New Textbooks By UF College of Education Faculty

Four faculty members within the UF College of Education have recently published textbooks. Three of the faculty members focused their publications on bilingual students and the variety of needs that they have within schools, one addresses school finance.

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COE repeats No. 1 ranking in US for online graduate degrees

U.S. News and World Report rated the distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education as America’s best online graduate education degree program for the second consecutive year.


The making of America’s best online graduate education program

Director of E-learning, Technology & Creative Services (ETC)
UF College of Education

The UF College of Education has always strived to offer the most innovative and student-centered online graduate degree programs in the country. If we’re not there yet, we at least appear to be closing in on our goal.

On Jan. 10, 2017, the College’s overall online master’s level education program was ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for the second year in a row. The rankings are based on several factors including course design for student engagement, availability of student services and technology support, quality of faculty credentials and training, and reputation among our peers.

Our goal is simply to offer the best student experience using research-proven best practices in web-based learning and teaching.

Our faculty and e-learning team collaborate to create engaging learning experiences that include student-led discussions, theory-to-practice application, problem-solving approaches to learning, flexibility for students, and engaging video-based teaching strategies. Online pedagogy requires a commitment to explicit instruction with a strong instructor presence, and our program stands out as having great depth of student-instructor interaction.

The trust that our instructional design team has built with faculty is a leading factor in improving course design through student engagement.

We build off the strengths of our faculty. Our instructional designers work intimately with UF faculty to learn their styles of delivery so we can match our instructional design with their individual style of teaching. There’s no one way to present a course online just like there is no one way to present a face-to-face course.”

We experiment to create new best practices and learning experiences in online education . . .

Domenic Durante, an ETC instructional design and learning support coordinator, and Professor Nancy Fichtman Dana, who teaches in both the online master’s program in teacher leadership and the professional education doctorate in curriculum and instruction, have received accolades for a faculty training presentation they give on the innovative “jigsaw” method of teaching.

The jigsaw technique is a cooperative learning strategy used in both online and face-to-face instruction: Teachers arrange students in mixed groups and break assignments or problems into pieces, one for each group member. Each student receives resources to complete only his or her part. Through the shared insights of its members, the group assembles the pieces of information to complete the (jigsaw) “puzzle.” The final outcome may be a final report or presentation on a given topic, or a solution to a problem. It’s a class activity that makes students dependent on each other to succeed.

Learning Video Production

We include professional videos in our online courses with synchronous observation video software. The videos feature teacher observation and preservice mentoring, UF graduates modeling best teaching practices within our online courses, expert and practitioner interviews and case studies woven through online discussions.

What we learn from redesigning courses in one area informs our work in new online initiatives. One such example is a new graduate certificate course for teaching reading to students with dyslexia. The course, led by special education Professor Holly Lane, is rich with hundreds of professionally produced video demonstrations of targeted teaching strategies designed to improve the reading skills of affected students. The videos were captured over two summers during a UF-hosted summer reading program that Lane directs for struggling readers in elementary grades.

The online certificate course, one of the first of its type, assigns students responsibility for their own learning experience, while empowering faculty to integrate new technologies in their course designs.

The development of effective online learning is ever evolving: Our e-learning team, informed by the latest online research, continues to develop and test new teaching and learning techniques that will engage and support our students all over the world. No matter what technology is used, we want to meet the needs of our students and challenge ourselves to continuously improve.

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Learning Gains from our Brains

Faculty scholars are merging neuroscience and education research to personalize multimedia and online learning


UF education technology researcher Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko adjusts his EEG headwear on a study subject.

UF education technology researcher Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko has never been afraid to take risks and go against convention. His pioneering spirit emerged in the 1990s in his Ukraine homeland, where personal computers were scarce and there was no internet connection. Fast forward two decades, to today, and you’ll find him leading groundbreaking studies at the College of Education on a radical new approach for advancing and personalizing the still-fledgling field of online learning.


Antonenko’s journey to UF started in the late 1990s when he was a high school teacher. He became fascinated with computers at a time when his hometown of Nizhyn, Ukraine had no internet connections and few computers. He began building and selling computers to supplement his income while he earned a master’s in linguistics in English and German languages.

“I was one of the first people in my hometown to get an internet connection, but it wasn’t very good. I started building websites even before I had internet, but they were just sitting on my computer,” he recalls.

His career path changed dramatically in 2002 when he traveled to Orlando to work as an interpreter at a conference on education technology, a discipline that wasn’t even recognized in Ukraine. But Antonenko had found his passion: exploring ways computer technology can improve education.

“Everything I heard there and the people I met, I said ‘wow, this is what I want to do as my graduate education and job,’” he says.

Within a few months, he and his wife, Yuliya, moved a half-world away to settle in Ames, Iowa, where he spent five years at Iowa State University earning a doctorate in curriculum and instructional technology and human-computer interaction.

Along the way, Antonenko worked with Iowa State neuroscientists on one of his personal research interests—the use of electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor brain activity known as “cognitive load,” which is the amount of mental effort expended by the working memory during a learning task. EEG, which records the brain’s electrical activity, is most commonly used in medicine as a first-line, non-invasive method of diagnosing stroke and other brain disorders.

It would have been intriguing to monitor Antonenko’s own brain activity as he thought to himself, “Hmmm, I wonder if EEG might be a reliable way to study the mental processes underlying learning.” He wrote his dissertation on the topic and became one of the first education researchers to use EEG to measure the cognitive dynamics of learning.

The stars begin to align

After earning his doctorate and serving five years on the education technology faculty at Oklahoma State University, Antonenko joined UF’s ed. tech faculty in 2012. His appointment coincided with the education world’s identification of personalizing online learning as a global challenge and a top research priority of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

UF administrators also targeted research of personalized e-learning for investment of state “preeminent university” funds, which enabled the College of Education in 2014 to recruit top ed. tech scholar Carole Beal from Arizona State University, where she was conducting her own pioneering neuro-education studies. Beal became the first director of UF’s new campuswide Online Learning Institute.

The College of Education made a priority of integrating neuroscience with education research to improve online learning at all levels. Pivotal developments during the 2015-16 academic year made that push a certainty.

Kara Dawson

UF Education Technology Professor Kara Dawson

Merging Neuroscience and education research at UF

In 2015, Antonenko, Beal and UF education technology colleague Kara Dawson attracted vital grant funding to lead novel interdisciplinary research projects using wireless EEG brain monitoring and other neuro-technology to study how multimedia learning can be impoved for all students, not just those who test well on academic exams. These studies focus on education in the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math—areas in which the use of multimedia learning tools “has far outstripped the ability of research to keep pace with,” says Antonenko.

Their focus on custom-tailoring instructional design for individual learner differences, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, is a distinctive feature of their studies.

“Virtually all research on multimedia learning methods has been performed on high-achieving students at elite research-intensive universities, where studies like this usually occur. We are evaluating these methods with more diverse student populations and those with special needs,” Antonenko says.


In 2015, Antonenko became the first UF education faculty researcher to win 5 NSF grants in the same year.

NSF study focuses on community college students

Antonenko heads a team of highly specialized researchers drawn from multiple institutions on a three-year study, supported by a $765,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The researchers are gauging how effective technology-assisted learning practices are for a diverse group of community college students, which now constitute nearly half of all U.S. higher education students.

The team, dubbed the Science of Learning Collaborative Network, includes top scholars in education technology, neuroscience, STEM education, neuropsychology, computer science and educational measurement. They hail from UF, the University of Massachusetts-Boston and Washington State University.

Some 120 students from three colleges—Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and SUNY Buffalo State in Buffalo, N.Y.—are participating in the study. The students are screened for demographics and learning differences, such as working memory and visual attention levels, to ensure a varied test group.

Team specialists in cognitive neuroscience are employing EEG and other high-tech methods, including functional near infrared spectroscopy (to measure neural changes in blood oxygenation) and eye tracking (to understand visual attention) to assess the students’ attention and mental processes while they learn using multimedia materials that include text, images, videos, animations and audio.

The researchers hope to land follow-up NSF grants by demonstrating the effectiveness of their network’s organization, infrastructure and integration of diverse research strategies, along with their unique approach to personalized learning.

“Working with scholars from other disciplines and other institutions is really exciting but it’s also challenging because each discipline and each person has a different way to work,” Antonenko says. “We have to make sure everyone is invested and feels valued and make sure we pull all of the expertise together in a way that makes sense.”

UF co-researchers are ed. tech faculty members Dawson and Beal, and psychology professor Andreas Keil. Co-principal investigators are computer science and STEM education scholars Matthew Schneps from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Marc Pomplun from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and Richard Lamb of SUNY Buffalo State, who focuses on science education and measurement.

Adapting digital media for students with dyslexia

Professor Dawson heads an educational neuroscience study focused on multimedia learning for students with dyslexia, the most common language-based disability. People with dyslexia typically have difficulty reading and processing words.

Dawson was awarded $85,000 for the one-year project from UF’s Office of Research, which awards Research Opportunity Seed Fund grants to UF scholars for the merit and potential of their research proposals. Antonenko is a co-principal investigator.

The study involves 72 college students with dyslexia, each participating in one of four multimedia learning settings while wearing wireless EEG headsets to monitor and record brain activity during the multimedia exercise and comprehension assessment. The student volunteers are drawn from four institutions: Santa Fe Community College and the universities of Central Florida, North Florida and South Florida.

While neuroscience-based methods are central to the study, Dawson is quick to make one thing clear: “In no way am I a neuroscientist.”

“To me, this is not about neuroscience,” she says, “I am interested in what neuroscience techniques can tell us about the learning process. That is what it’s all about for me.”

Dawson and her team will use their findings to evaluate the validity of merging EEG and behavioral measures and, ultimately, to develop new instructional strategies and materials that teachers can personalize for individual students with varied learning traits and backgrounds.

Besides Dawon and Antonenko, the research team includes UF ed. tech colleagues Beal and Albert Ritzhaupt, dyslexia diagnostic specialist Linda Lombardino from UF’s special education program, and UF neuropsychologist Keil. Doctoral students participating are Kendra Saunders from school pyschology and Nihan Dogan, Jiahui Wang, Li Cheng, Wenjing Luo and Robert Davis from the School of Teaching and Learning. Matthew Schneps from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysicists also is collaborating.

“We all share this mutual goal of figuring out how technology can help all types of learners,” Dawson says. “We need to make technology work so everyone feels they can learn and be smart and successful.”


The researchers describe both educational neuroscience studies as exploratory, but Antonenko says he expects them to yield solid preliminary findings that may lead to follow-up NSF research proposals.

“EEG appears to be a great tool for educational research that can produce important implications for teaching and learning in education.” he says. “Our focus is on helping people who need additional support as they learn using 21st century online and multimedia tools in education.”

“That is what I find most rewarding.”

WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Athletes have coaches, why not teachers?

The Lastinger Center’s Coaching Academy has become a national leader in certifying teacher coaches in preschool through high school.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — NFL quarterback Tom Brady has a coach. So does tennis superstar Serena Williams. Same goes for many of America’s most successful CEOs.

So why not teachers?

Scholars at the University of Florida’s College of Education and two nonprofit educational organizations are recommending just that: all teachers should have a skilled coach as a way to improve the nation’s educational system.

Research has shown that strong coaching can enhance a teacher’s practice and student learning — yet a majority of teachers say they don’t receive regular professional coaching, according to a new report from the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, developed jointly with the groups Learning Forward and Public Impact.

“Coaching is for everyone,” said Don Pemberton, director of the Lastinger Center, which serves as the college’s teaching and learning innovation incubator.

“There is kind of a stigma in education that coaches are only provided to the weak teachers,” Pemberton said. “In our work, we have reimagined coaching for all teachers. Anyone can gain value from it as they do in sports, and as CEOs do. We believe that should be the case in education. It’s really about human development.”

Only half of teachers receive coaching

Graphic - Intensive Coaching Relatively Rare
Nationwide, just half of teachers reported receiving coaching in a recent 12-month period, and only 12 percent had weekly coaching sessions, according to a 2014 survey funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and cited by the researchers.

This new report, “Coaching for Impact: Six Pillars to Create Coaching Roles that Achieve Their Potential to Improve Teaching and Learning,” is aimed at schools and administrators nationwide in hopes of developing a framework and conversation about the importance of teacher coaches. The UF Lastinger Center teamed up on the research, writing and dissemination of the report with Learning Forward, a Dallas-based professional association for kindergarten-to-12th-grade teachers, and Public Impact, a Carrboro, N.C.-based organization working to improve learning for all U.S. children.

UF education professor emerita Dorene Ross served as project leader for the Lastinger Center.

Pemberton said the report comes at a time that schools across the country are spending tens of millions of dollars on implementing some form of coaching for teachers but these programs haven’t been fully conceptualized and developed to have the greatest impact.

“The question is how to get more value? It’s a field that is ready for some innovation,” Pemberton said.

The report serves as a roadmap for schools: It summarizes the findings of academic research, provides effective coaching models and makes recommendations for incorporating high-quality coaching in the daily routine at schools.

Six ‘pillars’ for coaching programs

The authors cite six “pillars” necessary to implement successful coaching programs:

  • Commitment of education system leaders
  • Careful selection of teacher coaches
  • Shared responsibility for student outcomes by the coaches and the teachers they coach
  • Clarification of roles, time allotted and culture
  • Adequate training and support
  • Improved compensation for coaches to attract and retrain great teachers in coaching positions

Pemberton and Ross acknowledged more study was needed about ways budget-constrained school districts can provide higher or “differentiated” pay to teacher coaches.

One step toward that goal is professionalizing the coaching field through formal certification programs. The Lastinger Center’s Coaching Academy has become a national leader in certifying teacher coaches in preschool through high school, with more than 1,500 coaches either certified or currently enrolled in the program.

It is working with seven Florida school districts(1), all 30 of Florida’s early learning coalitions, and the Charleston, S.C., school system to develop coaching programs, including specialty ones aimed at early childhood education, literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The center also has contracted with the state of Georgia to develop a statewide designation for preschool coaching.

Ross said, “We think the more school districts invest in coaching the more they will realize how valuable coaching is, especially as coaches show they are truly improving the practice of teachers and, ultimately, student achievement.”

(1) NOTE:  The seven Florida school districts working with the UF Lastinger Center’s teacher-coaching program are in Alachua, Duval, Indian River, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Seminole counties.

Source: Don Pemberton, 352-273-4100, UF Lastinger Center for Learning
Source: Dorene Ross, 352-538-1920, UF Lastinger Center for Learning
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education news & communications office, 352-273-4449


‘Global classrooms create worldly connections for future teachers

COE preservice teachers interact on Skype with alumna Luz Delfin, currently teaching at the American School in Bolivia.

COE preservice teachers interact on Skype with alumna Luz Delfin, currently teaching at the American School in Bolivia.

University of Florida education students are using technology to connect with educators and classrooms worldwide to learn about other cultures and education systems first-hand thanks to a new Global Classroom Initiative (GCI) developed by UF researchers.

Swapna Kumar, a clinical associate professor of educational technology in the College of Education, said the program prepares preservice teachers to use technology to develop global awareness for themselves and their future students. It also provides opportunities for students to participate in virtual conferences and interact with innovative global educators.

The program is funded by a grant from the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding, an organization that promotes the teaching of global competence and intercultural skills in schools throughout the United States.

Swapna Kumar

Swapna Kumar

Seventy UF education students have benefited from the initiative since it was launched last fall through online modules in the college’s course on Integrating Technology into the Elementary Classroom.

Skype and Adobe Connect are two programs used by the future teachers to connect classrooms across borders. They will have access to Skype in their future classrooms, both stateside and in other countries.

“Communication technologies today make it much easier to provide students with authentic experiences of other cultures,” Kumar said.

Elementary education senior Heather Brown said the program has helped her understand the importance of global education.

“The Global Classroom Initiative is educating me further and giving me invaluable experiences that will help me grow as a teacher so that I can have a lasting impact on my students,” said Brown, who will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in May.

UF Global Classroom students also joined their instructor at the Florida Connected Global Education Conference held recently in Gainesville as another form of future teacher professional development.

UF Global Classroom students also joined their instructor at the Florida Connected Global Education Conference held recently in Gainesville as another form of future teacher professional development.

Kumar is co-principal investigator on the program with Mary Risner, associate director of outreach at the UF Center for Latin American Studies. They said they hope the global classroom instruction will prepare UF’s education students to possibly work with the Alachua County school district’s first global magnet program planned for Fall 2017 and in other districts some students will teach after graduation.

“In today’s society, teachers need to be prepared to understand a diverse student body and to help their students better understand the world with an open mind,” said Risner, a 2011 COE doctoral graduate in curriculum and instruction.

She said UF students explore global themes in the GCI modules, connect with educators in Bolivia and Japan, prepare a lesson plan for elementary students about foreign nations and learn about job and study opportunities abroad.

    SOURCE: Swapna Kumar, UF College of Education; 352-273-4175; swapnakumar@coe.ufl.edu;
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, news & communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;
    WRITER: Katelin Mariner, news-communications intern, UF College of Education