Recently I was at the first ever EdTechTeacher Summit in Chicago where Will Richardson was the Keynote speaker on Tuesday. (If you would like to see what he is all about, I suggest you watch his three TedX talks here, here, and here) He spoke to us about how he was an unhappy public school dad. He brought up many great points, but he mainly spoke about the differences between Traditional Learning vs. Modern Learning. One of the main points that stuck with me the most is when he showed a picture of giant library filled with information. Back in the day, thats where people went to get information, students relied on teachers to tell them the information they didn’t know, to “teach them.” Now, students have laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, etc that hold all that information and is accessible any time, any place. Before, students went to school because they needed to know content, needed to learn knowledge, and wanted information. Do our schools still need to focus on these concepts? As stated above, if a student needs to know how to solve an Algebraic equations, they can just look it up on Wolfram Alpha now. So, do they NEED to come to school to get content, knowledge, and information or should school be something more?
A while back at a Google Apps for Education Summit in Lincoln, NE, I heard my friend Jeff Utecht deliver a great closing Keynote. He asked the audience, why do we meet? What are the purposes of schools today? This goes along with Will Richardson’s message, and many of the modern Keynote speakers today. Schools should be places where the focus is not on content, knowledge, and information, but more on concepts like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, connections, and curiosity. Think about why you hang out with your friends or colleagues? Is it gain more content or is it collaborate and communicate? Our schools need to be inquiry based, authentic learning places that are transparent and meet the needs of modern learners, not those of a century ago. That is what I strive to do.
One challenge social studies and history teachers face today is making content relevant for our students. With so much information online, it is important that students are able to make connections. As I have said before, the best way for this to happen in my content area would be physical field trips, actually going to the places where events took place. However, in this day and age, that is not possible. You can do virtual field trips, which is a great alternative, but sometimes, I feel that they don’t have the WOW factor.
So, instead of virtual field trips I try to create as many hands-on experiences as I can. One that has worked really well for me is an activity that a student suggested when we were learning about Hunters and Gatherers.
After teaching Ancient Civilizations for five years, I changed up what I was doing. Instead I was teaching more on a regional basis than a chronological time frame. With all that was happening in Europe between the Ukraine and Russia, I wanted my students to have an understanding of this. So was we worked along with the textbook as a guide we covered early European History up through the EU in the first half of the year. Then we changed our focus onto Asia. Instead of starting with the history of the Middle East, we started in East Asia (China, Japan, Taiwan, North and South Korea) because of all the political turmoil going on in the Koreas. As the year got closer to finishing, my students were missing a crucial element in history, Hunters and Gatherers. So to end the year, I found some great resources from the Big History Project that I used in my classroom. However, I got the feeling my students weren't just quiet getting it. I stared the unit my typical way with an inquiry event first (showed a clip of the early life style), then used videos and resources from Big History to help my students learn more about this. However, I was missing the hands-on piece. So luckily our school is on 35 acres of wooded land. As I noticed some of them were not just quite understanding the concept and how hard this life was, one of my students asked if we could go outside and experience the challenges. So we did. We went out to a wooded section of the woods where they usually play capture the flag to keep them more contained in their hunting. The students had 15 minutes to gather up what ever they could find that was edible. Of course the boys tried to make tools and kill squirrels (which I told them at the beginning they could not, but they still tried to convince me) and the girls went right foraging for food. Some worked together in groups, others went on their own, and when time was up, we went inside to see what we had.
Students brought in mushrooms, leaves, grasses, wild onions and carrots, one student even found a frog! Then each group went around to see what everyone else had found. Then we discussed what life would be like for the earliest humans. The light bulbs started going off like crazy in their minds. You could see the connections being made. It was a great day of learning for everyone.
I also realize that not everyone has access to the outdoors like I do. So this got me thinking, how might someone else be able to accomplish a similar activity. I thought you could either create a scavenger hunt around your school and place certain items around the campus or if you are good with Augmented Reality, you could infuse this into the activity to make it more like a game. For instances, if a student found corn and they use AR to read the picture, have it say a little story about corn and they have to keep track of how many days worth of food that item could supply.
I am also wondering if this activity should be during the Explore phase or the Apply phase. What are your thoughts?
In today's educational landscape there are many teaching strategies out there. However this is not a teaching strategy, it is a is a framework for improving student achievement by structuring learning in a way that allows students to create meaningful connections. This is known by Understanding by Design (UbD) or backward design. Developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, the basis of UbD is that the teacher creates units by first designing the end of the unit or the assessment part. From here, the teacher designs the rest of lessons based on what the intended outcome is supposed to be. This is different from what most teachers do in which you design lessons first, then assess based on what you covered. It has made my assessments better as I am able to plan out my lessons better since I know what to expect at the end. I know I have not done this topic justice, so I have included four videos for you watch. The first video is by the developer Jay McTighe. Here he explains UbD. The following two are from a workshop that Grant Wiggins facilitated at the Avenues School in New York.
One of the ways I challenge my students with creating content are by creating podcasts or as we call them in class, "Radio Shows." While we do not yet have a podcast channel (summer project) I do have my students use GarageBand on our school iPads to create these works of arts. You will find two examples below from my classroom. The first was a Greek Myth done by my sixth graders a few years ago.
The second audio recording is my fifth grade a few years ago. They had a menu of options of assignments to complete based on our studies of Africa. Here is their podcast on farming in Algeria.
While the audio is not the greatest in either of these, you can see that students are able create and show me understanding of the topics they chose to record on.
So next year when my students come to class, I can use these to start the Inquiry Cycle.
I am a big proponent of students using inquiry to start the learning process. Most often this step is lost because of time restraints and content requirements even though their is new research that shows students should experience the content FIRST before reading or watching a video.
How to create a Puzzle
Back in December, Tony Vincent was kind enough and gifted me the opportunity to try out his new app called Stick Around. The Stick Around App was created as a way to create puzzles for your students or give more dynamic quizzes. Something that the students had to interact with, instead of simply writing answers down on a sheet of paper. So instead of paper, students can place tags on an image, timeline, fill in a Venn Diagram, etc until all the tags are placed. If the students get the puzzle correct, then the tags turn green and a smiley face appears. If the tags are wrong, then they turn red and have a sad face. You can have the students keep going until they get them all right with no set limit of attempts, or you can limit their attempts.
Tony and the developers have done a great job with making this app very user friendly. Here is how I made my Stick Around puzzle for the Five Themes of Geography. First, let me say if you are stuck at any point in the process, Tony has great, quick videos that cover every aspect of the creation, playing, and exporting of your puzzle. Ok, to begin, you need to be on the Projects tab across the top navigation bar. Here, Tony already has some pretty sweet examples of what this powerful app can do.
To create your own puzzle, click the “+” button in the top left hand corner. You will have four choices, create a new project, add from Dropbox, add from WebDAV, or add from Google Drive. Select create new project. Here you have many different options to choose from.
For this project I chose Blank Project. You have many options when it comes to back grounds. Here are few screen shots of the options.
For me though, it’s always about images. So I search online for CC (Creative Commons) images that I can use with my students. On the side tool bar I select the “+” and choose Photo Library. You have other options depending on where your images are saved.
Once your background is set to go, then the fun begins! Select the Stickers tab on the top navigation bar. Again, you have options here for size and what can be on those stickers. You can have simple text, an image (for my next puzzle I think I am going this route) or draw. Also on the stickers, you can add a link to either more information, or if you have created a video describing what that sticker term means, you can link it here or you can record your voice to define the term or give the students a little extra help. The possibilities are endless.
Once your Stickers are created, select the Answer Key tab on the top navigation bar.
This is where you put the areas on the background where your stickers will go. A word of caution is that if answer locations are really close to each other, your puzzle wont work. For this reason, you have a few options on how to place your answers on your puzzles background.
Select Play and see if you can solve your own puzzle! After I am done with my puzzles is when I fill out all the information for the Puzzle.
What I really like most about the information area is that if you can include an Explain Everything tutorial to help guide the students. I do not for my puzzles, but I will get to that in a moment. Then when everything is saved, you can export your puzzle for others to play!
How I use the App
As addressed before, I like my students to experience content first through inquiry. As I teach about global issues to students in fifth and sixth grade, the ideal way to accomplish this would be going on field trips. Since it costs a lot of money to travel around the world, the Stick Around App has filled a need. So the puzzle that I created above is a way for students to experience the Five Themes of Geography through imagery. All five themes are shown in this photo but the students don’t already know that. So as a class, (since I only have my iPad in my classroom) we talk about what we see in the photo. Then we brainstorm what the five themes are and the students guess where each sticker goes. To help narrow where to place the stickers, I leave the answer guide on to show where a possible sticker goes. It does not give the answer, instead acting like a place holder.
From our experiences with learning about the 5 Themes, drives what information I put in the video my students watch for homework.
Another powerful way to use the Stick Around App is to have students create puzzles and quiz each other over the same topic. That way, the teacher can easily see who understands the topic and who is struggling.
If you are a flipped class teacher, I could see using the app for that too. Here is how I would do it. In the Info section, record either a voice message for your students or create an Explain Everything video to introduce the topic to your students. Again, pulling from the Stanford study, students need to experience first. So your introduction to the students could be this. A recording of a speech, science experiment, or an image. Then in your video give directions for your puzzle. In the stickers on the puzzle, create either video links or voice recordings for those stickers so if students get them wrong, they have the information right away to understand why it was wrong. After the students complete your puzzle, then they would create their own puzzle to demonstrate their understanding. Class that next day could be students playing each others quizzes and learning from each other.
I hope that you learned something new today and give the Stick Around App a try. As I said before, it is a powerful app that has endless possibilities. The one function I would like added would be to search within the app for CC images. But I can live without that function too. I look forward to using it in my classroom even more next school year. At $2.99 it is a great value and if you are school looking to purchase, the volume discount applies.
For My EdTech 537 class we were asked to read three articles. The first was by Prensky, the second by McKenzie, and the third by Reeves. In each of the these readings, According to our professor, here are the generalizations that came out of them:
1. while the theory of generational differences exists and is a valid theory, there is no research at present that indicates instructional designers should modify instruction or instructional strategies to accommodate today’s generation of students
2. there is no reliable and valid research to support the belief that technology has somehow changed today’s generation of students
3. further to the fact that Prensky’s notion of digital natives isn’t based on research, McKenzie does a convincing job of illustrating how Prensky even misused the anecdotal “evidence” that he presents to support is beliefs
4. the only thing that can be said about today’s student, based upon reliable and valid research, is that they are more narcissistic than any previous generation.
While the supposed data is not their to back up the statement that technology has changed how our students are learning, I would like you to meet Dr. Jane McGonigal. Since I travel quite a bit, I have been able to see her speak on multiple occasions. Here are some facts from a presentation of hers I have seen. In the US., 99% of boys under 18 and 94% of girls play video games regularly, 92% of two year old play games, (usually on an iPad or other type of tablet), and by the age of 21, these children would have played 10,000 hours of video games.
Whether you like these stats or not, you have take them into consideration. While research out there might not yet be available, many studies are beginning conducted on this. You can also look at the Flipped Learning Network for current research of the Flipped Classroom. Data that did not exist to long ago.
What we as teachers need to understand is this: Our students brains are geared more for “epic wins” and visual stimuli than in years past. More and more kids are playing games like Minecraft that allow students to create and make their own adventures. Where is this in your classroom? Do you allow students to create? If not, then your students are not getting enough out of school and they seem more disengaged. If you allow them to create, they will be more engaged!
Side Note: This is for my EdTech 537 course at Boise State University
This post is by my co-collaborator Gayla Vukcevich who is a 5th and 6th grade English teacher at an independent school.
During the school year, I teach. But during the summer, I am a student. I am always a learner, but in the quiet of a summer morning or in the middle of a rainy afternoon, I hunger for information and new ideas that will make me a better teacher, a better thinker, or a better person. I am mesmerized by the information at my fingertips--and so I read, and I play; I search, and I gather, and I experiment, and then I switch topics and do it all over again.
This hunger for knowledge and information and satisfying curiosities is what I strive for in my classroom. Some students come to me ready to learn, soaking up whatever I lead them to. Other students come and sit and wait for inspiration. True and authentic learning, though, happens when a person digs in the details of something that is fascinating. The richness of real learning is something to be celebrated. When students are learning about topics because they can’t resist digging in...wow!
Over the past month, I have wondered about many things. Some things, like what kind of caterpillar is munching in my garden, have simple and direct answers. Others, like how do I bake ciabatta at home so it tastes like my favorite bakery, require research and experimentation on the way to creating a satisfying finished product. I have to be willing to try more than once, and I have to pay attention to all kinds of variables. Still other curiosities, like the bonfire I can see in the field behind my house and the voices, clear and spirited, rising and falling like the flames in the darkness, simply lead me to think and wonder and peruse my imagination. This is my favorite kind of curiosity--and in these moments, the writer in me takes over, and the end result of my observations could take any form.
that lit up the neighbor’s back yard
with bright orange excitement
rose and fell
and suddenly is gone
And the blackness left behind
is more unsettling
than the explosion of accelerants
that first brought it
to my attention
Summer is a different kind of learning for me, and I imagine my students feel the same. I spend part of each day reading my Twitter feed, and though I rarely post anything of my own, I am following some amazing educators who share bits and pieces of things I want to know more about...and so I dig deeper. I spend part of each summer in my classroom, sorting through the piles that accumulated during the year, reflecting on how to organize better for next year, weeding out things that I will never use, but also realizing what I need to know more about to make my class the best learning environment it can be. I spend a great amount of time with my children, beach days and friend days, travel days and at home days. I learn from them and with them. And every summer, I reserve one weekend to learn more about writing. In the company of other writers, I practice the craft that I teach--true and authentic.
My students are learning this summer, too. They travel, attend camps, swim, hang out with friends, and attend family events. They will bring those experiences back to me in August, and we will write. Some will be reluctant, some will struggle with the freedom of topic choice, and some will thrive. I hope to provide the opportunity for my young writers to experience the excitement of learning, just like the days of summer. Students’ best writing happens with they write about topics they value--when they dig in and work until they have created something meaningful.
Summertime allows me to choose what and how I learn, as well as what I do with what I’ve learned. Offering those freedoms in my classroom leads to true and authentic learning experiences.
Side Note: This is dual blog post for my EdTech 357 course at Boise State University
From the Teachers Pay Teachers website
"We believe that real teachers create the most relevant and engaging educational resources. Our open marketplace model supercharges resource quality, quantity, and availability.
Bringing educators together forms a powerful community that shares best practices, raises the bar for all, and compensates our best curriculum developers (sometimes spectacularly).
In the end, everyone wins, especially students. And that's what it's all about."
I am sure this post will not make me popular but I am not here to be popular. I am here to change education. I have a big problem with Teachers Pay Teachers. As a teacher, I know we are under paid and we don't usually have enough time to prep and plan for our lessons. So while the premise of teachers sharing the best work is ideal, paying for it is not. In this age of open curriculum and open education, I feel Teachers Pay Teachers contradicts this openness. While yes, it is good to make a little on the side, are we not hurting more students by keeping these resources behind the walled garden of TPT? If these teachers truly wanted to help more students, then why isn't their material in an open forum where more people can have access to it?
Side note: This is dual post of my EdTech 537 course at Boise State University.
A major buzz word in education today is the "Flipped Classroom." Although this concept is not new, many I feel are getting it wrong. Instead of using readings or videos to teach content, I think our students must explore the content first. I have linked three articles below that argue for more dynamic classrooms.
The first is titled, "Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment" from 2000.
The second is a study out of MIT titled, "A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-Term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity" from 2010.
The third is a paper out of Stanford titled, "Classes should do hands-on exercises before reading and video, Stanford researchers say" from 2013.
What are your thoughts? Should be "flipping" the classroom the way most people are or more like Ramsey and myself?
Side note: This is dual post of my EdTech 537 course at Boise State University.
Here is a list of TED Talks that I find very useful in my teaching. Some you may seen before, others, you may not. I hope you enjoy! I will add to this list when I come across more.
As a social studies/history teacher, I find John Hunter's speech very engaging. From TED, "John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4'x5' plywood board — and lets his 4th-graders solve them. At TED2011, he explains how his World Peace Game engages school kids, and why the complex lessons it teaches — spontaneous, and always surprising — go further than classroom lectures can." http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game
As a teacher who wants to contastantly challenge my students to engage in Inquiry and ask great questions, Ramsey TED talk is amazing. From TED, "It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works." http://www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning
Sir Ken Robinson is one of the funniest people I have ever seen speak. I have been lucky enough to see him in person at two different conferences. He is extremely passionate about letting students be creative and how to change schools so that students aren't disengaged anymore. From TED, "Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity." http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity. On a side note, this TED talk has been viewed 27 million times as of 7/10/14.
David Christian has a great view of history and how EVERY event is linked. Instead of looking at history simply in a linear timeline, David Christian looks at history through various events, such as the Big Bang, development of Agriculture, etc. From TED, "Backed by stunning illustrations, David Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in a riveting 18 minutes. This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline." http://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history
Another great talk from Sir Ken Robinson. From TED, "In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish. http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution
As the caption says, every child needs a hero. Rita does a great job explaining why we as educators can't simply focus on the curriculum when it comes to teaching, but we need to focus on the whole student. From TED, "Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, "They don't pay me to like the kids." Her response: "Kids don't learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level." http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion
Hans Rosling created a fantastic website that shows you how different variables impact countries. I use it as a way to get my student to challenge what they already know about a topic or to introduce a new topic. From TED, "You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world." http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen
I wish I had a math teacher like Dan Meyer. In his TED Talk filmed at TEDxNewYork, he talks about how to change the math textbook and curruiculum to make it more real for students. From TED, "Today's math curriculum is teaching students to expect -- and excel at -- paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them. In his talk, Dan Meyer shows classroom-tested math exercises that prompt students to stop and think. (Filmed at TEDxNYED.)" http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover
Dr. Sugata Mitra is a visionary! Through his "Hole-In-The-Wall" Project, Dr. Mitra discovered that it didn't matter what your economic background is, when children are engaged in their own learning, they will drive it further. From TED, "Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching." http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education
George Phillip is a social studies teacher and designer.
Ramsey Musallam - www.cyclesoflearning.com
Karl Lindgren-Streicher -
Josh Stumpenhorst -
Jason Bretzmann -
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