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Archive for December, 2011

One of my favorite blogs to read is Seth’s Blog. Seth Godin is a world renown writer who especially focuses on good leadership qualities and good entrepreneurial practices. I like to read Seth’s blog because it makes me think, and much of what he writes can be applied to my classroom. Today, in his post title “Watch This”, he wrote about using flashy tactics to get attention. However, and this is in Seth’s own words, “Do it well enough and often enough and you will gain attention. But you’ll still be under a bus.”

This made me think about the reasons teachers might have for using technology in the classroom. The temptation to use technology because students are going to love it and be attracted to such projects is there. We know that most students are going to like using technology. However, the reasons for a tech project need to be grounded within good standards based instruction. It is great for students to do fun projects on the computer, but they also need to learn.

If the reason for teaching with technology is solely to entertain students, both the student and the teacher is wasting valuable learning time. Both are “stuck under the bus.”

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In the next few weeks, students around the globe are going to be preparing for finals, those end of semester tests that not only assess, but stress everyone out. Much of this is due to the large amount of information that has to be memorized and then regurgitated. Students aren’t the only ones to feel the crunch. Once the test is taken, teachers have to sit down for countless hours and grade the beasts of burden, usually in a day or two so grades can be turned in for the semester.

Why?

This year, plan an assessment that shows what skills the students have, not how much information they can cram into their brains. Knowledge is only good if a person knows how to use it, and in the world today, more and more people seem to have a lot of information upstairs. The problem is they can’t access it, and when they do, the don’t know how to use it.

Now is the time to stop this. For your classroom final this year, plan a project that works around specific standard based skills. I know this is a tech blog, but a finals project doesn’t have to include technology. Just find something that will allow the students to use all of the knowledge they have gained in your classroom over the course of the last several months.

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I have spent quite a bit of time lately working on curriculum for my classes. It’s hard work: looking through text books, searching the web, and consulting other content teachers. Then there is the preparation of assessments, projects and activities to go with each unit, all of which should reflect the standards mandated by the state.

Watching Father Guido in this sketch made me think: What material and content in my curriculum is going to affect the future of the students in the classroom? What are they going to remember in 5 years? What are my seniors going to remember next year when they go to college?

Watch this video and think of relevance of the content you are teaching in relation to the future of the students in your classroom.

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I love reading comments for this blog. It lets me know what is relevant and also makes me think about my own opinions on certain matters. However, in the almost 2 years that I have been writing this blog, I have never had a student comment. Read the following comment left this weekend on the blog post 5 Fake Facebook templates and pages for student projects :

Teachers, listen. I am a thirteen year old student in 8th grade. Fakebook is boring. It was OK the first time. Now, being assigned a Fakebook for the 4th or 5th time since last year, I can say it is almost painful to complete. Only use it if most students in your class have never done it before. It is ok if it is used for the kids themselves, but students (except over-achievers or the crazy ones who like schoolwork) don’t like reasearching, and we REALLY don’t like applying something we DO NOT like (schoolwork) to something we DO like (Facebook, or honestly, any technology at all). Please do not make us think of Julius Ceasar when we play 20 questions because we did a project on him. It has been over used. Please move on. Use your OWN imagination. Also, do not make us sing, dance, wear costumes, make plays, post us on youtube, or anything like that. If we aren’t the super-popular type, we do not want our face splattered anywhere. Do not make kids hate you. Also, if any of my teachers realize who I am, this isn’t completely directed at you. Don’t fail me. It was just time someone said this. Thanks.

What a relevant comment, Sidney! I think that there are a lot of good  lessons her to learn, both on the part of the teacher but also the students.

Teachers need to listen to what is being said here. Too much of a good thing can, at times, turn into bored students sitting in the classroom. I will admit that I have been at the front end of doing this before. I find something that works well and will use it over and over. There are, of course, reasons for this. I just have to make sure the reasons are good and well though out.

For example, am I using Fakebook in the classroom because I have already used it several times, so the students will know how to do the project? This is a good reason if I have other good reasons. However, if I am just  using Fakebook to avoid teaching students another way of presenting information, then I am probably being lazy. I am not  being a good teacher.

Using fun and inventive apps is good only when reasoning is backed by a good standards based decision. The same goes for video projects and other activities teacher might use in the classroom.

Just as teachers need to think before making assignments, students need to think about the reason a teacher gives an assignment. Teachers do not generally make assignments up to bore students to death in the classroom. My hope is that teachers have good reason to give an assignment and do so to help students learn.

Sidney, I can see that doing a Fakebook assignment for the fourth time might seem boring, but I often hear the same thing from students when I ask them to read or write an essay. Learning requires, at times, that we do things that might seem boring or uninteresting. However, remember that your teacher has asked you to perform a task in order to learn. This also goes for plays and video projects.

Learning is work, and work isn’t always fun.

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Examples are the best way to show students how to make a Fakebook page. The problem is that making one takes time, something that is a premium for most teachers. Here are a few sample pages that will help get the creative juices flowing for students. From the looks of them, most of these were created by students, so there are some grammatical errors, as well as errors in some of the content. However, these should give students a pretty good idea of what is expected.

English:

History / Social Studies

Science

Music

P.E. / Health

 

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I don’t care who is using a computer or when, where, or how it is being used, at some point, something is probably going to go wrong. A page might be deleted from the website you have been working on. An app is shut down or just disappears altogether. Maybe the problems are with you own machine: the battery dies, the internet quits working, or (hopefully I don’t jinx anyone here) the hard drive might crash. Computers can be a pain!

As much as teaching students how to work with computers, they also need to be taught that patience goes a long way in accomplishing a task especially on these wonderful machines.

Today after school, I had a student come to me with a red face.  She was frustrated because the app she was using kept deleting her work. She told me that she was ready to just hand write the assignment and be done with the “stupid computer.” We sat down and looked at what was going on. Honestly, we never did figure out why her work disappeared, but we did finally get it to work. We just had to be patient.

Giving up never gets anyone anywhere, and this goes for those pesky web apps and the computers that they are on. We all just need to be patient. When something goes wrong, take a deep breath, find something else to do for a little bit, and tackle the problem again.

 

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