Published Online: September 23, 2013
Published in Print: September 25, 2013, as Blogs of the Week

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| NEWS | Learning Without Limits

Using Social Media to Extend Learning

Social media is one of the trendiest ways teachers are enhancing lessons and engaging students both in and out of the classroom.

With just a smartphone, iPad, laptop, or a computer, social media can extend learning time in a way students get excited about.

In a new paper, "Mobile Learning: Transforming Education, Engaging Students, and Improving Outcomes," Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West examines how both mobile learning and social media are enabling and engaging learning for students.

"We need to think of education as an individualized and year-round activity, not just something that takes place in bulk form within schools between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Fridays when schools are in session," he writes.

Teachers are finding innovative ways to use social media, such as having students share and provide feedback on each other's work with Twitter hashtags, Facebook groups, or Instagram. They are also sharing ideas and lesson plans on Pinterest and websites like Teachers Pay Teachers.

Taking a cue from online course creators like Khan Academy, teachers are posting their own videos online to help students with particular concepts.

—Laura Heinauer Mellett


| NEWS | Teacher Beat

Chicago Teachers Mixed on Evaluations

New teachers in Chicago face higher expectations under a teacher-evaluation system rolled out last school year. And while teachers appear to find feedback generated by the system helpful, they remain deeply wary of its emphasis on test scores.

That's the take-away from two new data dumps on teacher evaluations in Chicago.

About 40 percent of nontenured teachers scored at the "developing" phase, the second-lowest of four categories on the system, while 48 percent were deemed proficient, according to results from the Chicago district.

The results are notable partly because of the context surrounding the new system, called REACH, which represents the first overhaul of teacher evaluations in Chicago in 40 years. Teacher evaluation was among the precipitating factors in last year's seven-day teachers' strike. The recent closing of 49 schools generated several rallies in the city and has contributed to teachers' general distrust of the district administration.

Nevertheless, the Chicago Teachers Union and the district mapped out many details of the new review system on a labor-management committee. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's CEO, said that devising a system that helped teachers get better was first and foremost in that committee's mind.

Karen Lewis, the president of the CTU, was much less positive about the first-year results. She focused on a separate analysis, released last week by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, in which more than half of teachers surveyed said tests were weighted too heavily in the reviews.

—Stephen Sawchuk


| NEWS | College Bound

Middle-Grades Effort Promotes College

Educators eager for the right formula to motivate low-income students to aspire to college can find promise in a new study that endorses early exposure to college, mentoring, and community service leadership.

University of Michigan researchers found that the combined interventions used by the 22-year-old nonprofit College for Every Student had a substantial impact on college-going attitudes of disadvantaged students. Three-quarters of participants in the study plan to attend four-year colleges, compared with 5 percent of students in a control group.

The study focused on the program's effectiveness among a sample of 1,100 middle school students in 21 schools across 10 states.

Teachers in the program are trained to deliver the services and provide the extra support, along with volunteer mentors. College students, business representatives, and other community members are often involved. Sessions take place before or after school, in a special period of the day, or during lunch.

The evaluation found CFES had the right balance of approaches that made a difference in college-going rates for disadvantaged kids.

—Caralee J. Adams

Vol. 33, Issue 05, Page 11

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