is incrementally improving our own level of performance as teachers and leaders which frequently leads to significant student achievement gains.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

An All-Too-Common Theme in Schools

As part of the ongoing action research I oversee for LoTi Connection and the National Business Education Alliance, I regularly review doctoral dissertation projects using the LoTi Framework. This week I reviewed a 2016 doctoral dissertation by Elcie Douce from St. John’s University entitled, "The effect of foreign language teachers' level of technology integration on students' development of higher-order thinking skills." This dissertation used the LoTi Framework for data collection purposes to generate insights into technology’s potential for elevating student cognition.

The findings revealed that (1) foreign language teachers' current technology integration level is not fostering students' Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) development and (2) foreign language teachers' perceptions of their current level of technology integration are higher than their actual levels. Unfortunately, the former finding reinforces a familiar theme that somehow the use of technology (i.e., digital resources) in and of itself holds the keys to higher levels of cognitive complexity in the classroom—a theme, by the way, that continues to perpetuate a LoTi Level 2 mindset whereby learning focuses on lower levels of cognitive processing while digital resources are used by students for extension activities, enrichment exercises, information gathering assignments, or presentations.

The latter finding is something that frequently happens whenever one is first introduced to the LoTi and/or H.E.A.T. metrics. Many teachers experience a sudden realization that the key to digital learning is not about the technology, but about dynamic ways of engaging students with personalized learning experiences that prompt them to solve problems and find authentic solutions. Dr. Douce’s results represent a wake-up call for all of us to rethink how we organize our professional development offerings so that they focus in on the learner and ways of engaging students using the available digital resources and not vice versa.