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An Interview with Vanessa Rodriguez

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dr. Jessie Voigts from Wandering Educators recently reviewed Landmark360 expert blogger Vanessa Rodriguez’s latest release, The Teaching Brain: An Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education. Below you will find a brief review and interview with the author.

“Let me tell you about “The Teaching Brain”. I picked it up, and couldn’t put it down. It delves deep into how teachers teach – and provides an interactive model for teaching – and learning. The process of teaching isn’t simple. There are myriad factors we need to think of and there are a plethora of teaching models that have been promoted over the years. And yet, there has still been something missing, a common-sense approach to teaching the same way we live our lives – thoughtfully, interactively, developmentally, and with purpose. This book, this exciting research, is that piece of the puzzle that has been missing.”  – Dr. Jessie Voigts

Interview with the author

Voigts: Please tell us about your new book, The Teaching Brain 

vanessa rodriquez headshotRodriguez: The Teaching Brain challenges widely accepted theories of teaching and offers a unique idea based on a simple yet empowering truth: we are all teachers. This book draws on the science of human development to redefine teaching as a social cognitive skill that develops in all people over time. The book marshals a wealth of research and experience to construct an entirely innovative framework for thinking about, talking about, and supporting this essential social endeavor.

Voigts: What inspired you to write this book?

Rodriguez: I spent over a decade in a classroom trying to defend my teaching decisions. I often found that the language I was using was not what administrators, researchers, and policy makers felt was appropriate evidence. I thought that a doctoral degree would help me to do this. What I found instead was that we don't have an understanding of teaching as we do learning – we don't understand the natural development of teaching in all humans. It suddenly made perfect sense to me that for all of those years I struggled to describe my teaching because we have a very limited vocabulary and overall framework for what it is! I wanted to open the door to a new way of defining teaching.

Voigts: Your theory of teaching takes into account real life interactions — and the growth of teachers. Can you give us a few examples as to how you developed your theory?

Rodriguez: It's hard to identify a specific example within the development of this theory since this theory is just how I see the world.  Teaching is a human interaction. Any time something involves an interaction with another human you have to take into account the complex nature of the brain. Our brains are complex dynamic systems.  Because they are dependent on our personal context they are forever changing. I would also note that most theories of teaching are actually stemming from theories of learning which is why they don't account for real life interactions or the growth of teachers. They are learner-centric and not about how humans teach but how humans learn. My theory is specifically about how we all develop our ability to teach.

Voigts: Why do teachers need to read this book?

Rodriguez: We are all teachers from as early as age one, we have the ability to teach and we teach without any prompting. However, we've never considered why we naturally teach nor how that natural ability shifts when we teach in the artificial setting of a classroom. By understanding the natural development of teaching, you'll become enlightened on your personal development.  Rather than being told how to teach based on a one-size-fits-all approach, you can discover your own teaching awarenesses; and therefore how you can more effectively interact with your learners.

Voigts: What's up next for you?

Rodriguez: The book highlights the overall theory I've developed on teaching but there's actually a side of my research that it doesn't delve into much. I'm currently designing and conducting studies to further understand the development of how humans teach.  In the fall, I'll be looking at teachers and students brain activity as they interact. I hypothesize that when they feel like the interaction has been successful, we'll likely see their patterns of brain activity synchronize. So rather than just saying "when it's working you can feel it," we'll actually be able to say you can also see our brain activity synchronize and act as a cohesive system rather than individual parts!

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Tags:  classroom practice education policy makers education research education technology interactive model for teaching Landmark School Landmark School Outreach Program language-based learning disabilities learner-centric student assessment teacher evaluation teaching styles teaching theories

Mobile and Online Tools to Help Students with Writing and Organization

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 15, 2020 Byline:  By J. Birch

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Technology has become an increasingly essential part of modern education. With the Covid-19 pandemic that has prompted widespread remote learning, it seems more likely than ever that the digital age will bring in a new era of education, one that maximizes technology and connections. According to EdTech, school districts have been interested in developing their capabilities for e-learning— also known as distance learning or remote learning— in order to meet the needs of K–12 students.

With the Covid-19 pandemic that has prompted widespread remote learning, it seems more likely than ever that the digital age will bring in a new era of education, one that maximizes technology and connections.

Steps to expand the horizon of education through the use of technology are already underway. For example, journalist Daniel Ling describes how augmented reality can be a useful mobile tool in education by adding an interactive component to learning. For students who have trouble paying attention in class, it can help certain aspects of history and science come to life.

Similarly, when it comes to the writing process, there are several apps that students with access to tablets or smartphones can use to help them organize and practice effective writing. As students learn to maximize their independent study, these apps become important parts of the learning process. Here's a list of a few of these useful apps.

Organization and Storage Apps

Evernote. Evernote is one of the most popular notes and organization apps around, and with good reason. It allows students to take notes and keep them organized in their preferred system, alongside checklists, links, attachments, audio recordings, images, PDFs, and more. Evernote also allows syncing across devices, making data transfer much easier. Evernote is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Planner Pro. Planner Pro helps students organize their school lives, including homework and project submission schedules and grades. It comes with a grade tracker, GPA calculator, and is able to sync into your Google Calendar. Students can set daily, weekly, or monthly goals, as well as coordinate with different people for group projects. Planner Pro is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Snap&Read. Snap&Read is a next-generation learning and reading tool that both teachers and students can use. It reads text aloud from PDFs, websites, and Google Drive, and is also able to adjust the readability of text without altering the meaning. Students can use it to organize and add notes for easier study. It also has the ability to remove distracting content and adjust fonts on browsers, as well as reading line guides. Teachers can also use it to assess individual students' reading needs. Snap&Read is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Writing Tools

Skitch. Skitch helps students organize their thoughts and communicate them visually with friends and classmates. It can be used to annotate, share diagrams, capture and mark-up maps, highlight PDFs, and share files. Skitch is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Ginger. Ginger is a proofreading app specially designed for students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities that make reading and writing challenging. It has a grammar checker that focuses on analyzing context and differentiating between tricky words like there/they're/their, as well as text-to-speech functionality so students can hear their writing read aloud. It also offers practice sessions that help students correct past mistakes. Ginger is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Ghotit. Ghotit is another app that was designed with students with learning disabilities in mind. It was developed to help users who struggle with writing accuracy, especially in terms of spelling and grammar. Ghotit has text-to-speech capabilities and is able to recognize split and merged words. It also comes with an integrated dictionary that allows students to quickly look up words they may not know. Ghotit is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

About the Author

J. Birch is a freelance writer who specializes in edtech.


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