Thursday, 24 May 2012

Untapped Resource(s)

When I tell people that the kids coming into my classroom are more technologically equipped and capable than I am, I get different reactions. Most people respond with: "yeah, right!"

I'm a new teacher and as a recent graduate, ICT is a hot topic and integrating technology into curricular areas is something that is usually on my mind. Some people assume, because I'm into technology and willing to try new things with ICT in the classroom, that I know way more than the students I teach.

I do not think this is true. From the minute I entered the teaching profession, I was encouraged by professors, cooperating teachers, and colleagues to integrate ICT, not to teach it. Allow students to explore the technology we have in the 21st century, while building knowledge in the curricular areas. Students have been surrounded by the latest technologies for many years now. Many of them come in with the gadgets, the knowledge, and the ability to do things we have only heard about or possibly did not know were possible. It is important as teachers to use the resources we have. Our students!

In grades 7 and 8, students are looking for importance and relevance in the material presented to them. It is the least we can do to allow them meaningful ways to express their knowledge and opinions. What better way to show students relevance in their learning and provide them with ownership of their education than to give them some control. Releasing the control in a classroom is a difficult thing for teachers to do, however the results achieved from encouraging students to find unique ways to display what they have learned can be well worth the experiment. Involving students in the planning and executing of assignments gives them the opportunity to tell their teachers what the can do and will allow them to focus their abilities and ideas toward a constructive purpose.

The resources available to teachers are endless due to the Internet, social media, and how so many educators have bought into the sharing theory. Our students are one of the most valuable resources we have and it is vital to use them in a positive way in order to enhance each educational experience for each learner. They are untapped resources that need to be used for them to gain further ownership of their education.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Three C's

Recently, I have been taking in a lot of professional development sessions, mostly geared toward ICT integration in the classroom. After these experiences, I've really been conscience about how I am incorporating 21st century skills and learning into the educational experiences of my students.

In one of these recent professional development sessions, I was involved win a discussion about how 21st century skills aren't really about technology. They aren't
talking about the tools we are bringing into our schools, they are referring to how we use these tools to enrich student learning.

Learning used to revolve around R's. Reading, (W)riting, and (A)rithmetic. I remember hearing a while ago that learning and education is no longer about R's, but C's. Yes, students must know the basic skills. But while they are practicing how to read, write, add, and subtract do we not need to connect them to the real world. The things that are happening in their lives.

My classroom is beginning to revolve around The Three C's. Communicate, collaborate, and create.

Instead of just learning how to read, write, add, and subtract, students need to know why they are doing these things. What is the relevance of these skills to their life and to the world in which they live? We should be teaching students that they use these skills to communicate their understanding. Strengthen these skills in order to communicate with people constructively. Communicating effectively will prepare students for many real life situations.

Real life situations very often involve working with others. If we don't show students how to work together and give them the opportunity to practice working together, collaborating in the real world will be difficult. Yes, students should see the value and learn the importance of independence, but collaboration will prepare them for experiences they encounter for the rest of their lives. Web tools and devices make collaboration relevant to a 21st century learner, which allows educators to play right into the hands of students.

Finally, the 21st century learner must be given a chance to create. Not simply creating projects, but creating their own knowledge. Research and organization skills that allow students to ask questions and find answers, rather than be told by a teacher through lectures and note-taking.

If given the freedom, students and teachers can use The Three C's to connect the classroom to the real world and truly make learning relevant.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Making a Change

We all want to make a change. As educators there are many changes that we can make. I believe one of the most important changes we can make is to change the way our students think. Teaching and encouraging students to be critical thinkers. Providing them with thought provoking questions and expecting thoughtful and creative answers.

Below is a video I was just shown to me at a session focusing greatly on appropriate education and creating success for all students.

This video resonated greatly with me as I am always looking for ways to engage all students and create positive learning experiences. While our educational system does not seem to moving toward some of the possibilities outlined here by Sir Ken Robinson, I couldn't help but thinking if I can within my own classroom.

One part of the video that stood out to me was how we are expecting students to focus when their lives are full of distraction. Yes, there are ways keeping student's attention by changing activities often, asking recurring questions, and even changing class duration. I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but I strongly believe the best, and maybe only, way to have students focus is to engage them in something that matters in their life. Something that is relevant. If students find value in an issue or topic their engagement will increase, and therefore they will be more focused.

Now, I often integrate technology into my classroom in a way that will engage each student, and offer choices when possible. This ensures each student can connect to what we are discussing or exploring and display their knowledge in a way that makes sense to them. This allows me to see what they are truly able of accomplishing. Using technology in classrooms, allowing students to explore things that matter to them, and encouraging them to think about the world they live in will, like Sir Ken Robinson said allow students to find themselves.

The most important thing for us to teach is and will always be the kids. Allow your students to become engrossed in topics or issues, and let them go to work. Be comfortable to get out of there way. The more versatile we are, as educators, the more engaged they are, as students, the more valuable learning will become... for everyone!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Technology and It's Issues

Recently, I had the opportunity to present at a teacher's conference for the first time. Over the past few years I have taken in many professional development sessions and it was an honor to be on the facilitating end.

One of the sessions I delivered was centered around podcasting and blogging in the Middle Years. I felt it went very well, with good discussion around the use of these technologies in classrooms. One hot point of discussion was the issues many teachers face when attempting to integrate ICT into their repertoires.

This session revolved around relevance, interactivity, and ownership, three aspects of education I ponder frequently here. As I may have stated before, I believe in order to make classroom activity interactive and relevant in 2011, and to give students full ownership of their accomplishments, work should be published in some form. This could be posted online or posted on a wall. When discussing this with the participants of my session we talked about students and/or parents who do not want their work published online, if real names should be used, and so on and so forth. From my experiences, when students see there work published on an avenue such as a class web site or a blog they take pride in their work and instantly want to improve their skills or knowledge. This, to me, is a positive experience made possible by ICT integration.

The advances in technology can be frightening, as there are a number of horror stories stemming from the irresponsible use of technology. I believe this is where the debates about policy and procedure in "the staff room" begins. Every school seems to have a different policy and uses different methods of combating these issues. Whether it is podcasting, blogging, social media, or cell phones, it is important for educators to take on a leadership role and teach the appropriate use of the 21st century tools and skills.

There seems to be a downloading of responsibility currently that ends upon the shoulders of educators. However, we shouldn't waste this opportunity. Give students the chance to use technology and teach them how to use it properly. Let them in on all the positive aspects technology can provide and allow them to become true 21st Century Learners.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Technology Reflection

During my summer vacation, I looked into and experimented with new ways to integrate technology into my classes and stimulate student learning. Throughout the past school year, I was happy with the presence of ICT in my classroom and student response to these resources. As I enter my second year of teaching, I will continue to integrate this technology. However, I am looking to do so in a more organized fashion to ensure student engagement in the material as well as the use of 21st Century skills.

There are many examples of 21st Century skills that I allow students to use and explore in my classroom. But, is there ever a point where it is too much?

In talking to many professionals in the education field, they are always supportive about trying new ways of integrating ICT into curricular areas. However, there is always one common theme that comes from these conversations: Technology should not direct the learning, but enhance the learning.

My goal for this school year, is to integrate ICT into my classroom while truly enhancing each student's educational experience. As educators, what steps do you take to enhance learning with the use of technology?

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Ownership of Learning

As I approach the end of my first year of teaching, I am tempted to reflect on many of the units, lessons, and discussions my class did not have time to explore. I instead have allowed myself to celebrate the topics and activities my class became engaged into. But, at this time, I find myself asking what my students truly got out of their school year. Were they really able to take ownership of their learning?

It is difficult for students to own they're learning if they do not receive prompt feedback. When students complete an activity or write a test, they invest a great deal of their knowledge and ability into that task. If that piece of work sits in a hand-in box for a week, chances are the student will forget about that assignment. If the student is given an instant response they have the feeling that they did that work for themselves, or for others, not just for their teacher. This response does not have to be a grade, but any acknowledgement of student achievement.

This is where technology comes in. Yes, a quick mark, a brief comment, or hanging up work in the classroom, are great ways to celebrate student success. But, the 21st century learner seems to find relevance today in cyber space. Sharing work in class and on the walls of the school builds confidence and creates a sense of community, and should continue. However, publishing student ideas, creation, and reflection online creates an instant response they see as totally relevant.

When students see their work online they take pride in what they have created. They take ownership of their work and responsibility for the quality. After seeing or hearing something they have made online, they will strive to create something better. That is as good of self-assessment as there is. If teachers give students the power to own what they are doing, each learner will display there true capabilities.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Relevance in the Classroom

As my first year of teaching comes to a close, I find this to be an excellent time to reflect on what I have learned and been able to put into practice. In following posts I will discuss what I believe to be staples in education and what I attempt to maximize in my classroom: relevance, interactivity, and ownership.

When I was a student in Middle Years and Senior Years, I was constantly enthralled with assignments that were relevant to my life and my interests. With relevant material and activities, I felt like I could really show my teachers what I was capable of accomplishing. After graduating from High School and receiving a undergraduate degree, I began to pursue a career as an educator. During my time in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University, I made an effort to create projects and future lesson plans that would appeal to the interests and lifestyles of those I may be teaching.

I always knew using technology in my classroom would be one of the ways I would make learning relevant to my students. Technology is something students are constantly engaged in, whether it be videos, music, computer games, cell phones, or social media. It is my belief that bringing these things into the classroom will increases student engagement and make their educational experiences relevant.

Even though many students are driven and interested in the advances and possibilities of technology, this is not the only tool a teacher can use to increase relevance in student learning. As I discovered early in my pursuit to become a teacher, relevance in learning lies in the choices we give our students. Encouraging students to use their learning styles and interests to choose how they carry-out assignments and demonstrate their knowledge and ability will allow them to get the most out of each experience.

What are other effective ways have you found to increase relevance in the classroom, using technology or otherwise?