We all know that technology is a huge piece of the classroom today, but the big question that looms is are we using the technology for the sake of technology or is there some purpose behind it? It can be a hard transition from little to no technology to a 1:1 environment.
At our school, Joplin High School, we made the transition very suddenly six years ago after the tornado destroyed our school. The computers were a donation and the decision was made that we would not buy replacement textbooks. It was a very stressful situation for everyone involved.
Teachers and students now had to learn how to do school differently than they had ever before. There was not much in the way of training for our staff in how to manage a 1:1 classroom and there was this perception that the teachers had to change everything about their teaching style. Students struggled because they were not used to learning in a technology heavy environment.
What we learned in those first few years in the 1:1 environment, is that you have to have really solid classroom management and that you have to base your technology on good teaching pedagogy. We have been learning that using technology for the sake of technology does not help our students learn, but actually hinders learning and can do a number on our classroom management.
When deciding on what technology tools to use in the classroom, the first question I ask is how can this help the students meet our learning intentions? The technology needs to serve a purpose. If it doesn’t help the students, it could end up distracting them from actually learning what you want them to learn.
The second question I ask is how does this tool inform me about student learning? There are so many technology tools out there that are there to help teachers collect data on student learning.
I also recommend using the SAMR model for evaluating technology use in the classroom. Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. This is a great way to check the reasons and plan for how you use your educational technology.
The point is for us to really evaluate the technology we use in the classroom and make sure that it serves a purpose and supports or extends the learning for our students.
As many you probably know though, all the questions in the world about use of technology, do not help if you do not have proper professional development to help you understand the technology and how to make the best use of it in the classroom. I have found that learning from your fellow teachers is one of the best ways and if you school is lucky enough to have technology learning coaches, they are a great resource to help. We also have a cohort at our school that gets together to learn about and work with educational technology and then we present at professional development days. It has been really helpful in encouraging teachers to explore educational technology, but also work on evaluating educational technology and how to use it in the classroom.
If you have any ideas for evaluating technology or ways for teachers to get together and learning about implementing technology in the classroom, let us know!
What did they do wrong? Most problem sets in a math textbook have at least one problem where they look at a student’s work and they have to figure out what the student did wrong and how to fix it so that the problem is solved correctly.
I love problems like this because it really challenges the students to look for mistakes, a great practice to learn for checking answers! Considering how great these types of questions are, we don’t ask them enough.
Training our students to evaluate work and find mistakes can be one of the most useful things we teach them in math (and other subjects!). This is why when I noticed my co-taught Algebra students making common mistakes consistently while learning to solve one step equations, I wanted to give them some training on catching their own mistakes without simply telling them to check their work. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is by turning it into a game! Here's how to do it:
Find the mistake:
I love playing this game and hearing the students explain their answers as well as “someone else’s” mistake out loud. It is great to see those a-ha moments and class just flies by!
Try it out and let me know how it works in your class!
A back channel is a program/tool that a teacher can use in the background of a lesson. Typically they are chat windows that are used to allow students and the teacher to communicate together while they are working on notes, projects, or any class activity. Many teachers use these to allow students to ask questions without having to speak in a whole class setting. It benefits the students that are quiet and do not like to talk out in class. It also gives students that know the content well to answer student questions and allows them to become leaders.
1. GoSoapBox - GoSoapBox creates events for students to join. There are multiple functions within each event. Students can participate in discussions, polls, and quizzes. For the teacher there is a profanity filter, confusion barometer, and name requirements. You can also download quiz results. Students do not have to sign up for an account. Teachers give students an accent code to enter when it is time use it.
Uses - I have used this when I given my students reading assignments. I love that students can ask questions, let me know if they are confused, and have different modes of interaction. I can give them a quiz to check for understanding and then have students engage in a discussion and poll them on their thoughts about the content.
2. TodaysMeet - This is the basic chat room. Students can use their phone or computer and have no account to sign up for. You can close out rooms whenever you want. This is great for in the background chatroom. Students can ask questions and respond to student questions while the class activity is happening. You can download a transcript of the discussion before you close it. There really isn’t much control for the teacher unless you pay for an upgrade on the free account.
Uses - I have used this as an exit ticket activity or progress check. I like that this is quick. Student can do a quick response about whatever question I ask. I’m not a big fan of the lack of controls in the free version.
3. CoverItLive - They call it a live blog. It is a chat window, but the teacher can act as a moderator in the conversation. A teacher can deny posts that are inappropriate. Another great function is that it can be embedded in a website or LMS page. The chat can also be replayed at any time. It is marketed to corporations, but I emailed them about a teacher account and was given one for free.
Uses - This is my favorite chat window. I love that you can embed it in a website. I love that it has moderator functions to limit students that choose to make irresponsible decisions. I have used this one as a background chat during lecture and days when I am meeting with small groups and cannot immediately answer every question. It allows students to answer each other's questions without disrupting the rest of the class. I have also seen this used at pd conferences so attendees can discuss what is going on as it is happening!
I read an article this morning from Edutopia Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design and it really made me think about my desire for change in my classroom. In my desire to change my class to a more self-paced environment, I feel myself working towards the principals talked about in this article.
In the article the author, Mary Wade, describes five elements of a 21st-century classroom and gives some really great ideas of how to implement them in a teacher’s room. I loved her ideas, but it got me thinking about change and how hard it can be when we know where want to get to, but don’t know how to get there or how fast to move in that direction.
In my teaching career, I have gone from teaching with an overhead projector to teaching in a 1:1 district. That was a massive change for me even with my masters degree in Educational Technology. I love the technology that I get to work with and I don’t want to go back to not having it, but over the past 5 years I have been trying to figure out the best environment for students to work and learn with technology and create meaningful learning opportunities for students.
I have been moving towards a self-paced classroom for a while now in small trials and units and have only now 5 years into my 1:1 classroom experience have made the full jump to trying it for an entire semester. I was scared of failing and letting students down, of having a high F rate, and not feel like a teacher anymore if I wasn’t in the center pushing students along. I finally found the courage to change, because I was so unhappy with they way things were going that I couldn’t argue against it anymore and someone I respect and trust was trying as well.
Change is hard, but making small, slow changes is better than making no changes at all. I encourage all teachers out there to read the article on visualizing 21st-century classroom and find a partner that would be willing to experiment with you. I have found that finding someone that you trust and work well with that can go through the experience with you or at least support you in change can go a long way in making those positive changes happen in your classroom. Maybe you will find some inspiration from this practical article and we can all move toward a more positive and productive atmosphere for all students.
Even if you pick one thing to change, you will be making a positive change and moving towards creating a learning experience meant for ALL students. Isn't that what all teachers want?
WE CAN DO THIS!