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Norman Hall renovations project jumps on fast track

It’s too soon to don a hard hat, but excitement is building as design plans for a top-to-bottom makeover of Norman Hall begin to take shape.

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Learning Gains from our Brains

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

antonenko-lab-8-1-16_6665a

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.

SETTING THE STAGE

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.

FAST FACT:

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.”

MUCH PROMISE BUT NOT YET READY FOR PRIME TIME

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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UF College of Education ranked in top 10 by USA Today

Top10-horiz

 

The University of Florida College of Education rates No. 9 among the nation’s best undergraduate teacher education colleges, according to a ranking published today (Sept. 8) by USA Today.

The 2017 survey for the top colleges nationwide was released by USA Today and College Factual, a Troy, N.Y.-based education technology company that provides the data used in the national newspaper’s third annual ranking of the top U.S. universities.

“We are delighted to have the accomplishments of our College of Education faculty, and staff reflected in these highly favorable rankings,” said Glenn Good, dean of the college. “They have been working with creativity, commitment and passion to provide the best learning experiences for our students.”

UF was Florida’s highest ranked education college in the survey.

College Factual surveyed 1,387 four-year U.S. universities and 449 colleges of education to come up with its rankings.

Compared with similar surveys, College Factual says its rankings are focused on outcomes, such as starting salary and student loan default rates, rather than inputs, such as acceptance rates. All told, the rankings are based on 10 metrics, which also include the percentage of students at the school who are studying a specific major, post-graduation resources, accreditation and even sports and campus lifestyles.

Specifically regarding pay results, College Factual gets its data from Seattle-based PayScale Inc., which says it has the world’s largest database of salary profiles, and from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), to provide an estimate average salaries for graduates.

In addition to being listed in the top 10 overall, UF’s College of Education ranked high in specific sub-categories: Teacher Education and Development, Specific Subjects – Overall Best (No. 4) and Special Education (No. 11).

The complete rankings of education colleges are available on the College Factual website. The rankings of other academic specialty areas in education and other disciplines will appear in future issues of USA Today.

The USA Today/College Factual survey comes after U.S. News & Reports in March ranked the UF college No. 20 among public institutions in its 2017 Best Graduate Education Schools survey.

Last year, U.S. News rated the College of Education’s online graduate education program No. 1 in the nation. The college also received the nation’s highest score for online student admissions selectivity, recognized as an indicator of high-quality student enrollment.


Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449
Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director of News and Communications, (352) 273-4137

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Early Learning Florida program garners top international accreditation

A toddler and a preschool teacher at Baby Gator Child Development Center.

A toddler and a preschool teacher at Baby Gator Child Development Center.

IACET logo

The world’s primary continuing education standards organization has endorsed Early Learning Florida, the UF College of Education’s professional development program for early childhood teachers and caregivers.

The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (or IACET) said it accredited Early Learning Florida for its wide array of high-quality, interactive courses designed to improve the skills of the tens of thousands of Florida professionals who work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

By earning continuing education credits (CEUs), early childhood educators can become credentialed in child development and advance their careers by gaining college credits to earn associate or bachelor’s degrees in early learning, said Lara Glaser, operations manager for Early Learning Florida.

“This opens the door for early learning teachers in Florida to further their careers by taking our coursework,” she said.

Early Learning Florida was launched in 2014 by Lastinger Center for Learning, the college’s education innovation hub, to fill a dire need for a cost-effective professional development program for early childhood professionals. The program has received $5 million funding from the state of Florida’s Office of Early Learning and private philanthropies.

The interactive courses are free and offered online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Certified coaches also provide one-on-one coaching sessions in the participants’ classrooms and family childcare homes.

Reston, Virginia-based IACET is a nonprofit association that accredits quality continuing education and training programs. IACET examiners made a site visit and reviewed Early Learning Florida’s policies, procedures and classes to ensure Early Learning Florida adhered to the best practices of instructional design and delivered solid learning outcomes.

“Early Learning Florida joins nearly 600 organizations around the globe that have had their programs audited by third-party continuing education experts to ensure the highest possible standards are met,” said Lori Schnaider, president of IACET.

This year, Early Learning Florida’s goal is to enroll 4,500 practitioners, a more than 50 percent increase from nearly 3,000 educators last year. That would mean more than 10 percent of the state’s 55,000 early learning educators would have completed the program within two years.


Source: Lara Glaser, 352-473-273-4138
Writer:
Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

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20 states join UF’s sweeping reform effort to boost teaching of students with disabilities

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recent addition of five new states rounds out a 20-state roster for a federally funded effort, led by the University of Florida, to help states vastly improve the effectiveness of teachers and public school principals who serve students with disabilities.

Supported by $25 million from the U.S. Department of Education, the UF College of Education has created a national center that is in the midst of a five-year, project to lead major reforms in policy and educator preparation. Their mission: to help states increase academic success for students with disabilities by improving the training and practices of their teachers and school leaders.

A team of faculty scholars from UF’s nationally ranked special education program heads the CEEDAR Center, based at the College of Education. CEEDAR is short for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Guidelines to meet needs of all students

The UF CEEDAR Center’s reach and scope extends beyond its 20 member states. Center leaders hope teaching strategies and standards proven successful in its federally supported project will be considered for adoption by all states.

Last year, the CEEDAR team joined forces with the Council of Chief State School Officers to distribute a nationwide report on “clear policy actions” and guidelines that education department leaders in every state can take to meet the needs of all their students, especially those with disabilities.

The CEEDAR Center was charged to partner with education leaders, groups and agencies, and university teacher prep programs from five states each year, from 2013 through 2016.

The latest and final five states to join—the “class of 2016”—are Kentucky, Mississippi, Colorado, Nevada and Rhode Island.

“We are thrilled to be part of the cutting-edge CEEDAR consortium and the technical assistance it offers,” said Ann Elisabeth Larson, dean of education and human development at the University of Kentucky. “Thls is an opportunity for the state of Kentucky to ensure that our teachers and school leaders are well prepared to provide the highest-quality instruction for all learners.”

Florida, the CEEDAR Center’s home state, was one of the first five states to join in the first-year cycle, along with California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota. Year Two in 2014 saw Georgia, Montana, New Hampsire, Ohio and Utah come in. Last year, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee were added.

“It is our intention that the 20 partnering state teams will benefit from the successes and lessons learned from each of the five-state cohorts before them,” said CEEDAR Center Director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor. “The state teams will strengthen and initiate reform efforts to  significantly improve the preparation, licensing and evaluation of teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities, from kindergarten through high school.”

Brownell said between 60 to 80 percent of students with disabilities spend time in general education classrooms, underlying the need to improve teaching and leadership in all schools.

The CEEDAR leadership team (clockwise from bottom left), : Erica McCray, Mary Brownell, Paul Sindelar, Meg Kamman (center coordinator)

The CEEDAR leadership team (clockwise from bottom left): Erica McCray, Mary Brownell, Paul Sindelar, Meg Kamman (center coordinator)

Brownell’s co-directors of CEEDAR are fellow UF special education professors Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray.

Each state CEEDAR team comprises general and special education faculty experts and administrators from state universities and teacher prep programs, and state education agency leaders and regulatory officials. The teams each have a designated leader and facilitator chosen from one of four participating national groups—the UF CEEDAR Center, the American Institutes for Research, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the University of Kansas.

CEEDAR faculty and staff used a comprehensive vetting process to select the 20 partnering states, based on their needs and goals, level of commitment and engagement, collaborative spirit, level of support from state education officials, and other factors.

“Each state has their unique needs and solutions for raising the standard of teacher and principal preparation to advance inclusive education for students with disabilities,” Brownell said. “Connections and communication among the network of states and with the CEEDAR team are crucial to developing an effective, comprehensive course of action for each state.”

She said the CEEDAR strategy places heightened emphasis on exposing all students to high-quality instruction in reading, writing and mathematics. Instruction is based on two teaching frameworks that provide increasing levels of academic and behavioral support to any students who need it.

Brownell said educators in the 20 CEEDAR states gain access to a host of resources, including the consulting services of the CEEDAR faculty and staff and the center’s partnering support organizations. Those include the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

CEEDAR also stages webinars and workshops and has created a website with a Facebook-style “wall” for member-networking and sharing ideas. The site also offers numerous multi-media resources to help state teams bolster their knowledge of best teaching practices, teacher prep regulations, program licensure requirements, and other pertinent topics.

Brownell said many states are already developing detailed action plans, strengthening collaborations between state education interests, expanding professional development programs for teachers, redesigning their teacher prep programs, and enacting new standards so all teachers and principals can work successfully with students with special needs.

With 20 states enrolling five at a time at one-year intervals, she said their progress varies from state to state, but “we’re seeing very encouraging results.”

 


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF College of Education; 352-273-4261
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137

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COE well represented at world’s largest education research meeting

Some 55 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 14,000 scholars from around the world who converged on Washington, D.C., April 8-12 for the 2016 Centennial Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

Pasha Antonenko

Pasha Antonenko

The AERA meeting, featuring some 2,600 sessions, is the largest gathering of international scholars in the field of education research. More UF education faculty and graduate students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. This year’s UF contingent included 25 faculty members and 30 graduate students in education.

The massive AERA gathering is a showcase for groundbreaking, innovative studies in a diverse array of education issues and trends. This year’s conference theme is “Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies.”

UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

  • Corrine Huggins-Manley

    Corrine Huggins-Manley

    Educating the captive audience: inmates in state correctional facilities

  • Studying the digital divide in Florida schools
  • Exploring the outcomes of persistently disciplined students assigned to alternative schools
  • How elementary principals relate teacher appraisals to student achievement
  • Measuring charter schools’ effect on student achievement
  • Self-regulatory intervention for middle schoolers with emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Struggles facing novice black female teacher educators
  • Aha! Exploring problem-solving insight using electroencephalography?
  • Adding technology to help students with visual impairments
  • Using instructional coaching to boost preservice teacher development
  • How online resources for mathematics support student learning
  • Principals as instructional leadership coaches
Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Pasha Antonenko (education technology), Corinne Huggins-Manley (research and evaluation methods) and Albert Ritzhaupt (ed tech) with each involved in five research presentations. Among doctoral student participants, Zachary Collier (REM) was involved in four presentations, and Stephanie Schroeder (curriculum, teaching, and teacher education) in three.

complete listing of participating UF education faculty and advanced-degree students, along with their respective presentation topics, is available on the COE website.


HOW LISTING WAS COMPILED: Data was retrieved directly from AERA’s online annual conference schedule and organized alphabetically by participants’ names. Listing does not distinguish between presenters and non-presenting participants and co-investigators. AERA’s complete listing and schedule of conference presentations and participants’ roles is available at www.aera.net. Click on “Events & Meetings” and navigate to the 2016 annual meeting portals.


WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, News & Communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137

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US News ranks UF College of Education 20th; 2 programs in top 10

College of Education ranked among America's bestGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida College of Education maintained its Top 20 rating among the nation’s public education schools, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best Graduate Education Schools survey, released today (March 16, 2016).

The rankings continued to place UF as No. 1 among education colleges in Florida and first among public universities in the Southeast.

Two College of Education academic programs remained in the top 10 specialty areas: special education at No. 5 and counselor education, which moved up three spots to No. 6. Two programs made the second top 10, with curriculum and instruction at No. 17 and elementary teacher education at No. 19.

For these rankings of on-campus programs, U.S. News surveyed 376 graduate education schools granting doctoral degrees, with 225 providing the necessary data to be calculated in 10 key quality measures. Counting all educational institutions — private and public — the college ranked No. 30.

The college registered gains in several of the survey’s key metrics—its ratio of doctoral students per faculty instructor and its funded research activity.

During 2015, education faculty members were awarded $20.8 million in external funding, a 5 percent increase from the prior year, the U.S. News report showed.

“These rankings provide further evidence that the College of Education is emerging as one of the nation’s very best in preparing educators and creating innovations in 21st century education,” said Glenn Good, the college’s dean.

“Our college plays a leading role in advancing the University of Florida toward its goal of becoming one of the nation’s preeminent research universities.”

US NEWS LOGO (2016)These ratings for on-campus graduate programs come only two months after U.S. News rated the College of Education’s distance education offerings No. 1 — America’s best online graduate education program. The e-learning program also earned the nation’s highest score for student admissions selectivity, considered a metric for the high quality of students enrolled in the program.

Below are highlights of notable developments and research at the College of Education that are gaining notice.

  • The new UF Coaching Academy is re-imagining teacher professional development to improve classroom teaching, school leadership and student achievement.
  • The Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies is increasing its influence and impact with its interdisciplinary approach on children’s development and learning from birth to age 5.
  • The college’s new Center of Excellence in Elementary Teacher Preparation is allowing education professors to work with the local school district to pioneer new strategies and best practices for transforming elementary teacher preparation statewide.
  • The UFTeach program, a collaboration between the colleges of Education and of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is recruiting top math and science majors on campus to prepare them to become effective instructors to teach these vital subjects to middle and high schoolers.
  • Aided by $25 million in federal support, UF special education faculty are helping multiple states strengthen their professional standards and methods for preparing teachers and leaders serving students with disabilities.
  • The college’s “education innovation incubator,” the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, is developing and field-testing novel learning system models to transform teaching and learning, and promote healthy child development across the state and beyond.

“The top rankings are a testament to the dedication and commitment of the entire College of Education community,” Dean Good said. “But the most important way we measure our success is how well we are helping to solve educational challenges and strengthen our society.”

View the complete U.S. News Best Graduate Education Schools rankings.


SOURCES: Glenn Good, 352-273-4135; Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education, 352-273-4134
WRITER: Charles Boisseau, news and communications office, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449

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40 educators chosen for UF’s new leadership network

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s College of Education today named 40 public school educators to a new program to develop leadership skills and share their expertise with teachers across Florida. The selected teachers are the first Florida Teacher Leader Fellows and will participate in an 18-month program designed to build a statewide teacher leadership network, improve the quality of classroom teaching and enhance outcomes for students.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

“These teachers are all passionate about leading their schools and districts to improve student learning,” said Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning. The center is the College of Education’s R&D innovation hub that spearheads novel professional development programs to improve teaching and learning.

The idea: Nurture a crop of teachers who can inspire and empower others to better the teaching and learning at their schools, districts and, ultimately, across the state. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested in this idea to get the program off the ground.

The 40 fellows, selected from 217 applicants, are practicing classroom teachers, school counselors, media specialists and instructional coaches at pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools across Florida.

Educators selected for the program said they want to become better teachers and inspire others.

  • “By participating in the Florida Teacher Leader Fellowship I hope to improve my teacher leader skills and ignite those skills in the amazing teachers I am surrounded by at Matanzas High School,” said Amanda Kraverotis, an instructional coach in Flagler County.
  • “I chose to apply to this fellowship to challenge myself personally and professionally and to grow as a teacher, learner, mentor and leader,” said Adrienne Reeder, a reading teacher at Dr. Edward Whigham Elementary School in Miami. “I hope to gain an adaptive perspective on how to provide meaningful instruction through inspiring leadership.”
  • “Since I teach the middle school population, I know that there are specifics about their lives I will never know in detail. I have only a small amount of time to make a difference in their lives, so I better be impactful,” Daryl W. Pauling Sr., a math teacher at Carver Middle School in Delray Beach. “I want to be a part of the transition of working for a better understanding to expand a person’s knowledge to make them better.”

UF’s Lastinger Center created the program in partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), a national nonprofit organization. CTQ will support fellows by facilitating virtual collaborations with project staff and other fellows, measuring the impact of the work they lead, and engaging educators and influencers across the state as their leadership efforts expand.

“There are so many teacher leaders across the state who are seeking to have a greater voice and impact in their schools,” said Barnett Berry, CEO of CTQ. “The goal of this fellowship is to help these leaders share their expert practices across schools and districts.”

Phil Poekert

Phil Poekert

The teacher-leader program will formally begin March 1, when the fellows come to Tallahassee for two days to learn about creating a fellowship community and engaging in educational policymaking. In June, the fellows will come to UF’s main campus in Gainesville to launch their personal leadership projects. The fellowship will continue with an international teacher leadership conference in Miami next year.

UF education researchers say they will closely follow the fellows and document the impacts of professional learning on teacher and student growth as a way to continually refine and improve the program.

“Through developing and researching the fellowship, we want to better understand what teacher leadership looks like in schools and districts across the state. And we want to know how to cultivate a group of teacher leaders who, in their support of individual schools and districts, advance the state’s education system for the benefit of Florida’s students,” said Philip Poekert, assistant director of the Lastinger Center.

Below are the 40 educators selected for the inaugural Florida Teacher Leader Fellows program:

County and/or District

School

Educator

Alachua

W.W. Irby Elementary

Lorena Sanchez

Brevard

Meadowlane Primary

Sarah Brown

Broward

District-based

Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary

Tropical Elementary

Isabel Nodarse

Donald Nicolas

Amy DeCelle

Duval

Paxon

Mai Keisling

Flagler

Matanzas High

Amanda Kraverotis

Florida Virtual

Florida Virtual School

Charles Cummings

Hillsborough

Bloomingdale High

Heather Hanks

Lake

Grassy Lake Elementary

Kelly Dodd

Lee

Riverdale High

Tortuga Preserve Elementary

Deneen Kozielski

Jennifer Grida

Leon

John G. Riley Elementary

Bridgette McCloud

Levy

Yankeetown

Cara Dunford

Martin

Crystal Lake Elementary

Christina Kennard

Miami-Dade

Charles D. Wyche Jr. Elementary

Dr. Edward L. Whigham Elementary

Eneida M. Hartner Elementary

Gulfstream Elementary

Kendale Lakes Elementary

Rockway Middle

William H. Turner Technical Arts High

Maria Silva

Adrienne Reeder

Nicole Fernandez

Osmany Hurtado

Lianna Saenz

Michael Windisch

Treesey Weaver

Orange

Wyndham Lakes Elementary

Deborah Carmona

Palm Beach

Carver Community Middle

Del Prado Elementary

Forest Hill Community High

Forest Hill Community High

Royal Palm Beach High

Suncoast Community High

Daryl Pauling

Tyler Montgomery

Jillian Gregory

Allison Hammill

Daniella Suarez

Stephen Kaplan

Sarasota

Imagine School at North Port Upper Campus

Tiffany Bailey

Seminole

District office

Lyman High

Pam Ferrante

Martha Ladd

St. Johns

John A. Crookshank Elementary

Timberlin Creek Elementary

Jacqueline Zahralban

Andrea Dieckman

St. Lucie

Frances K. Sweet Elementary

Lincoln Park Academy

Palm Pointe Educational Research

Nardi Routten

Makeda-Ione Brome

Glenna Sigmon

UF Lab School

P.K. Yonge Developmental Research

Jon Mundorf

Volusia

Deltona High

Dylan Emerick-Brown

Walton

Walton High

Deena Martin


CONTACTS
  Sources
   — Rebekah Cordova, professional development coordinator, (c) 303-246-4331; (w) 352-273-4105
   — Don Pemberton, 352-273-4103
   — Phil Poekert, 305-586-8665, UF Lastinger Center (Miami office)
  WriterCharles Boisseau, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449 

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40 Florida educators chosen for new UF leadership network

See the complete list of educators
selected for the program

“These teachers are all passionate about leading their schools and districts to improve student learning.”
— Dr. Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s College of Education today named 40 public school educators to a new program to develop leadership skills and share their expertise with teachers across Florida. The selected teachers are the first Florida Teacher Leader Fellows and will participate in an 18-month program designed to build a statewide teacher leadership network, improve the quality of classroom teaching and enhance outcomes for students.

“These teachers are all passionate about leading their schools and districts to improve student learning,” said Dr. Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning. The center is the College of Education’s R&D arm that spearheads professional development programs to improve teaching and learning.

The idea: Nurture a crop of teachers who can inspire and empower others to better the teaching and learning at their schools, districts and, ultimately, across the state. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested in this idea to get the program off the ground.

The 40 fellows, selected from 217 applicants, are practicing classroom teachers, school counselors, media specialists and instructional coaches at pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools across Florida.

Educators selected for the program said they want to become better teachers and inspire others.

  • “By participating in the Florida Teacher Leader Fellowship I hope to improve my teacher leader skills and ignite those skills in the amazing teachers I am surrounded by at Matanzas High School,” said Amanda Kraverotis, an instructional coach in Flagler County.
  • “I chose to apply to this fellowship to challenge myself personally and professionally and to grow as a teacher, learner, mentor and leader,” said Adrienne Reeder, a reading teacher at Dr. Edward Whigham Elementary School in Miami. “I hope to gain an adaptive perspective on how to provide meaningful instruction through inspiring leadership.”
  • “Since I teach the middle school population, I know that there are specifics about their lives I will never know in detail. I have only a small amount of time to make a difference in their lives, so I better be impactful,” Daryl W. Pauling Sr., a math teacher at Carver Middle School in Delray Beach. “I want to be a part of the transition of working for a better understanding to expand a person’s knowledge to make them better.”

UF’s Lastinger Center created the program in partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), a national nonprofit organization. CTQ will support fellows by facilitating virtual collaborations with project staff and other fellows, measuring the impact of the work they lead, and engaging educators and influencers across the state as their leadership efforts expand.

“There are so many teacher leaders across the state who are seeking to have a greater voice and impact in their schools,” said Barnett Berry, CEO of CTQ. “The goal of this fellowship is to help these leaders share their expert practices across schools and districts.”

The teacher-leader program will formally begin March 1, when the fellows come to Tallahassee for two days to learn about creating a fellowship community and engaging in educational policymaking. In June, the fellows will come to UF’s main campus in Gainesville to launch their personal leadership projects. The fellowship will continue with an international teacher leadership conference in Miami next year.

UF education researchers say they will closely follow the fellows and document the impacts of professional learning on teacher and student growth as a way to continually refine and improve the program.

“Through developing and researching the fellowship, we want to better understand what teacher leadership looks like in schools and districts across the state. And we want to know how to cultivate a group of teacher leaders who, in their support of individual schools and districts, advance the state’s education system for the benefit of Florida’s students,” said Dr. Philip Poekert, assistant director of the Lastinger Center.

Below are the 40 educators selected for the inaugural Florida Teacher Leader Fellows program:

County and/or District School Educator
Alachua W.W. Irby Elementary Lorena Sanchez
Brevard Meadowlane Primary Sarah Brown
Broward District-based

Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary

Tropical Elementary

Isabel Nodarse

Donald Nicolas
Amy DeCelle

Duval Paxon Mai Keisling
Flagler Matanzas High Amanda Kraverotis
Florida Virtual Florida Virtual School Charles Cummings
Hillsborough Bloomingdale High Heather Hanks
Lake Grassy Lake Elementary Kelly Dodd
Lee Riverdale High

Tortuga Preserve Elementary

Deneen Kozielski

Jennifer Grida

Leon John G. Riley Elementary Bridgette McCloud
Levy Yankeetown Cara Dunford
Martin Crystal Lake Elementary Christina Kennard
Miami-Dade Charles D. Wyche Jr. Elementary

Dr. Edward L. Whigham Elementary

Eneida M. Hartner Elementary

Gulfstream Elementary

Kendale Lakes Elementary

Rockway Middle

William H. Turner Technical Arts High

Maria Silva

Adrienne Reeder

Nicole Fernandez

Osmany Hurtado

Lianna Saenz

Michael Windisch

Treesey Weaver

Orange Wyndham Lakes Elementary Deborah Carmona
Palm Beach Carver Community Middle

Del Prado Elementary

Forest Hill Community High

Forest Hill Community High

Royal Palm Beach High

Suncoast Community High

Daryl Pauling

Tyler Montgomery

Jillian Gregory

Allison Hammill

Daniella Suarez

Stephen Kaplan

Sarasota Imagine School at North Port Upper Campus Tiffany Bailey
Seminole District office

Lyman High

Pam Ferrante

Martha Ladd

St. Johns John A. Crookshank Elementary

Timberlin Creek Elementary

Jacqueline Zahralban

Andrea Dieckman

St. Lucie Frances K. Sweet Elementary

Lincoln Park Academy

Palm Pointe Educational Research

Nardi Routten

Makeda-Ione Brome

Glenna Sigmon

UF Lab School P.K. Yonge Developmental Research Jon Mundorf
Volusia Deltona High Dylan Emerick-Brown
Walton Walton High Deena Martin

 

Sources (UF Lastinger Center):
— Rebekah Cordova, professional development coordinator, (c) 303-246-4331; (w) 352-273-4103
— Phil Poekert, 305-586-8665;
— Don Pemberton, 352-273-4103;
WriterCharles Boisseau, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449 

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Education professor wins $1.2 million grant to lead UF team on 3-D paleontology technology project

Pasha Antonenko

Pasha Antonenko secures fifth NSF grant

University of Florida educational technology researcher Pasha Antonenko is leading a team of UF scientists from multiple disciplines to create a novel curriculum for the middle and high school grades and assist paleontologists working on projects worldwide.

The three-year, $1.2 million project will help students develop their skills in real-world science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Antonenko said. It is a collaboration with teachers and students in 10 public schools in California and Florida. Among the participating schools is UF’s P.K. Yonge Development Research School. The other schools are yet to be determined.

Workshop participants visit the University of Florida's Fab Lab to print a model of a fossil horse tooth.

Workshop participants visit the University of Florida’s Fab Lab to print a model of a fossil horse tooth.

A comparison of the fossil tooth (top) with the scaled printed version (center).The printed 3D model was enlarged to twice the size of the original fossil to demonstrate how scan data can be manipulated to facilitate specific lesson plans. In this case, the differences in the teeth of two fossil horses (another shown at bottom) of very different sizes could be compared after scaling the small horse to the size of the larger horse, potentially serving as a lesson in critical observation skills.

A comparison of the fossil tooth (top) with the scaled printed version (center).The printed 3D model was enlarged to twice the size of the original fossil to demonstrate how scan data can be manipulated to facilitate specific lesson plans. In this case, the differences in the teeth of two fossil horses (another shown at bottom) of very different sizes could be compared after scaling the small horse to the size of the larger horse, potentially serving as a lesson in critical observation skills.

The NSF grant is one of five that the Ukraine-born Antonenko has won in recent months.

Called “iDigFossils,” the project will allow middle- and high-school students who are studying bones to scan them in three dimensions and upload them to virtual collections that paleontologists and others can access worldwide and reproduce using 3-D printers.

Antonenko is an associate professor of educational technology in UF’s College of Education.

He said the team is seeking to address an ongoing problem in 21st century education: how to integrate STEM lessons across multiple disciplines. For example, how do you take what lessons students are learning in math classes and apply them to other fields of study, such as biology?

“The problem that we are addressing is to integrate STEM in the classroom in effective ways without overloading the mathematics teacher or the science teacher,” he said.

More specifically the project will use 3-D scanning and printing activities in the context of paleontology as an integrative STEM discipline, he said. “It will provide a good way to integrate STEM in K-12 education. It’s a very meaningful way to also contribute to actual science, that’s the other angle of it.”

About $100,000 of the funding will pay for 3-D scanning and printing carts and five laptops for each of 10 participating school districts.

Antonenko is serving as principal investigator on the project. Co-principal investigators are: Bruce McFadden, curator and professor at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History; Aaron Wood, research assistant at the museum; and Corey Toler-Franklin, an assistant professor in UF’s Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department and director of its Graphics, Imaging & Light Measurement Laboratory.

More information can be found on the NSF website: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1510410&HistoricalAwards=false.


Source: Pasha Antonenko, (352) 273-4176
Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449
Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, (352) 273-4137

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Study explores impact of ‘active learning classroom’ design

PKY--Steelcase active classrm study (1)Inspired by the early impact of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s new, state-of-the-art elementary wing, faculty researchers from PKY and the University of Florida are teaming up on pioneering studies into how school building design can influence and improve schooling for both teachers and students.

P.K. Yonge faculty researchers, led by school Director Lynda Hayes, are partnering with UF’s College of Design, Construction and Planning on a two-year study funded by Steelcase, Inc., the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer. The team also includes UF education technology Professor Kara Dawson.

Steelcase has refurbished and furnished a designated “active learning classroom” in the school’s older high school building with up to $50,000 worth of furniture and integrated technology and is training school instructors in the use of the active-learning tools.

“This project will provide a better understanding of how learning best takes place and how smarter, active learning spaces can help,” Hayes said. “Our intent is to create the most effective, engaging and inspiring learning environments to meet the evolving needs of students and teachers in the 21st century.”

P.K. Yonge has been the UF College of Education’s laboratory school since 1934, serving as a center of innovative educational program development and dissemination for kindergarten-through-high-school students throughout Florida and beyond.


SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, lhayes@pky.ufl.edu, 352-392-1554, ext. 223
MEDIA RELATIONS: Julie Henderson, communications coordinator, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, jhenderson@pky.ufl.edu352-392-1554
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education,llansford@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4137

 

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UF online graduate education rated best in nation

Online Grad Ed rankings (2016, top 5)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education, already recognized for having some of the nation’s best e-learning students, now can stake a claim as America’s best online graduate education degree program overall, according to the latest national rankings announced Jan. 12 by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

UF was tied for first with the University of Houston in the new 2016 rankings of America’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs, improving by 12 spots over last year. For the second year in a row, UF also received the survey’s highest score for “admissions selectivity”—considered an indicator of the high quality of its students.

UF now is the top-ranked education college in Florida and among public education schools in the Southeast in both online and on-campus graduate degree programs. The College of Education also was UF’s highest-rated online program in the survey.

This is the fifth year that U.S. News has numerically ranked online learning programs in higher education. Education is one of seven disciplines at the master’s degree level that were rated. Programs were ranked based on five weighted factors: student engagement (35%), student services and technology (20%), admissions selectivity (15%), faculty credentials and training (15%), and peer reputation (15%).

“Our distance ed courses are designed by top-flight faculty using the latest knowledge about best practices in web-based learning environments,” UF education Associate Dean Tom Dana said. “Our goal is to develop master educators who can lead transformations in practice.”

COE online instructors work with the college’s instructional design creative teams to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and “virtual field trips” (Photo courtesty of Matt Stamey/Gainesville Sun)

COE online instructors work with the college’s instructional design creative teams to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and “virtual field trips” (Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun)

Dana said a key distinction of the UF online program is its cohort instructional approach, meaning the students start and complete the degree coursework together, which Dana said creates more opportunities for students to interact with each other and with their instructors.

“The cohort model has been shown to increase student retention and the graduation rate,” he said.

Dana has steered the development of the college’s e-learning program since its inception in 2004, when 57 students enrolled in three online graduate courses. In 2015, more than 1,750 students were enrolled in 160 online courses.

The College of Education offers eight Web-based degree programs, geared mainly to working teachers and school administrators seeking additional certifications, career advancement or professional development. The five online graduate education programs considered in the U.S. News rankings were: curriculum and instruction; educational leadership; educational technology; reading, language and literacy; and special education.

“Many of our online instructors are full-time college faculty members and nationally recognized as experts in their field,” Dana said. “All online instructors receive training in the technology and best practices of online learning.”

Many instructors have worked with the college’s instructional design team and digital creative staff to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and for “virtual field trips” that allow students to see and hear some of Florida’s most inspiring teachers and school administrators in action and discussing best practices and professional insights.

best-online-programs-grad-education-2016“The videos link to a specific assignment or learning activity,” said Bruce Mousa, coordinator of UF’s educational leadership online degree program. Mousa also has been known to upload videos from his personal computer to provide feedback to individual students.

Education Professor Sevan Terzian even incorporates some Ken Burns-like production techniques to deliver engaging content in his Education and American Culture online course, such as inserting historical images accompanied by captions and his voice-over narration.

“I wouldn’t be the first to say there is a small element of performance in everything we do,” Terzian said with a smile.

For more information, visit the college’s distance learning website at https://education.ufl.edu/distance-learning/.

The full rankings and rankings data for Best Online Programs in Graduate Education are publicly posted on the U.S. News website at http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/education.


SOURCE: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education; tdana@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4134
SOURCE: Jason Arnold, associate direct of e-learning, technology and creative services, UF College of Education; jda@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4442
WRITER / MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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UF researchers find high teacher attrition rates at charter schools

Teacher Attrition

UF College of Education researchers found that the in-year rate of teacher attrition is substantially higher at Florida charter schools than traditional public schools.

Line chart showing teacher attrition at charter and traditional schools.

Teachers at state charter schools have more than twice the within-year attrition rate of those at traditional public schools, which could have a negative impact on student academic achievement, a new University of Florida College of Education study finds.

Florida charter schools on average lost roughly 10 percent of their teachers each school year from 2011-2012 to 2014-2015, the study shows. In contrast, the teacher turnover rate at traditional public schools was about 4 percent during the same period.

“We think that over the long-term high attrition rates negatively impact student learning at the charter schools,” said M. David Miller, director of the college’s Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services. CAPES is a unit of the COE that provides consulting services and collaborates with researchers across UF’s campus and outside organizations on projects with an educational component.

College of Education Professor M. David Miller led the research team.

College of Education Professor M. David Miller leads the research team. 

Charter school principals and administrators interviewed as part of the study cited teacher turnover as among their biggest challenges. High teacher within-year attrition – meaning during the school year – typically results in the hiring of less experienced teachers, which can negatively impede student academic achievement. Also, recruiting and hiring replacements costs valuable academic time and money.

Specifically, the state’s charter schools lost 3,406 teachers between 2011-12 and 2014-2015. There were 9,409 teachers at charter schools in the most recent school year studied. In contrast, traditional public schools lost a total of 24,581 teachers during the same period out of the far larger pool of roughly 150,000 teachers.

The UF researchers found that school administrators commonly cited three likely contributing factors for the high turnover rates at charter schools:

  • Salaries of teachers are almost always lower than their counterparts at traditional schools.
  • Charter-school teachers typically do not have access to the state teacher retirement system.
  • The vast majority of charter schools have no formal teacher mentoring programs to support new teachers.

The scholars said more research is necessary to determine definitive reasons for the high attrition rates.

In addition to Miller, the UF research project team includes Tom Dana, associate dean for the college; educational leadership researcher and project manager Nancy Thornqvist; and research methods graduate student Wei Xu. Miller also directs the college’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education.

State education officials said the report’s findings raise concerns.

“The high attrition is worrisome to me as a teacher educator,” said Chris Muire, education policy director at the Florida Department of Education. He said state education officials are reviewing the report.

The scholars’ findings are included in a semi-annual report to the Florida Department of Education, which contracted with UF to assess the effect charter schools have on student achievement as part of a federal grant.

This ongoing research project is the first independent look at Florida’s charter schools since the U.S. Department of Education awarded the state a five-year, $104 million grant in 2011 to support the creation of charter schools, especially in high-need neighborhoods and rural and low-income school districts.

In recent years, the number of charter schools statewide has more than doubled from roughly 300 to about 700, Muire said. The UF study showed 582 in 2014-2015, up 33 percent from 436 at the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run schools created through agreements or “charters” with local district school boards. They are designed to increase parental options and provide schools more freedom to create innovative learning opportunities.

For the evaluation, the UF researchers studied a number of variables, including: data on charter and traditional schools collected by the state, a comparison of academic achievements at comparable charter and traditional schools, and surveys of hundreds of teachers, administrators, school board members and parents. Plus, Thornqvist conducted 25 visits each year to charter schools across the state and interviewed administrators.

The study comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Florida charter schools, which some observers have criticized for siphoning off precious state funds and high-demand teachers. A recent analysis by the Associated Press of Florida Department of Education records found that charter schools in 30 districts have closed after receiving as much as $70 million in state funding since 2000.

The numbers in the UF study excluded teacher attrition caused by the closing of schools, whether charter or traditional, Thornqvist said.

In terms of academics, UF researchers found generally only small differences in the achievement of students at a sample of comparable traditional schools vs. charter schools, though there was a slight drop in reading achievement among students at charter schools in grades 6.

For this part of the study, the scholars compared the statewide reading and math assessment scores of students in grades 3-8 and in high schools at 10 charter schools and 10 comparable traditional schools, Thornqvist said.

While the differences in assessment scores are small they run counter to annual Florida Department of Education reports that show students who attend charter schools generally outpace their traditional public school counterparts on state assessments.

Importantly, UF researchers looked at schools with similar socioeconomic characteristics, for example ones with similar percentages of students by ethnicities and those qualifying for the federal free- and reduced-price lunch program.

Previous state surveys did not account for these differences, which could affect overall results, Thornqvist said.

See the full study.


 

Sources: Dr. M David Miller, (352) 273-4306; Dr. Nancy Thornqvist, (352) 273-4352
Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449 (office), (512) 431-2269 (mobile)

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Ed. technology researcher lands record five NSF grants

Jan. 26 Update: NSF announces fifth grant, $1.2 million, for Dr. Pasha Antonenko to lead UF team on 3-D paleontology technology project.

Pasha Antonenko

Dr. Pasha Antonenko in his Norman Hall office.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Pasha Antonenko, an associate professor of educational technology, has set a new standard at the University of Florida College of Education, scoring five research grants from the National Science Foundation — all in the same 2015 funding cycle.

“You don’t expect all of them to hit,” Antonenko said. “You are lucky if one grant proposal is funded because acceptance rates are so low.”

Thomasenia Adams, associate dean of educational research, said five NSF awards sets a single season record for grants awarded to a College of Education faculty researcher.

“Dr. Antonenko has blazed the trail we have not seen before,” Adams said.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency, created by Congress in 1950, that funds nearly one-fourth of all basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. It’s the only federal agency that supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for the medical sciences.

Even more impressive than the number of NSF grants Antonenko received may be the variety and importance of the topics to be addressed in the resulting studies.

Antonenko’s five NSF awards total $4.1 million and will fund novel research projects using a wide-range of technologies in learning applications, including 3-D scanners and printers to study prehistoric bones, drones to study construction projects, and computerized simulations to study the human body’s reactions to a wide-range of stimuli.

He specializes in exploring the promise and problems of educational technology, including human-computer interaction and the design of learning environments.

The Ukrainian-born scholar will work with dozens of collaborators across the country, including researchers from fields as varied as construction engineering and paleontology and from institutions from Arizona to Massachusetts, as well as the University of Florida.

Antonenko is principal investigator on three of the NSF grants and co-principal investigator on two, one of which is led by UF’s David Julian, associate professor of biology, and the other by Emily Sessa, UF assistant professor of biology.

Below is a rundown of the NSF projects Antonenko will be working on.

Creating an evolutionary history of earth’s oldest plants: a $1.8 million, four-year project. With Sessa as principal investigator, the research team is developing a history of the evolution of flagellate plants — the oldest known land-based fauna to ever have existed, such as ferns. Other co-principal investigators are UF biology scholars Gordon Burleigh, Stuart McDaniel and Christine Davis. Antonenko’s role is to lead the development of an online application, named Voyager, to allow university students to explore a massive database in classrooms and promote evidence-based teaching practices. Antonenko will measure the effectiveness of the learning by conducting tests, including using electroencephalograms (EEGs), which measure the electrical activity in the brain of students to determine how well they are learning.

• STEM teaching using 3-D scanners and printersThis three-year, $1.2 million project will allow middle- and high-school students to study and scan bones in three dimensions, and upload them to virtual collections that scientists can access worldwide and reproduce using 3-D printers. Antonenko said the team is seeking to address an ongoing problem in 21st century education: how to integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons across multiple disciplines.

• How community college students learn using multimedia: a three-year,$765,000 effort. The use of multimedia resources in STEM education has undergone remarkable growth in recent years. The problem: Most all research on the effectiveness of these tools has been performed on high-achieving students at elite universities. This study will look at how effective these tools are among more diverse community college students, which now constitute nearly 50 percent of the population of higher education students. Co-principal investigators from UF are education technology faculty researchers Carole Beal (who also heads UF’s new Online Learning Institute) and Kara Dawson, and Andreas Keil, associate professor of psychology.

Creating an application to teach human physiology: a two-year, $247,129 project. Pre-med and other university students studying human physiology will use a new computer-based tool, called HumMod, to find out how a particular variable will affect a person’s health. For example, if a 50-year-old man were exposed to a certain level of carbon monoxide, how would that affect his cardiovascular, respiratory, neural and other processes? This study, led by UF’s Julian, allows for research of more than 6,000 variables to predict physiological responses.

• Using drones to study construction and engineering projects: This one-year, $58,148, pilot trial will use drones equipped with video cameras so students can view structures that are under construction. It seeks to address the problem in construction engineering and management courses of how to show students the myriad ways to build increasingly complex projects in a variety of scenarios, such as on all manner of construction sites. It’s not practical for students to take field trips to see these projects. “Cyber-Eye” will allow them to view drone-shot videos and establish a case library to see how to tackle real-world construction issues.

With this, as with as all his projects, Antonenko is looking to solve problems by using new ways of teaching and learning.

“In essence, all of the projects are about my core research, which really is understanding learning from different perspectives,” he said.


CONTACTS
     SOURCE: Pasha Antonenko, UF College of Education; 352-273-4176; p.antonenko@coe.ufl.edu
     WRITER: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu
     MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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P.K. Yonge goes international

Teachers bring back lessons from professional-development trips abroad

 

Mayra Cordero joined a scientific mission to hunt for fossils in Panama.

Macy Geiger and Angie Flavin traveled to Haiti to help Haitian teachers improve the way they teach their students.

Jon Mundorf went to Fukuoka, Japan to give insights to Japanese educators eager to create more accessible learning environments.

These teachers from P.K. Yonge, the University of Florida College of Education’s K-12 developmental research school since 1934, traveled around the world in recent months to lead and participate in professional-development opportunities designed to sharpen skills and enrich lives.

The idea: Faculty members strengthen their own teaching methods by gaining global perspectives that broaden the lessons they provide their students.

“I will be a better teacher because of the trip,” Mundorf, a seventh-grade language arts teacher, said after visiting Japan in October, where he was a keynote speaker and workshop leader on inclusive classroom instruction.

The teachers said there is no replacement for being immersed in new cultures and languages to gain insights and improve their own teaching.

The trips are the latest examples of how P.K. Yonge is intensifying its efforts to build an international campus and prepare its students to fully participate in the increasingly interconnected world.

“Every opportunity for a faculty member to get beyond the borders of the United States and to really see humanity from a different angle is going to enrich how they think about teaching and how they interact with students,“ said P.K. Yonge Director Lynda Hayes.

The school has conducted international outreach for many years, highlighted by its partnership with a school in Nanjing, China. Since 2013, dozens of students — accompanied by teachers and staff — from P.K. Yonge and Nanjing Experimental International School have exchanged visits to each other’s schools and stayed with host families, a trip that has proved enlightening and even life changing for some.

P.K. Yonge also plans to broaden its global focus by introducing Portuguese language instruction next fall, and following up on invitations from schools in Brazil and Chile that may lead to additional teacher and student exchanges, Hayes said.

Below are snapshots of the recent foreign experiences of P.K. Yonge’s globe-trotting teachers.

Off to Japan

Jon Mundorf’s trip to the Far East was nothing if not a learning experience.

Mundorf gave a presentation to 2,500 Japanese educators on one of his specialties — universal design for learning (UDL). UDL is a teaching framework to guide the design of flexible learning environments that can support individual learning differences.

With a Japanese translator by his side, Mundorf gave a presentation and led a workshop on UDL. Mundorf has become an expert in the field after serving nine years as a faculty member of a summer institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In Japan, Mundorf was not only a teacher but also very much a learner. He took copious notes, made a field trip to a Japanese classroom and personally shared teaching methods with many Japanese teachers.

“Half of teaching is learning,” Mundorf said, quoting a Japanese saying a few days after returning. “Seeing a whole other country and experiencing how they teach broadens my perspective and I’m sure that will impact what happens in my classroom.”

Mundorf’s Japanese hosts at the 24th Annual National Conference of the Japanese Academy of Learning Disabilities funded his weeklong trip, which was in the works before he joined the P.K. Yonge faculty this fall. Hayes encouraged Mundorf to take the time off to go, he said. Though not technically representing P.K. Yonge, he became an unofficial ambassador of the school.

“A lot of conversations turned to P.K. Yonge and practitioners were really interested in coming to P.K. Yonge and visiting my classroom and working with instructors at UF,” he said.

Digging Panama

The highlight of Mayra Cordero’s summer was digging in the dirt.

The sixth-grade science teacher traveled to Panama in July with about 20 edcuators from Florida and California as part of a Florida Museum of Natural History project to unearth fossils and provide professional development for K-12 science teachers.

During the 12-day trip, Cordero searched for specimens and learned firsthand how paleontologists conduct fieldwork. Their first lesson: distinguishing between fossils and the sea of rocks, pebbles and shells found along the shores of Lake Alajuela to learn about the stratigraphy of the area.

“It’s funny, but the first day we did not know how to recognize a fossil,” said the native of Puerto Rico.

The lessons received from the museum’s scientists paid off when Cordero discovered a tooth of a prehistoric Megalodon—informally dubbed “monster shark” or “megatooth shark”—the largest shark to have ever existed. This specimen and fossils unearthed by other teachers remained in the country and are administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Since returning home, Cordero has incorporated her new knowledge by creating paleontology lesson plans. She set up a tabletop sandbox in her classroom and students uncovered fossils and collaborated to log, measure, describe and classify each specimen.

“The students worked like professional scientists using fossils that I brought from Panama,” Cordero said.

Cordero soon plans to invite scientists from the Florida Natural History Museum to her classroom to share about scientific methods and their work in Panama.

Cordero’s trip was funded by the National Science Foundation, which earmarks funds for in-the-field scientific learning experiences for K-12 teachers.

“To know about so many different areas in science is difficult for science teachers,” Cordero said. “This trip gave me another route to gather information and I have gained a lot of experience and knowledge.”

Teaching teachers in Haiti

In July, Macy Geiger and Angie Flavin, as well as P.K. Yonge writing consultant Patricia Jacobs, traveled to Croix des Bouquets, Haiti, for an annual summer teacher-training institute.

The elementary school educators gave workshops to about 160 native teachers on integrating reading with social studies and writing personal narratives. Their ability to communicate was enhanced by having Haitian-American interpreters translate in Creole – and by Geiger’s fluency in French.

Haitian teachers have special challenges, not the least of which is living in one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, a country devastated by a 2010 earthquake, where there is no such thing as free public education and children often attend irregularly.

The P.K. Yonge teachers stayed in dorm rooms on the second floor of the school, bunked in beds flanked by mosquito nets and took cold showers.

They saw teachers walking several miles to return to their villages or clinging for dear life to overpacked buses, the colorfully painted vehicles known as tap-taps (literally “quick quick” in Haitian Creole).

Yet they were amazing by the vitality, warmth and joyfulness of the people. They ate native foods (Geiger loved keneps, a local fruit that “tastes like Starburst candy”) and marveled at local craftsmen’s metalwork.

The P.K. Yonge visitors not only brought lessons, they carried three suitcases filled school supplies donated by Blue Wave faculty and students, including computer flash drives, backpacks, folders and writing instruments.

The trip was funded by the Graham Family Endowment for Teacher Renewal, which supports P.K. Yonge student achievement by enhancing teacher knowledge.

P.K. Yonge continues to support Haitian education. Boxes placed in various locations at the school are filled with backpacks that will be shipped to Haiti for use by schoolchildren.

“Macy texted me the night we got home and said ‘I feel guilty about all we have,’ ” Flavin said.

“Even the simple things that I never thought about – like a sanitation system,” Geiger added.

Sharing the Lessons

After returning to P.K. Yonge, Geiger and Flavin gave a presentation to other teachers – while Cordero shared about her trip to Panama — at the annual back-to-school faculty breakfast.

“I think it has definitely changed my outlook and perspective on my teaching and I am trying to encourage other teachers to go out there and try new things,” Flavin said.

Such adventures are what education is all about. The experiences enrich the entire school, Hayes said.

“It’s really important for faculty to have these opportunities so they are going to be positioned to prepare our students for the future where things will be more and more global and interconnected than we could have imagined,” she said

Funding

P.K. Yonge’s international focus is enhanced by endowments created by alumni, including:

Graham Family Endowment for Teacher Renewal, $150,000: Created in 2007 by the late P.K. Yonge alum Henry “Tip” Graham to increase student and school achievement by enhancing teacher knowledge.

P.K. Yonge Globalization Fund, $125,000: Created in December 2014 by an anonymous P.K. Yonge alum to support international travel for talented and needy students and for faculty to conduct research to advance the school’s curriculum and effort to become more global.



WRITERS
: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449, cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu; Katelin Mariner, 502-319-3503, kmariner@ufl.edu

MEDIA LIAISON: Julie Henderson, communications and international relations, UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, 352-392-1554, jhenderson@pky.ufl.edu

 

 

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UF precollegiate center keeps teachers up to date on bioscience technologies

Quotable

“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher.”

— Kathy Savage
Oviedo High bioscience teacher

MOST OF THE TIME they are the teachers.

Not this time.

Dozens of high school teachers from across Florida returned to the classroom as part of an innovative University of Florida program to teach teachers the latest biomedical science and technologies, and to spark interest in bioscience careers among high schoolers.

Kathy Savage participates in a laboratory exercise during the summer program with Houda Darwiche, a post doctoral fellow with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training.

Kathy Savage participates in a laboratory exercise during the summer program with Houda Darwiche, a post doctoral fellow with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training.

Secondary science teachers Wendy Vidor and Carlene Rogers get first-hand training in UF laboratories that they can pass on to their students

Secondary science teachers Wendy Vidor and Carlene Rogers get first-hand training in UF laboratories. Vidor, a UF doctoral student in horticulture science, teaches agricultural biotechnology and marine science at Matanzas High in Palm Coast; Rogers teaches AP biology and honors anatomy and physiology at Wekiva High in Apopka.

More than 100 high school teachers have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.

More than 100 high school teachers have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.

The idea: You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you know best when you learn firsthand.

“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher,” said Kathy Savage, a bioscience teacher at Oviedo High School in Oviedo who created a bioscience curriculum working with researchers on UF’s campus.

CPET is the University of Florida’s “umbrella” program and conduit for the transfer of science and technology to public school and community college teachers, students and the public-at-large.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve the teachers’ content knowledge,” said Julie Bokor, assistant director of CPET and a doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction at UF’s College of Education.

Key Elements

Known as Biomedical Explorations: Bench to Bedside, the program includes four key elements.

  • First, the high school teachers spend two weeks during the summer on UF’s campus where they conduct experiments and learn all manner of lab techniques and tools, such as applying technology to make copies of DNA, a method of diagnosing diseases, and identifying bacteria and viruses.
  • Next, they develop lesson plans and incorporate these into their teaching during the school year.
  • At year-end, they report their findings and disseminate the lessons so other teachers can use and help refine them.
  • Finally, selected research fellows return to campus in subsequent summers and scatter across UF’s campus to work closely with professors in labs to more fully develop curricula.

To sum it up: UF professors transfer research and techniques to secondary teachers and these teachers translate this knowledge into lessons that students can best understand.

“It’s a professional learning cycle,” said Kent Crippen, an associate professor of STEM education in COE’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Applying Lessons Learned

Importantly, participating teachers aren’t set adrift after the initial summer camp: They receive continued support from CPET staff and professors.

A good example is Savage, who had taught chemistry for 17 years when she was tapped to create a bioscience program at her school. She was a fish out of water.

“The equipment and procedures and lab techniques weren’t around when I was in school,” Savage said. “It’s a little intimidating doing those kinds of experiments yourself when you have to teach your students.”

After participating in the inaugural cohort in 2010, she has since returned to campus for three weeks every summer to work closely with UF professors and post-doctorate scholars in UF labs. They have helped her design lesson plans, taught her to use science equipment that had been gathering dust at her school, corresponded to answer her questions via email and even visited her classroom to help conduct experiments.

“You never feel afraid to try something new and jump in because you know someone has your back,” she said.

Another example: Orlando Edgewater High biology teacher Jessica Mahoney and fellow CPET alumna Jennifer Broo worked with UF Associate Professor of Entomology Daniel Hahn to create lessons on the interrelated concepts of climate change and evolution.

Students conducted experiments on live fruit flies provided by the university’s Department of Entomology to determine which strains were most vulnerable to climate change based on their recovery from a chill-induced coma.

In previous summers, these teachers teamed to develop two other curricula: one involving the cell cycle and cancer and another exploring the evolution of horses.

All told, 105 high school teachers who have participated in the program are now bringing their new skills to their own classrooms, including 22 in the 2015-2016 school year as part of a second phase of the program.

Second Phase

The UF Bench to Bedside program recently received a two-year $522,698 follow-up grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand the dissemination of the new high school science curricula.

Crippen, a co-principal investigator of this phase-two project, is helping to widely circulate the lessons by training teachers to use a powerful open-source portal funded by National Science Foundation. This online repository is part of the NSF Digital Library and allows instructors to submit, download, collaborate, and manage the copyright of lesson plans and other teaching resources they have created for the program.

CPET, which is housed in the Office of the Provost, has a long history of close collaboration with the College of Education. Education Associate Dean Tom Dana initiated a course offering for the Bench to Bedside program so teachers completing the work receive three hours of graduate credit. In another program, CPET is supporting Rose Pringle, associate professor of science education, and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School Director Lynda Hayes on a $5 million National Science Foundation grant known as U-FUTuRES (University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science) to train middle school science teacher-leaders to transform science teaching and learning. CPET Director Mary Jo Koroly is co-principal investigator on the project to facilitate science enrichment activities on campus.

Sharing lessons – and the lessons learned – is a key element of all this professional development work.

“Ultimately, what we want is for our teachers to get regional, state and even national recognition so they can develop professionally,” Bokor said. “By moving to the next level they get to share this great research.”


Contacts
    SourceJulie Bokor, CPET, 352-392-2310
    SourceKent Crippen, College of Education associate professor of STEM Education, 352-273-4222
    WriterCharles Boisseau, UF COE News & Communications, 352-392-4449

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UF study: Majority of Florida school districts lack social media policies for teachers

Jesse Gates

Jesse Gates

More than half of Florida’s school districts have no policy on the use of social media by teachers and other employees, increasing the potential for misuse and inappropriate teacher-student relationships online, according to an analysis conducted by a University of Florida educational leadership scholar.

Doctoral candidate Jesse Gates found that only 32 of the state’s 68 school districts had a dedicated social media policy, and none of the policies were comprehensive enough to adequately address all the key elements of Florida’s case law concerning public school employees’ use of social media. Gates’ research covered the primary school districts in all of Florida’s 67 counties, plus the Florida Virtual School, the state’s Internet-based public school.

The findings come at a time of a growing awareness of social media “misdeeds” by teachers, Gates writes in his dissertation research report, as evidenced by a rising trend of teacher firings and suspensions due to inappropriate communications on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Teachers have been punished for posting inappropriate photos, engaging in unprofessional online interactions with students and inflammatory blogs about supervisors and fellow teachers. In 2013, a South Florida high school teacher was arrested on charges of using Facebook to solicit sex from students ages 15 to 17.

Yet school districts have been slow to establish guidelines on what teachers can and can’t do on social networking sites.

While a social media policy isn’t an ironclad way to stop misdeeds, it would provide employees protection and a more focused idea of what behavior is allowed on social media, Gates said.

“Realistically, in extreme cases, it’s doubtful that a clear and concise social networking policy would have made a difference,” Gates said. “Many of the issues we read about in the papers really aren’t violations of a social media policy, per se, they are usually violations of the code of ethics. Social networking just makes it easier for a teacher to prey on students.”

Gates makes several recommendations to improve district policies, including clarifying key terminology, explaining freedom of speech limitations for public employees, specifying enforcement of the policy and relating the policy to the teacher code of conduct.

UF educational administration & policy Professor Craig Wood, Gates’ dissertation chair, said his work includes a sample social media policy based on current state statutes that could serve as a template for school districts’ development or improvement of their policies.

“In terms of public policy analysis and improving practices at the school board level it’s a valid piece of work,” Wood said.

Gates said courts have generally given public schools the responsibility to decide the line in balancing a public employee’s right to freedom of speech with their responsibilities as a public servant.

“This is a huge responsibility,” Gates said. “Social networking has made this conflict more prevalent.”

Currently, Gates is an assistant principal at an elementary school in St. Johns County. Last month he successfully defended his 145-page dissertation – “A Public Policy Analysis of Social Networking in Florida Public Schools” – and he will graduate in December with a doctorate in leadership in educational administration.

One of Gates’ specialties is the use of technology in instruction. In 2007, he was a finalist for teacher of the year in Georgia in part because of his use of a classroom website and an online grade book to communicate with parents.

Despite the challenges, Gates stops far short of advocating a ban on the use of social media. Studies have indicated that Facebook and other social media outlets can increase student engagement and improve cross-cultural collaboration and community building.

“When it comes to social networking and texting policies, I really do hate to see a complete ban on their use because studies have shown they can be beneficial to learning and engagement,” Gates said.

While his research didn’t include the use of texting, Gates said “clearly the potential for misdeeds with texts is similar to that of social networking.

“On the flip side, if used correctly and responsibly, texting parents and students homework assignments, reminder notes, and other classroom related news is a smart and effective way to communicate with the digital natives.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Jesse Gates, UF College of Education doctoral candidate, 678-925-5783; jgates@ufl.edu
   WRITER: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu
   MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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UF early childhood intervention aims to help elementary teachers, students succeed

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kindergarten teachers prepare their students for future school success, yet researchers say nearly 30 percent of children who enter school display problem behaviors, which put them at risk for fewer learning opportunities and poorer academic outcomes.

To help these students and their families start the educational journey on sure footing, University of Florida Professor Maureen Conroy is working with researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University to retool a social and behavioral intervention they originally developed in 2008 for preschoolers, called BEST in CLASS.

“The early years of school are critical for future success,” said Conroy, the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies at UF. “BEST in CLASS is about helping teachers gain the knowledge, tools and supports needed to build positive early learning experiences for their students, including improving teacher-student relationships that promote positive engagement in learning opportunities.”

Conroy, is a professor of special education and early childhood studies in the UF College of Education. A co-principal investigator in the study, she once again is teaming with her colleague, Professor Kevin Sutherland of VCU, who was awarded nearly $1.5 million by the National Center for Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences to lead the project.

Their recently completed efficacy trial of BEST in CLASS for 3- and 4-year-olds in early childhood programs in Florida and Virginia demonstrated positive outcomes for nearly 200 teachers and 500 children and their families. The findings will help guide the researchers’ adaptation to meet the needs of children advancing from preschool into early elementary grades and their families.

The new study will be extended to about 60 teachers and 80 students in kindergarten through second grade in an inner city school district near Richmond, Va. The students’ families, who are also a part of the study, will participate through a family involvement component and ongoing home-school partnerships with participating teachers.

Over the first year, researchers will develop BEST in CLASS-Elementary training and coaching materials for supporting teachers’ use of evidence-based instructional practices addressing students’ social and behavioral needs in their classrooms. Feedback from teachers and families also will aid the researchers in refining BEST in CLASS for this next age group.

After training and coaching materials are developed, a pilot program in the second year will test the materials with 30 teachers who will work with students identified as having social and behavioral difficulties in their classrooms. Based on year-two results, the model will be refined and further tested in the third year with participation from another group of teachers, students and their families.

The study findings will allow researchers to measure and evaluate the effects of BEST in CLASS-Elementary teachers’ use of effective instructional practices with targeted students, and how well they are partnering with families.

Researchers also will gain a comparison of how well their intervention addresses the social, behavioral and academic skills for the targeted students in their classrooms.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve teacher-student interactions and relationships in these classrooms, both of which are linked to improved student outcomes,” Sutherland said. “We’re thrilled that we have an opportunity to take what we’ve learned about implementing this promising program in early childhood settings and adapt it for use in elementary school settings.”


 

   SOURCE: Professor Maureen Conroy, College of Education, 352-273-4382, mconroy@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER: Linda Homewood, UF College of Education, 352-273-4284, homewood@ufl.edu

New ‘Teaching for Social Justice’ group hosting panel discussion Oct. 21 on Women in Higher Education

Carole Beal

A new student-led “community” at the College of Education, Teaching for Social Justice (TSJ), will host a one-hour panel discussion event titled “EdTalks: Women in Higher Education” on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 5:30 at Norman Hall in Room 2329.

The three UF panelists, including two education faculty, will discuss a variety of issues facing women in higher education.

The panel will consist of Carole Beal, professor of education technology; Aki Murata, associate professor of mathematics education; and Rosana Resende, lecturer for the Center for Latin America Studies.

All COE and UF students and faculty are welcome to attend. Although women pursuing professions in higher education is the target audience for this discussion, men are also encouraged to participate.

Mario Worlds, a doctoral student in language arts, reading and children’s literature and a founding member of TSJ, cannot directly relate to the issues women encounter, but he said he thinks the event will be insightful because of the different perspectives the panelists will offer.

Aki Murata

“While it may be different, I do believe that some of the things they have to share may also be helpful for me in terms of being a minority who hopes to one day be in higher education,” Worlds said.

The event is one in a series of “EdTalks” discussions hosted by TSJ this semester. The series is aimed at openly talking about critical conversations in education by challenging the members to look at social issues from different perspectives.

Stephanie Schroeder, a doctoral student in curriculum, teaching and teacher education and also a founding member of TSJ, said it is important to discuss issues relating to all levels of education because oppression still exists. She said it wasn’t until she taught in New York City that she realized what it meant to be a white, middle-class female in the classroom.

“There are structural issues and problems that keep students of color or students in poverty from achieving at the same rate as white, middle-class students because society is structured that way,” said Schroeder, who is also the president of the UF Education College Council. “I think we have a responsibility to change the mindset of the largely white, middle-class teaching force so we can meet the needs of our students.”

A group of College of Education doctoral students founded the coed TSJ community last spring. This is the first semester the group has hosted events. Anyone can participate in the informal group by attending the “EdTalks” or “JustChat” discussions. Drawing anywhere between 10 and 50 people, TSJ meets several times a semester to develop a diverse and interdisciplinary community of practice to identify, examine and act on issues of equality and social justice in education.

For more information about TSJ or the upcoming panel discussion, contact Stephanie Schroeder at (863) 608-4936 or via email at stephyuf@ufl.edu.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Stephanie Schroeder, UF College of Education; 863-608-4936; stephyuf@ufl.edu
    WRITER: Katelin Mariner, UF College of Education; marinerk@ufl.edu 

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UF center partners with states’ school system chiefs to boost teaching of students with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Stronger licensure standards for teachers and principals, identification of skills educators need from their first day in the classroom, and more rigorous preparation programs for teachers and school leaders are among the steps state education chiefs can take to meet the needs of all students, especially those with disabilities, according to a new report issued jointly by a center for educator preparation reform at the University of Florida and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recommendations are the result of a partnership between UF’s Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform, or CEEDAR Center, and the private, nonprofit professional organization that serves leaders of every state’s department of elementary and secondary education.

The two groups recently convened an advisory group of state education agency leaders, higher education faculty, national professional organizations and teachers to develop the guidelines, released in a report “Promises to Keep: Transforming Educator Preparation to Better Serve a Diverse Range of Learners.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers is distributing the report to all state education department leaders and national organizations that serve individuals and organizations invested in teacher and principal preparation.

Other recommendations outlined in the report include:

·        Making personalized learning and student achievement and outcomes, including those for students with disabilities, an integral part of preparation and evaluation programs for teachers and school leaders in training

·       Designing preparation programs that promote collaboration and teamwork among all educators for all of their students

·       Maintaining effective monitoring and evaluation systems that hold teacher preparation programs accountable and providing the programs with adequate feedback for continued improvement in how they prepare teacher and administrator candidates to support diverse learners in the classroom

The report, which outlines a comprehensive set of clear policy actions state agencies can take, is the first of its kind, said CEEDAR Center director Mary Brownell.

“Students with disabilities can make remarkable progress when their teachers have the knowledge and skills needed to serve them effectively,” said Brownell, a special education professor at UF’s College of Education. “Improving preparation of all future teachers and school leaders is one way to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to help a diverse range of students.”

The report builds on a well-publicized policy document the Council of Chief State School Officers published in 2012 that included recommendations for transforming teacher and leader preparation policies.

“State education chiefs want effective teachers in the classroom on Day 1,” said Chris Minnich, the council’s executive director. “It is essential that schools continually seek the most effective ways to reach their most diverse learners.”

UF’s CEEDAR Center, with assistance from a federal grant, is partnering with the council to implement many of the guidelines in 15 states. The hope is that state education departments, colleges of education and school districts will work together to incorporate the recommendations into efforts already underway to improve teacher quality and leader preparation, Brownell said.

CEEDAR Center is in the midst of a five-year, $25 million technical assistance project to help the 15 participating states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and school leaders. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the center began its work in Florida and four other states – California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota – in 2013. Five additional states are expected to join the project in 2016, with the “Promises to Keep” report guiding much of the work in these states.

The report is available at http://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/portfolio/promises-to-keep/ or www.ccsso.org.


Sources:
Mary Brownell, project director, UF CEEDAR Center; 352-273-4529; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu
   Larry Lansford, UF College of Education News & Communications, 352-273-4449; skindland@coe.ufl.edu
   University of Florida News Center http://www.news.ufl.edu |  News@ufl.edu |  352-846-3903

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The University of Florida is one of the nation’s largest public universities. A member of the Association of American Universities, UF posted research expenditures totaling $696 million in 2013. Through its research and other activities, UF contributes more than $8.76 billion a year to Florida’s economy and has a total employment impact of more than 100,000 jobs statewide. Find us at www.ufl.edu, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/UniversityofFlorida, and learn about UF’s plan to become one of the nation’s top public research universities at ufpreeminence.org.

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Paul Sindelar joins select group as UF Distinguished Professor

Special education Professor Paul Sindelar has been named a University of Florida Distinguished Professor, making him just the sixth College of Education faculty member to be awarded the coveted title.

Paul Sindelar8

UF Distinguished Professor Paul Sindelar

Sindelar’s new title “acknowledges an exceptional record of achievement in the areas of teaching, research and publication and professional and public service that is recognized both nationally and internationally,” according to Joseph Glover, UF provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Sindelar said there have been times when he wasn’t sure his credentials would measure up to the lofty standards set by his predecessors.

“I knew that Cecil Mercer and Paul George were both Distinguished Professors,” Sindelar said. “We were contemporaries before they retired, and I had a great deal of respect for their work.

“In fact, I was on a bird watching trip in the Yucatan when a guy we ran into asked where I was from and what I did,” he added. “After I told him I worked at the University of Florida, he asked me if I knew Paul George. I mean, what are the odds of that happening?

“Paul was one of the founding fathers of middle school education, and his work reached a lot of people,” Sindelar said. “I don’t suppose I’ve had that kind of impact, but then, not many people have.”

The same could be said of the late Cecil Mercer, a giant in his field during his 31-year tenure on the COE special education faculty. Three other former faculty members – all deceased — were granted distinguished professorships during their tenures. Joe Wittmer came to UF in 1968 and chaired the Counselor Education department for 18 of his 37 years with the COE; James Wattenbarger was known widely as the “father of Florida’s community college system” after his dissertation was used as a system blueprint in the late 1950s; and Mary Budd Rowe, a science education professor who spent 24 years on the COE faculty, was a former UF Teacher of the Year.

Sindelar said he learned about his new title while attending a conference in Arlington, Va., when COE Dean Glenn Good sent him an email message containing a letter from UF President Kent Fuchs.

“I was a bit surprised, but thrilled to death,” Sindelar said. “It’s an honor, of course, and utterly humbling.”

Sindelar, who is co-director of UF’s federally funded CEEDAR Center, has been conducting research focusing on change in the special education teacher labor market and its implications for policy makers and teacher educators. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

He and his colleagues have established that fewer education teachers are employed in U.S. public schools today than were on the job 10 years ago. The reasons for the decline are unclear, although reductions in the number of students identified with learning disabilities, changes in service delivery, and the economic impact of the Great Recession all appear to play roles, their research indicates.

Mary Brownell, Sindelar’s co-director at the CEEDAR Center, says she knows her colleague will make the most of whatever opportunities his new title may bring.

“Paul has been my mentor and a close friend for 25 years,” Brownell said. “He hired me, and we’ve had a tremendous journey together as teacher education scholars. We’ve directed three centers together, four doctoral leadership grants and one research grant from the U. S. Department of Education. We’ve co-authored countless papers, presentations, and book chapters. I can’t imagine my career being what it has been without my trusted friend and wise colleague.

“He’s one of the finest teacher education researchers in our field, and he’s respected by all of his colleagues at UF and across the nation,” she added. “No one could be more deserving of the title Distinguished Professor.”

Honors and recognition aren’t new for Sindelar, He won the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, TED Publication Award in 1997 and 2009, as well as the University of Illinois College of Education Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007 and the UF Faculty Achievement Recognition Award in 2007.

Most notably, though, Sindelar and Brownell won the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s prestigious David G. Imig Award in 2015 for making significant, lasting contributions to educator development and teacher education policy and research.

Sindelar received an undergraduate degree in history at Dartmouth before earning a master’s in special education at the University of Illinois in 1974 and his Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota three years later. He entered the UF College of Education in 1988 as department chair and special education professor. He remained chair until 1996, when he became director of the UF Center for School Improvement and went on to serve as director of the UF Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education (2000-2005) and associate dean for research in the Office of Educational Research (2005-2008).


Contacts
    Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.

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5 more states join UF’s $25M effort to improve teaching of students with disabilities

Five states have been added to the list of 10 already taking part in a $25 million UF College of Education project aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities.

Images taken by Kristen Bartlett Grace Copyright the UF News Bureau College of Education October 1, 2007 D-1319

Mary Brownell

Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee are the latest additions to the five-year program being implemented by the college’s CEEDAR Center through a record-setting grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Center director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor, said the center and its state partners are engaged in work that could have a “dramatic impact” on improving education for students with disabilities and other struggling learners.

“If we can prepare teachers and leaders to implement the best evidence we have about effective instruction and classroom management, then we can help to improve student achievement and proficiency levels,” Brownell said.

The $25 million project represents the largest single grant ever awarded to the UF College of Education, and the figure could increase by another $10 million if the U.S. DOE exercises two optional years.

Five more states are expected to be added before the project completes its fourth-year cycle in 2016, bringing to 20 the total number of states – including Florida – whose school districts will have revised standards and significantly improved methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities in K through 12 schools.

The center is working with the American Institutes for Research, the University of Kansas, the Council of Chief State School Officers and several other national organizations to reach its objectives, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

The five states initially taking part in the CEEDAR center project were Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois, South Dakota. Five others — Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Utah – were added in 2014.

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Conroy named as first Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies

Maureen Conroy, Ph.D., an early childhood expert and professor in the University of Florida College of Education, has been named the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies.

Maureen Conroy1

Maureen Conroy

Conroy, who co-directs the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at UF, is working with other center researchers to transform science, policy and practices in early childhood learning, intervention and healthy development. Their efforts are gaining national and worldwide attention.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain development happens before he or she turns 5,” Conroy said. “Our research mission is to provide science-based approaches for supporting young children’s development and learning during this critical time.”

A primary focus of the center is supporting young children who are most vulnerable, their families, and their early childhood providers to create nurturing and supportive early learning environments to help them succeed.

Through the Anita Zucker Center, Conroy and her collaborators partner with colleagues from a number of colleges at UF as well as other community, state, national and international stakeholders.

Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate and a UF Board of Trustees member, has long been interested in early childhood studies. In 2011, the Charleston, South Carolina native contributed $1 million to the College of Education to establish the endowed professorship that Conroy now occupies. Last year, Zucker gave another $5 million to expand the center’s efforts and UF’s Preeminence initiative in early childhood studies.

“Anita Zucker understands the importance of investing in young children’s growth, development and education,” Conroy said. “Her generous gifts are a game-changer that ensures our work will reach children and families in our community, state and across the nation and world.”

A graduate of Keene State College in New Hampshire and a two-time graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Conroy’s 38-year career has revolved around conducting research and training future researchers as well as those working directly with young children and their families.

Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center who also serves as the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, said the appointment of Maureen Conroy as the inaugural Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies will advance the College of Education’s national and international visibility and impact.

“Having the Zucker Professor and Lawrence Chair working side-by-side demonstrates UF’s commitment to achieving preeminence in early childhood studies,” Snyder said.

Zucker, who taught elementary school for 10 years and has a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of North Florida, agreed.

“Early childhood education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” she said. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is important in so many ways.”

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Linda Homewood, Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, homewood@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4284.

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UF awarded $2.7M for new center aiming to transform elementary teacher preparation

The revamped coursework and internship evaluations will place a heightened emphasis on data-driven decision-making and a forward-thinking instructional approach for classroom readiness.

The revamped coursework and internship evaluations will place a heightened emphasis on data-driven decision-making and a forward-thinking instructional approach for classroom readiness.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—With $2.7 million from the Florida Department of Education, the University of Florida College of Education is creating a new “center of excellence” to transform its nationally ranked elementary teacher preparation program—and several of Alachua County’s high-needs schools will serve as the effort’s proving ground.

The DOE has awarded three-year grant support to UF and three other Florida institutions to establish a Center of Excellence in Elementary Teacher Preparation at each campus, with the education schools partnering with their local school districts on the effort. The other are Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, St. Petersburg College and Stetson University in Deland.

“We know more than we have ever known about how to prepare new teachers for strong starts and long careers of positive impact on student achievement,” said Brian Dassler, Florida DOE deputy chancellor for educator quality. “The centers of excellence grants have been awarded to four pioneer programs that will not only produce outstanding elementary teachers for Florida’s classrooms, but also blaze a trail for improved teacher preparation in the entire state.”

According to Dassler, the centers will place heightened emphasis on preparing teachers to improve learning among historically underachieving students including those with disabilities, English language learners and students living in poverty. Each teacher prep program is tailoring its strategies to the needs of its partnering school district, he said.

In Alachua County, 12 elementary schools so far have agreed to host UF teachers-in-training for their yearlong internships and participate in the UF teacher prep reform project. They include Chiles Elementary, Hidden Oak, High Springs Community School and P.K. Yonge, plus eight of the district’s high-need, Title 1 schools: Alachua Elementary, Finley, Glen Springs, Lake Forest, Littlewood, Meadowbrook, Norton, and Terwilliger.

UF’s teacher prep reform effort is dubbed Project ADePT, short for Advancing the Development of Preservice Teachers. It calls for deepening student-teachers’ content knowledge of core subject areas, strengthening teaching and classroom management skills , and improving feedback to future teachers during their final-year internship.

UF is Florida’s top-rated elementary teacher education program — ranked 17th nationally in U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools — and has a long history of progressive, research-based teacher preparation practices. UF was one of the first education colleges in the nation to unify its general and special education programs and extend it from four years to five. Students now complete a full-year internship in their final two semesters of Year 5 before graduating with a master’s degree in education.

“We have a long-standing tradition of continuous program evaluation and improvement. This grant affords opportunities for some really creative program enhancements that we couldn’t otherwise pursue,” said Ester de Jong, director of the UF education college’s School of Teaching and Learning.

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Co-researchers on the elementary education reform project are, from left, Ester de Jong, Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy and Suzanne Colvin.

De Jong is one of three UF co-researchers on the project, along with education professors Suzanne Colvin and Elizabeth Bondy, who is principal investigator.

Bondy said they are collaborating with subject area experts from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to revamp and expand the curriculum of UF’s Elementary ProTeach program so future teachers will gain a deeper knowledge of science, math, social studies and English language arts.

“One of the great opportunities to come from this grant is to restore social studies to its rightful place as a cornerstone of public education,” Bondy said. “With so much time now spent on preparing schoolchildren for standardized testing, social studies had fallen off the radar.”

UF teachers-in-training also will learn the latest, research-based approaches to instruction and classroom management and be supported by an innovative model of instructional coaching.

Bondy said the revamped coursework and internship evaluations will place a heightened emphasis on data-driven decision-making and a forward-thinking instructional approach for classroom readiness called Fast Start, which she said “will help our graduates start their first year as practicing teachers ready for the challenges ahead.”

New, Internet cloud-based video technology will allow school-based mentor teachers and UF-based supervisors to provide targeted commentary on the student teachers’ instructional practice down to the individual frame. Or, the students can study their own videos and share them confidentially with their peers on an online social platform designed just for them.

The college’s Lastinger Center for Learning, which designs and field-tests research-proven learning systems for school districts in several Florida counties and even in other countries, is adapting its instructional coaching model for UF’s elementary education reform project. Two school-based “professors-in-residence” from the college will serve as liasions between the public schools and the ProTeach program to help train the mentoring teachers and supervisors in the high-impact instructional and classroom management skills that the student-teachers will learn.

During the next two summers, UF content experts will conduct intensive, interdisciplinary workshops which combine subject area content knowledge and teaching practices for ProTeach students poised to start their final, year-long internships. Their mentoring teachers and college supervisors will also attend. The first workshop will integrate math, science, and technology.

“The redesign of our elementary education model will expand the pipeline of effective teachers locally and statewide,” Bondy said. “We’re particularly excited about strengthening our connections with the schools in east Gainesville.

“We’ll be better teacher educators when we understand the challenges and mandates that our public schools face. By providing higher quality interns and future teachers, we can have a dramatic impact on student learning.”

Everett Caudle, director of project and staff development for Alachua County Public Schools, said partnering with UF on its teacher prep reform project “holds great promise for preparing classroom-ready beginning teachers.”

He said the Alachua County teachers hosting the student-teachers also will benefit: “By fine-tuning their skills as student mentors and instructional coaches, they will become more aware and critical of their own instruction.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Elizabeth Bondy, UF College of Education; 352-273-4242; bondy@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE: Ester de Jong, UF College of Education; 352-273-4227; edejong@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE: Jackie Johnson, School Board of Alachua County; 352-955-7880;  jackie.johnson@gm.sbac.edu
   WRITER/MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

Job prospects look brighter for minority pre-service teachers after FFMT symposium

Several of the 26 UF students who have received Florida Fund for Minority Teacher scholarships say they were impressed with this year’s FFMT-sponsored Teacher Recruitment and Professional Development Symposium.

FFMT for web

Among the 26 UF students who attended the recently held Florida Fund for Minority Teachers symposium were Aida Valdes (from left), Alexis Potter, Jessica Vera Garcia, Samantha Cordero, Monique Levy and Suntrell Butler.

The 16th annual event, held on consecutive weekends at the University of Central Florida and Florida A&M and Florida Memorial universities, featured recruitment fairs that focused on placing minority teachers in classrooms throughout Florida’s 67 school districts.

Students said they left the symposium feeling confident about their ability to pursue teaching careers, including Aida Valdes, a junior in the UF ProTeach program who is majoring in elementary education.

“I got really energized after I went to a mock job interview breakout session,” Valdes said. “There were two people role playing as interviewers, and at first they asked some standard questions — but then the questions got tougher. I needed that perspective.”

FeIlow junior Jessica Vera Garcia, also a ProTeach elementary education major, said she left the symposium feeling confident that she is on the right career path.

“Overall, it was one of the best professional experiences I’ve ever had,” Garcia said. “The job recruiters told me I’m headed in the right direction.”

Since the Florida Legislature created FFMT in 1996, the program has disbursed more than $36 million in scholarships to minority education students at public and private colleges and universities throughout Florida. More than 3,500 recipients have gone on to teach in Florida’s public school classrooms.

FFMT is housed in the College of Education’s office for Recruitment, Retention and Multicultural Affairs, where Michael Bowie serves as the program’s executive director. COE Dean Glenn Good is chairman of the FFMT board of directors.

Bowie said the event has continued to grow in size and in importance to aspiring teachers.

“Our scholars are passionate about learning their craft,” Bowie said. “The scholars, the school districts, the institutions and our board members all welcome the symposiums each year.

The workshops supplement the incredible pedagogy being taught at the participating institutions, and many students left the events with contracts,” he added. “The school districts are always impressed with our scholars — their quality, qualifications and professionalism.”

More information about the FFMT and the scholarship program can be found online at www.ffmt.org.


Contacts
   Source: Cheryl Williams, UF College of Education liaison; cwilliams@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4364.
   Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
   Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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UF’s free tutoring app helping Fla. students prep for high-stakes algebra exam

Algebra3 - zoomed

Algebra Nation’s online practice tool closely resembles the end-of-course exam and also features an interactive, Facebook-style discussion forum known as the Algebra Wall.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last spring, nearly half of Florida ninth-graders flunked the statewide end-of-course Algebra 1 exam—a gateway test that Florida high school students must pass in order to graduate. University of Florida education researchers, using a powerful online teaching tool they developed, are offering incentives and challenging students across the state to “kick it up a notch” as they prepare for this year’s testing, which will begin April 20.

UF is sponsoring its second annual, statewide “Algebra Nation Test Yourself! Challenge” to support the students’ effort. Algebra Nation is a free, first-of-its-kind, Web-based tutoring tool specifically designed to help students prepare for the Algebra 1 exam. In less than a half-year after its 2013 launch, Algebra Nation was being used by more than a quarter-million students and 3,300 teachers in all 67 Florida school districts.

The two‑week Algebra Nation Challenge, which runs through April 19, motivates students to prepare for this high-stakes test with a chance for valuable prizes for students and their teachers. Florida students have the chance to practice for the upcoming Algebra 1 end-of-course exam by working algebra problems through Algebra Nation’s online Test Yourself! Practice Tool. This tool simulates the end-of-course testing environment by allowing students to answer standards-based problems in a format similar to the required exam.

Students earn entries into the Algebra Challenge by completing practice tests with at least 80 percent accuracy. With each entry, students also earn an entry for their teachers.  Each entry will be placed into a raffle for prizes. Algebra Nation will give out 100 class pizza parties and 10 iPad minis to students, plus five Caribbean cruises for two to teachers!

The 2014 Test Yourself! Challenge was a remarkable success, with over a million questions answered by students all across the state. Nathan Howe, an algebra teacher at Sunlake High School in Pasco County and a cruise winner, said, “I still can’t believe I was a winner of the teacher prize. The Bahamas cruise was by far the best thing I’ve ever won in my life.  It was also the first cruise I’ve ever been on, and definitely the trip of a lifetime.  Thank you Algebra Nation!”

The Challenge is more than just pizza, prizes, and fun. It helps students learn algebra and succeed on a high-stakes exam that they must pass to earn a high school diploma.

“Success in algebra is increasingly becoming a major determinant for future academic success,” said Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, which created Algebra Nation with Gainesville tech firm Study Edge. “Getting kids motivated to take advantage of the Algebra Nation tools is a key to their success.”

The Algebra Nation team will award 50 pizza parties at the end of the first week of the Challenge, and the rest of the prizes at the end of the second week. For more details on how the Algebra Nation Challenge works, please visit www.AlgebraNation.com/Challenge.

Students logged in to Algebra Nation can watch dynamic concept videos that come with corresponding study guides. Florida master teachers from diverse backgrounds provide the instruction on the videos and students choose the instructor that is the best fit for them.

Algebra Nation’s online practice tool closely resembles the end-of-course exam and also features an interactive discussion forum (Algebra Wall) where Florida students and teachers can ask and answer questions about algebra. Algebra Nation is now used in over 1,500 schools across Florida.

Students, parents and teachers can access Algebra Nation’s free resources 24/7 through their computers, iPhones, iPads, and Android phones. To learn more about Algebra Nation, go to www.AlgebraNation.com.


CONTACTS:
Melody Pak, Algebra Nation, 352-327-8218; melody@algebranation.com
   Ashley Dodds, Algebra Nation, 321-446-4556; ashley@algebranation.com
   Sylvia Boynton, UF Lastinger Center, 727-742-3759; sboynton@coe.ufl.edu
Don Pemberton, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; 352-273-4103; dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu

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COE scholars make strong showing at massive AERA meeting

AERA ad (2015)

More than 70 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 14,000 scholars from around the world who converged on Chicago April 16-20 for the 2015 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

The AERA annual meeting, featuring 2,600 sessions, is the largest gathering of international scholars in the field of education research. More UF education faculty and graduate students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The UF contingent included 41 COE faculty members and 31 graduate and postdoctoral students in education.

The massive AERA event is a hotbed of innovative, research-based ideas about teaching and education issues and trends. This year’s conference theme was “Toward Justice,” examining how culture, language and heritage in education praxis, research and policy can change the world—toward more justice.

UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

  • The promise of black studies in teacher education
  • Bullying and disability status
  • Women’s scientist identity formation: an undergraduate research mentoring program
  • Does athletic success increase campus crime?
  • “The Parents are Locked Out”: Barriers to successful teacher-family engagement
  • Developing social-emotional vocabulary through storybook reading
  • Teaching English language learners: from teacher prep to teaching practice
  • Social interaction in computer-supported, collaborative problem solving
  • Minority administrators at community college in Florida

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite (research and evaluation methodology), Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education), Bernard Oliver (educational leadership), and Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology)—each participating in five presentations. Doctoral student Olivia Soutullo (school psychology) is involved in four presentations.

For a complete listing of all presentations by UF education faculty and advanced-degree students, visit http://bit.ly/1DXa57D.

Online Ed. Leadership program gets another high ranking

The UF College of Education’s online Educational Leadership doctoral program has been ranked second nationally behind the University of Nebraska by Grad School Hub, an online resource for students applying to graduate schools.

The ranking is yet another boost for the Ed. Leadership program, which has its master’s degree track ranked No. 5Biz Brain - Top EMR Vendors

nationally by TheBestSchools.org, another online resource for aspiring graduate students.

Also, U.S. News and World Report lists the COE’s overall online learning program at No. 13 nationally.

Linda Eldridge, who supervises the COE’s campus and online Educational Leadership programs, said she was delighted to hear about the latest ranking.

“It’s a testament to our nationally recognized faculty members who attract quality students,” Eldridge said. “Our graduates go on to fill education leadership roles at the district and state levels in many parts of the country.”

Contacts
Source: Grad School Hub.com.
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Online master’s in reading education program ranked 2nd in U.S. by BestSchools.org

The UF College of Education’s online Master of Education degree program in “Reading: Language and Literacy” has been ranked second in the nation by TheBestSchools.org in its listing of The 25 Best Online Master in Reading Degree Programs.

UF's online master's in reading program is nationally accredited and addresses the standards and competencies required of Florida educator certification for teaching K-12 reading. Pictured, depicting the youthful pleasures of reading, is a bronze-painted, life-like statue by American sculptor Seward Johnson that was on display in UF's Norman Hall courtyard in the summer and fall of 2011.

UF’s online master’s in reading program is nationally accredited and addresses the standards and competencies required of Florida educator certification for teaching K-12 reading. Pictured, depicting the youthful pleasures of reading, is a bronze-painted, life-like statue by American sculptor Seward Johnson that was on display in UF’s Norman Hall courtyard in the summer and fall of 2011. (File photo)

TheBestSchools.org is a popular independent website for college information seekers.

UF’s reading education program joins two other COE online master’s degrees ranked highly in their specialty areas by the Web-based resource: education leadership at No. 5 and education technology at No. 9. The college’s overall online teacher education master’s program ranked sixth among public institutions and 13th including public and private institutions.

The website also ranks UF’s overall distance learning program second in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus.

Rankings are based on academic excellence, range of available classes, faculty strength, other rankings and reputation.

UF education professor Zhihui Fang, who coordinates the M.Ed. in reading program, said he was “obviously thrilled” with being ranked just behind a similar program at the University of Kansas.

“The program has received rave reviews from its graduates,” Fang said, adding that the lofty rating “is a testament to the high quality of work that our faculty has maintained and the high caliber of students we’ve been able to recruit.”

Student admissions selectivity—an indicator of high quality student enrollment—for the COE’s overall online learning program was rated best in the nation in January by U.S. News & World Report. The program was ranked 13th overall.

Fang said the master’s reading program – which requires 36 credit hours in areas such as diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties, language arts, children’s literature, technology and literacy, and teaching English as a second language — was developed seven years ago to support prospective and practicing teachers in promoting literacy growth of K-12 learners across all subject areas.

The program is nationally accredited and addresses the standards and competencies required of Florida educator certification in Reading K-12.

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Gainesville Sun — Board of Governors supports Norman Hall renovation

The Gainesville Sun
02-19-15
Norman Hall renovations approved for state budget ruling
The Gainesville Sun ran a story on the Florida Board of Regents approving UF’s request to add $25 million for renovations to Norman Hall to its capital improvement and maintenance requests it will submit to the Florida Legislature for the 2015-16 budget year. James W. Norman Hall is the College of Education’s stately but aging, 82-year-old academic building.

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UF researchers call for immediate end to corporal punishment in all Florida schools

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of University of Florida researchers is calling for an immediate end to paddling students in all state public schools, citing its new study of classroom disciplinary trends that depicts corporal punishment as violent and outdated, and a source of complications such as increased dropout rates and lawsuits.

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In a monograph sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, UF doctoral student Sungur Gurel (left) and College of Education faculty researchers Brianna Kennedy-Lewis and Joseph Gagnon call for abolishment of corporal punishment in Florida schools.

The team’s 33-page research report shows corporal punishment persists in nearly half of Florida school districts, mostly in the state’s rural northern counties, and “it’s the youngest, most impressionable children – elementary school students – who most often are subjected” to paddling.

“Paddling is archaic,” said Joseph Gagnon, a UF College of Education associate professor of special education and one of the report’s three authors. “We need to spread awareness that scientific evidence increasingly justifies abolishing corporal punishment in favor of more effective, positive ways to manage classroom behavior.”

Gagnon said most current research shows paddling has little or no positive long-term effect on students, can lower their self-esteem, and instill hostility and rage without curbing the undesired behavior, “yet there are still pockets of Florida and other states where corporal punishment continues to be used.”

Paddling in schools has been banned in 31 states, and the UF report cites 16 national expert organizations that have categorically opposed and discredited corporal punishment. They include the National Education Association, American Bar Association, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and national associations for both elementary and secondary school principals. The study report also lists nearly 100 published research citations and references.

The UF study was funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally known civil rights and social justice activist organization based in Montgomery, Ala. The SPLC is pushing for the elimination of corporal punishment in school systems in Florida and across the nation.

Tania Galloni, an attorney with the SPLC’s Miami office, said the emotional and psychological damage done to a child who has been paddled is reason enough to end corporal punishment.

“(Paddling) is a tightly controlled form of school-sponsored violence, and it undermines the notion that a school is supposed to be a place where children feel safe,” Galloni said.

In Florida during the 2012-2013 school year, 28 of 67 school districts administered corporal punishment, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The UF report shows the Suwannee County district, with a student population of nearly 6,000 at the time of the survey, led the state with 359 paddling instances. Holmes County, with more than 3,300 students enrolled, was next with 306 instances.

Madison and Holmes counties also had the highest percentage of students experiencing corporal punishment during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the UF study. Each showed nearly 10 percent of its students being paddled. Washington County was third on the list with almost 9 percent of 3,485 students being paddled. The remaining 25 school districts using corporal punishment, on average, paddled less than 2 percent of their students, with eight districts reporting rates below 1 percent.

Gagnon and co-author Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, an assistant professor of curriculum, teaching and teacher education, have presented their research findings to Florida legislators and are working with the SPLC to target other education leaders, policymakers and the general public to raise awareness for the need to end paddling.

Gagnon, Kennedy-Lewis and Sungur Gurel, a doctoral student and statistician, spent eight months researching and writing their findings and recommendations. Gagnon evaluated public data on Florida schools’ use of corporal punishment and similar approaches to discipline. He also surveyed Florida principals to identify the use of preventive strategies and other non-violent, research-proven approaches to student behavior management.

Kennedy-Lewis interviewed 36 school administrators representing 27 Florida school districts that allowed corporal punishment.

“We were trying to find out what drives the whole punitive approach,” Kennedy-Lewis said. “As it turns out, many school administrators would just as soon do away with this type of punishment.”

The researchers made six recommendations, including abolishing corporal punishment at the federal, state and local levels, and closely scrutinizing the disproportionate punishment of males, African American students, those with disabilities and other vulnerable student groups.

They also urged schools to implement or broaden proactive, research-proven strategies for handling discipline without punitive paddling, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The PBIS approach involves tailored interventions for individuals and specific student groups that, in addition to social and emotional skills training, can include counseling programs and peer tutoring.


CONTACTS
   UF SOURCE: Joseph Gagnon, associate professor, UF College of Education; jgagnon@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4262
   UF SOURCE: Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, assistant professor, UF College of Education; bkennedy@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4041
   SPLC SOURCE: Tania Galloni, attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center; Tania.galloni@splcenter.org; 305-537-0573
   WRITER: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu: 352-273-4449
   MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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COE online program rated best in nation for student selectivity; jumps to 13th overall in U.S. News rankings

elearning-iconGAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida College of Education has one of America’s best online master’s degree programs in teacher education, and some of the nation’s best graduate students, according to national rankings announced Wednesday (Jan. 7) by U.S. News & World Report.

The college’s distance learning program was rated 13th in the magazine’s 2015 Best Online Graduate Education Programs survey, an improvement of 34 positions over last year’s ranking of 47th.

U.S. News rated the COE’s “admissions selectivity”—an indicator of the high quality of its online graduate students—as tops in the nation.

“The college’s substantial spike in the rankings is well-earned recognition for our faculty and online support and instructional development teams. Their goal from the start has been to create a superb online learning experience for students of the same high quality as our on-campus offerings,” said COE spokesman Larry Lansford. “It’s what students expect from the University of Florida.”

Lansford said the college’s top national ranking in student selectivity “reflects the high bar we set to attract and enroll students with proven aptitudes, ambitions and accomplishments who can handle the demands of rigorous coursework.”

“Awarding online degrees judiciously will enhance the legitimacy of our graduates in the job market. Our ultimate goal is to develop master educators who can lead transformations in teacher practice and leadership that ultimately improve student learning,” he said.

The COE’s online program also scored high marks for new student retention rates: retaining 99 percent of new students in 2013 and 95 percent in 2014. U.S. News also cited the program’s on-the-job, cohort instructional approach as a distinguishing characteristic. Lansford said the “job-embedded” feature allows practicing educators to earn graduate degrees in education and teacher leadership while remaining on the job.

UF was one of three education colleges in Florida with online graduate programs ranked among the nation’s top 20 by U.S. News. The others were Florida State University (at No. 2) and the University of South Florida (20th).

UF also was one of the top two highest ranking education schools, along with Auburn, in the Southeastern Conference.

Among all UF graduate schools, only the fourth-ranked Hough Graduate School of Business rated higher in its specialty than the College of Education.

This is the third year that U.S. News has collected data on distance learning programs in higher education. Besides admissions selectivity, which accounted for 15 percent of the weighted ratings, the magazine ranked teacher education programs based on wide-ranging criteria that also included student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer assessment.

You can view the complete online graduate education rankings and accompanying data on the U.S. News website at: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/education/rankings?int=a05609.

Two of the college’s individual online graduate degree programs–education technology and educational leadership–have received top 10 rankings over the past year from BestSchools.org, a higher education website for college information seekers.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education; 352-273-4134; tdana@coe.ufl.edu;
    MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;

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Alachua couple’s ‘unrestricted’ gift will boost COE’s areas of greatest need

University of Florida alumnus Joe Thigpen and his wife, Rebecca De Marie, of Alachua, Fla., have pledged an estate gift of $200,000 in unrestricted funds that will “advance the ambitious and transformative goals of the UF College of Education,” according to COE Dean Glenn Good.

“Unrestricted gifts like these are very important because they allow us to quickly respond to time-sensitive opportunities and support promising initiatives that lack other funding sources,” Good said. “The generous support of donors such as Dr. Thigpen and Rebecca enables us to help educators become more effective.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1966, Thigpen went on to earn four more degrees at UF, including a master of science in education (1970); a master’s in education (1971); an Ed.S. (1974); and a Ph.D. in education (1974).

He said he established The Thigpen and De Marie Memorial Trust Endowment Fund because of an “overwhelming feeling of appreciation” he carries for UF and the COE.

“As I matured and became successful in the business world, it dawned on me how valuable my education was to my development and awareness about people and learning,” said Thigpen, who lives just outside Gainesville in Alachua. “My success as a management consultant was built upon a solid foundation, and now that I’m entering my retirement years, it seems natural to give back in some small way to the UF College of Education.

“Becky and I are delighted that the COE assisted us in formalizing this gift,” he added. “We feel like we’re making a difference now, even though the actual gift will kick in later.

Thigpen has been a consultant to a number of individuals at high-profile corporations, including Larry Webb, CEO of The New Home Company in Aliso Viejo, Calif; and Andy Wright, chairman emeritus of National Community Renaissance, or CORE, a non-profit affordable housing development agency headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Wright said Thigpen helped him and his business partner grow their companies to include a work force of more than 400 employees and $1 billion in net worth.

“Thanks to Joe and his ability to help people by listening carefully to what their dreams are, I’ve achieved things far beyond my wildest dreams,” Wright said.

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Ed. tech’s online master’s program ranked 9th in U.S.

EDT group for post

Faculty members of the College of Education’s online education technology master’s degree program include, from left to right, Albert Ritzhaupt, Kara Dawson, Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko, Swapna Kumar and Carole Beal.

The UF College of Education’s online master’s degree program in education technology – which provides education professionals with the knowledge and expertise needed to use educational technologies to improve learning and performance in face-to-face, online and blended environments — has joined the COE’s education leadership online graduate program on a list of top 10 rankings nationwide.

TheBestSchools.org, a higher education website for college information seekers, recently placed the education technology program at No. 9 on its list of “The 25 Best Online Master in Educational Technology Degree Programs” — just weeks after giving the COE’s education leadership program a No. 5 ranking in its specialty area.

The site also ranks the University of Florida’s overall distance learning program at No. 2 in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus. Rankings for the two online master’s programs are based on academic excellence, range of available classes, faculty strength, other rankings and reputation.

Meanwhile, education leadership faculty member Bruce Mousa, who helped establish the online education leadership master’s degree program two years ago, has been using his program’s No. 5 ranking as a marketing tool.

“We tell everyone that we’ve got a flexible, online course that maintains high standards set by UF,” said Mousa, whose program prepares working teachers and other professionals to become school principals.

The complete rankings can be found online at http://goo.gl/mrRzKZ.

Contacts
Source: Albert Ritzhaupt, UF associate professor of education technology; phone (352) 273-4180; aritzhaupt@coe.ufl.edu.
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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50-year EduGator alums offer advice for today’s students

Seven members of the COE class of 1964 pose at a luncheon honoring their induction into the UF Alumni Association's Grand Guard for 50-year alumni. Pictured from left are Anna Karaylannakis, Joyce Neilson, Diane Haines, Steve Freedman, Carol Hayes-Christiansen, Virginia "Pep" Culpepper and Diane Brown.

Seven members of the COE class of 1964 pose at a luncheon honoring their induction into the UF Alumni Association’s Grand Guard for 50-year alumni. Pictured from left are Anna Karayiannakis, Joyce Neilson, Diane Haines, Steve Freedman, Carol Hayes-Christiansen, Virginia “Pep” Culpepper and Diane Brown.

What advice would UF College of Education alumni who graduated exactly a half-century ago–from the class of 1964–give to today’s education students?

The COE recently joined colleges across campus in honoring their new 50-year alumni, as members of the class of 1964 were inducted into the UF Alumni Association’s Grand Guard. Here is advice from some of the seven new COE Grand Guard inductees (pictured) who attended a luncheon at Norman Hall recently honoring their 50-year class:

“Have high standards, your kids will rise to it.  Just because you have a degree in education doesn’t mean you have to teach.  Keep the level of respect high; continue to learn.” — STEVE FREEDMAN

“Put your heart into it . . . Enjoy the children. If you don’t like teaching, find something else because you won’t be good at it.” — CAROL HAYES CHRISTIANSEN

“Know your discipline, get background knowledge, teach to the highest level and always expect a lot out of your students.” — DIANE BROWN

“Take advantage of P.K. Yonge (UF’s K-12 developmental research school)” — ANNA KARAYIANNAKIS

“P.K. Yonge is a great starting place. Follow your dreams. Take advantage of what you can.” — DIANE HAINES

“Be passionate; put your best self forward.” — VIRGINIA CULPEPPER

 “The quest for knowledge is lifelong; foster a love for curiosity (in your students).” — BRUCE CULPEPPER

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COE-UF contingent makes splash at inaugural early childhood symposium

 

Posing for a group shot are some of the 40 participants from the College of Education and other UF colleges at the Early Child Symposium Nov. 11 in Charleston.

Posing for a group shot are some of the 40 participants from the College of Education and other UF colleges at the Early Childhood Symposium Nov. 11 in Charleston.

Early childhood faculty researchers, postdoctoral fellows and students from the College of Education and other UF colleges associated with UF’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies formed a substantial presence last week at an inaugural symposium in Charleston, S.C., focused on supporting young children and their families.

Anita Zucker (BAE '72) welcomes symposium participants.

Anita Zucker (BAE ’72) welcomes symposium participants.

Some 40 members of the Gator Nation were among an estimated 300 scholars, practitioners and advocates participating in the Tri-County Cradle-to-Career Collaborative’s Early Childhood Symposium Nov. 11 in Charleston. The University of Florida was one of the sponsors of the event, which carried the theme: “Mobilize to Move the Dial on Early Childhood Indicators.”

COE alumna Anita Zucker (BAE ’72), a business and civic leader in the Charleston area and a major supporter of UF’s early childhood efforts, chairs the TCCC board of directors and invited scholars from her UF alma mater to participate in the symposium. Just last month, Zucker, a former teacher and the current CEO and board chair of The InterTech Group, a Charleston-based global manufacturing conglomerate, provided the leadership gift of $5 million to bolster a comprehensive initiative at UF focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences. UF’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, based in the College of Education, has been named for Zucker in recognition of her generosity.

Patricia Snyder (center), Maureen Conroy (right),, shown with moderator John Read, helped set the stage with their morning  conversation.

Patricia Snyder (center), Maureen Conroy (right), shown with moderator John Read, helped set the stage with their morning conversation.

COE professors Patricia Snyder and Maureen Conroy, the director and co-director, respectively, of the Anita Zucker CEECS, helped set the stage for the symposium conversations by highlighting evidence-informed practices and strategies that “move the dial” on early childhood indicators. UF alumnus David Lawrence Jr., president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation of Miami and the namesake of the UF endowed chair in early childhood studies held by Snyder, was the keynote luncheon speaker.

Early childhood specialists from the Tri-County Charleston area and across South Carolina facilitated other discussions on vital topics including: assessing for school readiness; supporting families with young children; providing health and mental health services for young children; early intervention for children with disabilities; and the role of higher education, government and community agencies in supporting young children and their families.

“We were so honored to partner with Anita Zucker and the TCCC in their inaugural Early Childhood Symposium. We look forward to future symposia and ongoing collaborations,” Snyder said.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, and director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor and co-director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;

School teams with COE faculty to redefine how kids learn ‘STEAM’ subjects

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Education researchers say the elementary school curriculum is moving away from traditional blocks of math, science, social studies and language arts, and evolving into project- and problem-based teaching and learning. Children are now learning through direct hands-on experiences that focus on real-life problems and solutions and integrate concepts and skills across all subject areas.

Linda Jones

Linda Jones

This approach to teaching and learning at the elementary level is being pioneered at St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School, a small private school in Coral Gables in collaboration with the University of Florida College of Education. UF teacher education faculty researchers Tim Jacobbe, associate professor of mathematics and statistics education, and Linda Cronin Jones, associate professor of science and environmental education, are meeting with St. Thomas faculty and administrators to set goals, create an integrated curriculum map across the grade levels, and provide teachers with professional development, training and resources focused on the “STEAM” disciplines of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.

One sample project-based learning activity being implemented at the school this year focuses on the school’s garden area, which will serve as a context for teaching and learning about the STEAM disciplines while also reinforcing the essential 21st century skills of critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, creativity, innovation and communication.

In science, in a garden setting, students will learn about plant life cycles and the impact of environmental changes on plants. Technology will be used to document, research and present students’ findings and discoveries. Engineering design activities will focus on the layout of garden structures and the creation and building of trellises, a compost bin and a rainwater collection system.

Students will also create interpretive garden signage out of recycled materials and actively learn about the life cycle of plants though movement and dance. In math, students will measure and collect information documenting plant growth and then analyze their data and interpret results.

JACOBBE, Tim (a)

Tim Jacobbe

In the future, St. Thomas teachers and students will work together to identify other real-world, science-based problems of interest to them and design projects to directly address these issues while also learning about key concepts and skills across all STEAM disciplines.

As part of a recent two-day series of STEAM-related professional development workshops led by the UF professors, St. Thomas teachers from virtually every subject area began sharing ideas about how to apply STEAM education in their own classrooms.

“We are engaging in an excellent approach to education,” said Lizzie Schaul, a fifth-grade language arts teacher. “The integration of the subjects results in a more meaningful and, therefore, more memorable experience for the kids. I am so excited to bring this to my students.”

After the STEAM program is launched, St. Thomas plans to sponsor a STEAM Education Institute to train other interested elementary school educators across Florida.


CONTACTS
    St. Thomas Source: Denie Harris, Director of Marketing & 
Communications; dharris@stepsmia.org; 305-799-2990
    UF Source: Linda Cronin Jones, Ph.D., UF College of Education; lcjones@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4223
   UF Source: Tim Jacobbe, Ph.D., UF College of Education; lcjones@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4223

 

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COE awarded $1 million to boost skills of Florida’s early learning educators

GAINESVILLE, FLA. — The Jim Moran Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to the University of Florida College of Education to provide access to the latest teaching tools for the state’s 55,000 early learning educators.

Toddlers get plenty of engaging, early learning experiences at UF's Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center.

Early Learning Florida dovetails with one of UF’s priority research initiatives to “optimize” early childhood learning and healthy child development. Pictured: a teacher engages a toddler at UF’s Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center. (File photo)

The funding will boost the college’s transformational Early Learning Florida program, a first-of-its-kind online professional development system for early learning practitioners.

“We’re thrilled and grateful,” said Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, the college’s innovation incubator that is implementing the program. “We’ll use this money to improve learning and development for hundreds of thousands of young children by providing new tools and resources to build the skills of early learning professionals.”

Built through community support, Early Learning Florida offers online and face-to-face instruction and continuing education with the latest course content, plus new certification programs for technical assistance coaches. State-funded stipends for early learning providers who successfully complete the course also are made available.

“By partnering with the Lastinger Center on this innovative initiative, we are helping create a standard for early learning that equips classroom teachers with the knowledge and know-how to provide all our children with a solid foundation for future academic success,” said Jan Moran, chairman and president of The Jim Moran Foundation, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Early Learning Florida dovetails with one of UF’s priority research initiatives to “optimize” early childhood learning and development. Early childhood studies are a vital component of UF’s preeminence push — backed by the Florida Legislature — to become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

Pemberton said The Jim Moran Foundation grant – which will be dispersed in equal payments over the next three years – also serves as an endorsement of the foundation’s belief in the importance of early learning.

“We are humbled to receive such a generous investment in our work from a foundation that honors the memory and extends the legacy of one of Florida’s greatest entrepreneurs and humanitarians,” he said.

The Jim Moran Foundation is one of four major philanthropic organizations that, together, have donated more than $3 million over multiple years to support Early Learning Florida.

The other three contributors are the Helios Education Foundation ($900,000), which supports education reform in Florida and Arizona; the Florida-based Lastinger Family Foundation ($500,000); and $600,000 from an Ohio-based foundation that has asked to remain anonymous.



About The Jim Moran Foundation
Founded by automotive pioneer Jim Moran, the mission of The Jim Moran Foundation is to improve the quality of life for the youth and families of Florida through the support of innovative programs and opportunities that meet the ever-changing needs of the community. The Foundation has invested more than $50 million in education, elder care, family strengthening, and youth transitional living initiatives since its inception in 2000 — with efforts currently focused in Broward, Palm Beach and Duval counties. Through a long-term grant agreement, The Foundation’s significant funders are JM Family Enterprises, Inc., and its subsidiaries, including Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC. It is located at 100 Jim Moran Blvd., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 33442. To learn more, visit www.jimmoranfoundation.org or call (954) 429-2122.

About the UF Lastinger Center for Learning
Part of the University of Florida, the Lastinger Center is the College of Education’s educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country.


UF Source: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; 352-273-4103; dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu
UF Media Contact: Larry Lansford, director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu

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Incentive grant boosts ed. tech professor’s research merging education and neuroscience

Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko has received the College of Education’s 2014-15 College Research Incentive Fund (CRIF) grant which will help the education technology faculty member conduct cutting-edge research on the neurological dynamics of individuals during group problem-solving activities.

Pasha EEG1

Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko and doctoral student Jiahui Wang discuss Wang’s EEG data as it shows up on a computer screen.“Working with others to solve the complex challenges of our global society is an important 21 century skill,” Antonenko said. “Now we’ll be able to obtain important brain-based data on how individuals collaborate within a group, and how that can be applied to teaching techniques.”

“Working with others to solve the complex challenges of our  global society is an important 21st century skill,” Antonenko said. “Now we’ll be able to obtain important brain-based data on how individuals collaborate within a group, and how that can be applied to teaching techniques.”

 The COE gives its annual CRIF grant, worth $40,000, to education faculty members with promising and meaningful research projects that are likely to attract additional funding.

Antonenko, an associate professor, used part of his grant to buy the latest in wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment that will allow him to measure brain-based factors involved in cognitive processing among student “teammates” solving a common problem.

“The fun part will come when they put on the EEG headgear and their brainwaves show up on the computer screen,” Ukraine-born Antonenko said with a laugh.

The EEG data, as well as behavioral measures of learning strategies and performance, will be analyzed to address whether neurodynamics — communication between different parts of the nervous system — align with behavioral measures of team problem-solving performance.

“We’ll also try to see whether it’s possible to devise such neurodynamic models to assess, predict, and improve performance in problem-solving teams,” Antonenko said.

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Alumna makes lead gift for $10M early childhood initiative

Anita Zucker, a passionate advocate of early childhood education, will provide a leadership gift of $5 million to bolster a comprehensive initiative at the University of Florida focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences.

Anita Zucker (BAE '72)

Anita Zucker (BAE ’72)

Zucker’s gift – the largest from an individual to the College of Education – will be combined with another $5 million in Preeminence faculty and program support from the university over the next several years. This $10 million investment will help further position UF as a national and world leader in understanding how young children develop and learn in the context of their families and communities and help create programs that enhance early supports and learning. UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, housed in the College of Education, will be named for Zucker, a UF education alumna, in recognition of her generosity.

The new funding supports an interdisciplinary team of faculty, fellows, doctoral students, and local, state, national and international partners working to establish an innovative model in early learning. Studies show that nurturing and responsive interactions and quality early learning experiences during a child’s first five years can produce a lifetime of benefits.

Zucker, a former schoolteacher, has long been interested in early childhood. In 2011, she established a professorship in UF’s College of Education dedicated to early childhood. She also sponsored the Anita Zucker Alumni Challenge, in which she matched dollar-for-dollar gifts to UF’s College of Education.

“Education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” said Zucker, CEO and chair of the Charleston, S.C.-based global manufacturing conglomerate The InterTech Group. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is so important in so many ways. The early childhood years are the most critical time for learning. That’s when they build a foundation that will play a major role in defining later success in learning and life.”

Improving early childhood studies is one of the university’s highest priorities, UF President Bernie Machen said. As part of UF’s Preeminence Plan, the university has invested in four faculty positions in the colleges of Education, Medicine and Public Health & Health Professions to support this interdisciplinary effort.

“Anita’s vision and leadership makes it possible for UF to transform America’s approach to early childhood studies,” Machen said. “Having Anita as a partner in this endeavor brings us that much closer to our goal of helping to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed.”

The newly named Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies is dedicated to advancing knowledge, policy and practices, with a focus on newborns to 5-year-olds and their families. Faculty and students from a number of UF colleges and departments are affiliated with the center, which collaborates with local, state, national and international partners to address family support, health, nutrition, mental health and early learning.

The Anita Zucker Center is one of a number of cutting-edge programs in the College of Education that are improving teaching and learning in Florida and across the nation.

“Early childhood education and research has been the big, missing piece in our education system. For UF’s College of Education to partner with others to address this critical need from an interdisciplinary perspective makes sense,” Dean Glenn Good said. “As Florida’s flagship university and a nationally preeminent institution, we have a responsibility to children everywhere to promote the very best learning opportunities for every stage of their lives.”

Zucker is a lifetime education advocate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at UF in 1972, received a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision at the University of North Florida and, for 11 years, taught English and social studies in elementary schools in Florida and South Carolina. In 2008, when her husband, Jerry, passed away, she succeeded him as CEO of the Hudson Bay Company and head of the InterTech Group. Jerry Zucker graduated from UF in 1972 as a triple major in math, chemistry and physics.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, and director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor and co-director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu

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Five more states join UF center’s $25 million effort to transform special education teaching

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Five states have been added to a list of five others already taking part in a $25 million University of Florida College of Education project that will improve the preparation of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities. Montana, Utah, Georgia, Ohio and New Hampshire are the latest states […]

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Ed. Leadership ranked 5th nationally among online master’s degree programs

Recruiting students for the College of Education’s online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership just got easier for Bruce Mousa, a course instructor and coordinator of the M.Ed. program.  

MOUSA, Bruce1

Bruce Mousa

TheBestSchools.org, a higher education resource website for college information seekers, recently ranked the program – which prepares working teachers and other professionals to become school principals — No. 5 on its list of the “25 Best Online Master in Educational Leadership Degree Programs.”

While the site also has listed the University of Florida’s overall distance learning program at No. 2 in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus, Mousa is quick to share the credit for the Educational Leadership program’s lofty status.

“I’ve got a fantastic team, and it’s very encouraging that such a young program would get this kind of recognition,” he said. “We’re less than two years old, so this can be used as a marketing tool.”  

Marketing is one of several responsibilities assumed by Mousa, who works in conjunction with the COE’s E-learning, Technology and Creative Services (ETC) staff to promote the fledgling program.

“I’m one of four faculty members, and we tell everyone that we’ve got a flexible, online course that maintains high standards set by UF,” Mousa said. “We personalize our course content by embedding videos of successful principals at Florida schools in our online course modules. They provide great examples of current best practices.”

Mousa also said the No. 5 ranking will help to increase future enrollment.

“I tell school administrators everywhere that our long-range vision is to move from a course sequence beginning every two semesters to having a minimum 15 students beginning the program each semester,” he said.

Jason Arnold, who serves as a liaison between ETC and the Educational Leadership program, said ETC’s marketing support has included creation of a website that provides details about the course. The website address — www.education.ufl.edu/edleadership-med — is distributed through email blasts and at state education conferences and other gatherings held throughout the year.

“The students have been awesome about helping the ETC creative team develop the website,” Arnold said. “They’re a diverse group of working professionals, and several of them have submitted their photos and testimonials about the program.

“Our goal is to have the best online courses available for any area of study,” he added “The online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership is paving the way.”


Contacts
      Source: Bruce Mousa, UF College of Education; bmousa@ufl.edu; 239-593-9196.
      Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, COE Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137.
      Writer: Stephen Kindland, COE Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-3449.

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Mentoring program expected to make a difference for minority children

Cheryl Williams and Randy Nelson prepare for a recent workshop.

Cheryl Williams and Randy Nelson prepare for a recent workshop.

A statewide coalition involving UF’s College of Education and Florida’s four historically black colleges and universities – formed last year to match at-risk male elementary school students with minority college students as role-model mentors – has received $500,000 from the Florida Legislature to continue and expand the program for 2014-2015.

Representatives of the research project, known as the Situational Environmental Circumstances Mentoring Program, or SEC, held a three-day leadership training conference at the COE’s Norman Hall recently, gearing up for the second year of the state-funded project. The program provides 150 minority children in grades 3, 4 and 5 with an hour of one-on-one mentoring each week from a male minority college student.

UF COE liaison Cheryl Williams and Michael Bowie, principal investigator of the project and director of the college’s Office for Recruitment and Retention and Multicultural Affairs helped expand the SEC after discussing the program’s potential with founder Randy Nelson, CEO and lead consultant with 21st Century Research and Evaluations Inc.

Williams said the high school graduation rate for black males in Florida is 47 percent and “that’s unacceptable.”

“That’s why we plan to demonstrate that one-on-one mentoring can improve the attendance, grades and behavior of at-risk kids,” Williams said. “The mentors  all have similar backgrounds as the mentees, so we expect to see the mentors benefit as well.”

UF is the administrative agent for the program, which got its start last year with a $619,000 allocation from the state legislature. Other coalition institutions include Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona and Florida Memorial University in Miami.

The group will evaluate the program’s impact on the grade-school minority children. This is the first year that third-graders are participating.

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Summer literacy camp benefits UF student tutors and youngsters with reading disabilities

Virtually all 33 UF ProTeach dual certification students who tutored youngsters with reading disabilities during a special four-week summer camp staged by the UF Literacy Initiative say their investment will reap huge benefits in their future teaching practices.

And, lest anyone forget, the same number of mostly elementary school students who spent an hour a day with their tutors at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville will benefit greatly as well.

Summer camp1

Mackenzie Caquatto and her student celebrate a tutoring session victory.

Caquatto, a member of this year’s UF gymnastics team that recently claimed its second straight national title, appeared to be just as excited as her student when the third-grader broke a personal record during a reading fluency exercise.

“Yesterday he read 73 words in one minute, but today he nailed it,” Caquatto said. “He got 102.”  

“Yeah, and with no errors!” the student beamed.  

“It’s the little victories that get you pumped up,” Caquatto said. “This program is awesome. I learn from kids all the time.”

Holly Lane, a UF special education professor who has headed the College of Education’s summer reading programs through the UF Literacy Initiative since 2009, says the “awesomeness” is the result of “incredibly passionate” student teachers who qualify for tutoring by attending a four-week practicum and five weeks of all-day classes.

“It’s a huge time commitment for them,” Lane said. “This particular group has been remarkably agreeable. They’re very dedicated.”

Among them is Karyn Ortiz, a part-time graduate student who appeared to have an excellent rapport with her student, a fourth grader with dyslexia.  

“Good teachers learn to use their personalities as a tool,” said Ortiz, who used a bag of goldfish crackers as a teaching tool in a recent tutoring session. “This has been a paradigm shift for me – from direct teaching to manipulative teaching. I use the goldfish to help my student learn what the letter ‘g’ sounds like.

“I’ve always taken reading in English for granted,” she said. “This has been an eye-opener for me; I had no idea it could be so difficult for some children.”

Such lessons can only help them to become better teachers, according to Lane. 

“Ten to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, and more than 80 percent of all learning disabilities are due to problems in reading,” she said. “Early detection is key because those students won’t have the added burden of trying to catch up academically after falling behind because of their reading disability.”

Given those numbers, it doesn’t surprise Lane to see UF Literacy Initiative programs continue to grow.

“Word’s been getting around,” she said. “This year we had students from as far away as Tampa and Dunnellon. The parents are very appreciative of this program and the difference it makes with their children.

“One parent shared that her son made more reading progress in four weeks in this program than he had all year at school.”


Contacts
   Source: Holly Lane, associate professor, School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies; hlane@ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4273. 

   Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137
   Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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‘Wearing’ a boa constrictor, fist bumping a sloth make UFTeach summer internships memorable

Brett Walker spent a summer morning wearing a boa constrictor as — well, as a boa. Dina Zinni, an aspiring astronomer from Jupiter (no, really, it’s true), spent her afternoons gazing at indoor stars. Not to be outdone, Ashleigh Tucker fist bumped a giant ground sloth as she wandered back in time.

Brett Walker

Brett Walker ‘wears’ a boa constrictor.

The three University of Florida seniors, along with 12 fellow students enrolled in the UFTeach program, discovered the power of informal STEM learning through paid summer internships as Noyce Scholars.

Thanks to a $1.2 million grant awarded last year by the National Science Foundation, the five-year Noyce Scholars program allows UF’s colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences to offer hands-on training opportunities to help recruit and prepare top science and math majors for teaching careers in the critical shortage areas of STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.

Walker, who will graduate with a bachelor’s in geological sciences by summer’s end, says she is grateful for her UFTeach education, which has taken her to Iceland to study volcanoes; to the Caribbean to dive along the deep fore reefs of the Bahamas; to New Mexico, where she crawled through 70-mile-an-hour winds on the peak of the state’s highest mountain; and to the Paleontological Research Institution at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., for this summer’s internship.

“My main job was teaching children about the treasures in their terrain and the excitement of Earth’s wild history,” Walker said. “But I also watched hot lava ooze toward me as part of the Syracuse [N.Y.] Lava Project.”

Dina Zinni

Dina Zinni stands next to Kika Silva Pla Planetarium’s Chronos Star Projector that is used for celestial shows and music performances.

She also helped out in other areas, and gladly agreed to give a short-notice presentation on the boa constrictor to a group of visitors.

“Holding a snake longer than I am tall and teaching children about it for 30 minutes was totally unexpected,” Walker said with a laugh. “Every day I woke up and did something new and exciting, so yeah, I’d say my internship was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Zinni, who plans to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s in astronomy, spent her internship talking to visitors who came to watch shows about our solar system at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium at Santa Fe College in Gainesville.

“My favorite part was working with kids,” said Zinni, who grew up in Jupiter, Fla. “They’re all so curious and they ask great questions. I’d love to end up running my own planetarium someday.”

Tucker, one of seven interns who worked at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, said she gained a fresh perspective on how to teach math to different age groups after spending time at the museum’s numerous exhibits, including “Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land,” where she high-fived and fist bumped a miniature replica of a giant ground sloth, circa 2 million B.C.

Ashleigh Tucker

Ashleigh Tucker fist bumps a replica of a giant ground sloth at UF’s Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

“I’m writing educator guides for the ‘T. Rex Named Sue’ exhibit that’ll be here in the spring,” Tucker said. “It focuses on math, so essentially it’s teaching K-8 students about dinosaurs by using math instead of the typical paleontology and biology stuff.”

Fellow intern Max Sommer, a senior majoring in geography, had a similar experience at the award-winning museum.

“I didn’t expect first and second graders to think and explore scientifically as much as they did,” he said. “They really ‘buy in’ and do a great job when interesting and fun activities engage them.

“That shows you the power of informal STEM learning,” he said. “I’ve learned the importance of that — not just for the students I’ll be teaching, but for people all around me throughout life.”


Contacts
   Source: Sharon Holte, vertebrate paleontology Ph.D. student at UF; sharonholte@gmail.com. 
   Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
   Writer-Photographer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Visiting teachers of Chinese enhance their skills through COE-sponsored StarTalk program

StarTalk1

Thanks to a summer teacher development program sponsored jointly by the UF College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, more than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of StarTalk, a federally funded teacher development program in which students learn conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities. BELOW: WATCH THE VIDEO, READ THE STORY. 

 

STARTALK


More than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of learning to speak conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities.

The UF College of Education and the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ department of Literacy, Language and Culture have co-sponsored StarTalk – a federally funded teacher development program — each of the past four years. StarTalk was established in 2006 to promote the nationwide teaching of “critical needs” languages such as Chinese, Russian and Arabic.

UF StarTalk program director Patricia Jacobs, who also serves as a writing coach at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, said the program’s objectives are simple.

“One-fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese, so it stands to reason that more of us should know how to speak it,” Jacobs said. “Skilled teachers are critical to this learning process, and they’re the focus of this program.”

The COE’s StarTalk program is exclusive to teachers of Chinese, nearly all of them China natives who teach at different schools throughout the U.S. Each year they attend afternoon training sessions at UF’s Norman Hall led by COE faculty members before applying what they learn during morning classes with kids ages 5-18 at the Boys and Girls Club.

Fifteen teachers from as far away as Texas and Massachusetts took part in this year’s program, according to Danling Fu, a UF literacy education professor who specializes in graduate and undergraduate level writing and language instruction. 

“Classes are taught much differently in China, so what they gain here helps them become more effective when teaching American children,” said Fu, who serves as lead instructor. “They’re very enthusiastic and the children respond well to that. It’s fun to watch them interact.”

Students were introduced to common Chinese words and phrases while receiving lessons in Chinese culture, such as learning how to make sweet dumplings — called tang yu’an in Chinese – and creating colorful paper lanterns for the Lantern Festival, a celebration dating back to the Han dynasty of 206 BC to 25 AD.

UF student and Taiwan native Eric Fu, who is majoring in criminology with a minor in Chinese, said he attended the StarTalk sessions to broaden his horizons about cultural education.

“It was interesting to see how passionate the teachers were, and how enthusiastically the kids responded,” Fu said. “I’ve been learning a lot from the teachers, but probably just as much by watching the students. All that will be helpful to me in terms of interpersonal dynamics.”

StarTalk is a multi-agency initiative funded primarily by the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency. Cynthia Chennault, a COE associate professor of Chinese language and literature, serves as co-instructional leader.

Other StarTalk sponsors include the National Foreign Language Center in Riverdale Park, Md., and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages headquartered in Alexandria, Va.


Source: Danling Fu, UF College of Education, danlingfu@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-392-9191, ext. 20.
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Teen traffic deaths inspire UF professors to write award-winning article, “A Science That Saves Lives’

Griff Jones, a clinical associate professor of science education in the UF College of Education, knows only too well that the laws of physics apply to everyone.

“I was a high school physics teacher, and I lost a lot of students to car crashes,” said Jones, who spent two decades teaching at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville. “Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers.”

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

That’s why Jones and his wife, Linda Jones, a COE associate professor of science and environmental education, co-authored a cover story titled “A Science That Saves Lives” for the January 2013 issue of The Science Teacher, an academic journal sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.

Their efforts paid off when the Association of American Publishers named their article a finalist in the Distinguished Achievement Award category of the recently held Revere Awards competition. The Revere Awards is the most prestigious recognition program in the learning resource community, according to the Association of Educational Publishers, which once sponsored the awards under a different name.

Receiving accolades for articles isn’t new to the husband-wife research team, but gaining recognition for their story on motor vehicle crashes involving teens meant something special.

“When I worked on my Ph.D. at UF, part of my dissertation was to help the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety write and produce a science education video for students on the understanding of car crashes,” said Griff Jones, who also is director of the COE’s STEM Teacher Induction and Professional Support (STEM TIPS) program. “The number of teen traffic deaths has gone down, but there are still way too many – more than 2,800 a year.”

Together the Joneses not only have kept up with matters related to physical science, but human behavior as well. Their cover story is based on research suggesting that a lack of emotional and cognitive maturity among teenagers increases risky driving practices such as speeding, tailgating and not wearing seat belts. 

Their article outlines a “truly life-saving teaching lesson” for high school science educators by combining Internet research with classroom “crash tests” using paper cars designed and built by students; a 6-meter “race track” made from plastic rain gutter sections; a step ladder; and a concrete block that serves as an abrupt “finish line.”

Raw eggs serve as vehicle occupants, and damage to them is measured and recorded at different speeds made possible by placing the track’s starting line on a higher rung of the ladder. Students are challenged to create cars with front ends weak enough to absorb the energy of a high-speed crash, yet strong enough to remain intact and protect the egg.       

By project’s end, students have learned to apply two physics concepts used in real-world vehicle safety engineering: momentum and impulse. Momentum is the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity, and measures the difficulty of stopping a moving object. Impulse is the net momentum change during a collision and is measured as the product of the average force exerted on an object.

“It really makes students confront themselves with their misconceptions about their chances of surviving a crash,” said Linda Jones, who serves as coordinator of the COE’s science and environmental education program. “They also learn about the vital role seat belts play in surviving a head-on collision.”

The Joneses’ article can be found at www.nsta.org, the National Science Teachers Association website.

CONTACTS:
    Source: Griff Jones, UF College of Education; gjones@coe.ufl.edu;   
    Source: Linda Jones, UF College of Education; ljones@coe.ufl.edu.
    Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
    Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu

 

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UF pioneering ‘STEAM’ elementary ed. at Coral Gables school

While St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School in Coral Gables, Fla., was designing its STEM laboratory three years ago, the University of Florida’s College of Education was expanding its K-12 STEM teacher preparation programs in several Florida school districts. The two institutions now are teaming up to take STEM education at the elementary school level to new heights.

Linda Jones

Linda Jones

At St. Thomas, STEM has evolved into STEAM–with the addition of art to the four original STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math). The concept of teaching STEM subjects through integrated, hands-on, community-based, service-learning projects rather than as stand-alone disciplines has been at the educational forefront for many middle and high school programs in recent years. Developing a comprehensive STEM/STEAM program for the elementary grades, however, is a pioneering adventure that St. Thomas and UF are ambitiously pursuing–full STEAM ahead.

UF faculty consultants from the College of Education’s mathematics and science education programs are now evaluating St. Thomas’s current STEM/STEAM program as a first step of a two-year plan. After completing a thorough inventory of what St. Thomas already has in place in terms of facilities, faculty training, resources and equipment, the UF team will determine the essential ingredients for implementing a school-wide STEM/STEAM education program.  

The UF researchers will collaborate with St. Thomas faculty and administrators to set goals, create an integrated curriculum map and provide teachers with STEAM-focused professional development, training and resources. After the STEAM program is launched, St. Thomas will sponsor a STEAM Education Institute to train other interested elementary school educators across Florida.

Tim Jacobbe

Tim Jacobbe

“Our collaboration with St. Thomas will provide participating students with opportunities to put their STEAM-related knowledge and skills to practical use by addressing real-world science-related problems and issues in their local community,” said Linda Jones, UF associate professor of science and environmental education, who is coordinating UF’s activities in the project. “Collaborative efforts like this benefit everyone involved including students, teachers, parents and the local community. ”

UF’s Tim Jacobbe, UF associate professor of mathematics and statistics education, is working with Jones on the project.


CONTACT:
   Linda L. Cronin Jones, Ph.D., UF College of Education: lcjones@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4223

 

UF’s summer Algebra Nation program launched in Jacksonville, aided by $2M in state funds

Thanks to $2 million from the Florida Legislature, about 1,000 Duval County rising 10th-graders who failed the high-stakes Algebra 1 end-of-course exam have a chance to pass it this summer.

The University of Florida is piloting its Algebra Nation summer program in Jacksonville June 16-July 26. The legislature’s $2 million allocation will also fund this new program in 2015, when UF plans to fully roll it out.

For Florida’s high school students, the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam is as high stakes as it gets – it determines their future. They must pass it to graduate.

Built by the UF Lastinger Center in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Office and Department of Education, as well as Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers students, teachers and parents a free, highly effective, interactive, 24/7 online resource aligned with the latest state standards.

“The new summer program draws heavily on Algebra Nation’s interactive video lessons, study guides and statewide Algebra Wall,” said Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center, which develops and runs Algebra Nation. “These are available on desktops, laptops, iPhones, Android phones and iPads through the Algebra Nation web app and Facebook app.”

More than 250,000 students and 3,300 teachers in all 67 Florida schools districts used Algebra Nation this past school year.

Of the 1,000 Jacksonville students participating in the new summer program, 350 will attend an Algebra Nation Summer Camp, where they will receive iPads. Successful completers will keep them.

Besides the iPads, which allow students to watch Algebra Nation videos and ask questions on the Algebra Nation app, the camp will feature other math-based apps and the highly effective Algebra Nation curriculum.

The technology-infused learning will encompass about a quarter of the four-hour program each day. “The rest of the time,” said Study Edge President Ethan Fieldman, “will be spent on activities and games that encourage student collaboration, with the teachers in each classroom guiding students to master the concepts and boosting their confidence.

Duval County algebra teachers welcome this opportunity for some of their struggling students to catch up.

“Algebra Nation Summer Camp provides remarkable educational opportunities by creating exciting new ways to implement curriculum in the classroom,” said Paula Haigis, an algebra teacher at Duval’s Atlantic Coast High School. “Students will use the latest technology to prepare for the Algebra I End-of-course exam. I know my fellow teachers and I are incredibly excited because Algebra Nation changes the very mindset of how students learn algebra.”

Based at the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country.

Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps high school and college students improve their learning outcomes through technology. Its founder, Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation.

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CONTACT: Boaz Dvir, bdvir@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-0289

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UF teacher prep program is first in state accredited by international dyslexia group

The dual certification track of the COE’s Unified Elementary ProTeach program is one of the first teacher preparation programs in the nation to receive accreditation from the International Dyslexia Association, an impressive credential that should enhance the college’s student recruitment efforts.

UF special education professor Holly Lane said the accreditation comes just one year after the dual certification track was redesigned to include a three-course block on assessment and intervention for students with reading disabilities.

Holly Lane, shown teaching a literacy education class, led the accreditation effort with Linda Lombardino. Both are UF special educaiton faculty members.

Holly Lane, shown teaching a literacy education class, led the accreditation effort with Linda Lombardino. Both are UF special education professors.

“The timing was perfect,” Lane said. “Nearly every classroom in America has kids with dyslexia, so this accreditation means a lot in terms of showing how well we prepare our students to become fully qualified teachers.”

She said fellow special education professor Linda Lombardino played an integral part in developing the voluminous accreditation process.

“This was a total team effort,” Lane said. “Dr. Lombardino is widely recognized for her expertise in dyslexia.”

Students who choose the dual certification option of UF’s five-year ProTeach master’s degree program qualify for certification in both elementary and special education for grades K-12.

Dyslexia is a neurological learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Secondary consequences could include problems with reading comprehension and delayed growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. 

UF’s College of Education is the first higher education institution in Florida to receive accreditation from the IDA, a non-profit, scientific and educational organization that operates 43 branches throughout North America and has global partners in 20 other countries.

The IDA has granted accreditation to just 17 universities and dyslexia therapy programs since it began the practice two years ago. 

“A number of schools are eager to be accredited by us,” IDA spokeswoman Elisabeth Liptak, said. “It gives them a competitive advantage when recruiting students in local markets.”

Ten to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, yet only five out of every 100 dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance, according to the Dyslexia Research Institute in Tallahassee.

And that, Lane says, is what makes the COE’s accreditation so significant.

“Teaching teachers how to recognize children who have dyslexia is just as important as making sure they get the help they need,” she said.

Colleen Pollett, a former graduate student who received her master’s degree in special education in May, said she was impressed with the nine-credit-hour requirement and its contents, including a “Learnable Linguistics” tutoring method developed by COE adjunct professors Jane Andrews and Susan Vanderline.

“After I studied the course’s ‘Learnable Linguistics’ method, I was hired as a tutor for a fourth-grade student with dyslexia,” Pollett said. “I worked with him twice a week, and I saw incredible growth and progress in his reading comprehension, fluency and his word recognition. That confirmed it for me. The program really works. 

Pollett said she was surprised to learn that dyslexia affects a person’s ability to translate written words into meaningful text.

“People who have dyslexia aren’t slow learners,” she said. “It’s just that their brains process language in a different way, so traditional methods of teaching reading aren’t effective. “

Jean Crockett, director of the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies, said IDA accreditation came about because of the vision and dedication demonstrated by Lane and Lombardino.

“Thanks to them, our dual certification graduates will be highly qualified to teach elementary and special education,” Crockett said. “They’ll be classroom-ready to help all children read.” 


CONTACTS:
   Source: Holly Lane, professor of special education, UF College of Education; hlane@ufl.edu
   Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
   Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu