education

Rick, Tyrion, Dexter, and Walt all die. Or do they?

During a long car ride I thought about what I would do in my first days of entering the classroom.

Long story short, I’m going to give a form and figure out what their favorite TV shows are, their access to technology, how they learn, and what their interests are. You may be asking yourself, why the TV shows? I had a bit of an idea during my car ride. What if I threaten TV spoilers if the misbehave?

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What’s it Like Being White?

I was doing my regular browning of the web and came upon the question “What is it Like Being White?” I scrolled through the answers and eventually found one that I can relate with. I feel it accurately personifies how many white people feel about the subject. Just some food for thought.

“There’s a lack of identity associated with it. I don’t think of myself as white any more than I think of myself as blue-eyed. It’s a feature, not part of who I am. There’s no real struggle to empathize with, no real connection to other white people based just on being white. At least not that I’ve experienced, so it’s just a non-thing.

A checkbox on a form and nothing else.

Hell, it’s less of an identity thing than hairstyle, at least for me.

As for day-to-day life, it’s honestly hard to consider, since I’ve never not been white.

I guess I’m not worried about going 10 over the speed limit, since I’m no more likely to be pulled over than anyone else. Is that a concern for minority drivers? I honestly don’t know.”

Alorha

Technology in Schools; the Good, the Bad, the Nitty Gritty.

Take a moment to think about the amount of years a fresh teacher will teach from graduation until retirement. For simplicities sake, assume that this is forty years. Every year, new students come in, and if a teacher works for forty years with twenty-five different students each year. At the end of each year, these students will have (estimated) two-hundred pages of notes. Add report cards, quizzes final exams, scrap paper, possible textbooks, distributed readings and so forth and it is safe to assume that this page count can be brought up to four-hundred. There are approximately 8,300 pieces of paper per tree. Doing the math of (semesters) x (years) x (students) x (pages) equals out to 800,000 pieces of paper over a math teachers’ career. That’s approximately one-hundred trees used to teach a class per teacher career. It’s important to note that most teachers teach multiple classes a semester (usually three to four). This means that in a teachers’ career, they will be personally responsible for the death of hundreds of trees. Multiply the number of teachers around the world, and a serious problem (along with interesting questions) emerge. How can a teacher reduce the waste from their teachings? Can educators teach in a paper-less environment? Is the tried-and-true method of paper and pencil due for an upgrade? What else can change in the education system, and how we teach? And the question the paper will be examining is using technologies in classes (specifically in Social Studies classes) to create and teach more comprehensive and complete content and skills.

Technology is rapidly changing and is more accessible and useful to students, teachers, and the general public. Teachers, parents, administration, and students are all beginning to see the useful aspects that technology holds, and thus are beginning to integrate it more into schools and their personal lives. Yali Zhao shows in his study that in 2005, 99% of schools in the US had a 5:1 student to computer ratio (2007). Nearly a decade later, and the ratio is as high as 1:1 in many schools. Zhao quotes students as being “born and comfortable in the internet and technology,” but with teachers this is less of a case. It is at this point in the paper that I stray from the formalities of paper writing and insert some narrative and structure changes. I first shall examine the pros and cons of using technology for the students and the teacher.

Students Pro

  • Most students have multiple access points to technology (library, home, cell phone, in class computers/laptops/tablets, computer labs)
  • Technology has the ability to turn student thought ‘boring or irrelevant’ content into hands-on learning by analyzing, creating, and allowing students to be as creative as they are able
  • Students and their teachers are able to keep up at home, when absent, or with substitutes
  • Real world practicality with researching, analyzing, summarizing, and presenting
  • Access to knowledge and resources (such as virtual tours, skype interviews, and so forth)
  • Less intimidation by a textbook and stack of papers (Griggs 2010)
  • Opportunities to individualize and express oneself better
  • Increased student inquiry (Griggs 2010)

Students Con

  • Some students will not have personal or home access to technology
  • Students may not have the knowledge how to use technology properly
  • Chance to abuse programs or technology
  • Too much change can be frustrating and intimidating
  • Students are becoming “wired for distraction” (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
  • Critical thinking issues and expectance of quick results (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)

Teachers Pro

  • Ability to maximize time, creativity, and resources
    • Examples such as doing PTA over skype to increase participation and accessibility
    • Establishing online blogs, interactions, and communities
  • Summarize and express content, skills, and values more effectively
  • Technology can make a subject hands-on (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
    • Students using animation software to recreate the Lincoln assassination (Griggs 2010)
  • Non-technological literate teachers can be easily taught in workshops and PD conferences
  • Teachers were positive during PD training and workshops; using tech more often (Zhao 2007)
  • Large support system in the online community (twitter, skype, online journals, and so forth)

     Teachers Con

  • Some teachers have a lack of experience and training of apps, software, and technology
  • Classroom management concerns
  • Low teacher confidence in technology knowledge or skills (Griggs 2010)
  • Policy bans on websites or certain content
  •  Not using technology or using tech “as a crutch” (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
  • Using dated, clumsy, or inefficient technology
  • Easy to assume that students are competent in technology

Once teachers were trained with how to use technology in the classroom, they “expressed positive experiences with technology integration training, increased their use of technology in the classroom, and use technology more creatively” (Zhao 2007). An important note to remember with technology use and integration is that when teachers use too much, ineffective, or no technology at all, it can do more harm than good (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014). When used properly, the benefits can be reaped; in Griggs’ dissertation, he deduced from sample groups that students with technological integration (when used properly), that student inquiry and skills increased. His studies found that:

“Overall, participants were highly supportive of technology integration and willing to use emerging technologies in their presentation of world history content. Barriers to technology integration include lack of funding, lack of adequate access to technology, and lack of confidence among students and teachers in using technology.” (114)

Teachers need to have a good reason for including technology in their instruction and assessments. Teachers need to have a reason for using these tools such as saving time, improving learning outcomes, helping lesson plans, or anything else. They need to be thorough and well planned, and they need to be willing to adapt, change, and collaborate (“7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology” 2013). When attempting to integrate technology in classrooms and control groups, studies found that teachers were knowledgeable about old and current technologies and were often successful in integrating into classrooms (Griggs 2010). One fault that Griggs found in his research is that pre-service teachers are lacking training, knowledge, and confidence when it comes to integrating technology and mostly when they are forced to teach without it.

The struggle with technology is that current supporters of it sometimes may push too hard for its support and put a wedge between non-users and supporters. Teachers also need to learn to balance the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge in their instruction. It’s a fine balance between these three and too much can poison instruction. Several of the studies I read all state the same thing, that pre-service teachers need more training in general teaching:

Michael Shriner, Daniel Clarks, and Melissa Nails’ study concluded that:

“pre-service teachers’ perceived levels of competence and confidence in teaching social studies without technology assistance… the majority of pre-service teachers reported low competence and even lower confidence in their ability to teach social studies effectively, especially with regard to textbook utilization, resource acquisition, and instructional strategies.” (37)

It does appear that the experts are finding issues with pre-service and current teachers. The good side of this coin is that teachers were easy to instruct and motivate once shown a conference or PD on technology. Within five hours into a conference, teachers were able to learn how to find virtual field trips, how to insert hyperlinks, text, pictures, video, and even put audio of them recording a narrative of the tour. Within ten hours, teachers were also able to create electronic templates and plan lessons for students to create virtual field trips “to build social studies skills and content knowledge into inquiry-based lessons (Shriner, Clarks, and Nails 2010). Skills gained through self-inquiry are much better than presenting with powerpoint and lecturing. There are a limitless number of apps and programs for students to express themselves and inquire into interesting material, but we as teachers cannot take their knowledge for granted and group students together as all-knowing in technological literacy.

Teachers need to teach students about proper sources and how to find them, as well as how to think critically and read between the lines. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation states that students are much more likely to become distracted than remain on task (and at home, one in three kids are using tv or the internet for recreation while doing homework), and that many teachers believe this to be a problem (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014). While this is a problem, I personally wonder why we as educators and leaders are attempting to force students to subjects themselves to the boring, outdated, and ineffective lecture based system. Why can we not alter the lessons so that students’ minds are kept on short tasks instead of zoning out on long tasks?

Technology has its clear flaws, but the benefits when used properly outweigh the difficulties with it. In the studies, journals, and books I researched teachers and students, when taught with and/or how to use technology properly, there was overwhelming support and integration by students, teachers, administration, and parents. Changing how educators teach may save the forests as well as the school system.

Youtube in the Classroom

Youtube is a great tool. It’s free, has tens of millions of videos, and is one of the largest sources of knowledge in the world. In the last four months, I’ve used youtube videos in almost all of my lesson plans.

 

Why?

 

  1. It can capture emotion and provide a better reference point than me lecturing or students reading
  2. It captures the attention of students better than most methods
  3. It works great for audio and visual learners
  4. A video can be found for almost all scenarios and content

For example, on the history channel on youtube, there are dozens of playlists. Some of the more useful ones for education would be The Men Who Built America, Deconstructing History, or WWII in HD.

The above are great playlists for pure content. Some videos will portray a hidden message or attempt to convince the viewer to adopt a new style of thinking (Ted Talks are great for this!)

My personal favorite youtube channel is SpaceRip. I have watched almost every video on this channel and it has fueled my passion of physics and astronomy.

Youtube is a great place and excuse for people to practice something unusual and unique, upload it, and get applauded for it. Musicians upload themselves playing, gamers upload themselves playing video games, educators may upload videos of them teaching, or students may upload videos of them doing whatever!

 

If I need to learn how to fix my car, I can. 

 

If I want to learn how to play piano, I can. 

 

If I want to learn about treaties in Saskatchewan… I can.

 

Save yourself some time, give yourself some knowledge, and have some fun with youtube in your classroom.

6th Grade Ultimate Resource

My peer Taylor Hardy (@hardy22t) has created an “Ultimate Grade Six Teaching Resource” which is a complete and useful tool for any middle schools teacher. The guide gives resources and materials for Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, and more!

resource-blog

Taylor goes through the curriculum by section and gives modern and innovative lesson plans, templates, videos, assessments, resources to use, and so forth. In math she dissects a years worth of lessons into categories such as shape, patterns, numbers.

I highly recommend this website for all preservice teachers and inservice teachers, as well as parents of children in this area of education. It can be used as a primary guide or a secondary resource for lessons plans inside the school, or just looked at to get some ideas (because many new-gen teachers are now looking at teacherspayteachers ; online blogs ; pinterest searches ; or other places online). I’m currently in a grade seven classroom, and I’m not upset that I’m not able to use this to save myself hours of work! But I can still use this is a review when introducing a new unit!

Follow Taylor on Twitter or on her blog! Twitter_logo_2337037fwordpress

New Language

language-benefits

Want to begin to learn a language? I will be providing tools to help you learn these languages on your own, while contributing to the vast knowledge available on the web! The first tool I will provide is duolingo. Duolingo is a free, popular tool that many people are using to learn languages.

The service works by giving the user words and sentences to be translated that are dependent on the skill and knowledge level that the reader presents. Learn any language you want at your own pace, and translate sentences for the entire world to read at the same time! 

The next service is Lang-8. This website pairs you with an individual who wants to learn your own native language, while you learn theirs. You choose which language you want to learn and your skill level, and you are paired up with someone from across the world who meets these demands! It is a great way to find a native speaker to practice with and has helped thousands master other languages! And as usual, this service is free! 

The next website is called Memrise. Memrise has actual courses with many different languages, but it’s not only limited to the language area! This website has courses on history, science, the arts, and much more!

The New Era of Binders

Tech Task #8

It’s clear that schools, students, and people are moving towards a more techy world. Everyone’s grandma owns either a tablet, a computer, or a smart phone. Schools are introducing one on one tablet / laptop programs with high success, but organization with computers from notes and URL’s can be tough (and kids have trouble organizing a paper binder!).

8623652742_5293fe9fd4In a tablet integrated school (or for a student in any grade / post-secondary) an easy way to organize notes by subject and content is using livebinders. Anyone reading this post will have used a binder organizer when they were in school, and this website allows the user to organize notes into any category they want. 

I’ve used computers for the last four years to note take, and I do have to say that organization is difficult (and don’t even get me started on all the things I favorite!). What I normally do is save by date or into one giant document with all my notes, and then use CTRL+F (find) to search for keywords. Not very effective.

Photo Credit: Songralonian via Compfight cc    BocRMBI

For school work I would optimally use this to organize by topic (Math, ELA, science), and then by Unit (Unit 1: Addition, Unit 2: Subtraction…). I could then add a tab for each day or combine the notes all in one, or for similar content (adding single digit numbers, adding double digit numbers, adding vertically / sideways…). This would an optimal experience for organization, studying, sharing notes, and visually for the emerging tablet scene. I myself am sick of making dozens of folders to attempt to organize.

AVeOsiu

This is not just a great tool for students! For educators it allows prime and secure organization of turned in assignments, teaching prep notes, resources, marks, and student categories. The only downfall with livebinders is it lacks a ‘flipboard’ and book style transition. Instead of swiping downwards or sideways the user must click the category.

It’s a more user friendly way of organizing folder on your computer or google drive, and it’s more visually pleasing.