Concluding Assignment

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What do we mean by the “21st century classroom?” There are a variety of answers to this question, but few get at the transformation in teaching and learning that can be brought about by the shifts that are happening in our world today.

The “21st century classroom” opens a lot of possibilities for teaching and learning. Teachers have an abundance of technology to pull from. Teachers can employ educational social networks such as Edmodo as well as extending the classroom into Twitter, blogs, and google document sharing.. In doing this, teachers can speak to students in a language they might better understand, the language of technology. Students are surrounded by technology and savvy teachers can use this to benefit student learning.

Edmodo and be used to ask and answer questions any time about assignments, or anything else pertaining to school. Edmodo can be used as a central hub for homework assignments, dates for tests, or even a resource base to help students collect and share useful resources for papers and other assignments. Parents can also view assignments over Edmodo, and I’m certain many parents would like to be able to check in on their child’s schoolwork, especially when it is as transparent as Edmodo. More importantly, it can be used to draw parents into the classroom and engage them with their children’s learning. Edmodo lends itself to flexibility; there are so many useful ways to employ an educational social network.

            Though not geared as strictly towards education as Edmodo, Twitter and blogs can also be valuable resources for teachers and students. Teachers can learn a lot (I know I did) from participating in Twitter Chats. There are so many ideas and experiences being bounced around in these chats even a passive bystander can learn a lot from lurking in the chats. While that may be beneficial, to get the most out of a Twitter Chat, teachers should add their own input. Twitter can also be a useful tool for students. I think it could be great as a way to help draw students into the lesson. Many students use Twitter and this can be a benefit in class, if implemented properly. If students create new accounts just for school, they can utilize Twitter, even using their phones, to answer warm up questions or interact with students over Twitter. The novelty of using phones and Twitter helps to draw students in before even answering a question. Students can also share class projects and assignments and receive feedback from people outside of the classroom or school. This adds another element to classroom management, but it can certainly be beneficial to learning.

            Blogs can be another way to draw students into learning. Blogs can be a great way to post up work and get feedback from peers. It is also a novel way to turn in assignments. Rather than a pen and paper assignment, students can electronically submit work with could be an incentive to motivate students. Additionally, blogs can be used to carry on long term assignments such as diaries or letters between historical people or personas. Though it might seem scary to have your work out in cyberspace, if the work is centered on the class and the students are involved and commenting on each other’s blogs, it can create a fun environment to stimulate learning.

            Google Docs also has a great use in the classroom, if even for giving feedback. It might seem daunting at first to become fluent in Google Docs, but it gives a sense of mastery for students when they do accomplish fluency. From there, students can post work and receive feedback from all their peers and the teacher. Feedback and revision is so important in the writing process and Google Docs is an easy way to make feedback accessible. Students can write an assignment and then people in a group (the whole class might get a little messy) can provide feedback on the same copy of the work. This can help students get to higher levels of feedback because they can piggyback off what others have said. Finally, the teacher can come in and give feedback and all of the feedback is in a central location. This is a great tool to help students in the writing process and is more beneficial than feedback on multiple hard copies.

            I have only just scratched the surface of what is feasible with technology in a “21st century classroom” but the fact remains that technology can be extremely useful in the learning process. While I have only covered the mundane (though I think these may be most applicable in my classroom, the opportunities to teach and learn with technology is virtually limitless. Teachers can simply use the simple methods I have outlined or they can be as creative as they would like, just as long as the students are safe and being held to a high quality of work.

How do we apply technology tools in ways so that we can more easily achieve meaningful teaching and learning in the 21st century? Our focus on technology in education rarely gets beyond the dimension of technical skill. Education professionals must have additional skills to be able to evaluate emerging and ever-evolving technology tools and determine how they will meet the needs of the 21st century learner.

            There is certainly potential to create strong lessons that include technology, but it is also easy to use technology merely as a crutch and substitute paper worksheets with online worksheets. The key to navigating the technological opportunities is to think of SAMR and DOK questions. SAMR is a guideline that forces teachers to think about how their use of technology in a lesson will benefit students. From Substitution to Augmentation to Modification to Replacement, teachers can place their lessons on a spectrum of technology use. Substitution can be something like answering a warm up question using Twitter. Augmentation might include entail sharing ideas over Edmodo. Modification could take that one step further in which ideas are shared on a blog where students or other enthusiasts can comment. Modification could include contacting an expert in the field of stud which could be a great way for students to learn more about the subject. The lower levels of SAMR are not necessarily bad, but the higher levels really add an element of richness to lessons. From sharing and getting feedback from people around the globe to contacting an expert in the field, technology can be used to create really powerful lessons from which the students take a lot from.

            In a similar vein as SAMR, DOK can also be used to guide lessons. Depth of knowledge (DOK) is a way for teachers to make sure they are asking questions that are beneficial to all learners. Lower level questions can be used to check for recall of material, but teachers should focus on questions that make the students think and apply critical thinking skills. I think this is really important in history, where everything is about making connections and forming one’s own opinion based on the facts. Critical thinking is important, and DOK questioning should reflect that.

#sschat Twitter Chat

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This was my first Twitter chat and while it was intimidating, it was also an incredibly rich source of information and I enjoyed interacting with other educators. I saw a lot of great ideas and interesting (even depressing) blog posts about exit slip ideas, the state of teaching, and the minor gripes of teachers (http://benthamorfoucault.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-people-marked-and-unmarked.html?spref=tw) which I could identify with. I also saw teachers simply connecting with each other and talking about autonomy over their classroom and making connections with each other  and sharing ideas to a large audience that would otherwise impossible without Twitter.

I actually felt inspired. I was able to connect with teachers from different areas, give feedback, and get some really interesting ideas for when I become a teacher. I also thought it was really cool when someone favorited one of my tweets or answered something I said. I’m just one person in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but I was connecting with teachers from all over the country. It was a really positive experience and being connected into a much larger community was pretty awesome. In addition to the educational aspect and the fact that I took away some ideas on one minute essays, it felt cool to be privy to the thoughts and feelings of teachers I wouldn’t be able to hear outside of a teacher’s lounge. Sure it a silly thing to enjoy, but I think that made the experience of the chat so much richer; there was a feeling humanity. It was not all business, it was just a conversation between a large group of individuals with lots of material to pull from.

I think this information will be helpful in the future. Not only is there material to help me as a teacher, but I feel like this can be an outlet to ask questions about all aspects of teaching. For example, I can try different strategies for classroom management or look for cool activities about the civil war. There is simply so much information to pull from and input from so many people that the chat can add a lot to my growth as a teacher. In the next chat, I really need to remember to hashtag #sschat. While I felt connected, I realized I must have looked a little silly participating and not using the proper hashtag. On a more concrete issue, some of what I was saying must have missed the chat and went into the abyss of Twitter and not exactly where I wanted it to go. I also want to put forth some of my own ideas and receive input from that. I also think I need to become more comfortable with the flow of information as I was a little overwhelmed at first. Despite those issues I was happy with the chat and I can definitely see the value of participating.

3 rules to spark learning

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In his talk “3 rules to spark learning” Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher, talks about the importance of putting learning into the hands of students and teachers should create lessons that foster creativity and a want of learning in students. He sums this up in three simple rules that he applies when creating lesson plans. One, curiosity comes first. Two, embrace the mess of trial and error. Three, practice reflection. He learned these rules from his surgeon who performed a life-saving surgery and wowed Mr. Musallam with the confidence that he had approaching the surgery. The surgeon told Mr. Musallam the he was curious and wanted to know all he could about the operation about what worked and what did not work. The surgeon also explained that had embraced the mess of trial and error (which I would not want to hear from my surgeon) and he reflected and designed a procedure that he performed on Mr. Musallam to save his life.

These three rules struck a chord with Mr. Musallam and changed his teaching style. He wanted to create a strong sense of curiosity within his students; he wants them to ask questions. That is where meaningful learning happens and he makes sure to build that into his lesson plans. He embraced trial and error in order to find the best ways to teach the students. He is open to change. This ability to change is evidenced in his third rule of reflection where he is open to looking at his teaching to see what works and what doesn’t.

And he gets a good response from his students. I was terrible at chemistry so this might be a convoluted explanation, but after modeling the ability to hold a piece of paper with the mouth of a liquid filled cup held upside down (a vacuum, I suppose), a student sent him a video of her covering the mouth of a jar with her hand a candle in it. When the flame was extinguished, she was able to lift the jar with her open hand as though it was glued to her hand, an extension of the lesson in the classroom.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning

Education in the World Today

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I read several articles from our Evernote notebook. I read 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education, Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill, 18 ways to promote creativity in your classroom, How do inquiry teachers teach?, and 4 Things to Consider As You Allow Phones in Class. The one thing that I thought tied all of these articles together was creativity. Some of these ideas resonated with me, others seemed outlandish and I could not bring myself to agree with what the author was saying, particularly in 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education. Indeed, these things were crazy. The article I most agreed with was How do inquiry teachers teach? and I thought that it had great advice for teachers and a good approach on education.

The articles certainly were creative. 50 Crazy Ideas argued that students should be allowed to use smartphones in class and that schools should become “21st century cultural centers with cutting edge experts, technology, and programs” and “treat the goal of education as self-knowledge: Who am I, and how do I relate to the world around me?” These echo the sentiments of Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill. In this article, the author suggests that students need to think and question in order to come to important conclusions. The author notes that this starts in schools, and students need to ask questions in school, and teachers need to encourage student questions. This idea of questioning is the core of inquiry teaching and How do inquiry teachers teach? touches upon how teachers need to encourage students to ask questions and take control of their learning, not just talk to students. Students should be the ones doing most of the talking and questioning, and the teacher should build the learning around students. All of this ties into allowing students to be creative and take control of their learning. The article 18 ways to promote creativity in your classroom, expands upon this by giving ideas on how to foster creativity such as “Ask for multiple possible answers to questions or multiple possible solutions to problems,” “Use technologies that encourage creativity,” and, perhaps my favorite idea presented, “Modify your discussions to allow for divergent ideas and interests.”

It is clear to see that these articles promote creativity and a more student centered learning. I agree with the points that I’ve quoted and I think it exemplifies the type of teaching I want to do. Students should be the ones who take control of their learning and ask questions and have the freedom to pursue these questions. To this end, I agree with the article 4 Things to Consider As You Allow Phones in Class, particularly the last point about discipline. I don’t think phones should be banned and they can be used as learning tools, so long as they are used correctly.

While I agree with much of the material in the articles, some of the suggestions in 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education are almost too absurd for me to take seriously. For example, the author suggests that schools should “Make school walls invisible—literally made of glass.” To me, that lends itself to distractions as students will, more than likely, find ways to amuse themselves through interactions with other students in classrooms. Additionally, I’m sure point number twenty “Treat the best teachers like rock stars: Give them reality shows, endorsement deals, and huge contracts” is a joke. I don’t disagree with it, but reality shows and endorsement deals seem like big distractions from teaching. Sure, excellence should be recognized, but in a more appropriate way. Lastly, I disagree with the idea that schools should “Push the government out of schools completely.” Of course, government intervention can be a problem for schools by forcing teachers to teach only to standards and test scores, but there are many communities that can’t afford to fund their own schools. I do think that government should help to fund education, but they should also allow teachers more freedom to be better educators and allow students to learn, rather than force them to teach only to standards and test scores.

I think that pre-service teachers should embrace technology and the benefits that it can bring, but they should also embrace a student centered model of teaching. Students should be able to take control of their learning while the teacher guides them to learning goals. Teachers need to embrace and encourage creativity, and not fear giving up some control; they should relinquish some control to the students. Yes it is hard, and yes it is uncomfortable, but the results, when done properly, outweigh the work and discomfort while learning how to best incorporate students into the learning. When pre-student teaching last semester, I found that when I taught at the students, they listened, but they did not necessarily learn. When I put together a group exercise and let them share their ideas, they took a lot more from the lesson and I think they learned a lot more. Student input and creativity is important. I also think it is important to use technology to reach these goals.

Links:

50 Crazy Ideas To Change
Education
: http://www.teachthought.com/learning/50-radical-ideas-change-education/

Why It’s Imperative
to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill
: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/why-its-imperative-to-teach-students-how-to-question-as-the-ultimate-survival-skill/

18 ways to promote
creativity in your classroom
: http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2014/3/10/18-ways-to-promote-creativity-in-your-classroom-everyday.html

How do inquiry
teachers teach?
: http://inquiryblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/how-do-inquiry-teachers-teach-2/

4 Things to Consider
As You Allow Phones in Class
: http://www.edudemic.com/4-things-consider-allow-phones-class/