Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Flipped classroom meets progressive education?

I had a chance to listen to a podcast by Troy Cockrum with EdReach on best practices- this was one of his mad minute narrations, and ended up being more of a "what not to do list."  I couldn't help but draw a few parallels with progressive educator Alfie Kohn.  I had a chance to see Kohn speak a few months ago in VA, and from everything I remember about his energetic lecture was that the classrom should not be centered on the teacher, that students should not be bored to tears with worksheets, and that less time should be devoted to test prep.  Ditto all these things with Cockrum.  Where Kohn flashes his most controversial colors is his disdain for homework.  Which makes me wonder: would Kohn and other progressive educators support the flipped classroom?  My gut feeling is that yes, yes he would.  Unless someone out there knows the answer right off the bat, my ninja reporter instincts are to try and get in touch with Kohn- it would be an interesting conversation.

At the same time, my thoughts on narrated podcasts are a bit conflicted after the 2 minute segment.  Maybe it's because I'm a visual person, maybe I prefer to read, but listening to monotone voice takes concentration and is not the most enjoyable way of digesting information.  Nonetheless it's easy enough to play again, and I suppose that's part of what the flipped classroom is about.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My first Twitter solicitation! And other practical advice

A pretty cool thing happened to me recently: an education professional reached out and plugged his blog to me by Twitter!  I've dabbled with this social networking platform in the past, but it always seemed complicated and I wasn't standing on firm ground when it came to hashtags, who to follow or what to tweet about.  In the end it took an assignment with my Tech Ed class to pull me out of my shell, and so far it's been the finest!

I babble, and as I mentioned an educational professional reached out to me and it was a flattering experience.  Steve Reifman keeps a wonderful blog, it's full of very practical advice I will be taking into consideration as I progress toward a full time teaching job.  One useful snippet Reifman points out is the importance of being a proactive teacher when it comes to parent communication.  In his post on parent-teacher communication, Reifman details the pitfalls of not conveying information to parents, which can be nasty phone calls and general unpleasantness all because of miscommunication.  In the end it only takes sending a flyer home, or maybe even a post on the class blog.

I can't think of a creative way to attach a visual to this blog post, so here's a photo of my grandmother holding my dog as a puppy!

Picture the lesson with a picture

The use of visuals in the classroom is a simple way to engage students.  Visuals further classroom discussion, and stimulate creative thinking.  No matter the individual learning style, be it hands on, verbal, or intrapersonal, all learners benefit from a thoughtful image that conveys a meaning.  There is also a very practical reason for the use of visuals: it takes less work on the teacher's part.

 How would I be able to explain what a road runner looks like without an image of the bird? I could also put the cartoon roadrunner next to a real one, and hold a discussion on differences/similarities.

Dan Meyer, a high school math teacher in Santa Cruz, CA, makes a strong point that the difficulty with visuals is to select the right one.  The right kind of visual requires creativity and innovation, and that can be time consuming.  He may be right on this one, but I was given some solid advice by my Professor Steven Knight (@plan3t_t3ch) which is to keep a visual diary.  Every day take a photo of some object, maybe a set of silverware or a truck, which can be used to good effect in a future lesson.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hello Slide presentation: Education in China

One of the defining moments in my teaching career was my time abroad in developing China.  There's so much to say about the entire experience, but I decided to focus on my time in the classroom for this 10 min presentation.  I used Google presentation, which was a fairly straightforward process, then added narration with Hello Slide.  There are a few choppy parts, I still have to get the a few kinks out, but overall I think the presentation was a success.

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For those interested, my ChinaTake blog has more detailed information on my time as an English teacher in China.  I seriously recommend teaching abroad for an extended period of time, my two years in developing China were formative and inspired me to go down the education career path.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sold on cell phones

Michael Soskil does an excellent job boiling down the top reasons to allow students to use their smartphones in the classroom.  Soskil's 5 reasons to use cell phones in class include:
  1. Smart phones are a part of life, and students should be learning life skills.
  2. Smartphones stretch school technology budgets.
  3. The arguments against smartphones, that they enable cheating, are baseless because students should be learning how to manipulate facts rather than regurgitate them on standardized tests.
  4. There's a double standard when teachers/administrators use them at school.
  5. Teachers can facilitate the responsible use of smartphones; they will be used by students no matter what.
 I have a friend who works at a school in Denver that focuses on nature.  He frequently takes students on wilderness hikes, and explicitly forbids the use of smartphones.  He argues that students need the opportunity to unplug and enjoy the time outdoors without distractions.  I say let the kids have their phones; if the aim is to educate students on nature, which includes species identification, why make the kids lug around a a bird book when they can use a smartphone app?  21st Century learners prefer tech anyway, and a smartphone app can get students to appreciate nature a lot more; a potential negative is that the association of nature and no smartphones will leave a bitter taste in their mouths.

Hopefully students will be able to recognize a cactus without their phones!

Students can use their smartphones with bird identification apps, rather than lug around a massive bird book that is difficult to use.  Also, there are weekend birding activities at Great Falls park; it's early in the morning, but you can find out all about it thanks to this intrepid reporter :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Talking safely online

The Common sense media online unit about Internet safety for 4-5th graders stands up.  What are the differences between real-life friends and online-friends?  Can you even know a person's gender?  There are activities for in class work, but I particularly like the assignment portion: go to a chat room with a monitor, see if people post personal information, and report back the following day.  It's a life lesson that can put children on a safe path to cyber living.

Too many teachers?

The WSJ came out with a scathing report on the influx of teachers in America, that basically extra teachers add nothing to math skill development and subsequent science-based jobs of the future- I'm honestly not sure what to make of this, except that doesn't creativity count as well? Doesn't a good teacher foster creativity in 21st century learners?