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Ready for Online Learning: 3 Key Dispositions for Student Success

Technology integrated teaching and learning can be found in classrooms across the nation, yet digital natives often possess "untutored" habits of mind necessary for successful online learning.  As we align our curriculum and prepare our students for college readiness skills, high schools can close the preparedness gap and help to cultivate online learning dispositions.
What We Know about Online Courses
Online courses first began to appear as a viable alternative to traditional coursework in the 1990s.  According to the Instructional Technology Council (ITC), online learning is now considered equal to traditional face-to-face education (Goral, 2017).  Supporters argue that distance learning enjoys mainstream support pointing to Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and MIT whose open course models are freely available to eager learners (Naidu, 2014).  As colleges and universities turn to this mode of instruction, evidence-based research supports best practices in online pedagogy. These practices vary from instructional approaches and strategies more commonly found in high school settings.  A current opportunity exists to refine the K-12 teaching and learning experience by preparing students for online courses.  Consider a high school student whose assumptions about the learning process are rooted in the traditional classroom resulting in a preparedness gap when the first fully online course is encountered in college (Goral)

College is not the only field to adopt online learning.  Industries are turning to micro-credentialing and online professional development to encourage self-directed and on-the-go learning for professionals.  Students may well encounter the need to stay competitive and certified through online coursework while drawing upon the skillset learned from intentional integration of online learning.  College and career readiness standards are ready to absorb units and online preparation courses for our students: particularly our high school students.
As an ITC board member, Professor Lokken studied three problems causing online student retention to lag by 8% compared to traditional courses (Goral, 2016).  He points to student’s academic and study habits, maturity level, and a preparedness gap as an explanation.  As K-12 institutions, we can directly improve this technology based learning gap with the adoption of a holistic view as we prepare critical thinkers for college and the workforce.  If we can model, coach, and guide students through dispositional and operational habits of mind, we can alter assumptions about learning, reorienting standards on what to expect, and how to navigate online academic and certification courses.  

Keys to Online Student Learning Dispositions
Gaier (2015) defines learning dispositions as “ A prevailing cognitive and emotional state towards the content being learned and toward the learning process.”  Numerous studies have addressed learning dispositions including Gaier and the Habits of Mind Institute founded by Bena Kallick and Art Costa.  These studies typically address dispositions that increase academic and social success through growth mindsets (Gaier, 2015).  3 keys represent dispositions useful to student learning to transition to online environments.
  1. Learn to develop a habit of ritual organization:  using a planner, compare the class syllabus to online communication within the course recording all assignments, due dates, and plans to achieve submission prior to due dates, allotting additional time for any technical difficulties.  Few instructors will allow technology or ignorance of expected deadlines to be an excuse for late assignments as the onus is on the student.  The successful high school transfer to this type of learning environment prioritizes time management and structures a study of the course itself around that of the content of the course.
  2. Learn to value online communication: Instructors spend many hours of instructional design to prepare content and courses for online delivery.  In the same way that students learn to adapt from hand-writing essays to typing essays, students must be prepared to transfer learning from the more guided nature of face-to-face interactions to those of the largely independent online environment.  They should enter the online course frequently during the week to navigate through modules, announcements, discussions, and assignments.  The onus is again on the student to adapt to this format of communication.  Students need to be assured that instructors and student service departments are ready to assist in the transition process but attempts to request help must be proactive requests asked in advance of due dates with time to receive assistance and still accomplish the learning.
  3. Learn to keep an open mind: High School students accustomed to gentle reminders from dedicated teachers in face-to-face instruction will find it difficult to prioritize and time manage using learning management systems (LMS) like Canvas.  It takes time to built familiarity with navigation and course patterns but typically, by week 3 or 4, students should begin to acclimate to the online habits of mind required to be successful. High school instructors should expect to teach the skills of online navigation, formats, and learning while moving slower through content initially to best address student frustration and lack of confidence.  High interest assignments that highlight the value of online learning help to peak interest and motivate reluctant learners.  

Jaimie Orozco- Jaimie is a current doctoral student and educator with 15 years of experience.  Currently, Jaimie works as an Instructional Coach for new teachers, History Department Chair and educator, and a part-time adjunct faculty member.   Jaimie is honored to join the 2017 ASCD Emerging Leaders program.  

Gaier, S. (2015). A mindset for learning: The dispositions of academically successful students: The scholarly teacher. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from
Goral, T. (2016). What we've learned about distance education: progress and problems revealed by survey offer guidance for the future of online learning. University Business, (7). 8.   Retrieved from

Naidu, S. (2014, November). Looking back, looking forward: the invention and reinvention of distance education. Distance Education. pp. 263-270. doi:10.1080/01587919.2014.961671.


Let Tech Handle Your Biggest Challenge: Parent Communication

Communication between parents and teachers is key to the success of the student. A strong parent-teacher partnership encourages important feedback about the child’s academic performance, and opens the door to two-way conversations about how best to optimize the learning experience. Good communication enriches a child’s time in the classroom, but it’s not always easy to achieve. In fact, many teachers say that communicating with parents is one of the greatest challenges of the job.

Technology can improve how teachers and schools connect with parents, offering seamless and intuitive solutions for meaningful interactions.

Streamline the Communication Chain

Research shows that the amount of parent involvement in student learning can accurately predict the child’s academic success. Unfortunately, the traditional communication chain from parent to teacher to student can be time-consuming and inefficient. Not only does it waste the teacher’s time – it isn’t always the best way to improve the student’s performance. In fact, the more time teachers have to spend answering parent questions via phone or email, the less time and energy they have to spend on the students.

Technology offers smart solutions for streamlining communication chains in education, eliminating wasted time and improving the experience for all involved. Digital solutions such as automated email blasts, online parent portals, and programmed billing takes these cumbersome tasks out of the teachers’ hands. It gives parents a tool to get answers in real time without interrupting the teachers’ efforts.

The right software program at a school can replace the traditional communication chain with something much more proficient, simple to use, and beneficial for teacher, parent, and student. Web-based communication solutions enable parents to get answers to many questions without asking the teacher. This saves time and allows teachers to focus on teaching.

Bridge the Gap Between Home and School Communication

Engaging parents isn’t always easy. While some parents jump at the chance to discuss student performance and outcomes with teachers, others do not have the time or cannot engage with teachers for other reasons. This can result in poorer outcomes for the student. Technology can end this struggle by bridging the sometimes-large gap between home and school.

A study from Pearson found that new technologies such as online grade books, electronic portfolios, and video conferencing have the potential to positively impact student learning. Digital technologies aimed at improving communication can grant immediate access to information for parents and teachers. Parents can instantly address issues and celebrate their children’s successes, without lag time or miscommunications such as getting a teacher’s voicemail box.

Convenient communication methods encourage parents to reach out more often, since it doesn’t pose a tedious task for busy parents. It also helps teachers quickly and easily address parent questions. The right communication technologies can make a teacher more productive, and help parents become more in tune with students’ learning experiences.

Grant 24/7 Access to Information

The age of “business hours only” communication is over – as is the age of teachers spending long nights trying to catch up on parent emails. Technology has solved the problem for parents and teachers by offering a simple way to keep in touch 24/7, anytime, anywhere. Parents can log into school portals from their phones while they wait at the drycleaners, and get immediate information about children’s attendance, grades, upcoming events, and more.

Apps and websites enable both parties to access information without time-consuming communication gaps, missed connections, and in-person meetings that are almost impossible to plan. Instead of grouping a semester’s worth of information into a single parent-teacher conference or PTA meeting, parents and teachers can engage in constant communication around the clock, right from their homes.

Parents can now access online calendars that teachers set up from anywhere, allowing them to schedule conferences or track student homework logs remotely. Technology gives parents a wealth of personalized, child-specific information at their fingertips without the need for constant teacher involvement. It saves both parties time and effort while still improving communication and the classroom experience.

Remove the Barriers to Education

Too many students have suffered scholastically because of gaps in communication between teachers and parents. Students thrive on a strong, healthy relationship between these two important people in their lives. One University of Nebraska study found that low-quality parent-teacher relationships led to social/behavioral problems in the student, and consequently lower performances in school. The study looked at student outcomes in the long term, and found that positive changes in the parent-teacher relationship resulted in improvement of student behaviors.

Poor student behavior is just one of many potential barriers to learning. Technology offers a simple, affordable, and almost universal way to break down these barriers and gain real-time access to students and parents. Schools and teachers can now play important roles in students’ daily lives without inconvenient conferences or ungainly communication efforts. Thanks to technology, barriers in communication, behaviors, and education are coming down.

Integrate Smart Communication Technologies

Digital tools have immense power to change the way teachers and parents communicate – ultimately changing the game for students around the world. Implementing the right technologies in school can streamline communication efforts, save time for both parties, encourage parent involvement, answer questions and concerns in real time, and bode well for everyone involved. It’s time to let technology transform the educational experience. It’s time to integrate smart web-based communication solutions in school.

Jeffrey Thomas is the President of ThomasKelly Software Associates. ThomasKelly specializes in cloud-based products, including EZChildTrack, for the education and social services domains. In his free time, Jeffrey enjoys spending time with friends and family, biking, and watching any Houston-related sports.

Send a Tweet to: @ezchildtrack

My Boys Can't Sit Still on The Carpet: Does Gender Really Matter?

My Boys Can't Sit Still on the Carpet!

Most kinder and first grade teachers will agree a class group where the majority of students are boys will call for a much different approach to instruction, management and student outcomes.  But when it comes to what states and districts require for boys and girls to do by the end of the school year, no such differences exist.  

As a mama bear of two boys and a little girl the developmental differences and readiness of my own children seemed apparent at a very young age.  I was extremely concerned that my oldest son, the one who would only take naps when I would go for a run with him in the jogger and the kid who could throw a baseball perfectly before the age of two would struggle in school, and struggle he did.  

Could it be Attention Deficit Disorder? 
Most traditional kindergarten schools, emphasize less play and more seat work.  My son had difficulty sitting in his seat and staying focused with teacher-directed instruction (despite the years of preschool and library story time).  This was not a surprise to me, but what did surprised me was his inability to focus during class time did not transfer to his ability to focus at home (this is one of the criteria for ADD diagnosis).  He was playing chess at age 5 and had mastered the game of Risk and Monopoly by first grade.  His inability to focus was not apparent when he was fully engaged and interested in what he was learning about.  So although he might appear to the classroom teacher as "Attention Deficit Disorder" this was not true when he came home.  

The idea that traditional schooling methods fail to support boys developmental needs and interests is highlighted in the book Boys Adrift by Dr. Leondard Sax.  Any teachers or parents looking for factors and solutions as to why boys fail should certainly consider his work which is grounded in a solid research-based explanation.  Dr. Sax identifies 5 factors that is driving the decline of boys: 

  1. Video Games: excessive play promotes boys escaping to a world that just does not exist and can lead to violent behavior, aggression and depression.
  2. Teaching Methods: academic demands must be developmentally appropriate and inclusive of gender differences. Dr. Sax recommends a sitting is optional approach and supports single-sex schools for boys who do not do well in a co-ed classroom..
  3. Prescription Drugs: the effect of stimulant drugs such as Adderral and Ritalin can be a rewiring of brain chemistry with an end effect of damage to motivational centers in boy's brain.  
  4. Endocrine Disruptors: Certain food and plastics are loading our boys up with estrogen and chemicals that can have a damaging effect on boy's endocrine systems.  
  5. Devaluation of Masculinity: there is a lack of positive male role models in our culture that support traditional masculine strengths.  For example Bart Simpson vs. Ward Cleaver.  

The long term effect of these factors can result in boys being turned off from schooling, obsession with video gaming and a "failure to launch" result when it comes to boys transition to an adult life.  As noted in the Washington Post "According to the Census Bureau, fully one-third of young men ages 22 to 34 are still living at home with their parents -- a roughly 100 percent increase in the past 20 years. No such change has occurred with regard to young women. Why?" (Sax, 2006).

As mother, educator, and citizen of the United States, what is happening to our boys is a concern that is not only professional but personal.  Dr. Sax's work has given us much to consider when it comes to the decline in boy's performance and what are the driving factors.  

As a teacher educator and mother here are my recommendations for teachers and parents when it comes to boys,  
  1. Provide a space in both the schooling of boys and their activities to promote competition and experiential learning in which students learn through inquiry and self-directed activities.  This will promote motivation in boys.
  2. Limit video game use to no more than use to no more than 40 minutes a day and no more than one hour on the weekends.  Game play should only take place in a public space and restrict use of excessively violent games.
  3. Consider delaying boys entry into traditional school if your child is only 5 by the the beginning of the school year.  Developmental differences are apparent and young boys need more play-based activities.  You should visit the kindergarten to determine if the school is a good fit for your child.
  4. Be aware of the criteria for ADD/ADHD and avoid using stimulant drugs as a first response to medication (as recommended by Dr. Sax)
  5. Ensure that boys have access to positive male role models that are in your community. 

As for me a few things I have done as a parent/teacher with my boys is be patient with their learning process.  My kindergarten son who was not reading fluently by the end of the second grade is now reading above grade level.  I have limited video game use at our home and we have "electronic free days" every week which includes NO MEDIA and there is no devices at all allowed in their rooms.  I also have enrolled both my boys in private music lessons with male teachers.  I think this is especially important as their is only ONE male teacher at their elementary school. And I have made participation in sports activity a rule and not a choice.  Each season the boys must select a sports activity.  
Please share your best practice for supporting boys as a parent or teacher.  Join our conversation on Facebook or consider writing for us and share your expertise with future teachers.  

Create and Simulate with Digital Stories: 10 Engaging Topics to Get Your Kids Hooked on Writing

By Guest Blogger: Carrie Sebora

Have you ever wanted to send your students on an adventure to Ancient Rome or to wander the streets of London during the time of Shakespeare? 

Perhaps your students will have a blast when they discover for themselves what would happen if leaders chose another option to start or end a conflict? You might also be challenged by getting your students to realize how they make an impact on the environment? Students learn by doing, and there is no better way for them to show what they understand than with a digital story.

Digital Storytelling is a relatively new term which describes the new practice of everyday people who use digital tools to tell their 'story'. Digital stories often present in compelling and emotionally engaging formats, and can be interactive.

When I was a kid in the 1980s I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure books.  It was so much fun making a decision and finding out where the adventure led you and when it finished knowing you could go back and start over with new options!!! Why can't students have this same feeling today, digitally?  

Here are a few topics to get you started on Digital Storytelling and they can be adapted to any level:
  1. Create a virtual tour of a country or historical place 
  2. Create a public service announcement on an important local or world issue. 
  3. Simulate an interview of a historical character. 
  4. Simulate a debate on an historical topic, such as the Bill of Rights. 
  5. Create a presentation based on images of local artifacts and architecture. 
  6. Cell growth and division 
  7. Ways to conserve water 
  8. Habitat and diet of a certain animal species or species family
  9. Skeletal system growth, wear, strengthening, and deterioration
  10. A day without math
Anything that has a process is a good topic for a digital storytelling assignment, as is anything that needs description, such as a certain animal’s habitat to support its diet.

You might be thinking, where do I begin?  All good teaching starts with an idea/activity you want to do with your students to meet an objective/goal/standard/skill. Start where you normally do and build it from there. There are a lot of great templates out in the internet-verse that will help you start a digital storytelling project.  Here are a few that I have created to support my students in writing digital stories. These are great examples for middle school students but can also be used with upper elementary and high school students as well. I have added a few below for your use on Google Slides:

You can still provide your students with information while they are creating their digital story. For example, I created a Water Conservation one for a presentation that I did recently. I added a slide where the learners needed to click on the ways they could help conserve water and it would take them to a fact page about the use of water. Click Here !!

Check out the full presentation about Digital Storytelling.

About the Author:

Carrie Sebora moved to California over 16 years ago to teach middle school history. She is now an EdTech Tosa who supports teachers in integrating technology at her school district. In addition to her role as a Tosa, Carrie is also a board member of MBCUE and a Google Certified Trainer.

You can tweet out to Carrie on twitter: @carriesebora


5 Meaningful Ways to Manage Conflict in the Classroom

Mike Myatt (2012) warns managers "Don't Fear Conflict--Embrace it-it's your job".  Teachers must adopt the mindset that conflict is natural and healthy part of your job. Rather than perceive conflict as a impediment for teaching it should be viewed as an opportunity to develop your practice and for all to grow.  Perhaps then conflict would be confronted in a much more productive way and become in itself a teachable moment where all stakeholders can benefit.  

Myatt (2012) also shared with managers 5 keys of dealing with workplace conflict which I will restate with a teaching lens

1). Define Acceptable Behavior:  Teachers need to make PUBLICLY clear what their expectations are and what is acceptable behavior.  Myatt notes that manager can not assume that people understand what is acceptable and should establish a framework.  Teachers likewise will also benefit from having clearly posted guidelines and expectations defined and simplified.  Expectations can be sent home and signed by parents and students.

2)  Hit Conflict Head On: Teachers just like managers need to seek out areas of potential conflict and devise strategies to intervene and circumvent disruptive behavior.  An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of cure. Remember the younger the student the less likely they are to have strategies to resolve conflict appropriately.  Take a copy of my Sentence Starters for helping students articulate their ideas.  

3). Understanding the WIIF Factor: The WIIF factor is "Whats in it for me" is important for teachers to consider when managing disruptive classroom behavior.  Rather than approach a situation from the lens of I can't do my job because you are being disruptive,  approach the student from the stance of what the benefit is for the student.  If students see the value in what they are doing and how it will help them then they will be motivated to do the task.

4). The Importance Factor: Timing is everything and when we respond to conflicts in the moment this may cause us to act out of character or out of emotion.  Determining when to pull a student aside to discuss an issue is critical, but also teachers need to think critically about whether a potential conflict can be ignored. If students are constantly being redirected for behavior they can not control this can cause an uncomfortable dynamic in your personal relationships. Having ten minutes set aside for students to work independently and for you to speak to students individually is critical.  

5) View Conflict as Opportunity: This is especially true for teachers as conflict in the classroom reveal areas for growth and ways we can support our students in being successful not only in the classroom but throughout their life.

Preservice teachers can certainly benefit from addressing potential conflicts they will face as new teachers in the classroom.  

In this Voicethread post I challenge my students to respond to these 3 situations in a way that is proactive and seeks solutions that develop students' capacity to manage their own behavior.


About Me

About Me
Dr. Patricia Dickenson has taught grades K-9 she currently works with pre-service teacher candidates. She has three school aged children and loves to create curriculum.

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