Innovative Classroom Strategies

Innovation is a hot topic in education, and teachers are constantly being asked to be innovative in their classrooms. But what exactly is classroom innovation?

In her recent blog post on innovation in education, Beth Holland describes innovation as “something that is not only novel and an improvement, but also impactful and meaningful.” For her, innovation in education means, “students have the opportunity to assume new roles and responsibilities as active learners; that they participate in meaningful, authentic learning opportunities; and that they wrestle with complexity.”

Here are some innovative techniques teachers are using to change the dynamic of the classroom and more actively engage students in their learning:

Promoting Learning via Flexible Spaces

classroom innovation

Shifting around the furniture in a classroom, coupled with a reorganization of the space is an easy way to enable more creative thinking and deeper engagement. Long Island’s Baldwin schools are successfully using this technique to bring more innovative instruction to the district.

Interested teachers submit an application outlining their instructional goals and the classroom design needed to support them. When an application is accepted, a classroom is developed to meet the needs of a specific teacher and their students. The result is that every redesigned classroom in the district looks different.

Ann Marie Lynam, a seventh-grade social studies teacher in the district, needed a multi-functional classroom with a mobile layout to address the diverse needs of her students. Her redesigned classroom has no front, everything is on wheels, and students have a number of different seating options:

  • A raised, kidney-shaped table that seats six for small-group teaching
  • Classroom desks arranged in groups to facilitate discussion on class assignments
  • Students’ choice of either a comfortable ottoman or sofa when working in a small group.

Lynam was blown away by how the redesign impacted student interaction. The room setup encouraged conversation, and students who never spoke up were now talking animatedly with classmates. The group seating created a situation in which students could serve as a resource for one another.

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Is Automaticity a 21st-Century Math Skill?


Regardless of our age, we all share a common rite of passage in early education— the mastery of math facts. Although the way we practice math facts has changed over the years, we all remember doing them over and over again. For me, it was learning the multiplication tables by using physical flash cards, a task I often found rote and boring, and which I believed had no merit whatsoever. “Put a damper on my creativity,” I thought years later. Little did I know I was developing automaticity, a foundational skill critical to my future success not only as a learner but also in the workplace.

automaticity is a match skill

Automaticity is the ability to perform skilled tasks quickly and effortlessly without occupying the mind with the low-level details required to do it. Automaticity is attained through learning, repetition, and practice. In math, students have attained automaticity (also known as math fact fluency) when they can easily retrieve basic facts from their long-term memory in all four operations (+, −, ×, ÷) without conscious effort or attention.

Why Is Automaticity Making a Comeback?

Research has shown that automaticity is a building block for mastering higher-level math concepts. It helps students avoid math anxiety, and it is a significant predictor of performance on standardized tests. Fact retrieval speed as a predictor of performance is not limited to test items that directly assess computation skills; it also predicts performance on more conceptual problems that require students to solve word problems, interpret data, or exercise mathematical practices.

Automaticity is essential to turning basic skills into tools for future learning, which creates an independent learner who is self-confident and successful in his or her studies. Researchers see the difference between a struggling learner and an independent learner not just as the mastery of a skill but also the speed or fluency with which the skill can be performed.

If a child can’t automate a basic skill or has little fluency, he or she will experience limited success in quickly mastering new skills. This will cause ongoing frustration over the time it takes to accomplish a task and distracted learning. Having to think consciously about basic skills while doing a higher-level task results in a cognitive conflict that leads to fatigue. It can also cause a downward spiral where a learning problem can turn into an attention problem that then becomes a behavior problem.automaticity is a match skill Continue reading

Update on State Textbook Adoptions

As key states enter another round of adoptions, much of the market is in flux. The conflict over implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with policy changes and the growing interest in digital content and new types of instruction are affecting the decisions that state education departments and schools are making about their instructional materials. States must decide what to adopt (textbooks, supplemental programs, digital products, or a combination of materials), while publishers need to determine what best practices and content states demand, including what standards to align to.

When the Common Core was first developed in 2010 to level the education playing field, it was adopted by forty-six states along with the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia did not adopt the CCSS. By the fall of 2017, ten more states dropped out (Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) with a major standards rewrite or replacement, while Minnesota chose to adopt the Common Core only in English Language Arts.

common core

Though thirty-six states are still using the CCSS, it is difficult to determine how uniform the application of the standards is across all the states. It is also not clear whether the revised standards that states are developing differ significantly from the Common Core. Interestingly, most of the states that never adopted the CCSS or later repealed them are also textbook adoption states. To further complicate the situation, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in a recent speech that Common Core is dead at the U.S. Department of Education.

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A Recipe for Personalized Learning

Personalized learningAs EdTech trends continue to evolve, learning companies are looking to develop additional tools and platforms that extend and emphasize personalized learning. Personalized learning products tailor instruction to each student’s unique needs and learning preferences through face-to-face teaching, technology-assisted instruction, and collaboration.

Victory builds successful personalized learning programs because we share the same goal as you: to help each and every student learn. Clients come to us with a range of technology projects, including:

• Immersive UI/UX design
• Mobile and web apps
• Online courses
• Platform development
• Web services integration
• Software maintenance

Creating personalized learning products is not an easy task. To develop successful personalized learning programs, Victory assembles teams that are proficient in instructional design and in integrating appropriate technology tools matched to each subject area. Our goal is to develop products that meet customer needs and improve both the user experience and the overall program effectiveness.

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A Three Dimensional Learning Task

In many recent projects, we have taken on the challenge of developing three-dimensional learning tasks and lessons. We often start with a close reading of the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). The instructional designers then meet with subject matter experts to design a task with learning outcomes that measure specific performance expectations. In the example below, the task was designed to meet these three-dimensional learning goals.

Three-dimensional learningWe have already blogged about using the PhET Skate Park simulation to develop a performance task. We decided to take another stab at it, as a proof of concept for a three dimensional learning task. This task is a bit more challenging than our first one.

Please watch the video and then try the performance task. We’d love to hear your feedback!

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EdTech and the Future of Education

Interview with Haris Papamichael (Part II)

Interview with Haris Papamichael about Ed Tech

This is a continuation of our interview with Haris to get his take on how technology is impacting education today.
As the Director of Educational Technology at Victory, Haris oversees all the educational technology projects at Victory from concept definition through planning and release. In order to best deliver quality products to learning companies, Haris stays on top of the constantly changing technology trends.

Rebecca: Currently many states and districts have requirements for online courses. How do you think this will impact the concept of “school”?

Haris: There will certainly be greater emphasis on online learning, as each year we’ve seen an increase in the number of online learning courses. That is no longer just a trend within higher education. Teachers are growing more comfortable acting as a facilitator. This means that there will be more collaboration and independent learning programs as students are allowed to plot their academic course of study.

The traditional role of the teacher will not disappear. Although traditional teaching, or direct instruction, is still a predominant model, there are now many alternative instructional methods, such as flipped classroom, blended learning, project based, and constructive to name a few. I think technology is a big component and driver of all of these different methodologies.
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The Impact of Technology on Teachers, Students, and Instruction

Interview with Haris Papamichael (Part I)

Interview with Haris Papamichael about Ed Tech

We recently sat down with Haris to get his take on how technology is impacting education today.
As the Director of Educational Technology at Victory, Haris oversees all the educational technology projects at Victory from concept definition through planning and release. In order to best deliver quality products to learning companies, Haris stays on top of the constantly changing technology trends.

Rebecca: What are the most urgent problems we face that could be solved with educational technology?

Haris: Looking at the landscape of education, I have been consistently seeing issues with overcrowded classrooms, supporting creative teaching, and keeping students engaged. Each of these is a complex issue, but the solutions all can be enhanced with educational technology.
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Top 3 EdTech Trends for 2018

Educational technology trends change at a rapid pace. This affects both the tools students use, how they use tools, and how educational needs are met. When you look at the ISTE timeline for the adoption of educational technology in schools, 2016 marked the transition from using technology to learn to transformative learning with technology.

educational technologyHow has it been going? Are we there yet? To find out, we studied our Top 3 EdTech Trends for 2017 and evaluated them for 2018:

  • Student-Centered Focus—EdTech enables students to transform their own learning.
  • Thoughtful Integration by Teachers—Teachers are a dynamic force for change when supported by ongoing professional development on technology integration.
  • Informed Decisions by Leadership—A recipe for success includes a clear, bold vision, along with investment in teams, empowerment of teachers, and effective communication to get stakeholder buy-in.

Let’s take a deeper dive on each of these key trends.
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The Shifting Textbook Adoption Market

A recent White House report states that the textbook market is valued at about $7-8 billion, with California, Florida, and Texas being the key adoption states. However, the textbook adoption market is changing.

The Old-School Textbook Adoption Buying Pattern

In the past, publishers focused most of their textbook development efforts on two states: Texas and California. Textbooks for these two states would often become templates for textbooks sold nationally, but according to a recent EdWeek article, California, and Texas no longer dictate content in textbooks. Currently, there are 19 states that adopt textbooks in a variety of curriculum areas, and publishers are finding that these individual states want customized textbooks.

What Factors are Driving Change in Textbook Adoption?

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ELL Students and the Digital Experience

Schools continue to move toward digital lessons and digital experiences for students. Most students are digital natives and are comfortable in this world. However, not all students have equal access. How does the digital revolution affect ELL students?

Some ELL students are very comfortable with technology and how it works, while others are using it for the first time. Digital lessons, however, abound in the classroom. Across content areas, culminating activities in lessons often ask students to do more research on the Internet, use graphics in their reports, cite resources, and create digital slideshows. These types of activities are designed to help students acquire and adopt skills needed for 21st-century work. And a survey by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop shows that Hispanic-Latino families want their children to have these skills.

Access Starts with the Directions

However, there are several roadblocks for ELL students. Most educational websites and software tools provide directions only in English, which poses a barrier for ELL students. If they cannot follow the directions, ELL students may struggle to complete assignments and fall behind their peers. Situations such as this can easily lead to frustration and might make ELL students reluctant to use digital devices in the classroom. So how can we scaffold learning for ELL students in digital lessons?

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