Sunday, April 4, 2010

Innovative Ideas for Using Cell Phones to Reinforce Effort and Provide Recognition

Editor's note: This is part three in series of posts focused on the nine instructional strategies that are most likely to improve student achievement across all content areas from the book Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock.
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Reinforcing effort and providing recognition are instructional techniques that address students' attitudes and beliefs. According to research cited in Classroom Instruction that Works, not all students realize the importance of believing in effort and students can learn to change their beliefs to an emphasis on effort. When it comes to recognition research shows that recognition is most effective when it is contingent on the attainment of some standard of performance and that abstract symbolic recognition is more effective than tangible rewards. Here are some ways that reinforcing effort and providing recognition can be enriched with cell phones.


Classroom Practice in Reinforcing Effort: Teaching about Effort

While students might not be aware of the importance of believing in effort, they can be taught. Teachers can share stories of famous people who succeeded by continuing to try or a teacher can ask students to think about and share their own stories. Such examples and personal stories are an effective way to help students understand the importance of effort.

  • Subject: Literacy
  • Topic: Memoir
  • Lesson Overview: In this lesson the teacher will use Voki to have students record their voice via telephone to share a short personal story about a time when they or someone they know accomplished something important because they didn't give up. These will all be embedded on the website, blog, or wiki used by the teacher. Each story will be titled and students will be asked to provide a Voki comment on the stories that touched them.
  • How technology enriches the lesson:
    • Technology enriches this lesson over traditional methods because it puts in one place the entire classes inspirational stories. Students will have the opportunity to learn a little more about one another as a result.
    • Vokis provide the option to comment so students can comment on one another's work helping to elicit conversation that does not generally happen when students hand assignments into a teacher. Even when those assignments get posted in the classroom or on a bulletin board.
    • Creating an "Effort" page for a class provides the teacher and school with material that can be shared and celebrated with parents and the community. It is also can be used on parent/teacher night when waiting parents can look at such work from the class and during parent conferences this story will serve as a nice common ground for the teacher and parent.
    • Using a Voki to capture a verbal story can be an effective option for English Language Learners and students with special needs. It allows them to convey a story as they would naturally speak and they can record the story as often as they want if they don't get it right. Additionally, they can do the recording privately so those that are shy don't have to be concerned with speaking in front of others.


Classroom Practice in Keeping Track of Effort and Achievement

Research on effort indicates that it is powerful to help students make the connection between effort and achievement. One way to do this is by having students keep track of their effort and achievement. Classroom Instruction that Works suggests using an effort and achievement rubric that ranks each on a scale of 4 (excellent) to 1 (unacceptable).
  • Subject: Any subject
  • Topic: Any topic
  • Lesson Overview: Cell phones can be used powerfully to support students in seeing the relationship between effort and achievement in school using a Poll Everywhere Poll. This can be done by using the Effort and Achievement Rubric in Classroom Instruction that Works (figure 4.2 pg 52) to create personalized polls for each student. This could be set up in two ways depending on teacher preference. One way is that the teacher can have an effort rubric and achievement rubric for the entire class on one page. This could foster some competition and enable students to see the effect on effort and achievement not only in themselves, but also in others. The other option is to set up a page for each student that enables students to just see their own correlation between effort and achievement. By setting this up as a Poll Everywhere poll an instant graphic representation can be seen by teacher, student, parent or family.
  • How technology enriches the lesson:
    • Using Poll Everywhere sms texting technology provides a fast and easy anytime/anywhere method for students to instantly log results that can be seen by all important stakeholders...the students, the parent/family, the teacher, the guidance counselor.
    • Using a digital poll provides an instant graphic representation that may be easier to interpret by viewers about the correlation between effort and achievement.
    • Placing the results from the class in an online forum can create a competitively spirted sense of accountability to increase effort. Note: the pages can be kept as viable as the teachers wishes i.e. only to students, to students and parents, or it can be public.



Classroom Practice in Providing Recognition

Providing recognition enhances achievement and stimulates motivation. Recognition that is personal and concrete is most effective. This means there should be a direct recognition about something specific rather than a general recognition about something vague. For example, if a teacher says good job on the civil rights unit class, that will not be as a effective as if she speaks directly to a specific student about a specific strategy employed in that unit of study. Direct specific feedback about a goal a student was working to accomplish is an effective strategy.

  • Subject: Student Achievement
  • Topic: Any topic
  • Lesson Overview: Once a teacher or leader has set specific and measurable goals they can use a Wifitti digital bulletin board to capture personal and concrete recognition of their students. Wiffiti.com is a great tool that can be used to provide personal and concrete recognition to students in a particular area of focus. An example of this is if a school was measuring progress on test scores. They can set up a bulletin board and name it something such as "ABC School Scores on the Math Regents," then write a Wiffiti.com update on those students who were making the most progress on practice tests and indicate the strategy they were using that help them succeed. The educator can set the account up so only s/he contributes, or they can invite students and/or parents/guardians to contribute.
  • How technology enriches the lesson:
    • Using a resource like Wifitti provides a forum for students to be recognized and celebrated in a way that can shared with the school community and beyond.
    • This lesson can empower various stakeholders (teachers, leaders, parents, guardians, students) to recognize the accomplishments of students.

Cell phones provide a free and easy way to reinforce effort and provide recognition to students. Stay tuned for future posts featuring other research-based strategies to engage students and increase student achievement.
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