Tag Archives: Education

Best Study Apps, Tools, & Tips

Today while browsing Educational Technology and Mobile Learning I came across a great infographic with suggestions for apps and tools to help students study. As mine are about to start midterm exams, it feels timely!


How to be Effective when Studying – Best Study Apps, Tools, Tips & Techniques by Open Colleges

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Three Tips for Managing a Classroom with Devices

This is reblogged from my post at Daily Genius.

When adopting technology in the classroom, one of the key concerns for educators is classroom management. Often, they believe that with devices come three options:

  1. Ban devices outright (Good luck!)
  2. Lock them down
  3. Open your classroom up to the Wild Wild West!

However, I have found that many traditional methods of classroom management readily translate to a technologically rich curriculum – with some modification.

RESTRUCTURE THE CLASSROOM

Most of us teach in “traditionally” structured classrooms – the teacher is in front and the students sit in rows looking at the teacher. However, this is a poor setup when students are using devices. With screens faced away, it’s easy for students to give into temptation and get off task. After all, the teacher can’t see what they are doing.

Moving away from a teacher-centered learning space and building on a student-centered learning environment is an important shift that often involves switching up your physical classroom setup. Having students work in pods or other creative, flexible learning spaces helps you to keep a more effective eye on the class. Don Orth shows how to Hack Your Classroom in this video about the Hillbrook School’s iLab.

At Eanes ISD in Texas, Carl Hooker addresses the power of a flexible learning environment in his post “The Obituary of the Student Desk.” After deploying devices, he quickly realized that the physical learning space needed to adapt to the new technologies.

A more student-centered learning space then lends itself to a more student-centric teaching style. Instead of lecturing at the front of the room, move around the classroom while students collaborate and create. If you notice that students quickly close a window or switch an app, then you can have a quick conversation with that child. Matt Scully from Providence Day School also suggests that you keep an eye out for “iPad eyes;” that look students get when they are off track or zone out and need to be brought back into the lesson/activity. These behaviors and corrections are similar to what teachers have done throughout time when students are passing notes, whispering, or doing other work during class.

DEVICE CUES

Cell phones are a popular tool in the classroom today. At the same time, they are used for 21st century note passing and can become a concern for academic dishonesty. In my classes, if we are using cell phones for quick reference look ups or a buzzer activity (using Socrative or Kahoot!), my policy is that cell phones stay in front of the student, face down on the desk, unless they are actively being used. Students are then less likely to give into that Pavlovian response to the text message buzz when the device is in front of them. Also, having to reach for it ensures that you, the teacher, notice their actions and confirm that they are on task.

Sometimes, it’s not appropriate to use a device at all! During quizzes and tests, I collect cell phones and put them in a basket. I don’t want good judgment to give way to temptation. Additionally, we sometimes put tech away because it has become a distraction or even an deterrent to the learning activity. I believe that class culture is the most important aspect of the school community. If technology is interfering with our community, it goes away. Since I know my classes and their unique dynamic, I can adapt based on the circumstances.

How you approach technology use in your classroom should not be “one-size fits all.” You know your classes, their personalities, and your culture. Shift your policies on a case-by-case basis; choose a solution that works for your individual class and activity

CHANGE YOUR VIEW OF DEVICES

If you want to effectively employ laptops, tablets, and smartphones, you must shift your view of the device. We often see these tools as extensions of long established technology: they are word processors and communication tools. However, today’s devices are far more robust and significant! View them as portable creation, consumption, collaboration, reference, and organizational tools.

Too often, we see these tools only as consumption devices – nothing more than glorified eReaders or Internet research tools. However, they can also be used as powerful creation devices that allow students to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of different ways. Instead of having students do traditional tasks (that are limited in their ability to collaborate and share) such as type out a response or make PowerPoints to give in-class presentations, a student can capture video and images on their phone, edit them using an app like iMovie or MovieMaker, and share it to the world via YouTube.

I love to use phones in my class as a buzzer system for bell ringers or review games. Using PollEverywhere, I can create moderated back channels or use flexible questions to check for understanding. Kahoot! is another popular platform because students compete against one another for points, and if they exit the app (to check a text message for example), they are locked out.

By shifting your learning space, adjusting your observation methods, and tweaking your lessons, you will not only limit distractions created by devices, but also build a more robust, 21st century classroom. The great thing about the internet is that it can help you with building these type of lessons. For more ideas, check out the resources on Edutopia and EdTechTeacher.

Looking to learn more integrating technology into your classrooms? Join EdTechTeacher this February 9-11 for their 2nd annual iPad Summit in San Diego. They will also offer Summer Workshops in cities across the US beginning in June.

Ebooks of Lesson Ideas for iPad Apps in the Classroom

This is reblogged from my post on FreedTech4Teachers.

iPads have entered classrooms at an unprecedented rate. In response to the prevalence of this device in schools, Apple has released a series of free eBooks outlining lesson plans for various apps. What makes these especially powerful is that they harness iPad’s unique feature of being a mobile creation device. All of the eBooks are free and the apps, if not free, are heavily discounted under Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for Educational Institutions.

Each of these eBooks focuses on a specific app and outlines a series of lesson plan ideas by grade level and subject matter. A quick note for educators, many of these Apps have iPhone and Android Options so these eBooks could be used for other platforms as well.

SketchBook Express Lesson Ideas

SketchBook Express allows students to draw, paint, and draft using just their fingerprints! Not just for art…

Read the remainder of the article here.

The Stanford University Spatial History Project – a new view of history

This is reblogged from my post at FreeTech4Teachers.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Stanford University’s Spatial History Project is a community that combines humanities research with “spatial, textual and visual analysis.” On their about page, they explain that as scholars, they realize the significance and importance of displaying information…

read the remainder of the story here:

The Stanford University Spatial History Project – a new view of history.

Free Common Core Resources via iTunes U

ASCD iTunes U content screen capture.

ASCD iTunes U content screen capture.

If you are looking for professional development and content focused around the Common Core, then check out ASCD’s (Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development) courses and other resources via iTunes U. Courses cover a variety of content for Grades K-12 and are entirely free for teachers and other educators.

Rome 320 AD – Interactive App

My good friend and former Professor, Bernie Frischer, Ph.D., just announced a game that resulted from his collaboration: Rome 320AD. You can see Bernie giving a brief overview of 4th century Rome in this Kahn Academy Video.

The app follows the lives of four Romans as they travel through the city on a summer day in 320 CE. You can explore 3D, interactive models of the city in high resolution and detail.

The app is currently available in the Mac App Store ($5.99) and the Chrome Web Store ($6.99). iPad and Android Apps are in the making!

Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Definition

One of the most thought-provoking online tech journals, Hybrid Pedagogy, published this article today. It is incredibly thought provoking and articulate. I hope you will read it and comment on the article. It is reproduced here in its entirety in conjunction with their Creative Commons Licensing. If you enjoy the article, I recommend that you subscribe to their free journal.

On November 21 at the OpenEd Conference in Washington, DC, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel will present on critical digital pedagogy and MOOCs. This is the first of three articles that inspired that talk.


“There is no such thing as a neutral educational process.”  ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Pedagogy is not ideologically neutral.” This line has been for me almost a mantra over the last several years. I’ve said variations of it on Twitter, on the About Us page of Hybrid Pedagogy, on the site for theHybrid Pedagogy Inc. non-profit, and in our recent CFP focused on Critical Digital Pedagogy. I’ve circled around this phrase, because I feel increasingly certain that the word “pedagogy” has been misread — that the project of education has been misdirected — that educators and students alike have found themselves more and more flummoxed by a system that values assessment over engagement, learning management over discovery, content over community, outcomes over epiphanies. Education (and, to an even greater extent, edtech) has misrepresented itself as objective, quantifiable, apolitical.

Higher education teaching is particularly uncritical and under-theorized. Most college educators (at both traditional and non-traditional institutions) do little direct pedagogical work to prepare themselves as teachers. A commitment to teaching often goes unrewarded, and pedagogical writing (in most fields) is not counted as “research.”

The entire enterprise of education is too often engaged in teaching that is not pedagogical. There are a whole host of other words I’d use to describe this work: instruction, classroom management, training, outcomes-driven, standards-based, content delivery. Pedagogy, on the other hand, starts with learning as its center, not students or teachers, and the work of pedagogues is necessarily political, subjective, and humane.

What is Critical Pedagogy?

Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:

  • Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
  • Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
  • Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
  • Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
  • Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.

Each of these registers distinguishes Critical Pedagogy from pedagogy; however, the current educational climate has made the terms, for me, increasingly coterminous (i.e. an ethical pedagogy must be a critical one). Pedagogy is praxis, insistently perched at the intersection between the philosophy and the practice of teaching. When teachers talk about teaching, we are not necessarily doing pedagogical work, and not every teaching method constitutes a pedagogy. Rather, pedagogy necessarily involves recursive, second-order, meta-level work. Teachers teach; pedagogues teach while also actively investigating teaching and learning. Critical Pedagogy suggests a specific kind of anti-capitalist, liberatory praxis. This is deeply personal and political work, through which pedagogues cannot and do not remain objective. Rather, pedagogy, and particularly Critical Pedagogy, is work to which we must bring our full selves, and work to which every learner must come with full agency.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire argues against the banking model, in which education “becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.” This model emphasizes a one-sided transactional relationship, in which teachers are seen as content experts and students are positioned as sub-human receptacles. The use here of “sub-human” is intentional and not exaggeration; for in the tenets set out in Freire’s work (and the work of other Critical Pedagogues, including bell hooks and Henry Giroux), the banking model of education is part and parcel with efforts most clearly summed up in the term dehumanization. The banking model of education is efficient in that it maintains order and is bureaucratically neat and tidy. But efficiency, when it comes to teaching and learning, is not worth valorizing. Schools are not factories, nor are learning or learners products of the mill.

I immediately become deeply skeptical when I hear the word “content” in a discussion about education, particularly when it is accompanied by the word “packaged.” It is not that education is without content altogether, but that its content is co-constructed as part of and not in advance of the learning.

Critical Pedagogy is concerned less with knowing and more with a voracious not-knowing. It is an on-going and recursive process of discovery. For Freire, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Here, the language echoes the sort of learning Freire describes. With a flurry of adjectives and clauses separated by commas, his sentence circles around its subject, wandering, pushing restlessly at the edges of how words make meaning — not directly through literal translation into concepts, but in the way words rub curiously against one another, making meaning through a kind of friction. Knowledge emerges in the interplay between multiple people in conversation — brushing against one another in a mutual and charged exchange or dialogue. Freire writes, “Authentic education is not carried on by ‘A’ for ‘B’ or by ‘A’ about ‘B,’ but rather by ‘A’ with ‘B’.” It is through this impatient dialogue, and the implicit collaboration within it, that Critical Pedagogy finds its impetus toward change.

In place of the banking model, Freire advocates for “problem-posing education,” in which a classroom or learning environment becomes a space for asking questions — a space of cognition not information. Vertical (or hierarchical) relationships give way to more playful ones, in which students and teachers co-author together the parameters for their individual and collective learning. Problem-posing education offers a space of mutual creation not consumption. In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” This is a lively and intimate space of creativity and inquiry — a space of listening as much as speaking.

What is Critical Digital Pedagogy?

My work has wondered at the extent to which Critical Pedagogy translates into digital space. Can the necessary reflective dialogue flourish within web-based tools, within social media platforms, within learning management systems, within MOOCs? What is digital agency? To what extent can social media function as a space of democratic participation? How can we build platforms that support learning across age, race, culture, ability, geography? What are the specific affordances and limitations of technology toward these ends? If, indeed, all learning is necessarily hybrid, as I’ve argued, to what extent are Critical Pedagogy and digital pedagogy becoming also coterminous?

The wondering at these questions is, in fact, not particularly new. In his forward to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Richard Shaull writes, “Our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into conformity to the logic of its system […] The paradox is that the same technology that does this to us also creates a new sensitivity to what is happening.” And, John Dewey writes in Schools of To-Morrow, published decades earlier, “Unless the mass of workers are to be blind cogs and pinions in the apparatus they employ, they must have some understanding of the physical and social facts behind and ahead of the material and appliances with which they are dealing”. If we are to keep every educative endeavor from becoming mill-work — from becoming only a reflection of oppressive labor practices and uneven power relationships — we must engage deeply with its reality.

Increasingly, the web is a space of politics, a social space, a professional space, a space of community. And, for better or worse, more and more of our learning is happening there. For many of us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between our real selves and our virtual selves, and in fact, these distinctions are being altogether unsettled. In “The New Learning is Ancient”, Kathi Inman Berens writes, “It doesn’t matter to me if my classroom is a little rectangle in a building or a little rectangle above my keyboard. Doors are rectangles; rectangles are portals. We walk through.” When we learn online, our feet are usually still quite literally on ground. When we interact with a group of students via streaming video, the interaction is nevertheless face-to-face. The web is asking us to reimagine how we think about space, how and where we engage, and upon which platforms the bulk of our learning happens.

In Small Pieces Loosely Joined: a Unified Theory of the Web, David Weinberger writes, “We are the true ‘small pieces’ of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.” Ten years ago, following the publication of Weinberger’s book, I wouldn’t have imagined the learning networks I have now built with colleagues working together (sometimes simultaneously in real time) in places as seemingly remote as Portland, Madison, Manchester, Prince Edward Island, Sydney, Cairo, and Hong Kong.

This is not to say, however, that there aren’t challenges to this sort of work. In On Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux argues,

Intellectuals have a responsibility to analyze how language, information, and meaning work to organize, legitimate, and circulate values, structure reality, and offer up particular notions of agency and identity. For public intellectuals, the latter challenge demands a new kind of literacy and critical understanding with respect to the emergence of the new media and electronic technologies, and the new and powerful role they play as instruments of public pedagogy.

Most digital technology, like social media or collaborative writing platforms or MOOCs, does not have its values coded into it in advance. These are tools merely, good only insofar as they are used. And platforms that do dictate too strongly how we might use them, or ones that remove our agency by too covertly reducing us and our work to commodified data, should be rooted out by a Critical Digital Pedagogy. Far too much work in educational technology starts with tools, when what we need to start with is humans.

We are better users of technology when we are thinking critically about the nature and effects of that technology. What we must do is work to encourage students and ourselves to think critically about new tools (and, more importantly, the tools we already use). And when we’re looking for solutions, what we most need to change is our thinking and not our tools.

In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
  • will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

A Critical Digital Pedagogy demands that open and networked educational environments must not be merely repositories of content. They must be platforms for engaging students and teachers as full agents of their own learning.

Pete Rorabaugh writes in “Occupy the Digital: Critical Pedagogy and New Media”:

Critical Pedagogy, no matter how we define it, has a central place in the discussion of how learning is changing in the 21st century because Critical Pedagogy is primarily concerned with an equitable distribution of power. If students live in a culture that digitizes and educates them through a screen, they require an education that empowers them in that sphere, teaches them that language, and offers new opportunities of human connectivity.

Critical Pedagogy is as much a political approach as it is an educative one. As Sean Michael Morris writes, it is “a social justice movement first, and an educational movement second.”

So, Critical Digital Pedagogy must also be a method of resistance and humanization. It is not simply work done in the mind, on paper, or on screen. It is work that must be done on the ground. It is not ashamed of its rallying cry or its soapbox. Critical Digital Pedagogy eats aphorisms — like this one right here — for breakfast. But it is not afraid to incite, to post its manifestos, to light its torches.


Hybrid Pedagogy uses an open collaborative peer review process. This piece was reviewed by Sean Michael Morris and Valerie Robin.

[Photo, “Electric Sun“, by Andreas licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.]