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School districts are full of terms and educational jargon. We have so many unique acronyms that we prepare a chapter of them for new board members during board orientation. Educators do their best to define terms for parents and in conversations with the community.
Maybe you can decipher the following sentence.
“The task is to CRISS for our ESL and SLD students, providing a FAPE meeting all requirements of FERPA. “
Or maybe you didn’t decipher that so easily, so here is what is says: “The task is to create independence through student-owned strategies for our English language learners and specific learning disabilities students, providing a free and appropriate public education meeting all requirements of the family educational rights and privacy act.”
My interpretation would be, “help all students take responsibility for their own learning and don’t break any laws.” Sometimes the jargon just complicates things.
We have added a whole bunch of new terms and acronyms over the last decade. Things like SIS (student information system), PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports), and RTI (reponse to intervention). Regardless of what we call things it all comes down to teaching and learning with a focus on each individual child.
Two of the newest phrases are “customized learning” and “individual learning plans.” We will continue to hear more and more about customized learning as we continue to integrate newer technologies. In a successful customized learning environment the teacher becomes the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage.”
Athletics and coaching are a good metaphor for customized learning. Our coaches would be unlikely to seat everyone in desks, describe how to play tennis, and then expect that the athletes would take the court and all perform immediately at the same level. Instead, the athletes are on their feet in real time and provided individual and group coaching to practice and develop their skills by correcting their own performance.
In customized learning environments there is a plan for each individual student and targets to learn. The teacher helps each student seek out and apply the information necessary to develop a skill, design a product, or gain knowledge. It is a busy environment with lots of students working on different things at different points in time.
The integration of technology is rapidly making this type of learning environment more and more readily available. Online resources are giving us access to something called “flipped classrooms.”
In a flipped classroom, students are able to watch an online video of a lesson being presented. They might watch it the night before their class as homework and come to school the next day ready to apply the new knowledge to a lesson or project. Thus, the flipped concept.
The online videos may have been produced and posted by a Menomonie teacher. Our staff might also choose from hundreds of online resources provided by master teachers or even students explaining or teaching a concept. Khan Academy at http://www.khanacademy.org/ is an outstanding example of that type of resource.
Khan Academy is a non-profit site. All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if the user is a student, teacher, home-schooler, adult returning to the classroom after thirty years, or, as they say, “a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.”
In today’s world when parents don’t know how to help with homework, if they have access to the web, they can ask the question online and have a lot of help at their fingertips. Some of our current K-8 textbook resources also have online assistance for parents to help them support their children. They also provide games and activities to enhance or offer more practice. Our webpage provides access to most of those links.
I was visiting our middle school this week and discussing some of the new online tools and new instructional strategies we are working on. Two of our very talented teachers said they were very excited about their work. They also observed that it is so much more work to do things the “right way,“ but the reward comes with student learning.
The days of worksheets and textbooks are quickly disappearing. They will eventually be retired along with slates and chalk! RIP.
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