Category: Guest Posts.

Happy Friday Educators!

We found a really cool blog post from Vicki Davis at The Cool Cat Teacher. In the post, Vicki writes about strategies that educators can use to alter forces that may pull education in the wrong direction.

Here are 9 ways educators can tug education back into the right direction:

1) Take time to listen and learn every week
2) Ensure professional development includes the pedagogies teachers should use
3) Teachers and students need a voice
4) Share your learning and inspire others
5) Be fair because you care
6) When you get a spotlight, grab a mirror
7) Be gracious, but keep perspective
8) Stop the flattery, no rock stars
9) Level up every day

educator quote Nelson Mandela

We really enjoy Vicki’s posts, and suggest that you follow her @coolcatteacher on Twitter.

Hope you had a great week!

This month, in anticipation of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) and the Center for Teaching Quality’s #TeachingIs social media campaign, EdWeek invited five student bloggers to share their thoughts about what #TeachingIs.

Click the links below to read student insights:

 

Blog-Teaching-Ahead

STUDENT VOICES: WHAT TEACHERS REALLY DO

 

Our Teachers Deserve More Respect (By: Fatima Khan & Muniba Siddiqui)

Teachers: The Only Role Models Many Students Will Ever Know (By: Jackson Barnett)

“Most of my teachers wanted to send me to the principal’s office. But my fourth-grade teacher once put her arms around me and said, ‘You sure write well.’ And I’ve had good penmanship until this day. She was the only one who ever said anything nice to me. That’s the kind of motivation that students need.”

-Andrew Young

From the remote corners of the world, to the well established affluent countries, there are distinct necessities that ensure the successful operation of an education based institute. However, in today’s society we must ask the question: does more funding for schools equals a higher quality education? We explore whether there is a relationship between school resources and student achievement. Before we lean towards any particular side of the fence, we will look at the meaning of quality. This will lay a foundation for what the dynamics are of factors within this study.

Quality

Quality is the distinct degree of excellence, worth and usability of an item, information or act. There is an element of purity, ingenuity and precision that ranks it to the highest grade of superiority. Some will argue that setting up a fixed curriculum does not affect the learning process. This means that the only thing needed is the educator’s ability to transfer the information to the learner. It is then up to the learner to absorb as much detail as possible in order to obtain a passing mark when time comes for exams. Another argument is that student fees should be sufficient to cover all the costs needed to run the institute (in public schools, the money set aside for each school). Unfortunately, that view is one dimensional, and in addition, the picture is truly distorted. Depending on student fees or taxes is not viable, as it is calculated out to be the minimum that the school needs to function. So, if the cafeteria would like to serve higher quality food, the new textbooks for a specific class may be put on hold, as there is only one large budget that a school is given each year. In making this argument, we have to look at the line of reasoning that says newer text books and technology allow students to get a better education. You can argue that yes, this is true to a certain level, as the more current information and tools that a school has, the more opportunity there is for the student to have an easier transition of this knowledge to the outside world.

Resources

Since we’re engaging with the student’s intellect, we should not overlook the rest of their psyche. Having a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we clearly see that there are critical physical and psychological aspects that affect every human being. From having a building that is safe, to enjoying extra facilities like a library, makes a difference in the student’s overall experience and peace of mind. In turn, the atmosphere has been created for them to be more focused. Well managed classrooms combined with state of the art resources as well as fully skilled educators will greatly contribute to the quality of learning. Having facilities like a cafeteria does have its’ benefits as well, even though it takes up valuable monetary resources. You don’t run the risk of having students leave the campus during their break in search of food and then decide not to return for the day as well as removing the possibility that the student chooses not to eat because nothing is conveniently available, causing more psychological issues. Another factor to consider is how interests are heightened when there are adequate facilities available.

You can also look to specializations as a source of struggle for many schools. When a school never has the opportunity to add in additional resources because of the tight budget, new classes cannot be introduced without strain. The more types of classes that are available (woodworking, arts, languages, gym, finance, special education, etc) the more opportunities there are for children to find something that they truly enjoy and become stimulated by. If those opportunities are taken away, particularly in the K-12 range, then there is less of a chance of the student succeeding because there are fewer motivational factors. With the amount of work that educators need to get through, better resources helps with the time factor. Certain learning techniques work better than others. Visual displays and practical exercises assist in getting the learners to have a higher percentage of knowledge retention from lessons. In turn, the educator can move deeper into a particular study, or move to new learning material. Faculty-Student Ratio This leads us to looking into the class dynamics. Within the school system, the size of classes has an impact on the educators’ ability to spread his or her attention to each learner. To ensure that a healthy ratio is maintained, the faculty may have to invest in more and better educators, and in turn this has an impact on available funds. The level of expertise is a precious asset in a teacher. It’s to be expected that the importance is seen in making a sound investment in educators, bearing in mind that they are the ones teaching the next generation of leadership in the country. Let’s not forget that the future president is being taught somewhere in the United States right now! Investing in educators also includes sending them on institute related courses in order to maintain the high level of skill required to ensure that the quality is maintained. Although there is no real measurable technique to establish whether the highest quality has been achieved, some factors will always remain on the forefront. Curriculums change and so does the desired knowledge outcomes. Old techniques are not always effective in the new era and better equipment is needed to ensure that learners are equipped for their future vocations. There will always be a place for funding in education.

 

Brianna Jones is a freelance writer who is inspired by the neglect in the public schooling system. She advocates for teachers to earn a curriculum degree and to introduce new and exciting technology into the classroom. She also volunteers at her local Elementary school in Phoenix, AZ as a reading time helper and spelling teacher.

Kerri Schweibert – Guest Blogger

I don’t have a Smart Phone, I don’t have cable, and I took the leap into 2011 last year by finally signing up for online banking. So I’m not the go-to girl to lead a technological revolution. Of course I host online discussions, have class websites on Moodle, and utilize a SMART Board, but I’ve realized that I’m hesitant to blindly follow in the direction technology seems to be baiting us (no carrot required). As an English teacher and lover of books, I cannot fathom a world where Kindles have become ubiquitous and books extinct. And when people ask me why I’m so opposed to digital texts, the Romantic in me can’t come up with a more concrete explanation than, “There’s just something about holding a book!”

I recently came across an article that, for the first time in a long time, opened me up to the possibilities of technology in education. I’ve always believed that our children’s use of technology hampers their writing capabilities. However, according to OMG Engaging Students on Their Own Terms, “texting encourages written communication. Students are actually writing more now than any time in history.” This makes complete sense when you realize that the typical teenager sends over 3,000 text messages per month. Okay true, but texting will be the death of real writing. In response to this growing sentiment, the article explains that Socrates believed “writing was going to be the death of thinking and debate,” and “fifteenth-century educators believed that the printing press and wide availability of books would be the death of scholarly writing.”

In Shakespeare’s words, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Having students summarize an article, or state an opinion, or forge a question in a tweet of 140 characters can force them to stop doing the tango around their point and just get there. However, at the same token, what if Shakespeare tweeted the balcony scene? The beauty and romance of his language would be lost. So what else can be at stake? What is the dowry we need to pay to the technological gods infiltrating our classrooms?

Larry D. Rosen claims that we’re all headed for iDisorders: “where you exhibit signs and symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as OCD, narcissism, addiction or even ADHD, which are manifested through your use — or overuse — of technology.” As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s true. People keep their phones next to their dinner plates, families enforce “tech breaks” at the table, someone gives you the play-by-play of their daily activities via status updates. As my dear friend Ryan once said, “Why is it I can drive for days with my gas light on but freak out when my cell battery goes below 50%?”

So what’s the apropos cliche here? “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Well, maybe you can just send them a friend request.

 

Kerri Schweibert received a B.A. in English Education from Stony Brook University and an M.A. in English literature from Queens College.  Born and raised in New York, Kerri spent time traveling and studying abroad before she decided to settle down in Hawai’i.  She currently lives in Honolulu, teaching English at Assets High School.

Guest Blog by Nadjib Aktouf
I had the pleasure of joining a Google Hangout on Connected Learning through EdTechTalk.com. Hosted by Paul Allison, and featuring the remarkable and super-energetic Stephen Ritz, it was a fantastic session and I learned a great deal. Ritz began the Green Bronx Machine initiative at his school in the South Brox, NY. It has now become a thriving student-led project that provides urban landscaping and agricultural services and health and wellness awareness. Ritz’s energy is contagious and motivating.
What I took out of this talk was how much student engagement impacts achievement.
As Ritz told us: “The achievement gap can be attributed to the engagement gap.”  In educational technology, experiments and initiatives are often brought to a halt when skeptics slam them as ‘just fun’, ‘shiny’,  or ‘expensive’. It’s easy to overlook the engaging characteristics that these projects can bring. Having students fully engaged in an activity, lesson, or whole unit impacts learning on a much broader scale. Achievement will be the natural course.
It will have them looking forward to coming to school every morning. Looking forward to interacting with their peers, expressing their curiosity, and solving problems. That’s where I think that highlighting the ‘cool’ factor can have a significant effect on how engaged students are in the classroom. We need to prepare students for their future, not ours.The next time I plan for a lesson, I’ll ask myself is “How can I keep my students thouroughly engaged without losing sight of the learning objectives?” 

How have you answered that question?

Our Guest Blogger this week hails from Caracas, Venezula. He promotes the use of technologies to support student achievement in Kindergarten through grade 5.

Our Guest Blogger this week hails from Caracas, Venezula. He promotes the use of technologies to support student achievement in Kindergarten through grade 5.

 

When most people hear the word classroom, the image that comes to mind is of neat rows of note-taking students facing a teacher who is writing out all they need to know on a chalkboard — and, if this scenario is at all realistic, at least one student will also be staring out the window. The question teachers face every day is how to engage all of their students, to ensure they process and retain the coursework being presented.

The answer to that essential question can be collaboration, which encourages students to learn together, harnessing the power of social dynamics to improve engagement. Here are a few suggestions on how you can use collaboration to reinvigorate your classroom:

Create Ground Rules

Perhaps the most obvious way to re-engage a straying student is to target a student for being inattentive during class, but at this point, the class has already been disrupted, and the most successful teachers seek to prevent disruptions before they occur. One way to attempt this is to ask students to determine what appropriate classroom behavior looks like. Have each student write one ground rule on the board, on a piece of paper or, if computers are available, in a shared Google doc. This allows students to play a role in constructing the social space they share and creates a shared language of expectations.

Ask Students to Present Readings

You don’t really understand anything unless you can explain it to someone else, and as teachers, we all know that we internalize material as we present it to our students, so why not give our students the opportunity of learning their reading material as they present it to one another? If adequately prepared, most students will rise to the challenge of playing teacher for 10 or 15 minutes. Asking students to present in groups, co-presenting with the student or just standing by to help a student with facing momentary difficulty are all ways you can support them and ensure that an important aspect of the lesson isn’t missed.

Encourage Peer Review

This exercise is most suited to critiquing essays, but could also work for other projects. When students have completed a rough draft of a paper, divide them into groups of three. Have each student pick a short section of their paper to read aloud (preferably the section they need the most help with) and ask the other two students to provide verbal feedback on their impressions and understanding of the writing. You can provide a set of specific questions students must answer if you want to more precisely focus the critique, or you can have students read the essays in silence and provide written feedback.

Use Twitter to Broaden the Conversation

An easy way to encourage students to engage actively with reading material and to share their thoughts with each other is to get them tweeting. You can start a Twitter account dedicated to your teaching and encourage (or require) students to follow it. (If you don’t want students reading your personal Twitter account, it is a good idea to lock it.) Many students already use Twitter, and you may find that students who are silent in class are surprisingly comfortable engaging each other online. It’s a great forum to share those insights that hit you just after class ends, share news articles related to your class’s subject or ask one student each week to pose a question for group discussion.

Ask Your Students

Once you have built a classroom dynamic around collaboration, students sometimes volunteer excellent ideas for activities. Sometimes asking them what they want to do will yield insightful answers, and sometimes they will offer brilliant ideas for classroom activities without even realizing they have done so. It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for dropped gems, subtle cues and eagerly volunteered ideas alike. It can also be wonderfully validating for a student when one of their ideas is implemented, especially if their peers enjoy it. Again: Collaboration is about everyone creating a social space that encourages learning, and it works better when everyone’s input is sincerely considered.

 

Today’s Guest Blog is written by Erika Phyall who currently works in community relations for University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online master’s programs. USC Rossier Online provides current and aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn a Masters in Teaching online and a Masters in Education Online. Outside of work Erika enjoys networking, DIY projects, and spending time with her two dogs.

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Insight from School District Technology Director and CalPoly SLO Instructor: What Emerging Technologies Do Adolescents/ College Students Need To Be Exposed To?

“For some, new technologies have been such a defining feature in the lives of younger generations that they predict a fundamental change in the way young people communicate, socialize, create and learn. They argue that this shift has profound implications for education” (e.g. Prensky, 2001a; Rainie, 2006; Gibbons, 2007; Underwood, 2007). Adapted from Helsper, E., & Eynon, R. (2010). Digital Natives: Where Is the Evidence?

Our students thrive in a world of technology, and it seems counter intuitive to instruct them in an environment without it. My role in teaching technology to college students has been paralleled with my experience as a Technology Director enhancing technology in a small school district in California.

K-12 Education needs to prepare students to become digital content creators and consumers. The use of mobile devices create anytime anywhere learning that extends the educational setting beyond the classroom. Student learners leverage the power of technology through the use of mobile computing.

College students need full throttle instruction on how to augment technology in education. My class at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo explores research and theory on how children and adolescents use digital technologies, and its influences on cognitive, social, and identity development. The college students I work with value current technologies to help them in career choices and pursuing higher education.

I use a myriad of technology competencies to facilitate learning at Cal Poly and Coast Unified School District. Some areas covered are computer  science programming, robotics, web design, augmented reality, app development, photoshop skills, video production, and research based technology.   Useful emerging technologies for adolescents and college students include:

1. Understanding Creative Commons and Social Sites like Twitter

2. Basic Computer Programming (10 of the Best Online Programming Tools for Students)

3. Computing with mobile devices such as an iPad and the mobile operating system

4. Leveraging Kickstarter to create your own business

5. Using modern, Cloud-Based Web Design such as Squarespace

6. Creating Apps for mobile devices. One such resource is Buzztouch

7. Editing and using video as a vehicle for learning and creating content. Khan Academy is one proven example.

The structure of technology in the 21st century is fast paced and we must help students adapt. The surging culture of innovation in communities and schools can enhance student learning. We can prepare our students/ future teachers for a world that is creating jobs and enhancing workforce strategies through technology.

Henry Danielson is a Lecturer/Technology Lab Instructor at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, and the Director of Technology at Coast Unified School District in Cambria, California. Mr. Danielson can be reached @ hdanielson@coastusd.org

 

As educators, we continuously hear the phrase “multi-model learning.” It’s true, the more ways we learn something, the more we’ll remember it. Activating our bodies increases understanding. From teaching students to teaching teachers – improv, theatre and movement engages the body and mind, giving us yet another tool in our educator tool box. From knots to yoga, here are six ways to incorporate a little drama into our teaching practices:

1. Everything is a story, so make it active

Every event – historical and scientific especially – is a story when broken down to four basic elements: setting, characters, problem, and solution. Identify these parts and make it active. Create the setting, cast the characters, have the students write the dialog and put it up in the classroom. Add a twist by changing one of the four elements and see how differently the event could play out.

2. Be the machine

Collaboration and cooperation is essential to a group project. Having students and teachers working together to create a machine with their bodies not only encourages the group, but also gets them thinking about the parts of a whole. Be anything from the parts of a flower to a steam engine – pick a specific part, think about how it connects to the whole, what it sounds like and how it moves, then construct it with bodies. Or, build an imaginary machine that starts with a repetitive action and sound – having each new person add a new action and sound until everyone is part of a huge, moving machine.

3. Strike a pose

Tableau vivant – or living picture – explores 2D scenes in 3D. Students and teachers take the pose of figures in an artwork (or historical photograph!) and consider the moment before and moment after using evidence they see. The facilitator holds a ‘remote’ and tells the figures to either ‘rewind’ or ‘fast-forward, ’ making choices based off close examination.

4. Zip Zap Zop

Improv is all about careful listening and reacting, concentration and focus. This activity primes these things that are crucial to learning. The group stands in a circle. Person one points and makes eye contact with another person in the circle and says ‘zip’. That person in turn points to someone else and says ‘zap’. The third person points to another and says ‘zop’. The pattern continues until someone changes the order.

5. Untie the human knot

Practice problem solving and team building – students and teacher cross their arms across their chest and join hands with two different people. Without letting go of each other’s hands, untangle until the group is in a circle.

6. Take a breath

Yoga poses and breathing exercises are great ways to center a group before any activity – even a written test. Something as simple as three deep collective breaths will help them (and YOU) take a moment and start fresh.

These activities give students and teachers another method of expression. Try one (or all!) in your teaching practice for the New Year – because really, who doesn’t like a little bit of fun drama in their classroom?

Jen Oleniczak is the founder of The Engaging Educator, a NYC-based organization that specializes in theatre, improv and movement workshops and professional developments for educators. She is also a trained actor, improviser and museum educator. She’s worked as an educator with the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection and Noguchi Museum, and performs improv with National Comedy Theatre. Find out more at www.theengagingeducator.com

Teachers are notoriously hard on themselves. We often tell students take educational risks, but we don’t like to do this ourselves. When adopting a new technology program, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give teachers is learn to take a risk and “Get out of your own way.”

Fears
Recently my school started a 1:1 iPad program. In the early phase of teacher training, we dealt with our fears. Teacher concerns included:
• how much time they would have to spend learning the apps.
• teaching students how to use the iPads effectively would take up time they should be using to teach the standards
• they wouldn’t know enough about how use the iPads
• the students would know more than the teachers

And that last worry was the kicker.

Our students are growing up in a completely different world than the one in which we were raised. We realized this generation of students doesn’t remember a world without the smartphone. The internet has ALWAYS been around for them; technology is touch-based and user friendly. My friend’s eleven-month-old daughter can turn on a smartphone and flip through pictures using the touch screen. At eleven months old, she expects to interact with technology. Like our current students, she has no fear of it, no fear of the learning curve, no hesitation in trying to make a device do something when she interacts with it.

In discussing this with my teachers, we realized how uncomfortable we are with learning technology. We want to know it before we are expected to use it. Our students expect to use it in order to know it.

Changing our mindset
To succeed, we needed to adopt the students’ fearlessness and get out of our own way. I told my teachers I wanted them to:
• be comfortable using the iPad, not every app
• design lessons to be content-focused, not app focused
• be willing to take a public risk and be comfortable with not being experts on all of the apps
• take baby steps. After all, since so few schools had gone 1:1 with iPads, there wasn’t much to compare us to- any forward motion would be a success!
• have my permission to have lessons fail spectacularly

Results
Of course, that failure never occurred. In their first classroom lesson my teachers realized they didn’t need to know it all. Teachers introduced the app and the lesson. Students figured things out and taught each other. The teachers learned from their class, the class learned from their teacher. It was a beautiful experience.

But then something even more amazing and unexpected happened: The learning went viral. At break, students from one class taught students from another class about the app. Suddenly, everyone knew how to use it. The teachers’ greatest fear- needing to know how to teach the apps as well as the content- suddenly became a non-issue. Viral learning had occurred and filled in the blanks in students’ knowledge without teachers even trying. Almost instantly, our teachers’ fears dissipated because they realized they could focus on their content area.

By getting out of their own way, and being willing to accept they don’t need to know everything, they were able to take the learning and teaching to a new level:
• Student collaboration is at an all-time high,
• learning is exciting and participatory
• we are blazing new trails
• “Let’s figure it out together” has become our new mantra.

And all because we decided to get over our fear, and get out of our own way.

John Calandro is Principal of Santa Lucia Middle School in Cambria, CA. He’s happy to share his experiences in going 1:1 and getting teachers past their fear. You can reach him on Twitter: @mrcalandro or via his email: jcalandro@coastusd.org

Guest Blog: The Smart Prof!

The SMART Prof!

 “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins

Education technology has become my limitless library of resources. It continues to help me find innovative ways to bring my lectures to life. Each semester is a new learning experience, as I challenge myself and evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching techniques I have chosen. Since I started teaching my instructional tools have evolved. Students are not forced to decode hieroglyphics left on a chalk board or sit restlessly as I adjust the transparency sheet on an overhead projector. I am able to present my lectures projected on a big screen with vivid pictures and easy to read text. With the use of a database such as Blackboard I am able to upload course materials, links to articles, websites and online activities that students can use at their own leisure.

Video clips have proven to be an extremely effective way for students to glimpse the research methods of the past first hand. I show students historical footage from experiments without having to flip through library catalogue cards or climb large shelves. By embedding these clips into the presentations posted online, students are able to review the material outside of the classroom.  The E-book included with the course textbook is a great way to quick reference pages rather then flipping back and forth through the hard copy. It also offers activities, quizzes and sample tests which has increased my own understanding of the topics discussed each week.

I have recently become more active on social media such as Twitter. This has shown me a whole new world of instant communication. I have had many professional development opportunities to stay connected to what is trending in education, through networking and collaborating with fellow educators in chats such as #edchat, #learnwme and #CSTD2012. Twitter in the classroom seems to be a hot topic. I have read many tweets about using Twitter for discussions or as a backchannel and I am now eager to see what it would add a lecture next semester.

As a lifelong learner I am inspired by the endless possibilities on what I can learn and how I can share my knowledge. It’s amazing how a simple question can spark an hour long discussion or how one powerful quote can ignite a fire or passion for researching a new topic. Essentially educational technology has shown me that the classroom does not have to be a physical place; anywhere you can gain information is your classroom.

Follow her on Twitter @nmollivierre or e-mail her at nmollivierre@wordpress.com

Nadia Ollivierre is a lifelong learner, Training and Development Specialist, HighScope Certified Teacher,, Registered Early Childhood educator, faculty member, student, and volunteer. She enjoys working with children and teaching future educators about the early years of development. Her focus is on learning through teaching, which she believes goes hand in hand.