Tagged: newsela

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TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #5

Chromebooks in Classrooms: What does the usage data show?

favicon This just came across my virtual desk and it seemed worth sharing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 12.01.07 PM

The graph shows usage during a week (24 hrs a day) for the entire K-12 Piedmont Unified School District, which has about 2,600 students. First, some context: 2015-16 is the first year my high school and middle school have gone 100% 1:1. This means every 6-12 grade student has a Chromebook that they can take home.

Here is a little more data:

Snapshot in time – At 10:00 am Thursday December 3:

  • 390 student Chromebooks were in active use.  
  • 186 high school students, or roughly 22% of school population
  • 118 middle school students, or 18% of school population

The week of 12/8, students spent:

  • 3,806 hours on Google Docs,
  • 377 hours in Membean, a personalized/adaptive vocabulary service for 6th-12th grade students
  • 360 hours checking grades on Infinite Campus,
  • 305 hours on the Math textbooks piloted for 6th-12th graders
  • 109 hours on Newsela, with differentiated nonfiction current event articles for  3rd-6th graders
  • 96 hours using Desmos, an online graphing calculator
  • 87 hours listening to Pandora music
  • 45 hours using Kahoot, a fun classroom quiz game
  • 36 hours in Scratch coding

The week before Thanksgiving also showed the 187 high schoolers using their Chromebooks to apply for college: 173.7 hours were spent at admissions.universityofcalifornia.edu.

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - IserotopeAs a result, our teachers, students, and families are trying to understand the benefits and problems associated with so much technology.

The reaction from faculty has been mixed so far, but one thing is for sure: These numbers are causing quite a stir. What strikes me is that 3,800 hours were spent using Google Docs. Almost a third of computer time is spent writing text or reading text curated by teachers. Of course, it is hard to tell how Docs is used. Some of my Docs activities are digital worksheets. If that is the predominant use, then Chromebooks are a modern version of the mimeograph (or “ditto machine” for those who remember the pungent, blue paper).

However, some of my digital activities teach students to evaluate each other’s writing (using Google Forms). I also use technology to quiz or review (using Socrative and Kahoot), to increase collaborative work (with Docs and Teacher Dashboard), and to promote research while evaluating sources. These uses of technology are showing good results.

Students report liking the computers that are now part of their academic toolbox. They say their organization is improving and collaboration is easier in many ways. For example, online flashcard decks are routinely shared, as are student-generated review sheets and research. When it comes to reading, students seem divided on which they like best: paper or digital. I use a digital textbook and many digital sources but can’t tell whether digital has improved students reading or learning.

Some faculty are alarmed by the amount of time spent on activities that are not directly related to classwork, claiming this data shows that over 50% of computer use is not related to academic work. For example, 11% of Chromebook time was spent on YouTube and 360 hours were spent checking grades.

Like much of the data gathered by Google, these stats are interesting, colorful and fun—but might not tell us much about student learning. However, I am excited to see what future conversations about this information will reveal about our students’ lives at school.

If you have an observation or question about the data, please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you! favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #3: Newsela meets kids at their reading level

newselafavicon Imagine my joy when I found out about Newsela, a website that modifies the vocabulary and syntax of news articles to match the reading levels of students.

I will confirm: There was significant joy.

Not only does Newsela offer students high-interest news articles, but it also does something truly novel: It provides those articles at five different reading levels. Students can choose the version of the article — ranging from a fourth grade reading level to twelfth grade — that is right for them.

Let me give you an example. A month or so ago, Newsela posted an article, originally published in the Tribune Washington Bureau, about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program. Here is the original article, estimated at a 12th grade reading level. When a student goes to the article, she sees this toolbar on the right side: 1 This is where it gets interesting. The student can choose to read the original article, labeled “max,” or an easier version. The L next to the number refers to Lexile, a well-regarded measurement of text complexity. An 1190L is around ninth grade, 1060L is seventh, 950L is sixth, and 700L is fourth. The magic happens when the student selects one of the levels. Here’s the article’s lead at the 12th grade level.

Screenshot 2014-05-02 21.28.36 And here is the same paragraph, adapted by Newsela staff (real people, not robots!), at the 4th grade level.

Screenshot 2014-05-02 21.30.12 You’ll notice that the meaning is the same, and in fact many of the words are the same, but the second paragraph has easier vocabulary and simpler syntax.

Pretty brilliant, don’t you think?

Newsela’s brilliance doesn’t end there. There are tons of other great features that will make teachers (and maybe students) extremely happy. For example, many Newsela articles come with a four-question comprehension quiz that looks like a friend version of the upcoming Smarter Balanced (Common Core) assessments.

Screenshot 2014-05-03 08.32.30

The quizzes let students know if they “got” the article, plus each question is aligned with a specific anchor reading standard from Common Core.

I’m working with a teacher in San Francisco right now who incorporates Newsela in her ongoing study of current events, and she reports that her students appreciate the quiz feature because it gives them quick and immediate feedback. If students feel like they’ve understood the article but got only 1/4 on the quiz, maybe the answer is to lower the reading level. (The quiz’s questions are also based on Lexile.)

There are only two negatives about Newsela (that I see). The first is that there’s no way this service is going to be free for very much longer. I’m hopeful that the kind folks at Newsela will continue to offer a free option. The second is that Newsela doesn’t currently have a mobile app. Sure, not everything needs to be on students’ phones, but it never hurts.

Please check out Newsela and leave a brilliant insight about whether you like it, and if you do, how you would use it in your classroom! Thank you!

Update: I just learned that Newsela now has an two-way annotation feature. My response: OMG! Something great just got even better.

(Want to read all the posts in the series?) Please do. favicon