Sunday, May 12, 2013

Educators are in the Human Business

Over the past two days, I've watched 2 videos that have me thinking and picking out patterns--especially through a learning lens:
The first is the viral video of Jeff Bliss, a sophomore at Duncanville High School in Texas, venting at his History teacher as he was being kicked out of class, for not igniting passion to her students and for not engaging the students enough (my favorite line was essentially, "stop teaching us packets").  Although he could have been more respectful, his message was very clear, and the physical setting seemed very typical of the situation, with the teacher seated behind her desk and the classroom in rows of desks.

The second video was Sir Ken Robinson's latest TED talk on escaping education's death valley.  He, as he usually does, speaks very candidly about our country's supposed ADHD epidemic, and says:

“If you sit kids down, hour after hour doing low-grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.”


“Children are, for the most part, not suffering from a psychological condition, they’re suffering from childhood.  And I know this because I spent my early life as a child.”

He goes on to advocate for a broader based curriculum that doesn't just emphasize reading and math, but includes the fine arts as well--as someone married to a fine arts teacher, who has researched the benefits of arts education vastly, I could not agree more.
It made me wonder if Jeff Bliss (and so many other students across the country) are suffering from low-grade clerical work in our nation's schools.
Ken Robinson goes on to provide 3 ways to improve our schools:
*Individualize teaching and learning.
*Attribute a high status to the teaching profession—recruit high talent and invest in professional development for teachers
*Devolve responsibility to the school level instead of the national level

This provided some interesting reflections for me:
*I teach in a district where personalized and individualized learning is our largest initiative.  This can be intimidating for teachers...but, these two videos make it evident to me that this is where we must be traveling.  We can no longer educate students in the same way we did during the Industrial Revolution--our world certainly doesn't operate this way any longer!
*To quote Ken Robinson, "Education isn't a mechanical system, it is a human system about people who are either learning or not learning".  Its so important to remember the human/relational side of education!
*As a future school administrator, the last part of Ken Robinson's talk effected me the most--he said, "The real role of leadership in education is not command and control, but climate control, and creating a climate of possibility.".  We, as educators, are in the human business--relationships matter, and school leaders must work hard to create climates where teachers can dive into these relationships and inspire their students with personalized learning experiences.  This is what I heard from student Jeff Bliss's words as he was being removed from class, and this is what our 21st century students need and want!

**I do not want to come across critical of the Duncanville teacher--even though I disagree with the classroom climate that was shown in the video, I only have seen 1:27 inside her classroom, which is certainly not enough to judge as successful or not.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Screencasting With Educreations + the iPad Camera

For the past two days, I've had my 7th graders working on a screencasting project.  We're currently working in a unit focused on prisms and calculating the surface area and volume of prisms.  I gave each pair of students a rectangular prism (a box of some sort), and had them measure its dimensions, calculate the surface area and volume of the prism, and screencast their work--complete with pictures of each of the 3 views of the prism as well as their narration of their work.
I had my students use the Educreations app--and, for the first time, we imported pictures they took onto the whiteboard workspace.  This was VERY easy and super slick.  Students can take a picture, easily size the picture with multi-touch gestures, drag the picture wherever they want, and notate directly on the picture.
Below are several examples of my student's work--they're not all perfect, but definitely demonstrate their learning and growth! (plus one of the best features of the screencast is that I can personalize my responses/help to each student after listening to their work):

Friday, March 30, 2012

Teaching with Notability

For the past 3 weeks, I've been teaching (about 75% of the time) using my ipad + Apple TV + Notability app.  I normally teach from a tablet pc, which requires that I stay tethered to the RGB cord and stationary at the front of my room.  What I've been able to do with the ipad + Apple TV is instruct from ANY point in the room, which I absolutely LOVE!
Other key points from my experience:
-I use the paper features of Notability to take notes with  my students as I teach
-I import pdf's of all documents necessary for class from my DropBox account.  My pdf's (usually documents I've created in Word) then combine into my notes for the day.
-I auto-sync my Notability notes back to my DropBox account for safe-keeping.  This way, if a student misses class, I can email the file directly to him/her as a pdf--very slick!
-Once in awhile, our wireless will kick me off from the network, requiring me to re-connect/re-mirror to the Apple TV.  We're still hammering out some networking issues with the Apple TV's, but this has not been too problematic.
-The ipad is a little smaller than my tablet pc, which takes some getting used to, especially writing while holding the ipad, but is not a huge deal.

Talking to Yourself in the Future

Today is our last day of school before Spring Break.  For my 7th grade math students, we are in the midst of an important unit on division, ratio's, and proportions.  Instead of surrendering to the usual "day before spring break" movie, I wanted my students to learn how to solve proportions (a pretty easy skill--just cross multiply and solve!).
After taking some time with some direct instruction on solving proportions, I told my students that they would now talk to themselves in the future.  They gave me puzzled looks.  I explained that they probably wouldn't be thinking about proportions for the next 10 days (or 240 hours, or 14,400 minutes, or 864,000 seconds) and this new concept might just leave their mind.  So, I gave them each a proportion to solve and record (explaining/narrating all steps) using Educreations.
To begin next class (the dreaded first day after Spring Break), I'll have them view their own screencast to bring them back into the world of proportions.  We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I've recently switched to the Educreations app as my primary screencasting app for my students to create screencasts.  Educreations is a FREE app and has, by far, the best writing style of any of the whiteboard apps that I've seen in terms of writing accuracy and colors.  It is also very easy to upload images (such as graph paper for math) to notate on from DropBox or the photo library.
I also like how easy it is, as a teacher, to watch my students' screencasts.  With a little help from other teachers over Twitter (thanks @gregkulowiec and @MsMagiera) I determined the easiest way to set up Educreations on my student ipads was to have my teacher account logged in on all of the iPads.  Then, I taught my students a uniform naming convention for their videos, which are all uploaded to my teacher account so that I knew who submitted each video.  I then can watch the videos from my computer and/or project or post their videos for other students to see!  So far, it has been very slick!
I think a fair barometer of technology in the classroom is to measure whether it allows students to demonstrate understanding, create meaning, extend learning, and/or to create something that can be used in the future.  Using screencasting seems like an outstanding way to reach these goals!  I also love the metacognition that occurs for students as they work through the problems (I ask them to narrate as though they were teaching someone who missed class the day we covered the problem they are working).
Below are 2 examples of screencasts my algebra students created.  In class today, my students were to select 2 problems they missed on a recent test and correct their mistake(s) using the Educreations app to demonstrate their understanding and correct their mistake:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Using Google Forms With Students

I've been using google forms for the past few weeks in my classroom by having my students reflect on their iPad experince.  I've had them fill out this form after they've used an iPad in class.  I have LOVED how efficient it has been to get information from my students as well as the ease of reading their input.  Here's a sample of my student responses to the ipad reflection form:
What an easy and fast way to have students reflect on their iPad work and provide some metacognition on their learning!
I also made a shortcut to the google form (which is linked on my class webpage) on each of my student iPads that sends them directly to the google form.  I then put that shortcut in the dock of each iPad, so they have easy access:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Life is an Open Phone Test

I was struck, in a positive way, today by reading Will Richardson's response in a NYT article about how teachers are using technology and social media in the classroom.  Will's narrative reads:
Will Richardson:Let’s face it: For my children and for millions like them, life will be an open phone test. They are among the first generation who will carry access to the sum of human knowledge and literally billions of potential teachers in their pockets. They will use that access on a daily basis to connect, create and, most important, to learn in ways that most of us can scarcely imagine. Given that reality, shouldn’t we be teaching our students how to use mobile devices well?
Life as an open phone test--certainly the way that I live my life.  If I need to solve any problem (from the store hours of Best Buy, to making reservations at a restaurant, to finding the correct spelling of a word, to finding any historical fact), I can generally find the answer within a few minutes by utilizing my smartphone.  And, as Will points out, this reality will only grow, and the kids in our classrooms are already innately native to this information gathering technique.

So, how do we, as schools, move towards this model of responsible phone use?  Are there any schools out there who have models of responsible smartphone use where students are encouraged to use their phones for learning experiences as opposed to the more "neanderthal" uses (texting, gaming, etc.) that so many schools fear?  How will this look in the future in 21st century schools?