Guest Post: Keep up with Technology so You Can Keep up with Your Students

Guest Post by: Isla Wright

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

And things are changing. Instead of paper, we use laptops, instead of books, we use e-books. You want to be a person who pushes students forward, not the one who holds on to the relics of the past. There is a gap between students and their teachers, as the students are one step forward, when it comes to knowledge and usage of technology. Here are some tools that you can easily integrate in your teaching and get one step closer to your students.

  • Edmodo: It is a communication platform for teachers and students. Usually it is used for giving announcements, sharing folders and distributing assignments. However, you can go outside of the box and implement some unusual ideas. For example, you can create a current events group for students to post articles that are relevant to the topics of your classes. Or organize a national book club or start a competition. It can really lead to unlimited options.
  • Blogging: This can be your direct contact with your audience‒your students. By sharing thoughts and ideas, they are invited to give their opinion. A broader discussion can develop; you can do special researches on interesting topics or give students additional reading material. Students can evolve in critical thinking and active conversation. The conversation can start on the blog, but continue in class, or vice versa.

Also, you can help students by checking their notes and discussing them on your blog, needless to say without naming names. There might be issues with chemistry notes, math, or physics, which they did not realize. As you want to make sure that what they wrote is correct, this can be a place for reviews and debates.

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  • VoiceThread: this is an application that adds voice to documents, slide presentations, videos or collections of photos. You can include students and encourage them to post their own presentations or integrate comments on original ones. It allows students to present and defend their work, which as a result, makes students active in a classroom. It is a creative opportunity for students to tell their stories and share their vision on different topics.
  • Wikispaces: A great place for a class or a group, as all participants can edit documents. Furthermore, if you want to develop researching skills of your students, you can use this platform for students to share sources and ideas. It emphasizes a high level of communication and critical thinking, as students can get involved in debates.
  • MindMeister: Encourage mind-mapping in your classroom! Users can collaborate with each other, and organize their ideas in a new way. It is excellent for group projects. The mind maps and schemes get a fresh, dynamic look, which attracts viewers to pay more attention while concentrating on seeing all the details.

You can also use it while creating your own plans for your classes. It keeps things very organized and visible. What is great is that it is very flexible, as you can approach it from you mobile phone or any computer, as long as you have Internet connection.

As you see, the good news is that there are so many options to choose from. These are only some of the tools that are out there. In order to be a great teacher, one should not stop learning. Look at this as your opportunity to teach young minds not only facts from the books, but also an effective usage of technology. This is their preparation for the real world.

Announcement: Teaching & Technology’s Resource List is now on Tumblr!

Just recently I tried to update one of my Diigo resource lists and found they have discontinued them! It was rather disappointing to find out that I could no longer add to these lists. They are still viewable, but I cannot add to them.

Instead, Diigo introduced this new technology called Outliner. It seems rather silly. When you bookmark a link, you can save it to a specific Outliner and then create bullet points…like an outline. But the problem is, is that the list looks like my word processing documents did 10 years ago. Plain and boring. The technology is great for collaboration and research projects…not so much for my resource lists. This is mostly due to the fact that I was unable to public show the Outliner without it being editable. I was also disappointed that while I could upgrade my lists to Outliners, with a free account I was only allowed 5 Outliners as opposed to unlimited lists.

What was I to do? I have tens of links that are meant to help teachers and students find specific resources. I needed a tagging system that easily publishes links. Eventually, I settled on Tumblr. I know this isn’t a perfect solution because the lists were just so perfect, but hopefully, it will work for you. You may just have to search the Tumblr for a #writing resource or #blog to follow.

I’m also able to post links to the blog posts as they publish on Tumblr. So feel free to follow and reblog.

You can always find a link to the resources on Tumblr from the main menu. Go to Resources > Tumblr Bookmarks. There is also a link on the right side of every page with social media links. It now includes Tumblr. Lastly, there is a link on the ol’ contact page.

If you have an education or education technology Tumblr, feel free to leave the username in the space below.

Putting Technology in Schools: Think Before You Invest

If it’s possible to put new(er) technology into a school, should you do it?

Your first response was probably, “of course, if the money works.”

However, you’d be wrong.  Well…more accurately, you’d be right…most of the time.

See, “The Kenyan government is delivering on an election promise and has awarded a supply contract for 1.2 million laptops to be given to first year primary school students,” (Goodwin).  At first, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong.  Why wouldn’t giving young students in a third world country laptops and access to the plethora of information that is available on the internet be wrong?  One fact: “75 percent of the population lack reliable access to electricity, the laptop roll out, although media sexy, is completely out of touch with reality,” (Goodwin).

Yes, you read that correctly.  “Only 2,037 of the targeted 20,368 schools that are to receive laptops are connected to the electrical grid,” (Goodwin).  Yup, that means that “90 percent of the children receiving these laptops will have no reliable means to power them and might realistically never turn them on,” (Goodwin).

Laptops, tablets, smartboards, and other educational technology devices can be a great investment for schools, providing the infrastructure for the technology is available.  I don’t just mean electricity (although that is pretty imperative); I mean the school infrastructure.  Teachers need to be trained on how to use the device, basic troubleshooting, and how it can be used specifically for their subject.  Students need to be trained on the device as well as basic troubleshooting.  Parents need to know what their responsibilities are and who to contact when they need help.

Too often technology is bought to “fix” a problem or bridge a gap in education.  Remember: technology is a tool, not a solution.

 

 

Goodwin, Phil. “Why Kenya’s School Laptops Program Is Not the Answer.” Web log post. ONE.org. ONE, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

“14 Things that are obsolete in 21st century schools”

The following article was published by Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson, an Icelandic elementary teacher & Entrepreneur, on his blog, www.ingvihrannar.com.



Guest Post: How Technology Shape Academic Learning

Guest Post Written By: Ethan Harvell

In the past, students have to do a lot of things in order to write their writing assignments or study for an exam. They have to go to libraries, check dictionaries, read the encyclopedia or type on a type writer. Thanks to technological development, students now experience a fast and convenient life as a student.

Other Side of Technology

Some say that technology (e.g computers, Internet or tabs) affects the concentration of students. BBC News even report that Internet usage made the attention span of people, much shorter. They even compare it to that of a goldfish. The focus of people becomes very weak because of the millions of data they consume on-line. These also promoted multitasking, with multiple tabs when people are searching on-line, which lessen the efficiency of people.

However technological inventions are not made to distract people. Its purpose is to help people have better lives. Internet is now used in learning. Since most students today were born in an era when computers are already used in every field of life, they have a sense of dependency towards computers. They rely on it for intellectual learning and even skills development. Even professors note the importance of technology in reaching Millennial students.

Let us take a closer look on how technology shapes academic learning:

Tablets For Learning

Recently Google introduced the benefits of the use of tablet applications in teaching. They note the importance of making students actively participate in class discussions and activities, which focus on Google Play applications downloaded on tablets.

Among the activities they do, are: quizzes, puzzles, reading books and spelling tests. Visual and auditory learners get to learn through visual aids while, haptic learners benefits from games and hands-on application. Class discussion also follows to access the learning of students.

E-books also became popular. It makes studying easier because students can bring their tablets anywhere. They can easily highlight and bookmark important parts of the book. Although only 21% of K-12 schools today uses digital textbooks, a huge increase of digital textbook users is expected, with 36.5% of schools, planning to move into digital books in the next few years.

Social Media Incorporated in Learning

Social media  used to be a distraction to intellectual growth and learning. But modern educators now incorporate it to class projects.

How Educators Are Using Pinterest for Showcasing, Curation,” written by A. Adam Glenn notes that Andrew Lih University of Southern California, uses Pinterest as source of generating idea for business and entrepreneur students. The “mood boards” that these students create are easily done through the sites clip board function. The site also promotes data curation, beneficial to journalism, digital media aggregation assignment, and content writing.

Google+ Hangouts are used by students for academic group discussions. Students from Boise State University incorporates YouTube videos in this groups and teach themselves with mathematical equations.

College blogs are also becoming very popular, not only for social sharing but also for social learning. Students can write their own contents and engage in commenting on other people’s work too. This leads to healthy discussions. Aside from that, reasoning, creativity and critical thinking skills are developed through blogging

Popularity of On-line Schools and Blended Learning

The increasing cost of attending a classroom facility encouraged people to enroll in on-line classes. Aside from monetary reasons, online classes  became popular because of these few reasons:

Flexibility– Students can take courses according to a schedule convenient to them. They can easily balance their personal life and school classes, without getting stressed.

Save Time– No need to waste time in going from one class to another; or driving from home to school, and vise-versa. You can efficiently use this time in studying instead.

Several Courses at Once– If you have a particular course that you want to take, but not in your program, you cannot take it on a typical class. But on-line programs allow you to expand your interest and enroll classes beyond the given course list.

Accessibility– Internet is easily available and students can attend classes at any convenient time they want.

Same Job Opportunity– You get the same job opportunity as students attending classroom lessons. Is an on-line program different from their usual classes? If the school is reputable, their method of teaching is basically the same, no matter how they deliver it.

Clayton Christensen on his theory of disruptive innovation tells that “by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered on-line.” Most classes today are already leaning towards technology-based teaching methods because of its effectiveness.

Flipped classroom is one of these blended learning strategies. Students are given lesson materials at home and they study it with an instructional video. In class, they join class activities related to that topic.
Although technology has its negative effect on students learning, it is undoubtedly, a very important tool in making academic learning much effective and efficient.

Author’s Bio

Ethan Harvell is resident of Fremont, California and is a journalist, philanthropist, and a volunteer teacher. He is currently a freelance writer for an essay writing service.

Weebly and the Class Website

As I wind down my English Language Learners tutoring in preparation for student teaching, I have come to realize most of my student resources are for ESL/ELL students.  I have also come to realize that using Moodle for keeping resources available to students will no longer be my best option.  Additionally, I have found that my tutoring students rarely logged into Moodle.  I want to make class and English/Language Arts resources available to all my students as well as all high school students in the world.  I’ve heard some good things about Weebly, a website that makes website developing and blog posting easy, and its market towards classroom websites.  So I’ve spent some time re-working my Moodle database and learning Weebly.

In my opinion, Weebly is great for someone who needs something to look professional, who has no idea what s/he is doing, and needs a blog-like format.  But for me, Weebly just doesn’t work for my needs as classroom website.

Weebly can effectively integrate blog and standard webpages.  You can have a static homepage and contact page, but a dynamic blog for each class.  If you utilize Weebly to its full potential, students and teachers can log in and interact, posting videos and content from iPhones.  You can have the site hosted on Weebly’s servers or you can buy your own domain for your Weebly-built site.  There are tons of “you can do this or that” with Weebly.  But when you really look at it, what Weebly offers is a ton of “services” but the user-experience and customization is limited.  And that’s its downfall for me.  I may use Weebly in the future for a class blog, but for the purposes of a class website where I can list resources upon resources?  I’ll keep searching.

Browsing for resources will be difficult.  Students don’t want to scroll and scroll down long pages.  Thus, I’ll either have to eliminate resources or create pages upon pages and I just don’t think that it’s practical.  I want to be able to create modules that can have links to documents to download as well as other websites without having so much space in between (take a look at what I mean).

I am also restricted to their customizations.  Sure, I have quite a bit of breathing room to change out pictures and choose from over 30ish templates–but that’s only 30 templates.  I’m used to having a bit more freedom when I use Dreamweaver.  Sure, I love clicking a button and having all the code done for me (it saves hours, maybe even days in the long run), but I’ve run into a few instances where I wanted to deleted something or move something to the left or right and I was unable to do so.  I became frustrated quickly with titles in particular as well as modules not moving to where I wanted them to go.

In essence, Weebly is great for a class blog, but not for a class website which typically is more of a database of resources.

Check out my “work in progress” Weebly/Class Website.