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The National Zoo's Activities You Can Do at Home

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My daughters are currently obsessed with a book titled On the Loose in Washington D.C. It's a book created in the "Where's Waldo" style, but instead of having to find Waldo you have to find animals....

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How to Create an Approved Senders List in Gmail

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Have you ever signed up for a webinar like this one and then wondered why you never got any information about how to join the webinar? Or have you had someone say, "yeah, I emailed that to you...

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Rethinking Grading In A 21st Century Project-Based Learning Environment

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Rethinking grading in project-based learning can support and encourage students by clarifying complexity and rewarding nuance of understanding.

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If all we offer is uninspiring learning, we’re in trouble

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TroubleOur students come to school for a variety of reasons:

  • to see their friends;
  • to participate in electives, extracurricular activities, and athletics;
  • to interact with and get support from caring teachers;
  • to get a credential for college, career, or the military;
  • because their parents need child care;
  • because state law requires them to attend;
  • etc.

What about learning? Yes, that’s a reason too… for some. But engagement data show that many/most of our students are not coming to school because their learning is engaging. The reasons listed above tend to be much more compelling for most students than the fairly-uninspiring learning tasks that we put before them. But many students are often willing to put up with the uninspiring learning and play ‘the game of school’ in exchange for the other aspects of school. In other words: “Most of my classes may be boring but I get to hang out with my friends, be in a club, participate in music and art, play a sport, see a couple of teachers that I like…”

One of the biggest challenges of ‘remote learning’ over the past few months has been that most of the motivators been pared away. For many students, all that has been left is the uninspiring learning. Little to no interaction with classmates. Little to no interaction with caring educators. No electives, extracurriculars, or athletics. And so on. Accordingly, we shouldn’t be surprised when our students – who generally have more control and autonomy at home over their learning decisions than they do at school – simply opt out. They decide that the exchange rate has shifted and they’re no longer interested, regardless of our pleas (or punishments) to the contrary.

As we try to figure out what schooling will look like in the months to come, we need to pay attention to the motivators and demotivators that help foster student engagement. If all we’re offering students is the uninspiring learning, we’re in a heap of trouble.

Image credit: In case you were looking for it, Schwar

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Best Of The Best: Here Are The Finalists In The NPR Student Podcast Challenge

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Podcast Challenge

Despite the coronavirus pandemic that closed schools nationwide, students from 46 states and the District of Columbia submitted entries. We've narrowed those down to 25 finalists.

(Image credit: Delphine Lee/NPR)

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The Benefits Of Using Technology In Learning

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The Benefits Of Using Technology In Learning

contributed by Yulia Gorenko, Unicheck

While technology opens new horizons for education at home, adapting to this is more challenging. What are the pros and cons of remote teaching technology?

Education is one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 lockdown with social distancing measures meaning schools could be closed for the foreseeable future. 

However, thanks to technology, teachers are still able to continue teaching and students don’t lag behind. And while this is good news, many educators face new challenges due to this switch to remote learning, and for some, it takes time to accustom.

Let’s take a look at the challenges and advantages of remote teaching and technology for teachers.

Challenges Of Using Technology In Learning

In remote education, students are more responsible for the outcome of their learning. And as increasing numbers of teachers and students adapt to this new reality, more challenges are coming their way.

So many distractions for students

Online students face a huge number of distractions from their learning. And it’s no wonder: technology offers learners so many opportunities for entertainment or communication, they often participate in them during lessons — whether it be scrolling TikTok, chatting, or browsing. Every teacher now has to explore new technical and pedagogical means to keep students focused.

Adapting to round-the-clock availability

Going to a traditional school formed a clear daily routine: with a fixed duration of lessons, breaks, and free time after that. Now, it’s down to students to plan their day and distribute the workloads on their own. Teachers may also struggle with the 24-hour online availability. It’s hard to ‘escape’ from a remote school. On top of this, since learning and resting now takes place at home, it feels like school is open the whole time. 

Time and labor-consuming course planning

Using lots of new tools and techniques turns teachers into students too. 

While they already had everything ready for in-school lessons, each remote lesson now requires teachers to convert these learning materials into forms more suitable for online education.

Cost

Including hardware, software, training, professional development for teachers, and more.

The Benefits Of Using Technology For Learning

Technology opens up a new space for learning where students are allowed more freedom, and teachers are guides in an exciting new world of almost infinite knowledge.

Collaborative learning environment regardless of location

Without effective collaboration between learners and teachers, students often lose motivation due to the perceived lack of community and sense of shared learning. This is why it is critical to use various forms of online interaction, from text messages and video conferencing to collaborative interactive projects and the latest online platforms, to support students and keep them engaged. 

Encouraging active participation

Remote teaching gives learners flexibility you won’t find in the traditional classroom setting. Instead of having all students participate simultaneously, teachers can schedule separate group or individual lessons, give personalized content, and always stay in touch.

Jerry Blumengarten, a connected educator with more than 30 years of experience, suggests, “To make distant learning work, you should prepare tutorials on the use of the tech tools you will be using for your instructors and students. This should be done in a step-by-step simple way to avoid any confusion and mistakes. Provide a contact number where you can be reached to answer any questions and offer further help to your students.”

Engaging Students In New Ways

Online distance learning allows you to move from static learning materials to more dynamic interactive media content. Another benefit of technology in learning is that students often learn faster when they are not only listening to the teacher and reading textbooks but also participating in engaging academic activity. That’s why it’s a great idea to encourage learning using short quizzes, exercises with elements of gamification, interactive apps, and more.

Easier Plagiarism Detection

Technology is your friend when it comes to academic integrity, and is the bestway to effectively check works for plagiarism. Text similarity detection tools like Unicheck thoroughly scan students’ texts for plagiarism and help teachers see where students have relied too heavily on other sources. There are dozens of reasons why students cheat, but it’s the teacher’s role to teach them to realise that this won’t help  – either in school or in life.

Assessment And Grading Automation

You can use various interactive tests and multiple-choice quizzes to quickly and easily check student knowledge. Utilize online grading tools to organize your grade book, see overall marks for every student, and empower them to follow their success. 

Changing Roles For Student And Teacher

With information easily available on the internet, the teacher’s role as a subject expert becomes less critical. It’s the ability to guide students through these volumes of information that really matters in modern education.

At the same time, finding the most effective ways of learning from different sources together with students makes teachers co-learners rather than the sole source of knowledge. And this is exactly the behavior that can inspire students and encourage them to study beyond the curriculum. It might look like teachers are losing control, but in fact, these new approaches build real trust and respect within the class.

Adopting Progressive Educational Technologies

Information technology in education provides a large variety of new methods for teachers. Mobile educational apps, collaborative platforms, learning analytics, and so many more innovative tools and approaches make the learning process much more appealing for both student and teacher.

Access To The Latest Information 

It takes a long time to update academic textbooks and other printed materials, so they often contain obsolete knowledge, especially when it comes to modern science or contemporary history. But online information is dynamic and always updated. On the internet, new information is spread instantly, and can be instantly integrated into the learning process making this one of the most powerful benefits of technology in learning.

Conclusion

From what we’ve seen so far, technology in education is more than just the latest trend. Instead, it’s a powerful tool capable of greatly enriching teachers’ work and being thoroughly engaging for students. However, like any tool, technology requires a sensible, balanced approach. 

The good news is there’s so much room for experiments, every teacher can find the approach that works best. In the words of Amy Hollier, the Head of Blended Learning at Heart of Worcestershire College, UK, and a remote learning enthusiast: “These circumstances have brought digital to the fore and really offered the opportunity to explore different methods of delivery and communication with students outside of the institution. I think we will all have a new, improved approach to teaching and learning digitally as a result of this period of time.”

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The post The Benefits Of Using Technology In Learning appeared first on TeachThought.

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How To Help Your Students Develop A Growth Mindset

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How To Help Your Students Develop A Growth Mindset

contributed by Jackie Gerstein, usergeneratededucation

For professional development around growth mindset, contact TeachThought Professional Development to bring Jackie Gerstein and other TeachThought professionals to your school today.

I work part-time with elementary learners – with gifted learners during the school year and teaching maker education camps during the summer. The one thing almost all of them have in common is yelling out, “I can’t do this” when the tasks aren’t completed upon first attempts or get a little too difficult for them.

I partially blame this on the way most school curriculum is structured. Too much school curriculum is based on paper for quick and one-shot learning experiences (or the comparable online worksheets). Students are asked to do worksheets on paper, answer end-of-chapter questions on paper, write essays on paper, do math problems on paper, fill in the blanks on paper, and pick the correct answer out of a multiple-choice set of answers on paper. These tasks are then graded as to the percentage correct and then the teacher moves onto the next task.

So it is no wonder that when learners are given hands-on tasks such as those common to maker education, STEM, and STEAM, they sometimes struggle with their completion. Struggling is good. Struggling with authentic tasks mimics real life so much more than completing those types of tasks and assessments done at most schools.

Problems like yelling out, “I can’t do this” arise when the tasks get a little too difficult, but ultimately are manageable. I used to work with delinquent kids within Outward Bound-type programs. Most at-risk kids have some self-defeating behaviors including those that result in personal failure. The model for these types of programs is that helping participants push past their self-perceived limitations results in the beginnings of success rather than a failure orientation. This leads to a success-building through a success behavioral cycle.

How To Respond When Students Say ‘I Can’t Do This’

A similar approach can be used with learners when they take on an ‘I can’t do this’ attitude. Some of the strategies to offset ‘I can’t do this’ include:

Help learners focus on “I can’t do this . . .  YET.”

Teach learners strategies for dealing with frustration.

Encourage learners to ask for help from their peers.

Give learners tasks a little above their ability levels.

Emphasize the processes of learning rather than its product.

Reframe mistakes and difficulties as opportunities for learning.

Scaffold learning; provide multiple opportunities to learn and build upon previous learning.

Focus on mastery of learning; mastery of skills.

Avoid the urge to rescue them.

May need to push learners beyond self-perceived limits.

Build reflection into the learning process.

Help learners accept an ‘it’s okay’ when a task really is too hard (only as a last resort).

Focus on “I can’t do this . . .  YET.”

The use of “YET” was drawn from Carol Dweck’s work with growth mindsets.

‘Just the words “yet” or “not yet,” we’re finding give kids greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence. And we can actually change students’ mindsets. In one study, we taught them that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections,and over time, they can get smarter.’ (Carol Dweck TED Talk: The power of believing that you can improve)

By asking learners to add ‘yet’ to the end of their ‘I can’t do this’ comments, possibilities are opened up for success in future attempts and iterations. It changes their fixed or failure mindsets to growth and possibility ones.

Teach learners strategies for dealing with frustration.

What often precedes learners yelling out, ‘I can’t do this’ is that learners’ frustration levels have gotten a bit too high for them. Helping learners deal with their frustrations is a core skill related to their social-emotional development and helps with being successful with the given tasks.

‘The basic approach to helping a [student] deal with frustrating feelings is (a) to help them build the capability to observe themselves while they’re in the midst of experiencing the feeling, (b) to help them form a story or narrative about their experience of the feeling and the situation, and then (c) to help them make conscious choices about their behavior and the ways they express their feelings.’ (Tips for Parents: Managing Frustration and Difficult Feelings in Gifted Children)

‘You can help your [student] recognize that learning involves trial and error. Mastering a new skill takes patience, perseverance, practice, and the confidence that success will come. Instead of recognizing that failure is temporary, a [student] often concludes, “I’ll never succeed.” That is why encouragement is by far the most important gift you can give your frustrated [student]. Take her dejection seriously, but help her look at her challenge differently: “Never,” you might reply, “is an awfully long time.” Eventually, she’ll learn from your encouraging words to talk herself out of giving up.’ (Fight Frustration)

Encourage learners to ask for help from their peers.

I must tell both my gifted students and my summer campers several times a day to ask one of their classmates for help when they are stuck. I have a three before me policy in my classrooms, but sometimes when I tell them to ask for help, they look at me like I am speaking another language.  It makes sense, though, as they often have been socialized via school procedures to ask the teacher when they get stuck.

The following poster is going up in my classroom this coming year to remind them of the different possibilities for getting help if and when they get stuck on a learning task:

3b4tchart1-791x1024

The bottom line becomes facilitating learner self-reliance knowing that these are skills learners can transfer to outside of school activities where there often is not a teacher to provide assistance.

Emphasize the processes of learning rather than its product.

School curriculum often focuses on the whats of learning – the products – rather than the hows of learning – the processes. When the focus changes to the process of learning, learners are less apt to feel the pressure to create quality products. “Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increase their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences” (Engaging students in learning).

The biggest step an educator can take to implement a process-oriented learning environment is to let go of expectations about what a product should be. Expectations can and should be around learning processes such as: following through to the task completion, finding help when needed, trying new things, taking risks, creating and innovating, tolerating frustration, and attempting alternative routes when one route isn’t working.

Reframe mistakes & difficulties as opportunities for learning.

I’ve blogged about normalizing failure and mistake-making in The Over Promotion of Failure:

“I reframe the idea of failure, that oftentimes occur within open-ended, ill-defined projects, as things didn’t go as originally planned. It is just a part of the learning process. I explain to my learners that they will experience setbacks, mistakes, struggles. It is just a natural part of real-world learning. Struggles, setbacks, and mistakes are not discussed as a failure but as parts of a process that need improving.”

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‘Contrary to what many of us might guess, making a mistake with high confidence and then being corrected is one of the most powerful ways to absorb something and retain it. Learning about what is wrong may hasten to understand of why the correct procedures are appropriate but errors may also be interpreted as failure. And Americans … strive to avoid situations where this might happen.’ (To Err Is Human: And A Powerful Prelude To Learning)

Scaffold learning; provide multiple opportunities to learn and build upon previous learning.

Many maker education, STEM, and STEAM activities require a skill set in order to complete them. For example, many of the learning activities I do with my students require the use of scissors, tape, putting together things. Even though some of the learners are as old as 6th grade, many lack these skills. As such, I do multiple activities that require their use. Learners are more likely to enjoy, engage in, and achieve success in these activities if related skills are scaffolded, repeated, and built upon.

‘In the process of scaffolding, the teacher helps the student master a task or concept that the student is initially unable to grasp independently. The teacher offers assistance with only those skills that are beyond the student’s capability. Of great importance is allowing the student to complete as much of the task as possible, unassisted. The teacher only attempts to help the student with tasks that are just beyond his current capability. Student errors are expected, but, with teacher feedback and prompting, the student is able to achieve the task or goal.’ (Scaffolding)

‘By allowing students to learn from their mistakes, or circling back through the curriculum will allow more students to access your instruction and for you to have a better understanding of where they are at with their learning. Let’s face it, learning can be messy and if you try to put it into a simple box or say a single class period and then move on, it isn’t always effective. (Strategies and Practices That Can Help All Students Overcome Barriers)’

Focus on mastery of learning; mastery of skills.

Sal Khan of Khan Academy fame has a philosophy that focuses on mastery of learning and skills that apply to all types of learning:

A problem, Khan says, is the next block of material builds on what the student was supposed to learn in the last lesson, and it’s usually more difficult to pick up. So a student learns only 75% of the material, we can’t expect that student to master the next section.

When students master concepts and learn at their own pace — all sorts of neat things happen. The students can actually master the concepts, but they’re also building their growth mindset, they’re building perseverance, they’re taking agency over their learning. And all sorts of beautiful things can start to happen in the actual classroom. (Sal Khan TED Talk Urges Mastery, Not Test Scores In Classroom)

This approach puts forward the notion that students should not be rushed through to more complex concepts without having the foundational knowledge needed to successfully transition to the next level.

Khan believes we should be teaching students to master the material before moving on, ensuring that students are given as much time and support as they need to tackle each new concept before trying to build upon it. As Khan says, you wouldn’t build the second floor of a house on a shaky foundation. Otherwise, it will collapse.

Mastery learning:

-Reframes a student’s sense of responsibility, where performance is viewed as the product of instruction and practice, rather than a lack of ability.

-Encourages a student to persevere and grasp knowledge they previously didn’t understand.

-Gives students the time and opportunity as they need to master each step, instead of teaching to fixed time constraints.

-Provides feedback and assessment throughout the learning process, not just after a major assessment.’ (Teaching for mastery)

Give learners tasks a little above their ability levels.

Giving learners tasks a little above their ability levels is actually a definition for differentiated instruction. It also helps to ensure that new learning will occur; that learners will be challenged to go beyond their self-perceived limitations. ‘People can’t grow if they are constantly doing what they have always done. Let them develop new skills by giving challenging tasks” (15 effective ways to motivate your team). As learners overcome challenges, they will be more likely to take on new, even more challenging tasks.

Avoid the urge to rescue them.

I’ve had learners cry (even as old as 6th grade), get angry, sit down in frustration.

Educators, by nature, are helpers. The tendency is for them to rescue learners from the stress and frustration of reaching seemingly unsurmountable challenges. But, and this is a big but, if educators do rescue them, then they are taking away learning opportunities, the possibility of the learner achieving success on his or her own.

May need to push learners beyond self-perceived limits.

This is the next step after not rescuing learners. The educator may have to push, encourage, cajole, coax, persuade, wheedle learners to go beyond what they thought possible. It is similar to a coach who really pushes her or his athletes. Sometimes it appears mean or callous.

The big caveat to being successful with this strategy is that the educator must first have a good relationship with the leaners; that learners really understand that the educator has their best interests at heart.

Build reflection into the learning process.

‘Time needs to be built into the day or class period where students reflect on what they’ve learned and make meaning of it.  This helps with processing information as they reconcile it with their prior knowledge and work to make the information stick.  This is a great opportunity for thinking to be clarified, questions to be sought, or learning to be extended.’ (Strategies and Practices That Can Help All Students Overcome Barriers)

Help learners accept an ‘it’s okay’ when a task really is too hard.

And only as a last resort, because it should be.

The post How To Help Your Students Develop A Growth Mindset appeared first on TeachThought.

Time To Teach reviews each blog post by our contributors but if you feel this is a blog post better suited for another page please let us know. Teachers and Educators are our heroes. We want to thank you for the work you do! Yours In Education! Time To Teach

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AudioMass – A Free, Registration-free Audio Editor

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AudioMass is a new online audio editing tool that I recently learned about on Product Hunt. AudioMass doesn't require any registration in order to use it. In fact, there isn't even an option to...

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Artificial Intelligence in K-12: The Right Mix for Learning or a Bad Idea?

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The rapid shift to tech-driven, remote learning this spring has infused more technology into K-12 education, but AI tools still remain on the fringe.

Time To Teach reviews each blog post by our contributors but if you feel this is a blog post better suited for another page please let us know. Teachers and Educators are our heroes. We want to thank you for the work you do! Yours In Education! Time To Teach

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Smarter eLearning: Promoting Higher-Leveling Thinking In Online Courses 

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blooms-lia

Smarter eLearning: Promoting Higher-Leveling Thinking In Online Courses 

contributed by Rosa Fattahi, WizIQ

Since the ancient days of philosopher Socrates, asking questions has been a critical part of the teaching and learning process.

The well-known question-and-answer technique that Socrates employed with his pupils demonstrated how well dialogue and discourse work to stimulate students, encourage more complex thinking, and help them learn. For educators, verbal questioning also helps foster a sense of community in the classroom and keeps students engaged in the instructional process. Thus, in order to maintain active classroom dialogue and encourage student involvement, it is important for teachers to understand and employ effective questioning techniques.

Questions are invaluable teaching tools that serve many functions in the teaching and learning processes. Teachers use questions for many reasons, such as to:

  • Assess knowledge and learning

  • Prompt students to clarify, expand, and support their claims

  • Direct students to engage in discussion or debate

  • Encourage students to question their own thought process or reasoning

  • Apply class concepts to real-world scenarios

Verbal questioning is one of the most common pedagogical tools, second only to perhaps lecturing. However, the art of good questioning practices that facilitate higher-order, more complex thinking in students takes time and planning. In addition, for online teachers, effective questioning techniques must be restructured to suit the technological medium of the course.

Effective Questioning Addresses a Range of Cognitive Skills

It is important that traditional and online teachers employ a variety of question types that address a range of intellectual skills.

Questions should not only be used to assess student comprehension of the material, but also to help students extend their thinking and creativity skills by connecting ideas to each other and applying concepts to the real world. For teachers, this means first having a clear understanding of hierarchy of lower order to higher-order intellectual skills, and then using questioning techniques in the classroom that address the full range.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is the most commonly used framework for understanding the hierarchy of intellectual skills that students demonstrate. For effective questioning in the classroom, teachers should ask questions relating to each category. Following is Bloom’s Taxonomy listed from the least to the highest order of thinking skills, and including example verb prompts that might be used to display each skill:

  • Knowledge = basic recollection of information or data, with questions often beginning with words such as define, list, or repeat

  • Comprehension = displaying a deeper understanding of a concept’s meaning, with questions often beginning with words such as describe, explain, or identify

  • Application = using a learned concept in solving a problem or situation, with questions beginning with words such as demonstrate, predict, or solve

  • Analysis =  explaining the component parts of a concept, breaking it down to distinguish between facts and assumptions, with questions beginning with words such as infer, compare/contrast, or relate

  • Synthesis = combining the parts of a concept to form an original, creative idea or solve a problem in a new, useful way, with questions beginning with words such as create, devise, or plan

  • Evaluation = independently judging the value, usefulness, or strength of learned ideas or concepts, with questions beginning with words such as assess, interpret, or choose

Lower vs. Higher Order Thinking Skills & Convergent vs. Divergent Question Types

The classification of question types reflected in Bloom’s hierarchy has also been simplified into two groups: lower-order and higher-order cognitive skills.

Lower order cognitive skills are fostered by questions that ask students to display their knowledge and comprehension of concepts. Generally, such lower-order intellectual skills can be honed with convergent, or ‘closed’ questions, which have an anticipated response and do not require original thought on the part of the student. Convergent, lower-order questions are usually ‘what’ questions that require basic recall and explanation.

On the other hand, higher-order cognitive skills are seen in answering questions that require application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These skills are best furthered with divergent, or ‘open,’ questions, which have a number of possible responses and demand both reasoning and creative thinking from the students. Divergent, higher-order questions often ask students ‘why’ or ‘how’ and force students to think more critically about the subject.

Too often, teacher questions focus on the first or second, lower levels of cognition, asking questions that do not encourage students to think for themselves, apply their newly gained knowledge, or develop original ideas. Instead, teachers must consider their questioning techniques in advance, to ensure that they are using simple, convergent questions, as well as more complex, divergent questions to address all levels of cognitive skill. Overall, though, the emphasis should be on asking higher-order questions that require more developed thinking skills, which better challenge students and help them to grow intellectually.

Applying Cognitive Variation to Questioning in the Online Classroom

In the virtual setting of the online classroom, questioning techniques must be restructured to meet the restrictions of the environment. However, verbal questioning strategies will differ among online courses, depending on the type of online platform being used.

For example, many online courses do not have live teacher-student interaction, so students and teachers only interact through digital files and text. In these types of online courses, effective questioning strategies must be employed through message boards, discussion posts, and course materials. For the teachers of such courses, the challenge comes in wording prompts and planning questioning patterns to ensure that questions address all levels of cognitive skill and difficulty.

In addition to applying cognitive levels to their questioning strategies, teachers of online courses that do have a live, interactive video component may have additional tools that are useful in questioning students. In particular, many online educational platforms offer a number of features that can be used to facilitate questioning, both during and after live class sessions including interactive screens, breakout sessions, live streaming, data reporting, polling, and related engagement tools, and more.

By understanding cognitive levels and the importance of addressing a variety of thinking skills in verbal questioning, traditional and online teachers are better equipped to apply more effective questioning techniques in the classroom. For the online teacher developing online courses, this knowledge—paired with any specific online educational features they might use to apply it—will make verbal questioning the most useful pedagogical tool in their toolkit.

The post Smarter eLearning: Promoting Higher-Leveling Thinking In Online Courses  appeared first on TeachThought.

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