Friday, September 26, 2014

Variables involved in creating a school that is based on technology

What does it take for technology to have a meaningful impact on the capacity of a school? 

By Rob Koch

The potential for technological innovation to increase the ability of a school to facilitate instruction remains largely untapped in many schools.  There are multiple factors that influence the effectiveness of technology implementation.  Levin and Schrum (2013) conducted a study of eight award-winning schools that considered technology as an important element of their success.  The study stressed the importance of using a systems thinking approach to implementing technology that addresses all of these factors at the same time.  Peter Senge (2012) defined systems thinking as the study of organizational structures and behavior focusing on identifying high-leverage strategies.

Levin and Schrum’s study identified the following components as being important for the implementation of technology:

·       Vision:  Teachers in their study stressed the importance of having a clear vision that guides the practices of the entire school. 

·       Distributed Leadership:  Levin and Schrum also found that distributed played an important role in implementing new strategies to improve learning.  Their study primarily focused on the teacher empowerment effect of distributed leadership (DL).  Harris (2013) would also point to the ability of DL to increase the organizational knowledge of the school and the data-driven practices of professional communities.  Taken together, teachers in a DL model work harder to implement new practices based on data-driven decisions through collaboration. 

·       School culture:   The most compelling finding of the Levin and Schrum study regarding school culture was the importance of trust and establishing digital citizenship.

·       Technology planning and Support:  Levin and Schrum found that the majority of schools that they studied found it important to have IT support in place.

·       Professional development:    They also found that schools that were effective in implementing technology provided time for professional learning communities.

·       Curriculum and instructional practices:  Some of the benefits that the study found were increased accesses to information, teachable moments for information literacy, and the ability to gather data quickly.

·       Funding:  Many of the schools changed their textbook policies to allow for open educational resources, replacing the cost of a textbook with the cost of a tablet or other device.  Some districts implemented policies allowing students to bring their own technology.

·       Partnerships:  Levin and Schrum also found that technology enabled the schools to strengthen their communications with parents.  Additionally, they noted that through partnerships with businesses, schools were able to increase their funding.

It was interesting to use to gain further insight into the findings of Levin and Schrum (Please feel free to explore and comment).  In developing this model, the factors that seemed to arise out of other factors were not considered as independent variables (slider).  For example, it was determined that school-parents and school-organizations partnerships would be influenced by the level of inclusiveness and relationships of the DL practices.  Additionally, independent variable were selected considering the ability of the school leaders to make choices regarding the implementation and allocation of efforts and resources.  (The Insightmaker contains detailed information regarding the assumptions that were made in creating the model.) The importance of distributed leadership and the vision of the school become apparent in this model.   

Harris, A. (2013). Distributed school leadership: Developing tomorrow's leaders Routledge.
Levin, B. B., & Schrum, L. (2013). Using systems thinking to leverage technology for school improvement: Lessons learned from award-winning secondary schools/districts. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(1), 29-51.
Senge, P. M., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., & Dutton, J. (2012). Schools that learn (updated and revised): A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education Random House LLC.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Open Educational Resources to Improve Student Achievement

A recent review from the What Works Clearinghouse (2014) reported that a study of the effectiveness of using MOOC’s as part of a blended classroom environment resulted in higher test scores. This report and several others indicate that open educational resources (OER) when used in a blended classroom result in higher levels of student achievement. Welsh and Dragusin (2013) discussed the business aspect of OER in relation to post-secondary institutions, concluding that they need to adjust their practices. They identified potential problems that might arise in the future such as revenue models, accreditation, course completion rate, and student achievement. I believe two things to be true. First teachers will always be an essential component of the educational system. Secondly, the work of teachers and organization of schools in their current state is quickly becoming irrelevant. The question that begs to be considered is what is the potential effect of OER on the public educational system? How do public schools need to adapt to capitalize on the vast potential of OER? How do we prepare teachers to provide education in the 21st Century?

Welsh, D. H., & Dragusin, M. (2013). The New Generation of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCS) and Entrepreneurship Education. Small Business Institute® Journal, 9(1), 51-65.

What Works Clearinghouse (2014). Interactive online learning on campus: Testing MOOCs and other platforms in hybred formats in the university system of Maryland. WWC Quick Review. Retreived from

Rob Koch

Tuesday, August 12, 2014



   Educators can learn a great deal from the science of games.  Children learn at an early age through playing different games.  In fact many of these games are games that they made up themselves.  The benefits of playing games extends beyond learning to the wellbeing of students.  Play relieves stress, improves brain function, stimulates the mind and boosts creativity, improves relationships, and energizes.  

What is gamification?  Gamification does not mean reducing learning to simplistic tasks or creating a game.  It means making learning more fun and engaging while preserving the credibility of the lesson (Muntean, 2011).    

                         Gamification v. Classroom Instruction (typical)
Set achievable goals within participant’s zone of proximal development.
Sequential graduation of difficulty
Generalization of skills
Engage students to learn
Anticipatory Set
Frequent checks for progress and understanding
Provide models
Guided Practice
Independent Practice
Utilizes social learning and collaboration
Consequences for not getting the right answer the first time

Allows multiple attempts until the learner solves the problem

Provides immediate feedback (a condition of flow)

Requires mastery of topic before moving on

Students earn points to achieve different levels of mastery

Students provided with intrinsic and tangible rewards as the learn

Related Topics:

Video Games
Video games has been shown to significantly improve a variety of metal abilities including reasoning, mental rotation, spatial attention, memory, reasoning, and reaction time (McLaughlin, Gandy, Allaire, & Whitlock, 2012).   However, there have also been numerous studies that indicate that videos games can have a detrimental effect as well.    Addictive behavior towards games, loss of educational time, increase in ADHD behaviors, tie away from other activities such as education or physical activity, and increased anti-social behaviors have all been associated with extensive video game playing Bavelier, Green, Han, Renshaw, Merzenich, & Gentile, 2011).

The Effect of Play on Health

Individuals from low SES environments tend to suffer from higher a higher allostatic load or the amounts of biological repercussions associated with stress resulting from the release of stress mediators such as cortisol (McEwen & Seeman, 2009).  Over time the release of stress mediators can accumulate and have negative effects of various organs leading to diseases (McEwen & Seeman, 2009).  A study of 1207 found that adults with a childhood history of low SES who engage in shift-and-persist strategies had lower allostatic loads (Chen, Miller, Lachman, Gruenewald, & Seeman, 2012).  Playing games involves the skills of reforming a problem and persisting until mastery is accomplished.  

By Rob Koch

Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Han, D. H., Renshaw, P. F., Merzenich, M. M., & Gentile, D. A. (2011). Brains on 
      video games. Nature Reviews Neuroscience,12(12), 763-768.

Chen, E., Miller, G. E., Lachman, M. E., Gruenewald, T. L., & Seeman, T. E. (2012). Protective factors for adults
      from low-childhood socioeconomic circumstances: The benefits of shift-and-persist for allostatic 
      load.Psychosomatic Medicine74(2), 178-186.

Deterding, Sebastian (2011). Meaningful Play: Getting>>Gamification right [Slideshare Slides]. Retrieved 

Muntean, C. I. (2011, October). Raising engagement in e-learning through gamification. In Proc. 6th International
        Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL (pp. 323-329). Retreived from

McEwen, B., & Seeman, T. (2009). Allostatic load and allostasis. In Allostatic load notebook. Retrieved 

Chen, E., Miller, G. E., Lachman, M. E., Gruenewald, T. L., & Seeman, T. E. (2012). Protective factors for adults from 
                  low-childhood socioeconomic circumstances: The benefits of shift-and-persist for allostatic 
                 load.Psychosomatic Medicine74(2), 178-186.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Thinking in a blended world

When many teachers discuss teaching in a blended classroom, a flipped classroom, or just plain analog they are missing the point. Our world is already blended, but do students have the knowledge a skills to interact with it?   The internet is no longer a thing that people go to a computer to access.  Through wearable technology it has become become an intimate companion that walks with us throughout our life.  Students have access to the internet and the information that it provides 24-7, as long as their data plan is funded. (Which raises issues of equity for low income students).  Information has no longer become a thing that need to be memorized.  Information has become a thing that needs to be evaluated and manipulated into a meaningful context.  To prepare students for their future, they must receive instruction in different methods of thinking and solving problems.

While not the exact words of Einstein, the paraphrased version
of an New York Times Article: Atomic Education Urged
 by Einstein
Linear Thinking
Simple cause-effect thinking that ignores the relationships between systems provides an incomplete view of the world.  This type of thinking often results in negative unintended consequences.  The movement to promote bio-fuels is a prime example of this.  The linear thought behind this is that the US is capable of growing crops that can be easily transformed into fuel, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and pollution. Farmers will also benefit from increased demand on their crops as well.  I wonder if anywhere in this process anyone asked about the wisdom of burning food in our gas tanks?  Increase use of bio-fuels has resulted in more land being utilized for crops which has reduced the amount of land that is available for forests and grasslands that help to process carbon emissions.  A study determined that it will take over 167 years for corn ethanol to make a difference in the carbon content of our atmosphere (Sexton, Rajagopal, Hochman, Zilberman, & Roland-Holst, 2009).  Additionally, it will result in reduced biodiversity (Sexton et al., 2009).  The impact of bio-fuels production on the water supply also needs to be considered, not only is the damand for water increased, the chemicals that are used in farming can contaminate the water supply (Sexton et al., 2009). Anyone that purchases their own groceries has noticed the increased prices of food that has resulted from the competition between the table and the gas tank.  On a global scale food production per capita is decreasing (Sexton et al. 2009).

Systems Thinking
A systems thinking approach to bio-fuel might have resulted in a different decision.  A systems approach examine the internal functioning of a system as well as its relationship with other systems.  Systems thinking, developed in the 1940's has not gained popularity until recently.  Instead design thinking has dominated much of the decision making processes until recently.  The primary difference between the two problem solving methods is that design thinking does not include the external systems in the reasoning process.  Additionally, systems thinking recognizes the complexity of global relationships and recognizes the futility in trying to control all of the variables, whereas design thinking assumes that the variables can be controlled.  I would argue that either form of thinking is far superior to narrow cause-effect reasoning.

Importance of Learning Styles
Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of emphasis on non-linear thinking is that it lends itself to a global learning style much more than a sequential learning style.  Studies have found that learning styles are influenced by cultures (Sywelem, Al-Harbi, & Fathema, 2012).  Global learners are in the minority and typically do not not perform as well in school,  this may be because most teachers are also sequential learners themselves.  Consequently, the information that is presented in classes is sequential without any accommodations for global learning styles.  Even the new Common Core standards which is meant to instill 21st Century Skills, does not address non-linear thinking.    Yet it is this type of thinking that is so important for developing sustainable development.
By Rob Koch

More information:

Systems Thinking in Schools: The Waters Foundation
  The Cloud Institute
The Creative Learning Exchange

Kurilovas, E., Kubilinskiene, S., & Dagiene, V. (2014). Web 3.0 – Based personalisation of learning objects in virtual learning environments. Computers In Human Behavior, 30654-662. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.07.039

Sexton, S., Rajagopal, D., Hochman, G., Zilberman, D., & Roland-Holst, D. (2009). Biofuel policy must evaluate environmental, food security and energy goals to maximize net benefits. California agriculture63(4).

Sywelem, M., Al-Harbi, Q., Fathema, N., & Witte, J. E. (2012). Learning Style Preferences of Student Teachers: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Online Submission1, 10-24.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Reforming Education

United Nations Development Program
     What does learning look like?  Somewhere along the way to improve education, it has been damaged. The awesomeness of "eureka" transformed into normative bubbles.  The wonderful experience of falling down repeatedly until finally a first glorious step is taken replaced with a paralyzing fear of failure.    Inspirational feats of high performance  have been standardized.

    In reading Andy Hargreaves' article, describing the ways that the educational system has changed, I found myself reflecting on the reason that I choose to be an educator.  It was a long time ago, but I know that it was not to subject students to endless barrages of tests that arbitrarily label them as "partially-proficient" or "advanced."  I do see the value of knowing where my students and my skills fall in relation to others.  The series of reforms that the educational system has undergone in the past thirty years has helped move education forward; however, the road to improving education is far from complete.

Hargreaves (2009) classified the ways in which school reform has been implemented.  The first way of reform involved teachers' independent efforts to increase pedagogical efficiency (Hargreaves, 2009).  According to Hargreaves, the independent nature of teacher initiated reform resulted in an effort to standardized the educational system.  The standardized system then resulted in Hargreaves' third way which involved top-down efforts to force reform on schools through a system of threats and intimidation.

Through an extensive study of educational reform and educational systems, Hargreaves (2009) derived a “Forth Way” to reform education, consisting of purposeful partnerships, principles of professionalism, and catalysts for coherence.

     Five pillars of purposeful partnerships:

1.    An inspiring inclusive vision:  We need to develop a shared vision for education that addresses essential needs of society that extends beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.  The educational system needs to prepare students for their future.

2.    Public engagement: Re-energize the public's passion for education

3.    No achievement without investment:  Educating children requires investments beyond money; society has to put forth the effort and time to educate their children.  Replace technology time with time for tikes.

4.    Corporate educational responsibility:  Self-serving corporate support for educating children to learn skills that serve their industry needs to be changed to supporting the needs of society.

5.    Students as partners in change:  Empower students through establishing their responsibility for their training, and monitoring their success.

Three principles of professionalism

1.    High-quality teachers: If we want high-quality people to teach then we must provide a competitive salary.  Teachers also bear the responsibility of earning prestige and persevering the integrity of their profession.

2.    Powerful professionalism:  Teachers collaborate and challenge each other to increase the performance of the educational system.

3.    Lively learning communities:  Teachers involved in collaborative, data based, ongoing improvement to refine instruction.

Four catalysts of coherence:

1.    Sustainable Leadership: The job of leading and managing a school involves an extensive number of factors resulting in leaders burning out.  Utilize distributed leadership to increase stakeholder buy-in and share the responsibilities.

2.    Net with no nanny: Professional network driven by a shared vision but without a "nanny" to intervene allowing teachers to deepen their practices free from the whims of trendy innovation.

3.    Responsibility before accountability: Teachers are responsible for the performance of all children.  Multiple sources of data continuously collected to monitor the performance of teachers.

4.    Build from the bottom, steer from the top: Teachers set high standards objectives to improve learning through a system of collective responsibility.

The top-down reform measure of No Child Left Behind has resulted in increasing the number of schools classified as unacceptable and deemed “broken," by the US Secretary of Education.  The idea that teachers have a monopoly on education is not viable.  Educators and politicians must share the responsibility for education with parents, community members, corporations, and students.  Somewhere the vision for education became meeting standards and not preparing students for their future.

By Rob Koch
Hargreaves, A. (2009), The fourth way of change: Towards an Age of inspiration and sustainability. in Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (Eds.). (2009). Change wars. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

First Generation Student

    Entering college there are a great deal of unknowns. First generation college students are often left to find the answers for themselves.  A recent study found that first generation students benefited from a course that discussed the obstacles that they face as a result of their social class (Stephens, Hamedani, & Destin, 2014).  Students that participated in this intervention had higher GPA's than first generation students who did not.  Accessing college support programs and meeting with professors regarding questions were some of the behaviors that they noted as increasing.  For educators that work with students from low income families, this is an important lesson.  Are students in your school taught to advocate for themselves?  Are students taught where to go to find answers if they need help?

The magnitude of students’ dreams and efforts are the only factors that should limit their success.  
By Rob Koch


Mertes, S. J., & Hoover, R. E. (2014). Predictors of first-year retention in a community college.              
       Community College Journal Of Research & Practice, 38(7), 651-660.
       doi:10.1080/10668926.2012.711143 Google

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Implications of Web 3.0

Technology has changed the way people learn and communicate; however, the influence of technology in schools continues to be limited.  The internet has gone through many transformations from Web 1.0 creating the information age, to Web 2.0 creating an age of social networking and collaboration, to Web 3.0 creating an age where the internet has entered the real world.  Students are operating in a technology rich environment at home, yet they are not having the same experience in the classroom.

There is no question that Web 1.0 changed education through providing a global library, where everyone could find anything or even author anything.  In the classroom, teacher preparation programs considered Web Quests as cutting-edge examples of the effective use of technology. However, information literacy (IL) is lacking in most teacher education programs teacher education programs (Smith, 2013).  Information literacy is an essential component education.  Not only do consumers of information need find information, but they also need to evaluate the information that they find.  The idea that western academic scholars control knowledge is no longer relevant to our world.  Yet, college professors have noted the lack of information literacy in freshman entering their institution (Backe, 2009).  

 Web 2.0 further changed the way that learning occurs.  Collaboration has started to be implement in classrooms.  Asynchronous learning through forums, wikis, Google applications, calendars, citation tools, and social bookmarking are among the tools implemented on a limited basis (Chen & Bryer, 2012).  Some programs capitalize on the social learning aspect of online learning to enhance the depth and quality of student learning.  Epals provides a collaborative learning network that facilitates collaborative learning between students and teachers in different countries.  Additionally, Moodle, an open-source learning environment, provides several applications including wikis, forums, and workshops to increase student learning.  However, the use of social media applications for learning remains largely untapped despite its popularity with students (Chen & Bryer, 2012). 

Bandwidth has increased allowing for streaming videos and online synchronous learning.  The use of streaming videos in the classroom to enrich learning is popular.  Flipped-classrooms, where the student view lectures at home and participates in project-based learning in the classroom is another way in which learning can be enhanced.  Khan academy and other online schools provide free lessons to enhance instruction. 
Web 3.0 is already upon us and the potential for enhancing learning and teaching has expanded.  Wearable technology, semantics, 3D visualizations, virtual reality, augmented reality, distributed computing, big data, linked data, cloud computing, and global repositories are all tools available to enhance learning (Dominic, Francis, & Pilomenraj, 2014).  Wearable technology has enabled learning to occur anywhere, students can easily access the internet from their phones, through distributive computing applications create their assignments, and save them to their cloud where they turn them into their teacher to be graded.  Imagine a student in New Delhi, India, and another student in Denver, Colorado, conducting a study on the environmental impact of air pollution while another student wearing Google Glasses, in a rainforest in Brazil, collects data.  Of course, they would be working with a scientist to gather and analyze information for the United Nations Environmental program.  This is not something of the future; it is only an example of what can be happening today.

By Rob Koch

Chen, B., & Bryer, T. (2012). Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal and informal learning. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 13(1), 87-104.
Badke, W. (2009). How we failed the net generation. Online, 33(4), 47-49.
Dominic, M., Francis, S., & Pilomenraj, A. (2014). E-learning in web 3.0. International Journal of Modern Education & Computer Science, 6(2), 8.
Smith, J. K. (2013). Secondary teachers and information literacy (IL): Teacher understanding and perceptions of IL in the classroom. Library & Information Science Research (07408188), 35(3), 216-222. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2013.03.003


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preparing Students for Their Future: Dual Enrollment

Preparing Students for Their Future: Dual Enrollment in High Schools

Increasingly high school students are taking advantage of the opportunity to attend college courses while enrolled in high school.  This practice of dual enrollment offers a means for some students to get a head start on their college career.  Many times the school district will pay for the students’ tuition, if they pass their classes.  This has the potential to increase college attendance for many low income or minority students who are underrepresented on college campuses.  The question that remains is how effective are dual enrollment programs?

A recent study indicated that dual enrollment programs are working.  They found that dual enrolled students out performed traditionally enrolled students even in their second year of college (Crouse & Allen, 2014).  Furthermore, dual enrollment increases student enrollment in four-year programs.  The same study found that 58 percent of Iowa’s dual enrolled students attended a four-year college compared to 42 percent of all Iowa high school graduates (Crouse & Allen, 2014).  However, another study found that students who participate in dual enrollment in a four-year college were 200% more likely to earn a four-year degree than those beginning in a community college (Pretlow, 2014).  Dual enrollment increases student attendance and performance in college; however, the direction that students take after graduating high school is important to consider.

While dual enrollment helps students to perform better in their college classes, high schools can improve their dual enrollment programs.  Dual enrolled students are more likely to take introductory humanities courses than math, sciences or career related courses (Crouse & Allen, 2014; Khazem & Khazem, 2012).  Khazem and Khazem noted the importance of dual enrolled students receiving college level counseling that focuses students on academic-career paths.  Furthermore, they also point out that exposure to career track courses provides students access to labs and facilities not available in traditional high schools (Khazem & Khazem, 20012).  Providing students with the opportunity to learn more about the career path that they have decided upon can work to increase students’ motivation to continue on to college once they graduate from high school. 

Scheduling and transportation poses a potential barrier for many high schools when considering dual enrollment.  Enrollment through online courses helps with scheduling and can help address the transportation barrier that is common with minority students (Khazem & Khazem, 20012).  However, this does not provide students with the experience of attending school on a college campus with other college students.  For many students, the college experience plays a key role in building student efficacy.  Another option that also has similar drawbacks is having the college instructor teach the class on the high school campus.

While dual enrollment can play an important role in preparing high school students for college, high schools can adopt practices that will increase student success in college.  High schools can teach writing practices that focus on substantiating one’s claims, and providing proper citations; use syllabi modeled after ones used in college courses, and develop critical thinking skills to prepare students for college (Khazem & Khazem, 20012). 

Further Information

To learn about dual enrollment for you child, contact your child's high school. Provides an overview of dual enrollment in Colorado.


Crouse, J. D., & Allen, J. (2014). College Course Grades for Dual Enrollment Students. Community College Journal Of Research & Practice38(6), 494-511. doi:10.1080/10668926.2011.567168

Khazem, J. H., & Khazem, H. A. (2012). Dual enrollment: The way forward. International Journal Of Education Research7(2), 135-150.

Pretlow, J. (2014). Dual enrollment, community colleges, and baccalaureate degree attainment. Community College Journal Of Research & Practice38(2/3), 264-269. doi:10.1080/10668926.2014.851981

Friday, March 21, 2014

Systems Thinking in Education

Systems Thinking: Big Picture Thinking


Critical analysis . . . problem solving . . . creativity . . . systems thinking are the things that we need to prepare students for the 21st century.  Systems thinking is especially relevant to developing a 21st century understanding of the world. A world where understanding how one's actions affect the actions of others.   

What is systems thinking?  If analysis involves breaking a thing into smaller parts and thinking about how each part works, systems thinking looks at how the thing interacts with other things.   The Waters Foundation ( has developed 13 habits of systems thinking:
  • Seeks to understand the big picture
  • Observes how elements within systems change over time
  • Recognizes that a system's structure generates its behavior understanding the complexities
  • Examines interdependence causing cause and effect relationships to be circular rather than linear
  • Changes perspectives to increase understanding
  • Rigorously examines assumptions, beliefs, and perceptions
  • Considers issues fully and resists urge to jump to a conclusion
  • Makes mental models to understand what is happening
  • Uses understanding to identify points of  leverage : what small change can result in the desired effect?
  • Considers both short-term and long-term consequences
  • Identifies unintended consequences 
  • Recognizes that an action will experience time delays before a desired result takes place
  • Successive approximation: Monitors and evaluates the behavior of the system and takes action when necessary 

An example of systems thinking:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation (creator) (2011, August 28). Re-thinking progress:
The circular economy [video file]. Retrieved from

This type of thinking is found in the common core standards k-12, STEM, and 21st Century Skills.  Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than I.Q.,  has stated that this type of thinking helps to facilitate the development of emotional intelligence (2014).  Recognizing the impact that the actions of others have on you and your actions have on the emotions of others is central to understanding social-emotional dynamics.  Taking this a step further, systemic thinking can also be found in the conflict resolution practices of Restorative Justice, a highly successful school discipline program.  Restorative justice focus on how ones actions affect others.  Research indicates that student participation in social emotional learning programs has been shown to have a 11 percent increase in student achievement (Durlak, Weissberg,  Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2010).  Additionally, Restorative Justice strategies have been associated with increased student achievement (Schiff, 2013).

Systems thinking has been around as a discipline for over 50 years.  However, its application for the 21st century seems untapped.  Providing instruction on systems thinking in the classroom has a large potential for deepening student understanding of content, decreasing discipline problems, and increasing emotional intelligence.  In a world where our interdependence is inescapable, understanding the potential of our actions on others, positive or negative, is essential.

Further Information

Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge discusses system thinking in relationship to empathy building and the use of systems thinking in the schools.  Excellent starting point for systems thinking in schools.  Another good source for systems thinking in schools.  Information regarding social emotional learning in schools.  Fix School Discipline is a good starting point to learn about restorative justice in schools.


Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011), The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82: 405–432.

Goleman, D. & Senge, P. (Performers). (2014, March 17). Education For Today: Rethinking Skills for Success with Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Schiff, M. (2013, January). Dignity, disparity and desistance: Effective restorative justice strategies to plug the “school-to-prison pipeline.”. Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice conference, Washington, DC. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



Homework can be a source of contention for students, teachers, and parents.  However, some recent studies on homework offer potential insight to guide teachers in assigning homework.

Title : 5/365 | so. much. homework. 12 chapters to read & do journal… | Flickr - Photo Sharing!Source : : anna gutermuthlicense : Attribution 2.0 Generic

Planning: Taking the Stress Out of Homework

The development of student’s time management skills seems to play an important role in homework completion.  I offer a two-week course that provides instruction on time management, using their smart-phones or a paper planner.  Students who employ these time management skills, have communicated greater confidence in their ability to complete their work, are more likely to have their assignments completed before the deadline, and have seen significant improvement in their overall achievement.  A study of low-income students found that almost half of low-achieving students were confused about how much time it would take to get their homework done (Bempechat, Li, Neier, Gillis, & Holloway, 2011).  As one of my students stated, “I think I have too much to do, so I don’t even bother trying.”  Once she started using the simple time management strategy, her achievement in school and attitude towards homework increased. 

Why Bother? The Cycle of Indifference

Bempechat et al. (2011), found that teachers who did not hold high standards for homework or rarely assigned it communicated to the students that it was not important.  This attitude was picked up on by the students who chose not to do their homework.  I have heard from several teachers that they do not assign homework because it is not being completed.  I wonder if the reason for the lack of completion is that teachers have communicated that the homework is not important. 

What Works in the Classroom also Works at Home

The same engagement strategies that are used in the classroom apply to homework as well.  The power of collaborative learning and providing meaningful learning seem to be lost when learning takes place at the kitchen table.  Students who do not see value in the work that they are doing are not motivated to complete it (Bempechat et al., 2011).  While it does not replace the power of going to a friend’s house to work on an assignment, online programs offer many opportunities for collaborative learning.  Through using technology like Google Docs students can work collaboratively on assignments in a real-time environment.  Learning at home still has a social component.  

Applying Technology in New Ways

A new study offers an interesting way of providing homework that seems to have promising applications.  The study implemented the following practices in delivering homework:

1. Repeated retrieval practice – In addition to receiving the standard homework assignment, students were given follow-up problems on the same topic in two additional assignments that counted only toward their course participation grade.

2. Spacing -- Rather than giving all the problem sets for a week's lectures in one assignment, the researchers spaced the problems over three weeks of assignments.

3. Feedback -- Rather than waiting one week to learn how they did, students received immediate feedback on intervention homework, and they were required to view the feedback to get credit for the assignment.  (Ruth, 2014, para. 6).

The result of this implementation of homework was a 7% increase in the scores of students (Ruth, 2014).  This follows with what educators are taught about the power of feedback on learning.  One of the particularly interesting components of this work was the requirement of students to read the feedback that the instructors provide.  Placing importance on feedback and then providing students with the opportunity to implement what they have learned is not new to education; however, this study demonstrates, that technology could enhance feedback.  

Many electronic learning environments can be utilized in this manner.  For example, Moodle is a highly developed open source environment that can support this type of learning.  The developers at Kaizena provides the ability to include the teacher's audio feedback in a Google Doc  (see:  
Kaizena provides a good explanation of how to provide effective feedback using their application.


It is easy to forget that many of our students do not have the self-management skills to successfully complete their homework. We need to provide instruction in this area. Furthermore if teachers do not communicate the importance of completing homework to students then students will not see the value of doing it themselves. The nature of learning does not change because it happens at home the instructional techniques that work in class also work at home. Finally there are many applications of technology that can support collaborative learning in the classroom.

Bempechat, J., Li, J., Neier, S. M., Gillis, C. A., & Holloway, S. D. (2011). The homework experience: Perceptions of low-income youth. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(2), 250-278. 

Ruth, D. (2014). Rice study: Simple changes to homework improved student learning. EurekAlert!, Retrieved from