I recently had the privilege of participating in Vicki Davis’s show, 10 minute teacher. We talked about teaching students new Media Literacy skills in the era of “Fake News.”
Devices have become omnipresent in our classrooms. Often, these tools are used as expensive, electronic content delivery systems. However, the real power in technology in schools is that it empowers students to become content creators. Smartphones and tablets, even more so, have allowed them to become mobile and agile ones. Most educators know that individuals learn far more about a topic when they must explain it to someone else. Additionally, by employing multiple learning modalities through the creative process (tactile, kinesthetic, visible, etc), students process material more thoroughly. As you think about your lesson plans in the future, consider empowering students to create rather than just consume. Here are a few ways to do just that.
Create a Video
I am a fan of giving students guiding questions and parameters, then having them make an educational video. In my documentaries project, students must answer address a specific topic (e.g. “Where did George Washington get his reputation for honesty?” or “Was Benedict Arnold solely a villain of the Revolutionary War?”). We talk about creating
content in an engaging way, incorporating images and videos effectively (and ethically), pacing content, and selecting what to include or leave out. Videos are not exclusive to the humanities. I have seen math teachers effectively use them by having students demonstrate how to solve complex problems and science teachers as a recording and reflection for labs. I also encourage students to post their videos publicly (when age appropriate) or to the class via a closed portal (for younger students). By posting their videos publicly and sharing with the class, they are presenting to an authentic audience. Making a video is easy and can by done with a smartphone, tablet, and/or computer. Free software options include iMovie (MacOS & iOS), Movie Maker (Windows), and FilmoraGo (iOS & Android).
Create a Podcast
Podcasts are become ever more popular. There are podcasts to cover news, popular entertainment, hobbies, sports, cultural phenomena, and more. Task your class with
creating a podcast on a topic relevant to your course. If you are a Social Studies teacher, perhaps a weekly podcast on current events. If you teach science, a weekly science report relevant to the topic. Math? Try incorporating an update on a complex topic students are tackling that week. Podcasting can help students work on their public speaking skills as well as how to effectively present to an audience. Again, by sharing the podcast with the public at large or just the class and/or school, students learn what it is to engage with a broader audience. Podcasting can be done easily with a smartphone, tablet, and/or computer paired with a simple microphone to drown out ambient sound (the microphone on headphones can work in a pinch or you can invest in something a little more substantive). My favorite free apps for podcasting include: Garageband (MacOS & iOS) and Audacity (MacOS & Windows).
My students complete a year long research project that they post on a comprehensive website. Through creating an online portal, they learn how to write effectively for a broad audience, how to cite material so that it is accessible online, how to create and incorporate various types of media, and how to effectively organize and lay-out content. What I especially like about website creation is that it allows students to combine skills that they have learned throughout the year (e.g. video and podcasting). We have all seen “good” and “bad” websites. When it’s published online, students want theirs to look good. As such, it also serves as a basic primer in basic graphic design. There are numerous free website tools out there. If your school is a G-Suite for Education school, then I highly recommend using the new Google Sites. Not only is it easy to use, but it readily allows for collaboration. You can also check out weebly or wix.
If you’re in a school where students have access to devices, I strongly encourage having them turn those devices into content creators. You will find that it empowers them as learners and makes their learning more applicable and deep.
I have been writing a series of blog posts about preparing to go back to school. Each Fall (end of summer), I like to sit down and think of a few goals that I would like to achieve. Goal setting can be challenging for several reasons. First, it forces us to look at some of our perceived “deficiencies.” Where do we need to improve? What do we need to learn? Try to think of these not deficiencies, but as areas of growth. Second, goal-setting can feel overwhelming, especially if we have lofty goals. Even if goals feel daunting, I find that I can conquer them if I task them out using the SMART criteria. This helps you to articulate your goals in meaningful and thoughtful ways. For goals to be SMART they must be:
Specific – Goals should be simple and straight forward.
Measurable – You should be able to use tangible and measurable evidence to determine your progress towards your goal and against which to assess achievement.
Attainable – While you want to stretch yourself with goal-setting, your goals should be realistic.
Relevant – Goals should be focused on a vital area of professional or personal growth. Don’t set goals just to have goals
Time-bound – You need a timeline. How and when will you measure success?
If you would like some help in writing and crafting SMART goals, check out this process from UVA and MIT. A peer once suggested posting your goals publicly. This not only holds you accountable but models effective goal-setting. Better yet, if you fail to achieve your goals you can model learning from failure!
What are your goals for the coming year? Leave it in the comments below!
The start of school is just around the corner! Many educators are brushing off old lesson plans for revision or restructuring their curriculum. As you prepare for the start of school, here are five ed tech tools to check out to help get your lesson planning game on point.
Google Classroom has become the go-to tool for educators to assign and collect
assignments, disseminate information, and even to keep parents informed. With some new, robust updates (better ways to navigate individual student work, transfer classes, team teach, and third party integration to name a few), it’s time to up your Classroom game. By using Google Classroom, you can easily keep student work in one place; no more emails entitled “homework” from personal emails you don’t recognize (e.g. “firstname.lastname@example.org”). Remember that Classroom is free and available to all (even if your school is not a G-Suite for Education institution). It really is worth a look!
Email is dead, it’s all about texting. In spite of this, our primary means of communication with students and parents remains email. Most teachers move around this by simply sharing their personal cell number and collecting them from students. Of course, this can be a real hindrance on privacy and can lead to concerns about appropriate boundaries. This is where Remind comes in. If your school is anything like mine, it’s fast moving and constantly changing. Remind is a great way to text students and parents important information (e.g. “due to snow day, test moved to Friday” or “Field-trip departure moved to side gate”). This does not require teachers, students, or parents to share their personal cell phone numbers. It also keeps a record of all texts that a teacher sends out. Privacy and boundaries protected!
Socrative has long been a favorite of educators. It’s a way to conduct reviews, run bell ringer or exit ticket activities, and otherwise gamify your classroom. Socrative has gone through several iterations. In addition to their free service, they now offer a “Pro” version ($59.99/year) that allows you to take your Socrative game to the next level. My students always enjoy days where we engage in Socrative activities; it allows them to show off what they know and tackle what they need to learn.
Now, you may be surprised to learn that I advocate a flashcard system. However, rote memorization still has a place in education. Whether you’re teaching geography, vocabulary, spelling, physics terms, or more, there will always be a place for flashcards. Quizlet has really become more robust than ever before. There are a number of ways to use Quizlet in your classroom. You can create sets yourself and share with your class in advance. Students can collaborate on sets. Quizlet now even lets you use your sets to engage in creative games (not just flashcards or matching).
Twitter remains the go-to social network for teachers. If you are a Twitter user, it’s time to rejoin your chats and check out what your PLN is up to. If Twitter has been on your “To-Do” list, now is a great time to start! Check out my articles: “Effective Ways for Educators to Use Twitter” and “5 Ways for Teachers to Get Started on Twitter.” If you need to expand your “follow” list, here are some Great Educators & Institutions to Follow.
These are just 5 (Free) resources. There are many more. Please share your favorite in the comment section below!
It’s August… school will be starting soon for many of us. In fact, I have less than three weeks before I’m sitting in a classroom with children again. What does this mean for most educators? It’s time to start thinking about school once again. If you haven’t noticed, I made a concerted effort in the month of July to unplug. This meant little writing and little (electronic) reading. However, it’s time to get back at it! Here are 5 blogs that I follow that help me get back in the school year mindset. Add these to your favorite RSS reader (if you need one, check out Feedly).
Cult of Pedagogy covers everything from the social implications of education to specific practices in your classroom. This is a great place to stay on top of trends, practice, and the emotional roller coaster that is education.
I had the privilege of meeting Richard Wells at a conference a few years ago. He is truly an innovative and forward thinking educator. If you want to see what innovative pedagogy looks like in practice, then his blog is it. He is a lead teacher in New Zealand, a country that has revamped its educational practices with dramatic results. No tests? check! No set curriculum? That’s them! No grade levels? Yep, right there! It’s truly an inspiration.
While Marti Weston may have retired from schools, she has not retired from education. Once a week or so, I find a thoughtful and provocative post on a relevant topic. I had the privilege of working with Marti via ISTE. She is an inspirational educator.
This public media blog covers educational topics across a myriad of topics: low-income students, special education, department of education, etc. It’s a great place to see what’s happening in education throughout the country.
Audrey Waters certainly knows what’s happening in education. Sometimes inspiring, other times provocative, I come away from this blog with a lot to process. This is a great place to reflect on current policies and practice.
These are only 5 blogs… there are hundreds, no thousands, that merit your attention. If you have one you think I should highlight, please share it in the comments. Better yet, start your own!
Not long ago, I wrote a blog post entitled: Lifelong Learning is an Essential Skill, not a Buzzword. The more I read about future-readiness, 21st century skills, job market reports, and advances in technology (especially AI), the more I understand this to be true. Recently, PEW Research published a report on the Future of Jobs & Job Training.
This report reaffirmed the fact that in the near future, millions of jobs will be lost to automation and AI that can do these tasks not only just as well, but often better than their human counterparts. These are not just rudimentary, repeatable tasks, but sophisticated, white-collar jobs that have generally been considered “safe” from automation: dermatologists, journalists, claims adjusters, financial reporters, and more. With the rise of automated driving, millions of workers who rely on driving as their means of employment are looking at becoming obsolete (long-haul truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery wo/men, and more).
Pushing aside the very real, and daunting, questions of what this means for our job market and even Capitalism, for educators and parents this means: how do we prepare students for the stark realities of an ever shifting job market? While new technologies may be depleting jobs, knowing how to leverage them will become an even more essential skill in the future.
“The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”
Looking at how and when people learn job skills and other training will also need to be examined. Will a traditional high school, college, and beyond model remain the default given the rapidly changing employment models?
“A central question about the future, then, is whether formal and informal learning structures will evolve to meet the changing needs of people who wish to fulfill the workplace expectations of the future.”
PEW delves deeply into this topic, asking experts about their vision of the future and determined 5 Major Themes:
Considering the uncertainty of the future, what we do know is that we must prepare young people to be flexible and agile learners, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators, and to know that they must develop a passion and drive for lifelong learning.
While the article is long, I strongly encourage my readers to check out PEW’s publication and put together your own thoughts.
Jonathan Wylie does an amazing job outlining a K-12 coding curriculum using Apple Tools
Apple’s coding curriculum for schools has been expanded and updated recently to include a full spectrum of offerings for students in K-12 classrooms. It even includes the ability to code smart toys like Spheros and drones. So, if you have access to Apple devices in your school, you should definitely take a look at what this program can offer teachers and students. Here’s what you can expect.
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