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19 Jan 2012
Comments: 3

Yes, Technology CAN Transform Education!

After reading the Tech Crunch article “Can Technology Transform Education Before It’s Too Late”?, I was a bit shocked and surprisedShocked that there were 15 comments in less than 3 hours and 40+ comments in a span of 24 hours. Clearly the topic is popular. What surprised me was the vast spectrum of comments ranging from arguments between the importance of how and what is taught, lack of focus on critical thinking and need for tools that facilitate retention, lack of parent involvement, and the need for a influx of social media to correspond and collaborate. Some felt technology was a tool and others cited technology-driven innovations like Khan Academy as the answer.

Tech Crunch Article by Prerna Gupta

 

Mobile Devices are a Game-Changer: While I do agree how and what is taught is integral to student learning and achievement, I have to say that mobile devices (especially the iPad/iPod in particular) are a game-changer… paired with purposeful instruction and meaningful application. They are the vehicle for personal, differentiated, and global learning. So how do we leverage these devices to effectively meet the needs of all of our learners?

Katie Gimbar says it better than I can: Why I Flipped My Classroom?. While she does not focus on the iDevices as a vehicle for flipping the classroom, one can see how these devices could easily support delivery of content (and later… application).

Now, How Might this Look in a Real Classroom? Let’s let Aaron Sam’s classroom serve as a model. (Also check out Katie Gimbar’s explanation: “What Does Your Classroom Look Like Now?”)

Now what are the road blocks to this initiative? What if a student doesn’t have access to the videos? What if a student doesn’t watch the videos? Who creates the videos? How are the videos created? Again, we will visit Katie Gimbar for the solutions!

What About Students with No Access?

What If Students Don’t Watch the Videos?

Who is Creating these Videos? If a teacher doesn’t feel he/she has the time or expertise to do so, Khan Academy and other sites have wonderful video libraries. However, Katie Gimbar (and myself included) feel the best author for change is the classroom teacher.

The next question for me… How are these Videos Created/Produced? Katie (through her video series, I feel a unique familiarity with her… so perhaps we can be on a first name basis) chooses the Flip Camera and white board as her tools of choice. Others may opt for an iPod with a camera, an Avermedia Document camera (and/or A+ interactive software), the SMART recording feature built in to SMART software, or Camtasia Studio (Aaron Sams’ and Chris Groff’s choice), an iPevo, or even screen-casting tools like ShowMe, ScreenChomp, and Explain Everything. Choose a tool that is familiar to you and a tool that will deliver your content in the most appropriate way.

In closing…can technology transform education? No, not technology in it of itself. BUT, technology can be used to support initiatives like “flipping the classroom”, differentiated instruction, and personal learning. Utilizing these technology innovations is the key to empowering teachers to impact student learning and in doing so…transform education!


20 Jul 2011
Comments: 4

Spaces and Places: Part 2: Setting up the Instructional Space

Classroom Architect Tool Layout @ 4Teachers.org

Inspired after a great meeting of the minds, I brought the spaces & places concept to a middle school math curriculum planning session I had been invited to at one of my campuses, Ed White Middle School. The idea itself was originally intended to create assisted and unassisted learning zones and literacy work stations that support student learning and independence in the preschool and elementary classroom.

While the concept was not intended for the secondary classroom, our middle schol math teachers teach in 90 minute blocks which lend themselves to stations, mini-activities, and learning centers. With the big push to integrate technology and utilize existing campus resources (e.g. iPads, iPods, computers with interactive sites, document cameras to record student work, etc…) to foster engagement and achievement, the idea of creating a student-centered secondary classroom is not so far-fetched. I realized that not every teacher would feel comfortable with removing his/her teacher desk from the classroom and allowing someone to have creative control over the initial setup. Nevertheless, a risk-taker and change agent, I tossed the idea out there and surprisingly was met with eagerness and willingness from one teacher in particular, Ms. Scalia. I jumped on the opportunity and we scheduled a date to work on the room.

Since the rooms had been cleaned over the summer and most teachers had to pack up and move out, the classrooms were pretty much a blank canvas. Working with an older building, technology truly has to be the driving force in creating the space. I noticed we had 5 internet drops on one wall (not including two drops on the teacher raceway) and two on the opposite wall. Before moving furniture, we decided to take inventory of the current pieces we had and the locations of drops and outlets. From there, we sketched a crude blueprint and began assigning each piece a home.

We moved a table to the front right of the room to create a Teaching Station which would house an Avermedia document camera and laptop dock with the intention that it would be accessible for the teacher during direct teach time and the students during guided practice or reteach. We then opted to use a teacher’s desk as a computer station on the end of the far right wall. The drawers to the desk could easily be used for daily supplies, manipulatives, and activities for the day or computer supplies like headsets and wipes. Another table was moved between the original table and the teacher’s desk (now a student computer station) and created a place for two student computers. As we were running short on tables, we left a place closer to the front open to house another two computers.

Scalia had two filing cabinets available. Not feeling too confident in moving them ourselves and not wanting to scrape up the freshly waxed floor, we asked a custodian to help us move them on either side of the student computer station. This provided a divided workspace as well as a place to have task cards & activity menus, or a Magnetic Center on the front and sides of each.

From there we moved the four mobile student tables in the center of the room and added 8 student desks on each side (2 rows of 4). This arrangement provides enough seating for 24 students (not including the newly created computer work stations) and gave us an opportunity to remove some of the broken and graffiti’d desks from the classroom to give it a more uniform and fresh look. Scalia already had 6 stools that could be used as seating for the student tables and a few chairs for the computer stations so we placed those as well. Removing the 2 teacher desks (one was an inclusion teacher’s) not only freed up at least 20-30 square feet of usable instructional space, it changed the focus of the room to a more student-focused environment.

Skeleton Classroom

All in all, the whole process took about an hour and a half. Before we left, we made a list of the other items we would like to add to the room: 5 more desktop computers, 2 more student tables (and perhaps a kidney-shaped one to work with small groups under the dry-erase board in the Proof Place, and a few more stools and chairs. Ideally, she would like to have all student desks removed in favor of the mobile tables but we are still in the process of hunting these pieces down. We even discussed how she could use one of her cabinets to house teacher supplies, trays to turn in work, and other classroom trappings that students would have access to on a daily basis but would typically be cluttering a table top. Using the Classroom Architect Tool layout, I compiled the existing pieces and layout with the additional requested items to show what the finished classroom layout will look like.

I am looking forward to returning and seeing how she has organized the student cabinet, created interactive bulletin boards, and added her own personal charm and warmth to the space. Perhaps she will even create a Scalia Store (or Shop) and a Practice Plaza. While Scalia’s classroom was once a theater room and boasts a 6 inch raised stage platform (purple square rug) with a SMARTboard (green rectangle) mounted where the curtains might have been, I am confident that she will take a more “guide on the side” role rather than a “sage on the stage”.

Check out some of these sites for further info on learning stations for secondary students: Using Learning Centers in High School (also some great MS info), Launching Learning Centers in the Middle Grades, Learning Centers in the Middle School Classroom (loved the idea of reciprocal teaching), TeacherVision Learning Centers (highlights different types of centers: enrichment, skill, interest and exploratory, and how to set up the parts of a learning center), and Problem Solving Learning Centers in Mathematics (consider using the computer stations to create a multi-step cartoon to solve an algebraic equation).

Also see Part 1: Removing the Instructional Clutter


23 May 2011
Comments: 2

Flipping the Classroom

I recently was asked to be part of a Think Tank to promote global education through the use of technology integration in our schools (many times highlighting the power of mobile devices & Web 2.0 tools). I have since then been inspired to share this video and its message with anyone and everyone that will lend me their ears.

As a Math teacher, I am familiar with the direct teach… assign guided/independent work in class… work not finished becomes homework… homework is not completed or completed inaccurately (and oftentimes with misconceptions) due to lack of instructional support at home. This cycle has gone on for much too long and is clearly still a practice as we see multiple interventions occurring to save students from failure on high stakes assessments and grade level promotion.

Though I was aware of the Kahn Academy app and am quite familiar with other Math apps that can be used to build math capacity and strengthen math skills, it was not till last week when the idea of “flipping the classroom” was added to my vernacular. How exquisitely simple the idea for such a powerful change to pedagogy and student results. Ask yourself, “How would our knowledge of Math or Science differ if Einstein & Newton had left detailed videos to explain their theories and concepts?” The entire video is linked below (it only takes 20 minutes to be inspired).

Let’s use video to reinvent education: Salman Khan on TED.com.

While this is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach, it does have many benefits for our learners:

  • allows learners who fall behind to not feel ashamed in asking for help as they can access the videos from home (rather than ask a question in front of the class)
  • allows self-directed and self-motivated learners to move ahead at a pace that is right for them
    • One example that was given during our meeting was that of a second grade student who had not qualified for the GT program but was extremely interested in what those students were doing in the program – especially with Math. The GT teacher directed him to her website with all of her teacher videos and assignments for the next few weeks. He quickly returned and wanted to know when she would be posting the next video, as he had not only completed the first video and assignment but all of them. Some times the walls of our classrooms are too small to contain the voracious appetite for learning and discovery that many of our students possess. She has since then began coaching him as a student in Khan Academy.
    • I too had a similar story. I taught a Pre-Algebra Advanced course for 7th grade students. While the students were predominantly GT, the levels and spectrum of GT varied throughout the classroom. One student always stood out to me. He would receive perfect scores on his assessments and he would actually read ahead to the next 2-3 chapters in the Math textbook. I recommended him to move to Algebra that year and he did well being two years ahead of his peers in Math. At the time we did not have access to or knowledge of the wealth of video and online resources available for a student of his caliber. Looking back, this would have been a wonderful gift to empart to all of my Math students.
  • allows students who missed class or have transferred from another campus, district, state to fill in the gaps (lessons & skills) that they may have missed
  • provides copious amounts of data (e.g. time spent on video or activity, problems missed, how many attempts, etc…) to teachers to track students and provide more resources and remediation of needed

Much of the Criticism I have seen against the Flipped Classroom highlights the lack of technology available to access the videos, inability and delay to ask questions, the idea that videos should not be the primary delivery method for all students, the necessity of additional resources to accompany lectures. While I do agree with many of the criticisms highlighted in this article, I believe there are ways to work around them:

  • It is true that not all students have internet access at home. However, many of them have mobile devices that will solve this issue. This may lead to a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) classroom concept as well. For those that do not, perhaps teachers and schools can agree to some sort of check out process for mobile devices.
  • It is true that while watching a video, you can not ask questions and have them answered. Even if students do write down their questions for the next day, they may be overwhelmed with how many questions that have. This is where social media and peer collaboration is key. First, most teachers will have a good idea where students will encounter an issue and they could supply additional resources to scaffold and supplement these topics and ideas. Also, peers are an excellent (and oftentimes underused) resource – especially if the teacher creates some form of online learning community (e.g. Edmodo, Moodle) for students to collaborate and support each other.
  • It is true that this should not be a one-size-fits-all approach nor the only instructional resource in the classroom. It is more the idea than the resource itself and it could be used as much or as often as an instructor sees fit. It is not intended to completely replace the role of the teacher or of good current instructional practices.
    • Some schools may call upon teachers who are strong orators and have a way with teaching a particular concepts to create videos of their lectures and disseminate them for other classes. Others may want to record student explanations as well. Both of these ideas can be easily accomplished using a document camera (the actual person delivering instruction would not even need to appear in the video – just the action of explaining the instruction or problem/examples).
    • Teachers should work together to create and supply resources to accompany videos. Resources could range from PPT’s, to interactive websites, to SMART lessons, to podcasts, to videocasts, to apps, to Khan Academy activities, to math-themed children’s books, to ePubs, to online learning communities. A veritable scmorgasbord of resources and support to meet the needs of any and all learners.
Though the focus on this blog is Math, the idea of reversing your classroom could be applied across the curriculum. How will you FLIP YOUR CLASSROOM?

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