Challenging Perceptions in Education

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There are entire libraries and databases filled with research in education. However, educators often ignore research in favor of experience and a “feel” for teaching. We teachers have a sixth sense that we know what our students need even if it doesn’t jive with the research.

These perceptions are valid, though. After years of experience and tradition, many times how we facilitate learning doesn’t require researched methodology. We know our students and what they need. We know what to expect and how to respond in the classroom.

However, perceptions can be wrong.

Take same-sex classrooms. It’s a relatively popular trend in public education. Classrooms are populated by either boys or girls in order to eliminate deficiencies caused by gender constructs. Girls are more willing to take leadership roles and boys are more able feed off of the competition they generate among themselves, or so the thinking goes. Most of this thinking is based on psychology and a sense among educators that “this just makes sense.”

However, the research on classrooms segregated by gender suggests otherwise. Research is showing that single-sex segregation increases stereotyping and prejudice among students. Also, single-sex classrooms narrow students’ skill sets and interests.

Not only is the research calling single-sex classrooms ineffective and even detrimental, some are looking into whether this approach is even lawful. The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting single-sex classrooms all across the nation. It is the ACLU’s contention that single-sex education perpetuates stereotypes in much the same way that race-based segregated schools once did in this country.

Still, some educators just feel like this approach will work, ignoring the research.

Another example of how our perceptions of students and how they learn happens in the area of technological proficiency. It is perceived that the millennials (those born and raised around the turn of the century) are well-prepared for the technological requirements of the modern workforce. However, just because they are completely surrounded by technology does not mean that they are adept at using it productively.

These perceptions can be quite damaging. The assumption that students know how to best use productivity software and even code leads to a lack of instruction and guidance in these areas, failing to properly prepare them for college or the workforce. It’s akin to assuming every student can read at the same level when they enter a particular grade.

Although we as teachers have experience and instinct on our side, it just isn’t enough in every instance. Turning to data gleaned from formative assessments and academic research to make instructional decisions will only enhance our perception. Expertise can help us sort through this data and make the research work for us.

Take eMINTS for instance. The eMINTS Instructional Model and curriculum is not a collection of arbitrary methodology based on perception. We spend a lot of time researching tools, pedagogy, and methods to bring to teachers. The research on our program has shown mostly success. Even when implementation hasn’t been overwhelmingly successful, the eMINTS model has never been found to be a detriment to student achievement.

Our perception of eMINTS is based on fact, not just a feel.

As you reflect on your year and begin to plan for a new year, challenge your perceptions. Is there research that backs up your gut feeling? What does student data tell you about your classroom approach? Challenge long-held perceptions with research. In the end, your time will spent much more effectively and efficiently.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

 

Tuesday’s Tool: Evernote – Making Research a Bit Easier

In a recent session our cohort talked about teaching students information literacy skills. The group spent a lot of time dialoguing about how to help student organize and use the information they find online. Most everyone agreed that no matter what age they work with students lack the ability to paraphrase or summarize information, gather information in one assessable place (not left at home on their desk), and properly cite sources.

Teaching skills on how to summarize and paraphrase, is a strategy that can be used on a daily basis. Teaching these skills can be embedded into many types of lessons whether studying changes in the Earth’s surface or Spanish explorers.

The web offers quite a few online tools designed to aide in the research process for both recording research information and the location where that resource came from. Some of these tools also allow for sharing and/or collaboration between students and teachers.

Evernote

Who knows why, but I somehow forgot to share my very favorite tool of all for this purpose…..Evernote. Evernote allows a user to take notes anywhere and sync them with all their devices when they have a web connection. A user can include text notes, web clips, audio notes, and image notes using the webcam on their computer. Notes can be tagged so that searching notes is a simple task and notes can be share with others and multiple users can collaborate on projects. Unfortunately there is no built-in citation builder but those are easy enough to create using sites like Son of Citation or the Citation Maker in Recipes4Success and then can be easily copied and pasted into Evernote.

With Evernote, a user creates a free account and then has access to their Evernote notebooks whenever and where ever through a web browser or downloadable application for Windows or Mac. Evernote is even available on many mobile devices.

What are tools you might suggest students use to support them in researching on their quest to complete authentic projects?

Friday 4ALL: Wikipedia – The Debate Continues

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The question still comes up (as it should)……can/should students use Wikipedia as a resource when researching?

In the past I have read about the peer review process and the electronic programs and systems that aide in the review process that Wikipedia articles go through. I have personally felt it was a suitable source of information to use for quick reference and alongside other resources. More recently it occurred to me that maybe Wikipedia has an opinion on this topic of discussion. So I decided it was time to go to the source…

Wikipedia offers many articles on this topic specifically including Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is so Great, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is Not so Great, and even Wikipedia: Citing Wikipedia.

In a nutshell they suggest “You should not use Wikipedia by itself for primary research (unless you are writing a paper about Wikipedia).” (Wikipedia contributors ) Researchers should cite the original source of information and use Wikipedia only as a secondary source to back up that information as they would with other encyclopedias.

Students and teachers must have conversations about author authority and credibility, bias, purpose, and timeliness to completely understand that content on the web can be written by anyone and is not always accurate. Teachers may wish to have their students follow a process or use an evaluation tool such as the How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles (Ayers) a one page PDF with recommendations on how to judge the information found on Wikipedia pages. One other suggestion from Wikipedia, make sure the information is cited properly including the date and time the information was accessed since information on Wikipedia is ever-changing.

What are your thoughts and ideas about how to get students to evaluate  resources including Wikipedia, and how they can be used during the research process?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

*quartermane. Wikipedia T-Shirt. 2008. Photograph. FlickrWeb. 8 Dec 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeeperez/2453225588/sizes/m/in/photostream/>.
*Wikipedia contributors. “Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 nov 2011. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Researching_with_Wikipedia>.
*Ayers, Phoebe. “How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles.” . Wikipedia, 2008. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/16/How_to_evaluate_a_Wikipedia_article.pdf>.

Hello, World!

This post kicks off the eMINTS National Center’s first foray into the blogosphere! We want the world to know about the kind of work we do at eMINTS and eLearning. This blog will be the source for all the brain power in our collective organizations as well as the fruits of our labor.

For every day of the week, those edtech leaders associated with eMINTS and eLearning will share resources and news that demonstrate the many great things that are happening here in Missouri and around the globe in the world of education and education technology (edtech). Monday’s will feature a message from the our offices, usually from our director, Monica Beglau. On Tuesday, you will find a post featuring an online tool excellent for classroom use. Wednesdays will provide a helpful link or series of links on a common theme. Thursdays will showcase a teaching tip and Fridays will be a miscellaneous edtech topic.

Be on the lookout for these and other posts from the eMINTS/eLearning blog, Networked Teaching & Learning.

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Monday Message Items:
Hallsville (MO) eMINTS Teacher Named Finalist for Award: Congratulations to Betsy O’Day, Hallsville (MO) Intermediate Science Specialist, who is one of four Missouri teachers named as finalists for the Presidential Teaching Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Betsy is an eMINTS teacher and was selected for the Missouri Mathematics, Engineering, Technology and Science (METS) model eMINTS classroom project in 2008. For more information go to the DESE Awards and Honors site at http://dese.mo.gov/commissioner/awards/ and the Presidential Awards site at http://www.paemst.org/controllers/home.cfc?method=view.

Summary of eMINTS Program Evaluation Research Findings Now Available: A full summary of the past ten years of program evaluation and research findings is now available on the eMINTS website at: http://www.emints.org/evaluation/index.shtml. The summary was completed by Learning Point Associates as part of the eMINTS Investing in Innovation (i3) grant application. The summary may be downloaded to highlight how eMINTS changes teacher practice and student achievement. It contains references to complete reports published about eMINTS. Instead of having to search through all of the reports for research information, it is now available in one handy document.

Also, be sure to check out eThemes for new resources every week!