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.
The school year is quickly approaching! In the midst of the excitement and enthusiasm of a new bunch of students and trying out new lessons is the knowledge that the school year can very quickly get quite busy and stressful! In addition to planning lessons and assessments, this is a great time of year to give your self-care toolbox a quick look and tweak! Just like planning your work schedule, you need to plan your self-care schedule as well. It’s important to start early so that you can make it a habit before your schedule and the school year takes over your life.
Exercise is one of the greatest methods of relieving stress and anxiety. This does not mean you need to be dead-lifting 200 pounds or training for a marathon. The best type of exercise is the exercise you will do regularly! Scheduling exercise in your day can be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes for taking a walk around campus to as complex as training for an iron-wo/man triathlon. Try to get in a little bit of exercise every day. If you need some help for motivation, try recruiting a friend or investing in an inexpensive fitness tracker (I wear a Fitbit One that I purchased on eBay).
Explore Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation has been around for a long time but has only recently picked up popularity. While it seems like new-age feel-goodery, the reality is that meditation works. Meditation has been proven to help individuals cope with stress and anxiety, sleep better, and increase resilience. I try to meditate for 10-15 minutes a day (preferably in the morning). If you want some help getting started, check out The New York Time’s article: “How to Meditate.” My favorite tool for meditation is an app called Calm; it has several guided meditation options and programs to help you progress and experiment with Mindfulness. Better yet, Calm is free for teachers.
Set up a “Praise Box” or “Praise Wall” for Yourself
I keep a small box of mementos from students – thank you notes, small gifts, etc that remind my why I do what I do. I keep these for those challenging days when the kids drive me up the wall (and they will) or when I feel like the worst teacher in the world. Anytime a student gives you a thank you (sometimes it’s written on a test or a quiz, in a note, or attached at Christmas to a present), be sure to save it and throw it in the box or put it on the wall. This is a great way to give yourself a boost when you need it.
Prioritize Leisure Time
Prepping, grading, and supporting students can take over your life. While none of us got into education for the money or the fame, it’s important to prioritize your life outside of school as well. Schedule time with family or friends (and keep those commitments), schedule an hour for you to read a book that isn’t work related, watch your favorite tv show, and make sure that you get in time for exercise or the gym.
When you’re on an airplane, if you pay attention to the safety instructions (most of us don’t), you are told to put on your oxygen mask first, before you help anyone else. This is because unless you are at your best, you will not be able to help anyone else. The same is true in education. Take care of yourself, prioritize your self-care; you will be a better teacher because of it.
These are the methods that I use to help me stay on track and tackle stress throughout the year. What are yours? Leave them in the comments below!
Back to School shopping has started. Here in Florida, we kick off “tax free weekend,” which allows parents and students to purchase back to school items and pay no sales tax. Items included on that list: clothing, school supplies, computers, tablets, and smart phones! For many parents of tweens, the start of the school year also marks the start of the “cell phone conversation.” Do I get my child a smart phone? If so, what kind of smart phone? What limits do I put on them? Is it yet age appropriate for my child to have a phone?
So, how do you start the cell phone conversation with your child? Or, if you are a teacher or school administrator, how do you advise parents? There are a few ways to get the conversation going and things for you to consider.
Is a smart phone Age-Appropriate?
I feel comfortable telling parents that a child should not have their own device if they are younger than double digits. While I have seen 8 and 9 years olds playing on devices, those devices should ultimately belong to an adult. After the age of 10, however, it becomes a little more challenging. It would be easiest if I could tell parents that X age is the right age for their child to get a smartphone. However, the reality is that every child is different.
Your child is unique in their maturity and tolerance for responsibility. A smartphone is a big responsibility. A few comparable questions: Do I feel comfortable leaving my child home alone for a few hours? Does my child take care of their toys (e.g. clothing, other electronics, etc)? Would I allow my child to supervise other children? These questions tell you a few things: Can my child safely navigate without adult supervision? Can they care for an expensive piece of electronics? Can my child effectively and safely manage and engage with others without adult supervision?
Have a Conversation About the Responsibility of a Smartphone
I know, I know… this sounds so cheesy. But the reality is that, like driving a car, getting a smartphone is a big responsibility. They are entering a new world of freedom and flexibility. One in which they can, likely will (and developmentally should) make some mistakes and missteps. If you want to know more about what kids really “get up to” online, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (this link gives you access to a free PDF version of the book). danah’s (yes, she spells it that way) book gives you a realistic look at how children engage with one another online. Here are some questions to discuss with your child:
- What will you do if you see something that makes you uncomfortable online?
- What will you do if you think that a friend or a classmate is being mean to you or someone else?
- How will you react if someone makes you angry online?
- What will you do if you think you have made a mistake in how you have acted online?
- What will you do if your phone breaks or gets dropped in water?
This should be realistic conversations. Try not to use scare tactic examples. Pull things from real life:
“One time, Aunt Edna and I got into an argument because she responded to my selfie by saying ‘You look soooo fat!’ It turned out that she was being sarcastic and meant it as a compliment; I had recently lost weight. I thought that she was being mean. We didn’t speak for two weeks because neither of tried to clear up the communication. What could we have done better?”
Set Boundaries for Your Child & Yourself
Boundaries are important in all facets of life, including electronics. Sit down and have a conversation with your child about rules and boundaries for their new device – both for you and for them. Make a physical list that you post in your home. Think of this as an evolving process. Some of these may change as the child gets older or if you or your child feel it needs to shift. Additionally, consider consequences for violating boundaries (loss of a privilege?) Parents, keep in mind that modeling is especially important! A few items for you to consider:
- Will there be a “no smartphone” time? For example family meals? Homework/reading time? Family events? Bedtime?
- Will parents be monitoring smartphone use?
- When (during the day) is it acceptable to text? For example, what about during the school day? Parents, keep in mind that if you text a child during class-time, you may be enabling behavior you don’t want!
- What is acceptable to share online? When should you get permission to post or share something?
- Where will the phone be kept at night? It is often recommended to remove smartphones from children’s bedrooms at night to avoid temptation. Charge them in a parent’s room or a neutral place.
Keep Yourself Informed
Have regular conversations with your child about what they do online. Reinforce the idea that you are a trusted adult and they can come to you when they run into problems. To me, that is the most vital part of tween cell phone ownership – knowing that their parents can and will help them if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or have made a poor decision. Some great resources for parents:
- Media! Tech! Parenting! by Marti Weston
- American Academic of Pediatrics Media & Children Communication
- Common Sense Media – Parent Concerns
If you have some thoughts or contributions, please share them in the notes below!
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. “email@example.com”). 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!
If you are out of the path of the eclipse or hoping to catch a glimpse, the Washington Post has a pretty amazing interactive. Use your browser to follow the eclipse as it passes over the United States.