The twenty-first century has become a challenging time for most educators. The technological process has influenced all areas of human activity, and the sphere of education has not been omitted too. Even more, the usage of technology and Internet-aided education in the classroom demonstrate remarkable outcomes. Most students are excited about using technical devices in their everyday lives. Consequently, educators should not neglect this need.
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Besides, the very nature and role of teaching are changing. According to the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the globalized and modern world predetermines the need to employ technologies in the classroom and facilitate the development of corresponding skills in students (4). The implementation of modern technologies is not only necessary but also beneficial. For instance, it is much wiser to buy digital books for online storage rather than printed books (Wetschler par. 5).
The role of educators is crucial in the creating of an efficient learning environment for students. Thus, teachers or lecturers are expected to be technologically aware. Numerous online sources assist educators in the choice of learning materials or strategies. In the following paper, the website Edutopia will be evaluated from the perspective of four levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This website has been chosen because it is a rather popular resource on the Internet. It has more than seven hundred thousand followers on Facebook and Twitter. I find it necessary to analyze such a popular website and evaluate its relevance.
Mission, Structure, and Organization of the Website
Edutopia defines its vision and mission on the page “About Us.” Thus, the creators of the website share the idea of the constant improvement of the world of education by making it creative, inspirational, and useful. The primary mission of Edutopia is to provide students with opportunities to become successful in their studies and further careers. The mission stated on the website is as follows: “We are focused on practices and programs that help students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and beliefs to achieve their full potential” (“Vision and Mission” par. 4). The mission of the resource is achieved via the sharing of useful material primarily.
The website provides educators with examples of various teaching practices and innovations that can be useful in professional development and practice. For instance, an individual can find an example of a place-based teaching strategy used by one teacher. The strategy is presented in the video, and all visitors are welcomed to evaluate the significance of the plan. This particular strategy teaches educators to broaden their working area and use a local community for teaching purposes.
Such suggestions are useful for the professional growth of lecturers and teachers. Apart from the direct strategies and recommendations, Edutopia provides educators with the opportunity to improve themselves both as specialists and individuals. One can find numerous articles and videos about professional development. “Developing Teachers’ Social and Emotional Skills” can serve as an example of such an article.
The organization of the website is rather simple. There are four major categories on the website. They are Browse Topics, Watch Videos, Join the Conversation, and About Us. Browse Topics section is further subdivided into sub-sections. Thus, the educator may choose core strategies, read popular topics, select a grade level, and read about strategies for K-12 grades. These sub-sections allow visitors to search for particular topics depending on their preferences (look for the particular topic or find something useful for the definite grade level).
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In the sub-section Core Strategies for Innovation and Reform in Learning, educators may find information about comprehensive assessment, integrated studies, project-based learning, and other topics. In the Popular Topics sub-section, one can also find a full list of all available articles arranged in the alphabetic order. Finally, one can choose a grade level to read discussions and watch videos related to the definite grade. Watch Videos is another category that has no further sub-sections.
One can only view a featured video or select the list of all available videos at the web source. There are also video series devoted to the particular topic of education. Join the Conversation category allows visitors to see trending conversations or start a new discussion at Edutopia. About Us category provides information about the resource, mission, contact information, and available jobs.
The sub-section Core Strategies is an important part of the whole website. It contains strategies for the improvement of students’ skills and knowledge. For instance, there are materials devoted to integrated studies. This block has articles and strategies that are useful when combining various subjects to prepare students for their future. The existence of such block is predetermined by the fact that real careers are rarely based on purely one area of expertise (Edutopia Team par. 1-2). Articles and videos about integrated studies encompass pieces of advice about making practical changes to the process of studies. For instance, teachers may find useful recommendations about doing exercises to enhance students’ ability to retain information. In such a way, Edutopia fulfills its mission.
Quality of the Website
Many authors can contribute to the website. In general, a person should register to become a blogger at Edutopia. After registration, one is allowed to write content for the website. I have evaluated the most viewed articles to evaluate their authors. Thus, Donna Wilson is one of the most popular authors. She is a recognized professional in the sphere of education who has written more than thirty-five books.
Dr. Lori Desautels is another contributor at Edutopia. She is an assistant professor at Marian University. Edutopia team writes some of the articles. The information about the authors is available on the website. The resource is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. The funding comes primarily from this foundation. The George Lucas Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization, and it appreciates the support and donations of users. There is a special form for donation.
In most cases, authors do not mention where they get their information. For instance, the articles of a renowned writer, Donna Wilson, are considered to be significant because of her reputation. However, some authors state facts but fail to mention the source. For instance, Patrick Waters, the author of the article “Encouraging Neurodiversity in Your Makerspace or Classroom,” writes about students with different syndromes but provides no references. Thus, the relevance of the content depends on the author.
The information on the website is topical. It addresses the current issues in education, such as the integration of technology or enhancement of student engagement in the classroom. Most articles and discussions emphasize the significance of the collaboration and student-centered approach to teaching (e.g., the video “There is no I in Teacher”). Most links are up-to-date and are constantly updating. The latest posts were published on January 6, 2016.
All resources are easy to access. For instance, one can make no more than five clicks to access a particular article. Besides, there are various ways of accessing the same resource. A visitor may access information into such sub-sections as New Stuff, Popular, and Trending. There are also sidebars that allow choosing large sub-section for further search of resources.
I do not like the design of the website. In my opinion, it is overloaded with information. Too many articles are located on one page, and it makes it difficult to focus on. Also, I do not like advertisements. Navigation and organization of the website are not well arranged too. For example, I see no point in the category Join the Conversation. One can join any conversation whenever he or she reads articles from other categories. It is a useless waste of space. Finally, the site features multimedia elements. Videos are crucial for the website, and they comprise the cornerstone of the overall content. Videos enhance the usefulness of the resource.
Having investigated the website, one can find out that the enhancement of student engagement in the learning process is a challenging task for most students. Any educational activity aims to develop the traits of a successful student. According to Saleem, a successful student possesses such traits as open-mindedness, a sense of self-discipline, willingness to experiment, and curiosity to ask questions (1).
I would like to combine this topic with blended learning and investigate it on the website. Blended learning presupposes the implementation of online tools for learning activities. According to Pape, “the benefits of blended learning include giving students a variety of ways to demonstrate their knowledge while appealing to diverse learning styles and fostering independent learning…” (23). The question for the research is as follows — “How can blended learning be used for the enhancement of student engagement?”.
One can find numerous articles and videos containing information about the usage of blended learning in the classroom. There is no exact definition of gender, number, and age of students because the recommendations can be adapted to middle and high school students primarily.
There is a description of strategies that have already been conducted in practice. For example, Nicholas Donohue writes about the model of blended learning that has improved the engagement of law-performing students. Also, there is a collection of other strategies for student engagement with the help of blended learning. For example, Miller recommends using mobile applications, such as Khan Academy or BrainPop, in studying (par. 7). It is a useful fact if taking into consideration that most teens are active users of the Internet and smartphones and are involved in the so-called “participative culture” (Jenkins 3). There are theoretical pieces of advice that help teachers to become better professionals. Besides, practical models and examples can be applied in other school settings.
Resources on the website emphasize the significance of the collaboration. Numerous articles are devoted to topics of project-based learning (learning in real-life settings together with other students), game-based learning, and the necessity to understand students and avoid teacher-centeredness in the classroom. It seems that social constructivism has the greatest influence on the idea of the website. “Vygotsky’s social constructivism (1978) suggests that knowledge is not solely constructed within the mind of the individual; rather, interactions within the social context involve learners in sharing, constructing, reconstructing their ideas and beliefs” (Ayas 5).
Two significant items from the website may serve as examples of social constructivism. The first is a classroom approach to core strategies — project-based learning. The second item is the initiative of Edutopia, known as Schools That Work. Project-based learning is about using approaches to classroom teaching in which students investigate real-life problems. Project-based learning stresses the collaborative type of work in classes.
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These are only a few examples of articles about collaboration in the classroom: “5 Tips for Making Group Work manageable”, “Not Just Group Work — Productive Group Work,” and “Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities.” “Vygotsky emphasized the critical importance of interaction with people — other children, parents, and teachers — in cognitive development” (Hung 282). The second item, Schools That Work, provides examples of strategies that have been implemented in various schools.
A lot of described strategies and programs have been conducted in real-life settings. The following articles and videos prove that fact: “Creating 21st Century Citizens by Making Learning Relevant”, “Plan-Based Learning: Using Your Location as a Classroom,” “Real-World Problem Solving: Project-Based Solutions,” and “Learning Partners: Co-teaching with Community Experts.” Learning in real-life settings is a distinctive feature of social constructivism. “Constructivist learning environments provide learning environments such as real-world settings or case-based learning instead of predetermined sequences of instructions” (Surgenor 2)
Edutopia is a useful website for teachers for professional development and practice. Still, it has both advantages and disadvantages. The first advantage of the resource is the establishment of various initiatives. Thus, the Schools That Work program helps other educators see the benefits of the particular approach to real examples and study something new. The second advantage is that the website adheres to social constructivism that I believe to be the most efficient approach to teaching. I would use Edutopia’s recommendations both in classes and for personal development.
However, I do not like the design and organization of the website. It is too overloaded with information. Besides, the basic categories for navigation are not easy to use. Because of such discomfort, I can prefer looking for a website with a better arrangement of the available information.
American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. 21st century Knowledge and Skills in Educator Preparation. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2010. Print.
Ayas, Cemalettin. “An Examination of the Relationship between the Integration of Technology into Social Studies and Constructivist Pedagogies.” The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology 5.1 (2006): 1-12. Print.
Edutopia Team. Why Should Schools Embrace Integrated Studies? It Fosters the Way of Learning that Mimics Real Life. 2008. Web.
Hung, David. “Theories of Learning and Computer-Mediated Instructional Technologies.” Educational Media International 38.4 (2001): 281-287. Print.
Jenkins, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Chicago, Illinois: The MacArthur Foundation, 2006. Print.
Miller, Andrew. Blended Learning: Strategies for Engagement. 2012. Web.
Pape, Liz. “Blended Teaching and Learning.” The School Administrator 67 (2010): 22-27. Print.
Saleem, Hafiz. The Traits of a Successful Online Student. n.d. Web.
Surgenor, Paul. How Students Learn. 2010. Web.
Vision and Mission. n.d. Web.
Wetschler, Ed. Going Out of Print. 2011. Web.