Posts Tagged ‘ed tech’

I just finished up summer school classes today. As a part of the class for the last few days, students had to create a choose-your-own-adventure story using Google Forms. At first glance, the project seems pretty big. There are several steps in creating the story, and getting it all to work out in Google Forms takes some patience and attention to detail. However, after having worked on the project with several students, I found that it is a pretty simple project once they get their minds wrapped around how it works.

This is where the problem rears its ugly head!

A good bunch of students do not like to wrap their minds around anything if they think it has to do with learning. It is amazing how many students would rather sit and look at the wall instead of using their allotted learning time wisely. I think that some of this is human nature, but some of it also has to do with the fact that thinking is work, something teens try to avoid like a kiss from aunt Susan.

This is where technology projects come in handy. Notice that I said technology projects, not just technology. Technology by itself is not the key to engaging students. A computer is only good if the task at hand is meaningful or has a purpose. John McCarthy says in his Edutopia article, “Igniting Student Engagement,” that there are three components to successfully egaging students:

  1. Connect skills and  concepts to student interests.
  2. Engage students in professional dialogue with professionals in the field.
  3. Challengs students to solve a problem, design for a need, or explore their own questions.

This makes a lot of sense, and with technology, the possiblility of accomplishing these tasks is very real. Just think of how much easier all three of these suggestions are when using tech in the classroom.

Too many educators, and especially too many adminstrators, think that having a shiny bank of chromebooks in the front of the room take their rooms and schools to the cutting edge of technology. However, those shiny chromebooks are only good when the students use them to think and learn. Sure, wordprocessing and research are good, but put those skills to work in having a student creat a product that can be share with classmates and even the entire world.

The following links will give you a place to start when planning a technology project to use in the classroom:




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Humankind is innovative. Just think of how far we’ve come. Thousands of years ago, ancient man stared deep into the embers of the campfire and decided to change things up a bit. Now we are staring intently into the glow of a computer screen or portable device, and still, we want more. It seems that we are always wanting to change things up a bit.

This is a good thing, I think.

Yesterday morning, I went to Wiffiti to set up a board for a quiz game in one of my classes. I have used the app several times for this, and it works well, at least it had up until yesterday. They totally changed the layout of the app, and as far as I could tell, Wiffiti was not going to work the way I used to use it with my students. From the looks of it, the creators of Wiffiti wanted to change things up a bit.

I would have been a little more distraught if this didn’t happen on a regular basis. For those that work with technology much at all, change is a daily ritual (or maybe I should say rite?). Apps, sites, browsers, and interfaces are changing evolving on a daily basis. A new computer device comes out weekly that is more slim and sleek than last weeks model and has twice as much power and memory.

There are two choices here: 1. Get mad and frustrated and just quit altogether. 2. See change as progress and embrace it.

There is a camp of people out there who constantly complain about change. This is especially prevalent among users of Facebook. How many times have you heard someone complain about Facebook changing their layout or privacy settings in the last week. I bet it’s more than you can count on one hand. Complaining about these changes is not going make Facebook change their mind, and from the looks of it, they are not going to slow down any time in the near future as far as “changing things up” goes.

This is an important lesson for students (and for all of us) to learn. At times, though frustrating, having a site go down when students are in the middle of a project is good experience.

This happened to me in class today. My students were using to make infographics. For some reason, in the middle of class, the app stopped working. We couldn’t access the students work that was done last class period. The students got irritated and started mumbling under their breath about “dumb projects” or something along those lines. You can probably fill in the blanks there.

What did we do? I explained that we would see if the site was working next class, and we moved on.

There was no use getting all worked up about something that was totally out of our control. if the site never comes online again, we will do an alternative assignment or just scrap it and find another learning activity. The internet is growing exponentially, so much so that keeping up is like running a hundred mile race. Right now, the end is nowhere in sight.

All we can do is just keep running and drag the classroom full of students along with us.

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As a part of a 7th grade Current Issues class, my students watch CNN Student news a couple times a week. Usually, once a week, students have an opportunity to write on the A-Z Blog to give their opinion about a current news story. Generally the students enjoy the activity. This is in large part due to the fact that they see their comments cue up alongside comments from students all over the country. They can even reply to other comments and begin conversations with other students.

Occasionally, Carl Azuz, the anchor for the show, will select a few of the comments to read during the news show. My students sit and watch anxiously every week hoping that a comment from the class will be read. I have explained several times that over 500 students usually comment on the blog, so the chances of having a comment read are slim.

This week it finally happened. One of the comments written from a student in our class was read on the show, and the student loved it.

Why am I telling you about this? I don’t really care if students are writing on a highly publicized blog like CNN or a classroom blog. Students need to know that what they write is public. They need to know that through different mediums on the internet, they have a voice in a global conversation. The problem is that a great number of teachers are still having their student write a paper or do an assignment that never goes further than the teacher’s desk. They have no audience, so there is not a whole lot of motivation to do a good job or in many cases, even complete the work.

This small incident definitely opened the eyes of my students. I am guessing  that the next time we write on the A-Z blog, they will all work that much harder knowing that their voice does matter and can be heard by global audience. They have now seen how it works with their own eyes.

Find a way to give students a voice. Whether it is writing a paper, participating on a blog, or publishing a cartoon, help students understand that their work does matter. With the web, their work is not just for the teacher anymore. There are others out there who will appreciate what they have to say.

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Photo by Martin Bodman

In her recent article on MashableSarah Kessler examines data from a one-to-one laptop program in Peru. The title of the article gives the final conclusion in the study: “2.5 million laptops later, one laptop per child doesn’t improve test scores.”

This is a hard pill to swallow for those of us who spend everyday wishing for a one-to-one program in our own schools. On one hand, the findings are not all that surprising. Test scores do not seem to be going up anywhere, whether students are using technology or not, so this serves as another reminder that the education system needs work. On the other hand, why does everyone think that the sole use for computers in schools needs to be in the name of improving test scores?

Maybe this is what is irritating me about the article so much. Not anywhere is there mention of how the computers were used within these schools. Were students learning how to use the computer? Learning to write in Word or make a PowerPoint are great skills, but they certainly aren’t going to show up as evidence of learning on a standardized test.

Here’s the point: students will only show growth when using technology in a manner that makes them think about the subject they are supposed to learn.

Can this be done with paper and pencil? Sure it can. Teachers have been doing it for a hundred years. Skeptics of using technology in the classroom are quick to bring this up in conversation, but the days of paper and pencil are over. When I think of how much I time I spend writing with a pen compared to how much time is spent typing on a keyboard, I might as well throw my pen away. If this were shown visually in a graph, the use of a writing utensil wouldn’t even register.

Computers are the means used to read and write in 21st Century. Yes, I also included reading here. Once again, the majority of my reading is done on some sort of screen whether it is the computer, my Kindle, or my iPhone,  and this is coming from the teacher, who in the eyes of my students, is old and out of date.

Just think of how they view reading and writing.

To say that computers are going to improve test scores is like saying that if I have wings I can fly. This isn’t just going to magically take place. However, if I learn to use a vehicle with wings, then my chances of flying are much greater. Computers are the current vehicle for learning.

We don’t use the cart and horse anymore. It’s just too slow.

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Too often, teachers assume that because students spend inordinate amounts of time looking at a screen, they know how to  work with technology. Teachers assume that students have it all figured out, that if given an assignment involving technology, students will figure it out or already know how to do whatever they have been assigned.

In many cases, this is true, but I find more and more that most students know some very basic apps, and beyond that, they are as lost as most teachers.

The best way to know what skills students are capable of using is to ask them. Find out what they can do. Find out what apps they know how to use. Find out what devices they are comfortable with.

Students can only be taught what they need to know when the teachers knows what the student needs to be taught.

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“We have to get away from just drilling knowledge into students and create environments where they create, they discuss, they measure, and they collaborate”  – Eric Sheninger, Principal of New Milford High School, New Jersey.

This morning, I found a cool site called Ed Tech Talk, which I’ll be honest, I know nothing about. Up to this point, I have only scrolled down through the first page. However, there looks to be a bunch of good discussion on the site about how to use technology in the classroom. Check it out. I know that I will be over the next several days.

On the Ed Tech Talk site, I ran across a video featuring Eric Sheninger about how to use Twitter as both a professional development tool and a communication tool in schools. What makes Sheninger stand out from other proponents of educational technology is the fact that he is a principal of a school. Much of the time, teachers are the early adopters and spend a career fighting (that may be too strong of word), trying to persuade administrators to change. But when the administrator is the one speaking out and teaching how to make changes, things are going to happen. If anything, the video is worth watching just to see how Sheninger’s school is using social media, especially Twitter, as a productive tool.

The following video is not the same as the one on the Ed Tech Talk site. I couldn’t get that one to load on this page, but in the following video, Sheninger gives more insight into using Twitter as a school administrator and also as a teacher.

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1.Creativity: Students can show what they know best through the act of creation. In creating a script and storyboard for a video, students not only show what knowledge they have gained but help the brain to become an even better tool for logical and rational thought.

2. Thought process: Building a stop motion video takes planning. An initial idea starts as a thought, is fleshed out in a script and then start to come to life as the storyboard is created. Working through a process like this helps students to think about working logically through a project.

3. Finishing a project: Students find great satisfaction in being able to watch their video with classmates. Being able to finish a project and show it to others builds self esteem and provides a platform for successfully accomplishing tasks in the future.

4. Attention to detail: Moving figurines hundreds of time to create a stop motion project takes careful planning and acute attention to detail.

5. Follow directions: There are many steps involved in making a stop motion film. Because students are highly engaged in this activity, instructors have the opportunity to use the project as a means of showing how following directions produces great results with less hassle.

6. Teamwork: The best stop motion projects are made in teams. Refining scripts, storyboards, and creating the film can all be done in groups. Those groups that work well together always seem to have the best projects.

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