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?