Teachers, step back for a second….

I recently subscribed to “Bright,” an online publication about innovation in technology. Usually, for this blog, the posts discuss things all about education. However, this time, I am writing down my thoughts about an article from “Bright” that is simply about living life.

Matthew McConaughey — yes, the actor — delivered the commencement speech for graduates of the University of Houston this year. I came across the article as I was looking for something to write about and stopped because I saw Matthew’s picture and wondered what the heck he was doing on the website. I started reading and just kept going.

It is titled “13 Lessons Learned” and consists of Mr. McConaughey’s advice for those students leaving the safety of college and moving on to the next step in their lives. Although this article doesn’t talk about the next most innovative teaching strategy or share some astonishing facts about the current state of the United States’ education system, it offers a chance for teachers to step back and look at what they are doing in their own lives.

Among other things, Mr. McConaughey reminds us that life is not easy, that we define success for ourselves and must go after it, and that there is a distinct difference between happiness and joy. Above all though, the article relays a sense of courage, which is something that I think all teachers need.

In a time in which we are questioned and scrutinized. During the days in which we must be role models for dozens of little eyes and find ways to reach young minds. Amidst the hours of lesson planning and stress and the minutes before the rush of class, we can feel empowered in the fact that we are working toward something important and life-changing. We have chosen lives of meaning and are striving to make a difference in the world around us.

Read this ending:

“So while we’re here, let’s make it a place where we break a sweat, where we believe, where we enjoy the process of succeeding in the places and ways we are fashioned to. Where we don’t have to look over our shoulder because we are too busy doing what we’re good at. Voluntarily keeping our own council because we WANT to. Traveling towards immortal finish lines. We write our book. Overcome our fears. We make friends with ourselves.”

We choose to teach.

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Digital Equity

After reading/watching a number of sources discussing digital equity, I thought I would focus on the one that stood out to me the most.

In the article, “Free Computers Don’t Close the Rich-Poor Education Gap,” the writer points out that simply giving away computers did not improve the educational outcomes for students. The study showed that it was true that the students didn’t know many of the simple computer functions, like downloading a file, but the main result was that computer use increased — not computer use for educational purposes. The investigators come to the conclusion that it isn’t the machines that make the difference, it is the family and the environment.

Now, as a teacher, I selfishly love this article because it shows that we do need the people, not just the technology. However, despite my own selfish motives, I think this article is incredibly insightful. It shows that we can give students all the devices in the world, but they need to be using them in the proper environment with the proper leaders in order to get anything out of it. Moreover, simply having assignments that require the internet isn’t going to make a difference in the learning that goes on.

Students have to be shown the educational opportunities that technology gives us. They have to be taught how to use apps, software, devices to change the world around them and make an positive impact their environment. Similarly, families and educators need to be taught how to nurture our students and really promote learning and the importance of education.

Our job then becomes to learn as much as we can about using technology for education and how to best relay that information to our students and their families. We need to create opportunities for students to use technology in ways that they wouldn’t have thought of. We need to give them chances to be innovative and utilize their skills to grow and make a difference. It is a very exciting time in education, but let’s steer it in the right direction.

Here’s What Students Think — #important

As teachers, we hear A LOT about ‘technology in the classroom,’ and since I am in a teacher education program, I hear it a lot (times ten). We talk about how it will be useful for our students. We talk about how it will be relevant to our students. We even talk about how maybe they would be much more interested in school because of it. However, the truth is, we are not our students. Therefore, when we talk about using technology, I always wish I could hear it directly from the students.

When I read the Speak Up 2014 Report, I was happy to see that it did, in fact, have more input from the students. And while I value the theories I spend much of my time reading about, I loved that here, I was able to read the feedback from the most critical party in this discussion.

The report tells us that students want technology. They can use it well and become better informed citizens. They want mobile learning. They want a mixture. They want excitement and new opportunities.

The two most important take-aways for me were that 1) I need to figure out how to get some mobile learning in my classroom. It seems like it is an increasingly important thing to students. Sure, it could lead to texting in class. Sure, students might be too dependent on their phones, but I have a feeling that allowing them to use them to learn might just turn out a-okay, and even inspiring! 2) I will 100% be using blended learning. I loved the fact that this report showed that most students don’t want everything to be online learning, but they do want some variety. Who can blame them? I want to use online lessons — discussion boards, moodle, flipped classrooms — as well as traditional ones. I want to keep them guessing!

Teachers, let’s get started.

Why You Need to Watch Ken Robinson

Absolutely love Ken Robinson and have seen a few of his videos. His “How to Escape Death Valley” is truly eye-opening for educators, and really, everyone else as well.

I think he is spot on in saying that America’s educational system is set up around the idea of a machine. It is regimental and pressurized by testing and standards. Education is a HUMAN SYSTEM — like Sir Ken tells us — and as such, it should be centered around people. In order for the students of today to want to learn, we need to make the system one of creativity and innovation.

Many faces of students tell me they would rather be somewhere else, and I get it. Most kids would rather be with their friends having a good time than sitting at a desk during a lecture. But couldn’t we make it more engaging for them? Robinson is on to something here. We need to move in a new direction. We need to move toward a creative school — a school that enhances each individual’s uniqueness. And as teachers, we can start that process.

Steven Knight’s The Flipped Classroom is Born

After watching the short video on Professor Knight’s lesson, “The Flipped Classroom is Born,” I read the blog “To Flip Or Not Flip?” Author Jeff Dunn describes AP Calculus teacher Stacy Roshan’s experience with flipping.

Her biggest problem was one that all teachers face — TIME. She felt like the bell would ring and she never got to hear from her students. She felt like her classes were always trying to run at full speed forward, which created an environment full of stress and anxiety.

She started using the flipped classroom method and found that she had more time to help her students and differentiate her lessons to fit a variety of needs. She now listens to THEIR discussions and has watched their test scores increase steadily. However, the best part for her is the new classroom vibe — calm, supportive, innovative.

By flipping her classroom, Ms. Roshan has reinvigorated her classroom and teaching. She has created a place where learning thrives and her students find positive attitudes and all they help they need.

Check out BAM! Radio

On the BAM! Radio channel Hooked! Captivating Students, I listened to “Creating Riveting Learning Experiences Your Students Will Never Forget.” http://www.jackstreet.com/jackstreet/WHKD.Burgess.cfm

The hosts of the show talked to Dave Burgess, the author Teach Like a Pirate, and asked him about creating an engaging classroom environment.

One of my favorite parts of the whole podcast was when Mr. Burgess said that he wants his students to not only remember his curriculum, but he wants them to remember him as a person. He emphasizes the importance of creating an experience for students saying “They won’t remember lessons, but they will remember experiences.”

The amount of podcasts available on BAM! is remarkable. There are just so many resources all in one place. I would definitely use podcasts for professional learning and would recommend them to others as well. We all are so busy and sometimes it is really difficult to try to read educational articles full of jargon and small print. By popping on a podcast, we can still do our teacher multi-tasking while furthering our own knowledge. How tech-y of us!!

I will say, though, that I think doing an enhanced podcast would be better for students because I think having a visual would make it easier to listen to a more in-depth lesson. Pictures come in handy when trying to keep your students engaged, and like Dave Burgess said, will have a better chance of creating an experience rather than a lesson. All in all — podcasts are the way to go!http://www.jackstreet.com/jackstreet/WHKD.Burgess.cfm

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Visual Words

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This week, we were asked to take a look at a number of visualization resources, and choose one to create our own product or provide a review. I used a site called Tagul, which I had never used before. It was so easy-to-use, and the product comes out looking great.

It’s funny because these are things that I would see other people make, but never thought I could do myself. However, using Tagul shows just how simple it is. You can choose provided shapes or upload one of your own. Then, all you need to do is input words that are important to your idea and change the font and color.

Instead of just writing a paragraph about being a teacher, I was able to put my words into a picture, which, I think, makes so much more of an impact on an audience. There is something special about looking at a picture. The viewer is engaged and asked to come to their own conclusions about what is being said.

Using Tagul was a great little exercise, and I would encourage everyone to give it a try.

Empowering Our Students — Thanks Scott McLeod

After watching this TedTalks video, I feel obligated to admit that we do need to give technology a chance in our classrooms. While I would love to center my entire classroom around the reading of classic novels, that just doesn’t seem to be what works anymore.

That is obvious after watching this video. Our whole focus this past week has been about storytelling, and Scott McLeod tells an inspiring story about the possibilities young people have through the use of technology.

What if we, as teachers, could offer our students the chance to make a difference in the world around them? Sure, it is something that teachers always say and always have said, but now, we have the means to do it. As this video shows, students have the ability to reach millions of viewers. They can voice their concerns and opinions. They can literally impact the world around them. It is not just something we say anymore.

Because of that ability, it is our duty as educational facilitators to teach our students the ways in which they can achieve their goals and realize their dreams.

I made a comment on someone’s blog about how I used to make movies with my friends on my mom’s old video camera. We would watch those videos on the VHS player we had in our family room. My neighbor friends would come over and we would all laugh and talk about whatever I had done in the video. My movies would be about books, music, and anything that was of interest to a young girl. What if I had been able to get those videos out to the world? How much farther would my creativity gone? Our students have that chance, and we need to bring it to them.

Online Credibility

This week, our class also watched the second part of John White’s video “Digital Visitor v. Resident.” This particular section of the video highlighted the difference between the information we find on the internet today versus what we used to find by going to the library or other institution. Now, we have tons of information available at an incredible speed, while in the past we had limited access to information at a time.

As teachers, we need to meet our students at this point in technology and be knowledgeable about how our students are getting their information. What sites are they going to? How much are they actually gauging the validity of the information they find?

White points out that there is a spectrum of online use that is divided one way into personal and institutional use, and in another it is divided between visitor and resident. Our students are most consistently remaining in the resident/personal quadrant. They are using the internet for their personal media sites, and rarely seeing its use for educational purposes. They may be residents of facebook and twitter, but they do not know as much about choosing relevant and accurate information and even using those sites for a more professional/education purpose.

As teachers, we cannot shun technology because it is already an ingrained tool in our students’ minds. And that is not a bad thing! Technology offers us so many opportunities, but we must be prepared to share those with our students. In doing so, we can make sure that technology advances both education and the lives of our students. It will not just be a way for them to connect with their friends, but a means of learning that, hopefully, also inspires them.

Here is a link to Mr. White’s insightful video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO569eknM6U