California Educator

MAY 2010

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Ways to evaluate online curriculum Whether purchased or for free, it’s not always easy to differentiate good online materials from mediocre. Glowing reviews may be accurate — or could be biased. “It’s important to have criteria for evaluating these materials,” says Jacqueline Campbell, a fifth-grade teacher at York Elementary School and adjunct faculty member for National University’s Graduate School of Education. “There are so many materials out there on the Web that it can be overwhelming to try and select the best resources.” To prepare her student interns for choosing the best lesson plans on the Web, Campbell assigns them the task of analyzing various online lesson plans. “It’s a real eye- opener,” says the Hawthorne Elementary Teachers Association member. “But it’s good because they pick up lots of ideas.” Here are some of the criteria Campbell has her students look for: > Does the lesson plan offer various activities that differentiate instruction so that it can meet the needs of all students with diverse learning styles, whether they are visual, kinesthetic or auditory learners? > Does the lesson “scaffold” vocabulary to help English learners or struggling students by including simplified language, visuals and graphics, and hands-on learning opportunities? > Does the lesson tap into students’ prior knowledge and experience, enabling them to make connections between what they already know and the new material? > Does the lesson offer whole-group as well as small-group instruction? > Are there provisions for teacher-directed instruction, guided practice and independent practice? “As teachers, we are always looking for creative strategies and tweaking lesson plans that will best meet the diverse needs of our students,” says Campbell, who presented a workshop titled “Fabulous Tips and Fun Tricks for Teaching Math” at this year’s CTA Good Teaching Conference. “Our profession is rewarding, demanding and challenging, so it’s important to provide the best learning materials for all students.” with them,” he reasons. “That’s a pretty good measure of who owns the materials.” However, this is not always the case. When a teacher recently transferred to a different school within the San Jose Uni- fied School District, administrators de- manded that the teacher leave behind all lesson plans and materials. The teacher refused and sought advice from CTA’s le- gal staff. As a result, new contract lan- guage was negotiated. Bargaining such language is always advisable, notes NEA. “We came to an informal understand- ing with our district about how situations like this should be handled,” says Patrick Bernhardt, a m ember of the San Jose Teachers Association’s bargaining team. “The district wanted cer tain specific things to remain behind, and we decided that if t here was a leg itimate need for these things to remain, they would.” But SJTA members saw the possibility for future disputes and decided to bargain ABOVE: San Jose Teachers Association member Patrick Bernhardt at Pioneer High School. for “intellectual property” rights. SJTA members studied a similar provision in the contract for United Teachers Los An- geles members and came up with their own version for their contract. (To view SJTA’s contract language, visit us online at P ub l i c a t i ons/Edu c a t o r-May-10/ SJTA-Web-Exclusive.) “Having that contract language clari- fies things,” says Bernhardt, a math and history teacher at Pioneer High School. “It helps, because there is some ambiguity in existing law about teacher rights and mat- ters of intellectual property. Many teach- ers generate work products that may not be explicitly required by their job, but they create them because they are invested in their students.” MAY 2010 | 21

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