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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Best of 2011: Staff Favorites

We look back at 2011 and spotlight our favorite articles, videos, blogs, and discussions.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
Related Tags: All Grades
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Cindy Johanson, Executive Director

  • Edutopia's Weekly e-Newsletter
  • Every day, there is something to love on Edutopia (sorry, I'm biased). I especially love getting the Edutopia newsletter in my email each week -- it culls a range of features and user perspectives and is a must-read. If you're not getting it, sign up now!

David Markus, Editorial Director

  • Differentiated Instruction: Fast Track to the Top [Video]
  • They were the lowest-resourced district in the state -- and they had a student achievement problem. So they dug in -- teachers, principals, superintendent, and other district staff -- and built an instruction-based solution. They stuck with their solution, refined it, and rode it all the way to the top of the state student achievement ladder. Love this story. Love these people. You will be inspired, and you may want to try some of their stuff.

Maili Holiman, Creative Director

  • Lessons from a Public School Turnaround [Video]
  • This beautifully and artistically shot video covering Cochrane Collegiate Academy's turnaround is my pick of the year. Only 21 percent of Cochrane's students were passing state math and reading standards before the school implemented PD training, and now those numbers have doubled, with 43 percent now passing. Coupled with the inspiring teacher stories, like Angela Johnson's, this is a must-see for teachers, administrators, parents, and communities. Love this story.

Zachary Fink, Director of Video Programming

  • Reteach and Enrich: How to Make Time for Every Student [Video]
  • I like this piece because it's a good balance between compelling storytelling and a nuts-and-bolts how-to for teachers and administrators. Mesquite Elementary's creation and implementation of their Reteach and Enrich strategy is a "why didn't I think of that" simple approach to ensuring their students attain mastery over the curriculum. Their program is elegant, streamlined, and effective, and I think this video, along with the others in this package, does a great job of showing the benefits of the Mesquite approach in documentary stories that are also fun to watch.

Laurie Chu, Web Production Manager

Honorable mention goes to Edutopia's Educational Topics and Special Reports page. There's something for everyone!

Todd Finley, Blogger

Mariko Nobori, Digital Media Producer

  • Thinking Big About Engagement [Video]
  • I love what the science teacher in this video is doing in his classroom -- incorporating art into science, having the students teach to build their confidence in the material, and using student-generated metaphors to bring relevance. And who doesn't love giant mitochondria?

Gustavo Arizmendi, Ad Traffic and Sales Coordinator

  • Replicating Success: Project-Based Learning
  • I like the whole site! But if I have to pick my favorite story for 2011, it would be this Schools That Work package that shows how one school is taking the best ideas from another school and making them work for them.

Betty Ray, Senior Blog Editor and Community Manager

Hubert Yee, Online Community Assistant

Amy Erin Borovoy, Video Programming Producer

  • The Digital Divide: Resource Roundup
  • This landing page takes an incredibly complex issue and pulls together a variety of Edutopia content -- from the very first articles we published about the Digital Divide, to snapshots of how things are today. It also has links to other organizations that have resources to offer. It's one-stop shopping for information around this topic!
  • Saving Money, Sustaining Excellence [Video]
  • This useful video from the Schools That Work package about Mesquite Elementary School in Tucson offers practical tips for making the most of limited resources -- something every public school teacher needs.

Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Coordinator

  • Dor Abrahamson: How To Make Math Meaningful [Video]
  • This video wows me every time. Not only is it beautiful, it just makes so much sense for us to teach math in a real-world context. "We need to help our students see the world mathematically." -- Dor Abrahamson
  • Encouraging Students to Find an Audience When They Write
  • This heartfelt blog is one of the most moving pieces of content from 2011. This reader comment -- from a fellow teacher -- really shows how inspiring it is: "I am in need of some re-energizing, I feel I've lost my true way as a teacher and have become someone who teaches standards, standards, standards, and prepares kids for tests. Time to file some of those plans and get back to truth, to basics, to the kids. Thank you."

Daniel Jarvis, Video Editor

Vanessa Vega, Research Analyst

  • Formative + Summative = Rigor [Video]
  • I have never heard anyone describe the writing process as clearly as Esther does in this video. The graphic novel assignment is also ingenious. Finally, I love how this school frames writing as practicing 5 key "habits of mind."

Billy Hawes, Desktop Support Specialist

  • Holiday Gift Guide for Teachers
  • As a guy who doesn't care much for shopping and whose girlfriend and sister-in-law are both teachers, I appreciated these suggestions.

Lisa Dabbs, Blogger

  • Texting in the Classroom: Not Just a Distraction
  • I loved this piece by Audrey Watters! She used research to show the power of using mobile devices as an educational tool. As a mom who spent years with two sons who struggled though high school -- and went through the negative aspects of a cell phone at school -- this blog shed light on how they can be used as positive connectors between home, school, and the classroom. I'm hopeful that districts will read work like this and choose to embrace the power of a mobile device as a collaborative, learning tool.

Geoff Butterfield, Technical Production Director

Doug Keely, Associate Producer

  • How to Make Math Meaningful [Video]
  • One of my favorite pieces of content has to be the Dor Abrahamson piece. I love the use of the music (that's Dor playing the cello), multiple cameras, and just great story telling by such a fun and quirky character. Plus, Zac, Herve and I had a lot of fun filming that day!

Rebecca Alber, Blogger

Dan Shumaker, Web Developer

Chip Fesko, Senior Director of Advertising Sales

Lora Ma, Executive Producer, Web

  • Critical Thinking Wins at One KIPP High School [Video]
  • I graduated from a tough, urban high school and I know the obstacles that these kids face. So when I heard that the educators at this San Lorenzo, California school are making it their goal to get every student through college, I was already inspired. (I like to think that the educators are creating academic warriors.) There's a moment in the video when principal Jason Singer says, "When they walk onto a college campus for the first time, they are going to be hit with so many crises of confidence... but when that professor starts speaking, if their legs kind of steel beneath them, and they are able to say to themselves, 'I got this' then at that point it's beyond just having power." Wow, that gets me every time.

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