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Alan November Webinar Presents Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success

On December 17, a global audience tuned in to a provocative webinar. It was sponsored by itslearning and presented by Alan November; named one of the nation’s 15 most influential thinkers of the decade by Technology and Learning Magazine. Titled “Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success,” the one-hour webinar explained how leveraging educational technology can completely transform learning. November referenced the findings of influential researchers and thought leaders, as well as the work of successful educators.

November declared that the number-one characteristic of instruction, which fully leveraged technology, would be students’ learning to self-assess. He stated that the biggest barrier to achieving this was the reluctance of many teachers to shift control over to students. November also discussed the following learning approaches:

• Peer assessment and interaction
• Enabling students to make meaningful contributions via their work
• Building an authentic audience for students beyond the classroom and
• Using technology to talk less and listen more in order to really learn about students

November said American teachers are weakest on the last two points.

Along with research findings, November cited real-life examples of the approaches he discussed. One case was the classroom Twitter account of Cathy Cassidy, a first grade teacher in Moose Jaw, Canada. Her Twitter account follows similar classrooms in Italy, Vietnam, Argentina and other countries around the world for the purpose of learning and building relationships.

Cassidy’s first graders enthusiastically write tweets and look at tweets from other first graders. They are highly influenced by what those other children are doing. When her students saw their peers in Vietnam painting masks, they wanted to talk about and duplicate the activity. The students in Vietnam were able to help Cassidy’s students assess their work as a form of peer-to-peer instruction. “I am concerned that many of our classrooms, even though they are connected to the Internet, have not understood the power of social engagement of children,” said November. “We can take this all the way through high school.”

November also shared an example of how student motivation can be generated by meaningful work. He talked about a student who designed a tutorial that garnered 85,000 views on mathtrain.tv. Although the tutorial was extremely useful for both teachers and fellow students, the girl who created it stated that she had received the greatest benefit. She said the activity really helped her learn math concepts, and how to learn. She also admitted that she used to spend as little time as possible on her homework, but she spent three hours designing and redesigning the tutorial.

November also recommended tools such as Minecraft, which he said can cause children to work for hours, developing a work ethic one simply would not see with another medium. “Sometimes just changing the medium can have a really powerful impact,” he said. November recommended that elementary schools in particular tap different mediums to accommodate different learning styles. He also explained how a free app called PRISM could be used as a formative assessment tool for an English language arts class.

Just before November began the question-and-answer section of the webinar, Lisa Dubernard, itslearning’s U.S. director of educational strategy, spent a few minutes explaining how teachers could use the itslearning platform to achieve many of the changes that November had recommended. Among her suggestions were:

  • using the assignment tool to enable students to give each other concrete, actionable feedback
  • creating surveys to encourage student self-reflection
  • letting students use the platform’s blogging feature to reach an authentic audience
  • and using its ePortfolios for self-reflection (and to create work for external groups and purposes).

The “Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success” webinar is available for viewing at no cost at https://vimeo.com/149321663 It details strategies, tools and examples for creating powerful student learning environments.

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