Imagine a Class with Imagination

Creativity, open-mindedness and thinking outside the box are things that are hard to teach.  With the correct projects, environment and teacher support I think that these are skills students can and should learn in the classroom.  In this article I found using Feedly it talks about one example of ways to teach students to be more visionary.  The breakdown of the suggested projects sound very similar to an art class I took here at Illinois.

Writing with video was an extremely unique class.  We met for almost 3 hours twice a week and was centered around using technology to create videos.  I almost dropped the class.  And am I ever grateful that I didn’t!  This class forced me to look into something that interested me but that I didn’t know a lot about.  For one project we had to pick an interest or idea that we were curious about and interview people we didn’t know well about this new topic.  For our large final project we were expected to look at ourselves and our own beliefs and make a video exploring one of them. This really stretched us all to think outside of the box.  Different from the article, each project was individual but we had to screen them in front of the class and sit up front to receive critique on our project.  This held us accountable to do our best work and really allowed us to see how other students could be so different and unique but that no one was ever “wrong.”   I feel I have learned more skills in that class that will help me in the future than any other class I have previously taken.  Because I was challenged to look at myself and others in a different way I learned more than the skills taught in the class.

And isn’t that the goal?  I don’t want to make my students little robots who can spit out fact after fact.  I want them to take what they know and use the skills they have to apply it outside the classroom. I don’t think you can teach a student to be visionary, you have to encourage them to be.  You need to provide opportunities to show them what else is out there in the world.  Students’ self-concept and view of the world should be explore more often in schools and should be combined with the academic lessons.  It seems very ideal, and very visionary to think this because when it comes down too it there is just so much material to cover in schools.  There has to be a way to integrate these personal learning opportunities into academics.  Students should be encouraged to learn about themselves and the world around them just as the article mentions.  This idea may seem too idealistic but teaching students helpful skills is something I find equally important to the academic curriculum.


This Weeks Tech Tweets

This tweet has great suggestions for apps to help students with studying.  Some of the apps are great because they have some great features that combine the benefits of regular flashcards with some added features.  Some of them have reminders for students and others allow audio as well.  A flashcard app can help students study together and study wherever they have access to a phone or computer.  Teachers could also share flashcards they make as a study tool or they could have their students work together to create the cards and the students could all have access to them later to study from and review material.

This tweet contains a link to a website that has a bunch of resources about digital citizenship.  As we discussed before digital citizenship is very important to teach to students because they need to understand the digital world and how to be a participant in it. One of the resources links to a cyberbullying toolkit.  Cyberbullying is a concern for all ages of students so it’s important teachers have resources so they can teach about appropriate use of the internet.

In this article there are many resources discussing project based learning.  Technology can have a very large part in project based learning and allowing students to show and express what they know. It allows us a great way to effectively assess students’ learning.  There are many people talking about their use of or views of PBL and models of what it can look like.


Twitter Teachings for the Week

This tweet contained a link to a video about using games to teach in a math classroom.  The teacher also gave some really good advice about being sure to challenge students so that they learn.  She said that she like the idea of using interactive games so that the students are challenged and learning “to roll with the punches” when things in the game aren’t going their way.  They have to use math skills but also use problem solving and strategizing skill while playing so that will help them develop more than one skill.  In order to play the game they have to be critically thinking about the math and through practical application of the math concept.  This game-based learning can be used in any classroom and for any subject.  It just takes some creativity to help your students learn and want to learn.

This article from @edutopia offers good insight on how to deal with a situation that you do not want to escalate.  Some of the responses to a student expressing their frustration were really good things to say and things that I wouldn’t have thought of  While others seemed like they had a bit of potential to make the situation worse if the comment was taken in the wrong way.  One response suggested was to say “I’m to angry with you to respond right now.”  While I agree that it is important to stabilize a situation and then deal with it later I’m not sure I would want to tell a student I was angry with them.  In my opinion, that may destabilize the situation and could ruin part of your relationship with the student.  I think the most important part of the article was when it suggested making sure that you show the student that you are willing to hear their side of the story and work with them.  That’s something I definitely want to keep in mind whenever I am frustrated with a student’s behavior.

This tweet links to an article about online learning at teaching.  While some of the content seems aimed at an entirely online course but any of the tips can be applied to teaching any part of a class online or doing online activities.  One aspect I think is really important is making sure you respond quickly.  With a lot of our classes we do a lot of online assignments and it really helps when a teacher tells you how quickly to expect a response.  I’ve also had classes where the teacher responds to posts about questions for tests very quickly during a set time before an exam and that has also been extremely helpful and makes me feel more comfortable in the class. It also like the suggestion that teachers reply informally and in a conversational way so it doesn’t feel too formal.

Pre-School for All!…?

I spend my summers as assistant pre-school teacher in a Montessori school and work in the day-care program after school-day hours.  I truly believe people underestimate the ability of children of this age.  Yes, they trip over nothing. All the time.  Yes, they cry when they are upset and can’t tell you why.  Yes, they sneeze in your face.  But they don’t know any better.  This is the age when students work on motor skills so they stop tripping over nothing.  They learn to communicate their feelings so they don’t have to cry in frustration when they are upset.  They learn hygiene and manners so they stop sneezing in your face, though I sometimes wish they could learn the whole hygiene thing a bit faster.  At this age children are learning so much so quickly I can’t imagine the effects of a strong pre-school program.

This article looks at the benefits of a “pre-school for all” program.  The article focuses on reviewing what a quality program will look like and whether or not that is beneficial for students.  The program in Boston shows the first large-scale expansion of a pre-school for all program so many other districts and officials are coming to observe it.  The program requires all teachers to have a masters degreee, something I’m not sure can actually show if they are a good teacher or not.  It’s one thing to get a degree in something, it’s another thing to actually be good at using what the degree taught you in the field.

The findings now are showing great success in the Boston schools are are showing great improvement in the students.  The teachers are held to high standards and are coached often.  So what could be wrong with this program? People are complaining that enough long-term research has not been done.  Does this type of program actually help students in the future or does the effect fade?  If the effects are fading is that due to the fact that the pre-school isn’t working or is it that the other teachers in elementary school just aren’t teaching their students to the same high standards as the pre-school?  The other main concern is the cost.  I understand that cost is everything and if you don’t have funding it’s really hard to run a program.  But if we take cost out of the picture.  Doesn’t every child deserve the highest quality education?  Why can’t we at least try to give it to them.  Bringing cost back in, wouldn’t it benefit our country in the long run if we had people who were better educated and could improve our country in the future.  The child who grows up to create a cure, or come up with a world-changing policy might not be receiving the boost they need from school and may never reach that potential.  Every parent wants a good education for their child.  Are we doing enough as a country to give it to them?

This Week’s Twitter Teachings

This first tweet is about using Chromebooks in the classroom, but I think that the tips given can apply to any technology used in the classroom.

I especially like the first suggestion of allowing students to play a little with the technology.  It’s important to still make it constructive but by allowing them to complete low-risk assignments and allowing flexibility if something doesn’t work right it will help in the long run.  From personal experience I’m much less nervous to do a large video project if a teacher has allowed us to make a small practice version.  They also suggest using Google Drive with students. No matter what computer you are using as long as the students have a gmail account they can access Drive.  Drive is something I knew nothing about before college and now I see there are so many benefits!  It really helps with group project and student collaboration.  You can see who is doing the work and help each other out as you go.  It also automatically saves so it cuts down on the opportunities for disaster to strike when the file is stuck on a school computer and saved no where else, or if the computer being used breaks then it’s always accessible online.  The last suggestion is to surrender trust to students which relates directly to the next article I found helpful on Twitter.

This article gives tips about how to include students more in your teaching.  I really love the idea of asking students for feedback on what they want to learn about and also what they don’t understand and letting that drive what you teach about.  Allowing anonymity helps students feel more comfortable at the beginning and especially when discussing embarrassing topics such as how much they know (or don’t know) about something.  (You can do this by collecting data using Google Forms which are part of the Google Drive offerings mentioned above, or you could use good old pen and paper.  Using a computer though allows you to track the data easier and it is already complied and saved.)  By listening to what students say and what students what to learn about hopefully that will create a better learning environment and they will feel more comfortable asking questions.  The article mentions that saying “I don’t know.” is one of the hardest things to get used to if you are a teacher but, if the teacher shows they don’t always know then it becomes easier for students to say ask questions and admit when they don’t understand either.  Teaching can be a collaborative process and it’s important because everyone can bring something different to the classroom.

By giving students more of a voice in the classroom you might ask them for more feedback on your teaching. This tweet contained a link talking about feedback in the classroom.

When working in a collaborative learning environment as mentioned above students can give feedback to each other which has both negative and positive effects.  As mentioned in this tweet, “most of the feedback that students receive about their classroom work is from other students – and most of that feedback is wrong.”  Being a good teacher you can set the grounds for what appropriate forms of feedback look like.  In addition the “feedback” could be more of a social consequence so it’s important to be aware of the dynamics between students.  In addition, teachers can use student feedback to help them improve their teaching practice and to understand what they need to re-teach.  Feedback is something that is very important and happens all the time whether we realize it or not.  It’s very important teachers are careful giving students feedback because that can make a big difference in their perception of school.  I’ve had teachers who have drawn smily faces next to grades, or underlined specific points they found interesting in articles.  I’ve also had teachers record themselves talking about my papers because they felt it was more authentic and gave a better understanding than writing it down.  The feedback, no matter what age I was, always made a difference and the more in depth it was the more I tended to want to do better on the next assignment.