Writing More Through Personalized Learning Platforms

A tip of the hat to Marshall Memo for pointing to this recent post by Mike Schmoker, author of RESULTS NOW: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning.  In ‘Write More, Grade Less’, Schmoker argues that over the past thirty years, we have developed a number of ineffective and even counter-productive practices when it comes to student writing:

  • Overload: we grade for and comment on too many dimensions of a single writing assignment (which students ignore—because these comments discourage and  overwhelm them—with no clear direction on how to revise).
  • Infrequent writing assignments:  because grading papers very thoroughly takes so much time, we wind up reducing the number of assignments—though  frequent guided writing assignments are essential to becoming an effective writer.
  • Delay:  writing assignments are commonly returned weeks after they are completed–which nullifies any benefits for students.  And we seldom provide guided opportunities for students to revise their papers, based on feedback.

Schmoker goes on to offer detailed recommendations on more effective ways to improve student writing, including focusing on short, more frequent writing assignments, focusing on one trait at a time, and scheduling dedicated ‘writing days’.

If Schmoker’s cautions sound familiar, they should.  We’ve written before on what it takes to move from novice to expert in any field, including writing.  We know that writing practice should be distributed over time, and, as Schmoker argues, the key to developing a successful writer is frequency – students need to write a lot to improve as writers.

Our own personalized learning platforms (MyWritingWeb and Oasis) were built around the idea of facilitating the move from novice to expert.  Because these tools are web-based students may access them from anywhere at anytime, giving students many more opportunities to write.   And because they are student-centered, these tools do not require teacher administration.  Educators may utilize MyWritingWeb and Oasis to monitor a student’s writing growth using The Lexile Framework for Writing, though it is not necessary to ‘grade’ every assignment.  Instead, educators can simply assign frequent writing assignments and then monitor for content or specific traits.

Schmoker makes some valuable recommendations and it’s good to see a consensus building around the idea of what it takes to develop a good writer: targeted practice, more frequent and distributed opportunities to write, and self-directed activity.  For more on the value of personalized learning platforms, be sure to check out “Next Generation Assessments”.

School Library Journal Offers Insight into the Future of Reading

The School Library Journal recently hosted their sixth annual Leadership Summit – 2010 The Future of Reading.  This year’s theme – exploring the ‘changing face of reading’ –  focused on a variety of topics, including how e-readers and digital texts are altering the way consumers access and digest information, the wide availability of content, and the role librarians play in the face of these rapid advances. 

One of our own partners, and a sponsor of the conference, Capstone Digital was present and discussed their own contribution to personalized learning platforms and its utilization of The Lexile Framework for Reading:

Meanwhile, Todd Brekhus, president of Capstone Digital, talked about establishing an online, personalized reading environment. He was joined by Barbara Rooks, formerly of Florida’s Hillsborough Public Schools, and Marlene Simmons of the Chicago Public Schools. The panelists presented a new digital reading model that engages students in their interests, establishes their reading level using the Lexile framework, allows for free choice in reading selection, and gives anytime, anywhere access to books. Discussion ranged from how a digital reading program could build student confidence to how librarians and educators could administer personalized reading plans.

The School Library Journal offers a more indepth summary here.  From the summary, it appears the conference touched on a wide range of relevant and pressing topics – everything from the use of multimedia and the use of animated and graphic texts in the classroom to reach reluctant readers, to leveraging social networks and mobility to expand readership, and even the need for a more robust definition and assessment of Internet literacy.  Be sure to take a look. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the School Library Journal is a great source for information on the world of publishing, new books, digital media, and the role of media in education.  In fact, we’ve added them to our list of sources on the right hand side of this blog.  If you’re not already reading, be sure to add SLJ to your list of bookmarks.

Crisis of Confidence: U.S. Teens Worry Over Nation’s Math Ability

A recent Education Week article (subscription required) suggests that our teens may be overconfident in their math and science abilities. Out of 1,000 students surveyed, many reported feeling confident in their math preparedness and 68 percent agreed that math and science skills will be a requirement of most jobs, with 58 percent reporting a desire to work in a related field. However, when asked which country was best at math and science, 67 percent selected Japan or China and only 44% viewed mathematics as important to “solving society’s big problems.”

Intel, the corporation that conducted the study, believes that this study indicates the bar needs to be raised for American students. Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group, said: “We need innovative programs that celebrate not just “making the grade,” but taking the challenging courses that will prepare our students for the careers of the future.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an attempt to align state curriculum standards with the demands of college and career.  That’s been our focus at MetaMetrics as well, and we’ve put together a variety of resources to demonstrate how both the Lexile® and Quantile® measures support the Common Core State Standards’ goal of preparing all students for college and careers.   Going a step further, we’ve also developed utilities that match readers to books of their choice based on their current reading level.  And our mathematics utilities assist educators and parents by allowing students to access differentiated math resources.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.