Category Archives: Pedagogy

Collaboration is an Essential Skill for Students – Embrace its Challenges

When I am asked “What is the most important skill for students to learn these days” I always answer “The ability to effectively collaborate.” This answer often surprises people; as an ed tech director, they assume I am going to talk about programming

group work

Courtesy of www.lumaxart.com

or STEM-centric topics. However, if my students leave my classroom having learned one thing, I want them to come away knowing how to collaborate effectively with others.

 

When we talk about schools preparing children for college and career, we often think about course contentwhen in reality we should think about what we want them to be able to do. Think about what you do in your job and career. Is it done in isolation? Your greatest achievements, were they obtained solo? For most of us, the answer is no! We often work in teams, sometimes with people in our office as peers, superiors, and/or subordinates; we may also collaborate with people outside of workplace. However, we almost never work in isolation. Therefore, the most essential “soft” skill for success is the ability to play well with others.

However, engaging in “group work” is often loathed by students and teachers. Why? Because someone often feels saddled with the  bulk of the work, students may not get along with their team-mates, it can be a challenge to navigate calendars or delegate tasks, as well as numerous other hurdles. All of these are true, even when group work is done “right.” However, these challenges are exactly why students should be tackling group assignments and projects; they need to learn how to navigate these problems in order to effectively tackle them in life. For example, have you had to have a challenging conversation with a colleague? How did you deal with someone on your team who couldn’t meet deadlines? What do you do to find time for working effectively both as a team and on your own? Like any other skill (playing the piano, running the mile, or learning a new language), learning how to engage in collaborative work takes practice and experience. By exposing children to engage in these dynamics throughout their academic careers, we prepare students to tackle them as they progress in their academic studies and their careers. So embrace “group work” and all of its messiness!

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From Teaching Children to Teaching Adults – Shift your PD Focus

I am an educator in many ways. First, I teach a cabal of sophomores (at Ransom Everglades I teach two courses of United States history). However, I am also a teacher of adults. In my role as Director of Educational Technology and in my work with ISTE and ATLIS, I proselytize, train, and educate.

All of us know (at least intrinsically) that adults and children are very different learners and students; some might argue that adults can be more challenging than children! There is actually a lot of data that highlights how adults differ in learning styles and process. If you want to ensure that your Professional Development sessions are effective, consider doing a little investigation into andragogy (the teaching of adults). I especially liked this infographic:

The Adult Learning Theory Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

New Google Classroom Tools Feature Differentiated Learning

hero_logoGoogle just announced several key new features for Google Classroom that allow teachers to differentiate work for their students. Teachers can now assign work to students or groups of students.

With this feature, students can also discreetly receive extra practice if they’re struggling with a new subject.

They have also announced new notification methods for when students submit work late or resubmit. Check out the latest updates on Google’s blog here.

Free Meditation & Mindfulness Tool for Teachers

Mindfulness meditation is enjoying a moment in education. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” and is often paired with meditation practices. Once viewed as a new-age fad, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have be backed by science, which have found that it helps reduce stress and provides relief for a variety of ailments from insomnia to pain relief. You can find some peer-reviewed studies from the National Institute of Health. Additionally, Harvard recently published findings that brain scans show that the brains of meditators have more gray matter (linked to enhanced senses, increased memory, and executive decision making). 

Dharma_Primary_School_-_Children_Meditating_2015

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With these findings, it’s no surprise that meditation and mindfulness are enjoying some attention in the education. KQED Mind|Shift has published a series of articles on the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation practices in schools for both students and teachers. Also, Edutopia has published a series of articles to help introduce these tools in classrooms. Many educators are implementing these exercises to help students manage stress and anxiety, improve memory, and address behavior in their schools.

Several years ago, I came across mindfulness and meditation practices in a few educational conferences. It wasn’t until I had a series of stressful events that I listened to my friend Larry Kahn and decided to give it a try myself. It has now become a regular practice for me and I can attest to its benefits. Recently, I learned that one of my very apps (I am a paid subscriber), Calm, has implemented The Calm Classroom Initiative to help bring meditation and mindfulness to classroom across america.

After you are accepted into the Calm Classroom Initiative, they will send you “tips, suggestions, and best practices to introduce mindfulness to your classroom and get your students excited about meditation.” This is a great way to bring these resources for both you and your students. Please note that Calm has in no way provided me incentives (financial or otherwise) to promote their program. This is a personal attestation to the value of their tool.

Apple Introduces Apple Teacher Learning Center

In case you weren’t paying attention, yesterday Apple held an event and launched the iPhone 7. However, September 7th also saw the launch of a great new resource for educators: the Apple Teacher Learning Center.

business-925900_1280This free new program allows educators to access training resources for using Mac, iPad, and their built in apps to build creative and engaging lessons. The resources in the Apple Teacher Learning Center can help you to build personal learning environments, harness accessibility tools to empower students who learn differently, redefine assessment, and enhance the tools in your classroom.

The Apple Teacher Learning Center awards badges after you have mastered various tools and stages. Once you have completed all of them, you earn the ultimate Apple Teacher logo badge to proudly display on your blog or print out and post it in your office! Sign up today!

Podcasts to help Students think Creatively about Traditional Content

One of the great privileges in my position at Ransom Everglades is that I still get to work directly with students in the classroom. I teach two sections of United States History. This work not only “keeps me honest” when it comes to technology, but it encourages to hone my skills as an educator and learner. Teaching a “traditional” subject using “non-traditional” tools can be a challenge. I want my students to think outside the box, explore things from new angles, and challenge accepted interpretations of historical events. This can be difficult not only for them, but to me. After all, history has been taught a specific way (focusing on names and dates and the expertise of Ph.D.’s) for generations.

One way I have found to disrupt this tradition is to bring podcasts into my classroom. Podcasting is an amazing medium that has disrupted terrestrial radio in unimaginable ways. As a result, there is a wealth of information out there to bring into the educational environment. By using engaging and well-researched material to provide students alternative perspectives and media. Here are a few of my favorite Podcasts (I’ve highlighted a couple of episodes). I hope that you will share your favorites below as well.

Radiolab Presents: More Perfect: More Perfect explores the role of the Supreme Court throughout history and in the modern era. I never thought that someone could make court cases engaging, but I was happily proven wrong. One of my favorite episodes is “Kittens Kick the Giggly Blue Robot.” This episode explores the history of the court and how it became one of the most powerful entities in the land. Every episode includes citation of sources and case law. They also provide this handy song to help you remember who is currently on the Supreme Court:

Footnote: A Show about Overlooked History: Historians often state the worst fate of a figure is to be condemned as a footnote to history. Footnote explores those often overlooked figures and the impact they had.For example, in the Day of Two Noons they explore how we developed time zones and the financial (and sometimes fatal) results.

Revisionist History: Malcolm Gladwell’s new series explores and reinterprets historical narratives. Check out “The Lady Vanishes,” which explores the impact of tokenism in the art and political worlds.

NPR Code Switch: With the rise of Social Justice in the news and the prevalence of multi-racial communities, Code Switch does an amazing job of tackling uncomfortable conversations about race in an effective and safe medium. One topic I found especially informative was “Say my name say my name (Correctly Please),” where contributors discussed the challenges that arise from “difficult” names in the broader community.

History Chicks: This podcast focuses on women throughout history. Women often take second fiddle to their male counterparts. History Chicks delves into these figures in great detail. For example, explore the history of Katharine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s set-aside first wife). She is more than a footnote to the Tudors.

These are just a few examples of podcasts that I enjoy with my students. I hope you will explore and find some topics to share in the notes below or in your own classrooms.

Must Read Educational Sites for Summer

This is reblogged from my post on FreeTech4Teachers

There are a lot of resources on the web for educators, and it can be challenging to sort through all of that information to find those hidden gems. Here are a few of the websites and blogs that I recommend to educators looking to get started. Some are on the general topic of education while others focus on specific themes or topics. Check out this list and add your own in the comments below!

General Education Topics

Edutopia – Edutopia was founded by the George Lucas Education Foundation to provide a place to share evidence-based practices and programs that help students learn. They cover topics from professional development to digital citizenship initiatives.

EdWeek – Education Week covers topics in education around the country, including public, charter, and independent schools. They report on current events, publish articles, and touch on pedagogical practice. Some parts of EdWeek are free but note that others are paid.

Huffington Post Education – The Huffington Post Education section includes a curated list of stories and blog posts on education. They may cover school policies, digital equity, or teacher pay disparities. This is a great resource for educators who want to keep the pulse of topics in education.

NPR Education – National Public Radio reports on education topics at the national, state, and local level. Always a great resource, NPR reports on topics such as chronic absenteeism or violence in schools.

MindShift KQED – MindShift focuses on innovative practices in teaching and learning. They cover both theory and practice in a way that is both academically sophisticated and accessible in short bites.

Educational Technology

To read the complete list, visit FreeTech4Teachers