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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

This last week, I posted a poem for my students to read outside of class that went along with an assignment. The next morning when I arrived at school, there was a gaggle of anxious freshmen standing at my door (gaggle is the only word I could think of to describe them). While working in the school computer lab, they were unable to access the poem I had posted. I told them they must be doing something wrong because I added the poem to the blog at the school with my school computer. It works on the same system as those in the lab.

However, when I went into the the lab and looked at what was happening, the site was definitely blocked. I went to my computer and it was not. The school filter was obviously blocking the site for students and not for teachers.

I would like to say that this was the first time this has happened to me. Sure, I could cuss the web filter and maybe even cry and scream, but in the end, this will do me no good. I didn’t check to see if the site was unblocked. I just assumed that it was.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, here’s some advice for teachers using blogs: check to make sure that links on sites work under a student log in. It will save you, and especially the students, a bunch of headache in the future.

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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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The internet is supposed to make us more connected. For most people, it is definitely a tool to keep on top of what is happening. The email is checked several times a day, along with Facebook walls and twitter feeds.

We (I am included in this) are great consumers. However, when was the last time you contributed to the conversation? As much as being a mass consumer, it is equally important to be a participant, sharing knowledge, insight and thoughts with others.

Here’s a few places to start:

1. Start a blog

2. Email the link to a cool article to colleagues

3. Share a video with your friends on Facebook (instead of just watching what others are doing).

4. Leave a comment on a blog

5. Make a Youtube video giving your thoughts on education

Those who benefit the most from the internet are those who have become active participants.

 

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Most teachers agree that it is time to start using technology in the classroom. However, using technology in the classroom looks quite different from teacher to teacher, and it’s possible that many are using in the wrong way.

I was reading Scott McLeod’s blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, and his latest post features a list of actions that Connecticut school leaders are proposing will transform the way students learn. Of all the changes listed, one caught my eye, and I have been thinking about it all day:

Typical current practice: Technology used to make teaching more efficient.

Proposed transformative practice: Technology used to transform teaching and learning.

Technology is often seen as a means of making teaching easier. Grading, writing, and communicating can all be greatly improved and streamlined using technology in the classroom. Finding information and sharing it with students can be done with few clicks.

The problem is that many of the old teaching practices are still being used. It’s just a lot easier to do now. This is great, but we can do better. Technology can be used to totally change the way teachers teach and the way students learn. This will require work. This will require learning, especially on the part of the teacher. This may require educating parents as well as students on what learning looks like. Once this is done, then the real learning can begin.

Only after technology is used to transform our current teaching practices will we see great dividends in the education of students.

 

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Just in case you forgot what a telephone looks like 🙂

Lurking in the corner of almost every classroom is a technological tool that often get overlooked by teachers: the telephone. I know. You don’t need to use the school phone because you have one in your pocket, or maybe you don’t talk on the phone much at all. Most people either text or send an email.

This year, I made a goal to contact at least 4 parents a week and talk to them about how their students are doing in my class. I’ll admit, some weeks go by when I don’t get all 4 calls made, but those the calls I do make pay great dividends in the classroom. Parents wants the best for their children, and they want to know how their students are doing in their classes. Let’s be honest. If you have kids, you know how much they talk about what they do at school. Just ask them:

“Suzy, what did you learn at school today?”

“Nothing.”

This starts in the Preschool as it the answer I get on a daily basis from my 4 year old son, and the response doesn’t sound much different from my daughter’s who is in high school.

I have not yet called the parents of every student in my class, but I see visible differences in the attitude and work ethic of students after I talk with their parents. Just to let you know, these calls are positive in nature. I mostly just tell the parents that their student is working hard in class and doing a good job.That is it, a one or two minute conversation. It usually takes longer to look up the number than it does to make the call. In almost every case, I see a difference in the way the student works in my class after a call. That telephone may be one of the most important allies that you have in helping students to become more engaged in your class.

Making home calls is kind of funny, because I usually start a call by introducing myself as a teacher at the school. Instant dread can be heard in the response on the other end of the line. Parent knows that calls from the school are usually not good. However, once I tell them why I have made the call and talk to them for a minute, the tone of dread changed to utter delight.

I am going to be honest. I don’t always make phone calls. If I have a parents email, I will also us that to contact the parents, but the response is the same. Plain and simple, parents want to know how their kids are doing in school, the students aren’t going to tell them. Oftentimes, the parents may be a little scared to approach a teacher and ask.

Pick up the phone and make few calls. It takes few minutes of time but may be the most productive minutes of the week.

 

 

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I’m not just talking about preparing students to write a paper. Show them how to discover the world.

This week, I read a cool article about the climbers who recently climbed Cerro Torre, a wicked mountain in the Patagonia.  I decided to share the story with some of my classes and use the article for a research activity we were doing. I couldn’t believe the interest my students had in the controversy brought forth in the article. I don’t know if any of them have ever climbed a mountain, but they wanted to see pictures of the mountain and of people climbing the mountain. We spent several minutes with Google images projected on the board poking around to see what we could find.

Students like to learn. They especially like to learn new things, but I think they forget, as we do at times, the power that is at our fingertips. I ‘m still not talking about researching information for a paper or class. Students need to know that the web connects them to a world of interesting and informative information. Students just need someone to show them that there is more happening in the world than what is posted on their Facebook wall.

Here’s the challenge: find a topic, any topic that might have some relation to what you are teaching, open up Google in front of the class (this can be a little scary), and do some research for the class. You won’t believe how engaged the class will be in the discussion. They really do want to learn.

 

 

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I just wanted to remind teachers that usingtechnology in the classroom doesn’t have to be expensive. Though it is nice to have Smartboards, doc cameras, a

nd brand new computers, most teachers, no matter how dire the circumstances, can still infuse the use of technology in a class. One of the best and cheapest ways to do this is by using a digital camera.

There are numerous opportunities to use a camera to show off student work. With a little training, it only takes a few minutes to have student work displayed on a blog or website. This is a great way to give students a real audience and motivate them to do their best work.

Digital cameras are getting relatively cheap. A decent model can be picked up for around a hundred bucks, though with some careful shopping, one can be picked up for much cheaper. It doesn’t have to be a real fancy unit to perform well in the classroom. If anything, I would rather use a cheaper one because, undoubtedly, a student is going to get a hold of the camera and the chances of it getting damaged at some point are probably high.

Evil Erin, Flickr

Cameras are great tools for showing off students projects like dioramas and models. Oftentimes, the students bring them to school, and then after they sit on the shelf for a day or two, they take them home or throw them away. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Take a picture and show off your student’s work.

Dioramas and models should not be the only subjects of a picture. Digital photos also work well for posters, drawings, and even student writing. I don’t care what kind of work the student have done, it can probably be displayed through a picture.

One of my favorite activities every year is to do word strip poetry. Students use words, which have been written on small strips of paper, to make poems. The students create the poems on their desktops, I snap a picture, and post it on my blog. Students then have the opportunity to show the entire class the poem they created as it is projected on the wall. This takes a fun activity to a much higher level because students know that I am not the only one who is going to see their work. Oftentimes, the students complain about having to get up in front of the class to read their poems, but I think they really like it.

So, get the camera out. Take some pictures, and give your hard working students a global audience for their work.

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