Monday, March 14, 2022

Help Students Become Fluent Readers with Literacy Tools from @MicrosoftEDU

Helping students learn to read is a priority in public education. However, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress only 35% of fourth graders read at grade level. It is difficult to give students the individual attention they need to support literacy development. Fortunately, for innovative educators and their students, Microsoft has come out with some impressive tools including the brand-new Reading Coach and Reading Progress which provide accessible, individualized, and data-driven learning experiences that save time and improve learning outcomes.

These tools provide students with personalized learning experiences that will help them become fluent readers in ways that would not be possible with just one teacher with a classroom full of students.

Reading Progress

Reading Progress enables students, teachers, and parents to check reading fluency frequently and therefore differentiate more powerfully to support students on their fluency journey. Instead of feeling nervous when it’s time to do fluency checks, students feel empowered because they don't have to rely on anyone else to see their progress. They can see and build progress over time whenever they want. Educators and parents are pleased to see how well it motivates students to try multiple times and work independently to increase their scores – they are invested in their progress as readers.

Reading fluency is composed of speed, accuracy, and expression. Currently Reading Progress looks at speed and accuracy. With the forthcoming update in Spring 2022, Reading Progress will have the capacity to automatically determine the aspects of reading expression, including monotone reading, long pauses, not pausing for a period or comma, voice inflection for question marks or exclamation points, and even the stress of multi-syllable words.

Learn more about Reading Progress from Microsoft and check it out in the video below.

Reading Coach

Reading Coach builds on Reading Progress by identifying the 5 words each individual student struggled with the most and presenting them again with tools to support the learner in practicing independently. Tools available to students include text to speech, syllable breaking, and picture dictionary. These supports can be enabled and customized by the educator, who sets up the Reading Coach when a Reading Progress assignment in Teams is created.

Learn more about Reading Coach from Microsoft and check it out in the video below.

Insights Dashboards

To ensure fundamentals are addressed, an Insights dashboard is being developed this Spring which will reflect students’ understanding of phonics rules. The Reading Progress software will analyze each word at the phoneme level and give an accuracy rating per phoneme. The phoneme scores are mapped onto a set of phonics rules that are surfaced to the educator to help inform instruction. Because there are many phonics rules in the English language, the rules are categorized into consonants and vowels, and then sub-categories in each area.

The phonics rules dashboards will allow an educator to see which areas need additional focus at the class or student level at a glance.

Screenshot of the Reading Progress Insights Dashboard. Shows words per minute, accuracy, mispronunciations and more.

Technology tools such as these enable us to redefine and reimagine literacy development in the classroom by providing every student with learning personalized to their needs. Students empowered to use these technology tools have a much greater likelihood to achieve reading at or above grade level.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

5 Pandemic Learning Gains

Person walking through a tunnel with technology floating around
If you follow the fear-mongering mainstream media, you’d think today's youth is doomed as a result of the “learning loss” caused by the emergency remote learning students were involved in during the pandemic. Innovative educators (and their students) understand this is untrue. There is not one moment in time when any particular subject or topic needs to be learned. As adults many of us know we remember and use very little of what we learned in our K-12 education. Talk to students pre-pandemic and they’ll tell you school often felt boring, irrelevant, and disconnected from the real-world where they can learn anything, anytime, anywhere using technology that traditionally was not available (even banned) in many schools pre-pandemic. 

Instead of focusing only on loss, let’s talk about the tremendous learning gains caused by the pivot to remote learning. Because of the pivot students and staff were catapulted into the future in many school districts. As a result our students will now be more prepared than they ever would have been, had education not been disrupted. Here are five pandemic learning gains.


Access to Devices 

Students and adults know that access to technology is crucial for preparing students for success in the world. Pre-pandemic there was an enormous digital divide. Schools were spending wasting money on things like textbooks, paper, pencils, erasers, ink, etc. All this when Chromebooks were available for around $200 (or $50 - $75 a year per student). The pivot to a more powerful learning tool is not only better for students, but also more cost effective. The pandemic helped us get more devices than ever in students' hands. Not only is this access great for all students, but it is especially important for so many students with disabilities or who speak other languages. That is because the devices provide digital accessibility and translation.  


Access to the Internet 

The pandemic no longer allowed elected officials to ignore the digital divide. All citizens need access to the internet to function in modern society. In cities across the nation and globe, the pandemic caused elected officials to work with tech companies, phone companies, and more to determine ways every family could have access to the internet.  


Access to Learning Content 

The pandemic resulted in school districts adopting learning management systems and platforms like Google Classroom. Finally, content was put in an easily accessible place for all students and families. This means if a student needs to go back to refer to content, it’s there. If a parent wants to know what a child is working on, it’s there. If a student is transferred to a school mid-year, they still have easy access to learning materials.  


Access to Authentic Platforms 

Pre-pandemic a unit might culminate in students presenting something to the class and a grade by the teacher. A moment in time, often lost and forgotten. The pandemic provided schools access to limitless platforms that allowed teachers and their students to do work in modern ways. For example, students might all put their projects on Flipgrid and then watch and comment on one-another's work. Families then could also get a glimpse into the work of their children by viewing a grid. Some students were able, for the first time, to create authentic digital portfolios using tools like Seasaw or Wix for Education 


Access to Each Other & The World 

Video conferencing was something novel pre-pandemic, but now Zooming is a verb and everyone knows how to connect via video. Video conferencing flattens conversation inviting voices traditionally ignored, to have a seat at the virtual table. Features like the ability to use chat helped more introverted or shy students to share ideas. Captioning helped students with disabilities or who spoke other languages access what was being said more easily. Many teachers realized how easy it was to bring authors, guests, and experts into their virtual classrooms.  


As society makes its way back-to-school, let us not be so quick to go back-to-normal. Normal was a digital divide. Normal was outdated textbooks and tests. Normal did not support students with disabilities or who spoke other languages. Normal did not untap the reality that technology helped serve many of our underserved and often unnoticed (or less noticed) students. Innovative educators, leaders, and elected officials must understand that the pandemic catapulted education into the future. Now we must determine how we will harness the lessons learned to ensure we build upon those gains.

Monday, January 3, 2022

A Few of My Favorite Healthy Meals and Where to Buy Them

Screenshot of Thrive Supermarket
In my last post, I shared healthy foods to eat and ones to avoid, but readers asked for more specifics like where to shop and what to make for various meals. To follow are some of my favorite things to eat based on what I've learned from reading many books, articles, and listening to podcasts. By following what I've learned I've lost more than 25 pounds and gained muscle.

Shop

Where to order healthy online

Fast

Doing the Bulletproof coffee method makes intermittent fasting easy. It will help you lose weight and improve your brain function.

I eat during the hours of 10 - 6 or 11 - 7.

It only took a few days for my body to adjust to fasting. Fasting is a healthier way for us to eat. 


Here’s how to make it.

  • Pour your favorite coffee

  • 1 - 2 tablespoons of MCT oil and grass fed-butter such as Ghee

  • I also add a scoop of collagen powder

  • If you like sweetener use monk fruit. This is your healthiest option.

  • Blend or use a frother

Breakfast

Don’ts

  • Cereal, granola, oat, bars, milk, cheese, waffle, muffin, pancake, bread, toast, processed meat

Do’s

Recipe ideas

Lunch or Dinner

Don’t

  • Bread

  • Processed meat

  • Cheese but if you must have cheese from goats or sheep. Some cheese alternatives like Miyoko's are not too bad.

  • If you must have bread eat ezekiel bread

Do’s

  • Wrap

    • Egg wrap or wrap with romaine lettuce

    • What’s inside?

      • Protein like chicken, fish, or tofu

      • Lots of veggies such as

        • Peppers, capers, tomatoes, olives, celery, beans, avocado

      • Plain non-fat greek yogurt. You can make it taste like various things by adding seasoning such as ranch

  • Stir fry

    • Cauliflower rice

    • Egg

    • Veggies

    • Meat or tofu

  • Sushi

    • Seaweed wrap with avocado, cucumber, quinoa (or cauliflower rice)

    • Protein: fish, meat, tofu

  • Salad

    • Make you own dressing my fave:

      • Olive oil, liquid aminos, coconut aminos, 

      • Add either: lemon juice, lime juice, or your fave vinegar

    • Greens

    • Veggies

    • Protein such as meat, fish, or tofu

  • Soup or chili

    • Most soups and chili are healthy. Make lots and eat throughout the week 

  • Shirataki noodles or Spiralized Zuchinni or Squash

    • Eat these instead of pasta. They are good for you and will make you skinny.

    • Prepare as you would regular pasta i.e. marinara, pesto, lots of veggies, healthy meat

Snacks

  • Air fry chickpeas

  • Paleovalley beef sticks

  • Apples with peanut or almond butter

    • Get an apple slicer

    • Don’t cut all the way through

    • Sprinkle lemon or lime on it and put it back together for when you’ll eat it

  • Frozen banana chips

    • These take like yummy little ice cream cookies

    • You can dip them in peanut or almond butter too