10 Reasons to Educate Elementary Students about Social Media




It is always interesting to me, to find out that more and more of our younger students are becoming involved with the Internet and Social Media.

Due to their developmental age, most students have some kind of difficulty with self-management throughout childhood. But, this is to be expected with children. They simply lack the maturity, brain development, and personal experience to understand how to manage themselves in every situation in real life, let alone online.

With person-to-person interactions, students have Parents, Teachers, & other Educators  (we hope), who are helping to appropriately guide them throughout each day. However, when using social media and the internet, kids are often left to their own devices to navigate new worlds of Social Media. These new worlds are also ones that most parents and Teachers did not grow up with.

Despite the fact that students are required to be 13 years of age or older to use many of the Social Networking applications online, it can be alarming to realize that many of our younger students are already using them. Applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and even Minecraft have taken the internet by storm. These applications are not bad at all in and of themselves, and can be used in amazing ways, especially in our schools. However, as with anything, when used inappropriately or without guidance, it can cause a lot of problems with issues such as self-esteem or bullying. Online behaviours today may also come back to haunt students in the future.

We as Educators are implicitly, if not yet explicitly, thus faced with the new tasks of teaching students digital citizenship, digital literacy, and the tasks of educating our students, parents, and communities about how to manage the Online Presence.

10 Reasons to Educate Elementary Students about Social Media:

  1. The Internet is Forever. Everything posted on the Internet will always exist somewhere. Continue reading
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Interventions with Technology to support Learning Disabilities


In our ever evolving Digital Society, we are faced with many challenges, including how to effectively sift through, and process the ever-increasing amounts of information available to us.

In terms of our Education system, it is basically expected that all learners are able to process information via the internet and social media, and apply it in meaningful ways to their own lives. This can certainly pose difficulties to all of our learners, but especially increases the cognitive demands for any student who may have a Learning Disability (LD).

The gaps between meeting the curriculum expectations at grade level, and the performance level of individuals with Learning disabilities are often wide. Educators have the responsibility to use meaningful technologies for students to enhance learning, and level the playing field within the classroom.

What do we already know about Learning Disabilities? We know that:

  • There is a link between the working memory and how effectively and quickly a student is able to process information.
  • Common deficits include learning and information processing, verbal, written, and behavioural areas
  • Deficiencies in processing = weaknesses in working memory and long term memory, memory organization, and visual perception, meta-cognition, and attention.

What do we already know about technologies that enhance learning for Students with LD’s?:

  • Concept Mapping programs can help students create visual representations of concepts and ideas
  • Speech to text platforms are great, however, they may not always appropriate especially if there are a lot of reading difficulties.
  • Organization software can help students keep schedules and manage information
  • Talking calculators are particularly helpful with the dyscalcula LD

However, there are other criteria that educators must keep in mind, especially with the many new technological applications that are rapidly developing online. Little to no research has been conducted on these new applications, and explicit training is often non-existent.

How can Educators use new programs to enhance Learning of Students with LD’s:

It is simply not good practice to basically match specific learning needs to technologies, and use a technology just because it happens to be available. Much Planning and critical analysis necessary to determine the best fit for the students, and provide meaningful differentiated instruction.

Before Computer based instructional tools are chosen, Educators should ask the following questions:

  • What are the specific learning difficulties that the student is facing?
  • What problem solving tasks are appropriate  for this student?
  • What is the best way to provide this student with feedback?
  • How can I increase student motivation for learning?
  • At what point will this student become overwhelmed?

Often, the answers to these questions can only be answered once we get to know our students first, in the classroom, in person.

Educators also need to use strategies for choosing technologies that are evidence-based, meet the needs of our students, and minimize distractions.

Kennedy & Deshler (2010) have outlined some excellent strategies that Educators can use to effectively teach using Technology, and I have paraphrased some of them here:

  • Explicitly show students what to attend to on the platform
  • Get rid of information that will only serve to distract the students.
  • Help students to block out extraneous stimuli that are too distracting.
  • Keep the on- screen text and pictures in close proximity to limit eye shifting.
  • Keep multimedia presentations to short segments of no more than 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Speak with students in a more conversational style with the students rather than formal lectures or audio.
  • Foster active learning with the Students. Using Technology should not be a passive process.
  • Make technology relevant to the students, regardless of what is being taught.
  • Have a menu of strategies for use with the students, not just one, and not just technological strategies.

Essentially, Educators should not merely plug students into a computer with a stand-alone program without explicit instruction first of how the program fits specifically into what the students need to learn.

With our rapidly changing and ever-evolving world of technology, and a lack of research surrounding effective Technological Pedagogy for Education, the onus is on the teachers to use sound judgement with using technologies that are not just relevant to the students, but also meets their unique learning needs. Special attention is warranted also for using technologies to enhance the learning of students with Learning Disabilities.


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Strategies to Promote Success with Gifted and LD Learners


All students with Gifted abilities and Learning Disabilities are absolutely exceptional. If you are a Regular Classroom Teacher, chances are, you have students with Gifted abilities in your classroom, even if Learners have LD’s . It is essential that all Educators become prepared arsenal of strategies on hand to support our Gifted Learners.

How are Gifted Students Identified?

Traditionally, Giftedness has been defined based upon standardized intelligence tests scores.

In many regions, Parents and Educators have the option to nominate individuals for Gifted Testing in Grade 3. However, this can become problematic when nominees for Gifted testing are those students who typically display ‘good behaviour’, neatness, and conformity within the classroom.

Unfortunately, these variables often overlook those students who may fall into categories of stereotypical ‘bad behaviours’, disorganization, Learning Disabilities, clumsiness, or other exceptionalities that may elicit bias on behalf of Educators, who will therefore choose NOT to consider for Gifted testing or programming.

In terms of standardized testing, we also have to ask ourselves about possible bias in the Gifted testing itself, as many Gifted Classrooms are underrepresented in terms of minority groups including First Nations, Metis & Inuit; individuals Learning Disabilties, those with low Socio-Economic Status, and females.

Further, Standardized testing may demonstrate that students may have high Gifted Abilities in some areas, but average to lower scores in other areas, including LD. These students will often not receive a ‘Gifted’ label, merely because they do not meet ALL of the criteria. However, this is not an excuse for Educators to ignore the ‘Gifted’ areas.

Regardless of whether students with Gifted Exceptionalities receive the ‘Gifted’ label or not, Teachers need to be able to Differentiate Instruction enough in any classroom to promote their students’ high academic abilities.

4 Ways to Address Gifted Needs in the Classroom:

  1. Promote gifted children to the level that they should be working at in their areas of Giftedness, but also keep them with their same-age peers during the day.
  2. Provide Students with Enrichment activites that elaborate on the content learned in class, and provide opportunities to work with a) curriculum-related Abstract concepts or b) Novel Content.
  3. Provide Special opportunities for clubs, seminars, and field trips for Exceptionalities.
  4. Provide homogeneous high-ability groupings such as Gifted Classrooms.

 Five Practices of Highly Effective Educators for Gifted Students:

  1. Take the time to build rapport with your students and get to know them. Always strive to understand the culture of the student and how it has affected their development and behaviour. Find out what is important to them!
  2. Differentiate your Instruction. What instructional methods do you value, and what would work best for your individual students?
  3. Analyse your own attitudes, and cultural expectations of others. If you understand what your bias is, then you can acknowledge when it may be in conflict with someone else. Understanding your personal bias does not necessarily mean that Educators need to change their minds, but acknowledgment of bias is important to develop an awareness that there are other ways of viewing the situation. It is also respectful to the students to acknowledge when changes are warranted.
  4. Understand your school’s culture, and compare this with the expectations of your students and their parents. This can go a long way for Educators to understand, and help parents understand, where differences in expectations lie.
  5. Always strive for Strong Working Alliances with your students and their Parents. Educators are in effect working for the students and parents. Be flexible, understanding, and open to learning more! Listening, and reflecting back the needs of families with Gifted children goes a very long way to helping families and their children feel valued and cared for.

Deborah McCallum


© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Formal Assessment and Intervention with Learning Disabilities


Formal Assessments, used as part of overall and holistic assessment process in Education, can be very effective to help guide interventions for Learning Disabilities (LD).

What we want in Education, is to maintain a sense of consistency or reliability throughout the entire Education System.

However, Formal Assessments only look at part of the picture, and does not necessarily consider systemic issues. Further, they may focus on ‘problem-in-the-person’ and not the broader systems that affect the development and maintenance of academic success.

Some Formal Assessments may also be considered oppressive, and so therefore may inherently promote racial and cultural bias.

Formal assessment procedures may only provide enough evidence to allow for consideration of a narrow range of treatment techniques, depending upon how many variables that may be assessed. Yet rarely are student academic and personal issues ever caused by only one factor, and rarely does a single, unidimensional intervention work in actual practice. They may also place labels on clients that are meaningless.

I do support formal assessment when used in the proper ways and with other assessment techniques. I think that problems arise when Educators are unable to integrate and synthesize data from formal assessment with other interviewing and informal techniques to create proper ‘hunches’ that will lead to tentative ideas for intervention.

It is essential to find out what Formal Assessment procedures are being used, what information they will elicit, and how to best support your Learners with LD in the classroom. Next, it is important to assess your own worldviews surrounding what you think you know about the Learning Disability or about the information you are learning. Then you can go to the drawing board and begin to figure out what strategies need to be put into place to best support your learners.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Neuro-Education: 6 Strategies to Improve Learning and Cognition for Students with Learning Disabilities


Neuro-Education appears to be a new trend that is striving to apply findings from Science Based Research on Learning and Memory, directly to the Field of Education. It may also help us to understand how to effectively help our students with Learning Disabilities.

Here are some ideas that can be applied from the field of Neuro-Education, to improving student learning among students:

1. Read to your Children: Also, read books aloud, that are higher than their actual reading level to improve their vocabulary. Studies have shown that it is the rich vocabularies of our students that largely determine how they will succeed in school. Further, the more complex the books, the more neural connections the brain is able to make.

2. Space Episodes of Learning over time: Learning should not be consolidated into one chunk of time. Long term memory is improved when learning occurs over time, and in multiple episodes.

3. Use digital technologies to help individualize instruction: There are many new technologies and apps that are extremely intuitive. They can give feedback right away, and adjust almost immediately to the students actual learning level. Let’s explore these tools and use them appropriately in the classrooms to enhance student learning. Cognitive Science and Principles of Learning Psychology will also tell us that all humans learn best when feedback is immediate.

4. Intermittent reinforcement: Students do not need to be rewarded every single time they get an answer correct, but it helps when learning can be made fun on an ongoing basis! All learning behaviours are strengthened when students receive intermittent reinforcement. This also is more support for spacing learning over time, and not just in one episode.

5. The idea of ‘Learning Styles’ is unsupported in Neuroscience. The fact is that all parts of our brains are instrumental in many different types of learning, memories, & emotions. Instruction should be differentiated to enable all students to engage their many areas of intelligences & strengths, and to improve and understand weaknesses; (thus improving metacognition skills too).

6. Understand the Scientific Research behind Learning Disabilities, Processing Disorders, ADHD, Dyslexia, Giftedness & Autism. Let’s provide ongoing, and real Research-Based training for Educators, to optimize the learning for all individuals.

I think that there is a lot of possibility here in applying these strategies toward improving student learning.

What are some effective strategies you have tried?




Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Learning Disabilties: Assessing Areas of Need in our Students

As teachers, educators and facilitators, we all need to be able to formally, and informally, evaluate students continually, and pay attention to the criteria that may point toward areas of need, such as Learning Disabilities(LD).


Assessment, both informal and formal, is very important for this process. What is collected during assessments is invaluable for future planning of relevant strategies for learning. Educators need to know what information specifically they are looking at when assessing areas of need.



During the assessment process educators need to know:

  1. What information to obtain
  2. How to obtain it
  3. How to put it together in a meaningful way, and
  4. How to use it to generate hypotheses about educational issues, including Learning Disabilities.

These hypotheses are what ultimately lead educators to tentative ideas for planning appropriate interventions.

Formative Feedback & Assessment FOR Learning!!

Assessment for Learning need to be continually integrated throughout the process of working toward a diagnoses of areas of need. This is what informs educators on whether or not to pursue formal evaluations.

Utilizing informal measures does not mean ‘starting from scratch’, as there are already many important procedures that lend themselves toward documenting change and success. Specific informal measures may include, and NOT limited to:

  • Simple Checklists for tracking academic and social behaviour;
  • Portfolios can help document skill acquisition and helping students to recognize their strengths;
  • Observation forms for tracking behaviours and to gather baseline information or informal evidence of a student’s progress;
  • Cognitive Mapping to track aspects of a client’s problem situation and to help student become more focused on their own situation;
  • Self-monitoring Tasks and Authentic Assessment can be used where classroom assessment practices closely match the instructional practices, and not necessarily pencil and paper tests.

It is very important for educators to begin to evaluate a chosen course of action as soon as the behaviour or area of need begins to present itself. We need to have an idea of when and how the process is unfolding and whether the outcomes we hoped for are actually happening.

Further, clearly defined criteria for success is essential to allow for continual evaluation of on-going change.

Summative, Assessment of Learning, & Integration of Formalized Assessment Strategies:

Summative evaluation is usually the final step after some intervention or potential solutions have already been tried. It is important that educators utilize standardized ways of conceptualizing evaluation and gathering evidence, to be able to generate information that can attest to the success of the strategies for evaluating a Learning and Behavioural needs.

However, despite the fact that Formal evaluation is the final step, it is important to note that standardized test scores do no depict change! Evidence found through informal assessment procedures are very important, because this is where change can be tracked, and where information can be obtained to inform modifications to intervention strategies.

Assessments need to be able to evaluate the success of the interventions or strategies used. For instance, formative and summative assessments in the classroom can be valuable ways to evaluate success. Evaluation itself therefore needs to be part of the chosen interventions, in addition to explicit feedback for students to assist change.

Ultimately, informal and formal assessments are central to the entire process, and not add-ons. In addition, collaboration and proactive approaches involving all stakeholders.

After Assessment

When a student is given a diagnostic classification or label without the benefit a thorough and complete assessment, there can be many limitations. A thorough and complete assessment should be one that includes informal and formal measures.

Further, labels themselves can also be limiting, in that they do not always describe what students are able to do, or unable to do. Labels as classified by the DSM-V may also be under scrutiny by multi-cultural groups, including First Nations, Metis & Inuit, because they can often overlook the larger social and cultural forces in our society.

Confidentiality & Rights of the Student

All professional staff, and non-psychologists including teachers and SERT’s need to be very careful about making suggestions that a child may have some specific type of ‘Label’ or psychological disorder. In addition, when Labels are discovered, or learned via assessments, this information should only be shared with persons directly involved with teaching and learning process. There is a breach of confidentiality of this information is transferred to other agencies, or professionals without informed consent. The rights of the students and their families should always be regarded with utmost respect, and confidentiality.

In many ways, informal assessments are ongoing for many students. It is through collaboration and proactively working with parents that successful intervention plans can be put into place, and change can be tracked and achieved!

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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