The Lives that our Students Live

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CC0 1.0 Universal

Real life is often the opposite of school, but does it have to be? What if school learning mirrored the skills that students need for life rather than being something so vastly different?

That would take some real change in our current school structure. New tables and new technologies do not make a twenty-first century school (ugh, how I dislike that term). Making the shift from our teachers covering material to students uncovering material is certainly a daunting one at times. It seems like we have been talking about integrating the subjects and students learning through the process of PBL for so long and yet, it is taking us in the world of education a long time to roll out these concepts.

I look forward to continuing the forward momentum in education of making our schools look more like life –the life where they live, so that learning is authentic and students enjoy the process of creating, thinking, and problem solving.

Web 2.0 and Apps….Let’s Get them into the Classroom

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(CC0 1.0)

I’ve been planning a series of technology learning for my staff. I will highlight some of my favorite web 2.0 and apps to use in the classroom. I like to keep in mind that integration and the process of learning is the most important thing with technology use –not the end product. Here goes.

A student and teacher favorite is Padlet. With Padlet, you, the teacher, set up a wall that you send a link or QR code to students, so they can access it. They can write on the wall, upload pictures, YouTube videos, you name it! You can even embed the wall onto your web page. Students can collaborate on an assignment in class or out of class. If they are stuck at home because of weather (imagine that!), primary students could document what is happening outside their homes. They could respond to a piece of literature of share travels over a vacation. Endless possibilities.

My next favorite app is NearPod. This is great for the classroom –either independent student technology or small group work that you as the teacher want to be in control over. You can have a PDF or a presentation that you display on your computer. The students launch the app and sign in to the session to see what you show them. You have control over their device and what they see, but they have the ability to annotate and add to whatever you share on their screens. So many options with this one! Whatever you are doing, you can have the students follow along but with additional interaction.

HaikuDeck is a perfect presentation app /Web 2.0 for students. It is currently on IOS but is coming for Android soon. It has beautiful Creative Commons licensed pictures for background so students don’t have to worry about copy written Google images. As students type onto the slides, the words get smaller, thus teaching them that presentations are about them talking and not the bullets on their slides. It’s web-based, so they can go from device-to-device and school to home seamlessly without a –gasp–thumb drive.

Fur.ly is an easy way to shorten URLs. Go to the site, type in the URL, and BAM! You’re done. Well, you need to type a code to prove you’re a human first. Once you do that….BAM. You’re done.

As Voice Thread puts it on their main page, “text can’t replace you.” This is cloud-based; students can upload pictures or documentations that they in turn collaborate on. This has nice implications but does come with a cost of $79 for a single teacher.

Infuse learning is a favorite assessment tool at my school. It is perfect for BYOT because it is web based not an APP, so students can access it from any device –SMARTphone or tablet. Teachers can prepare questions ahead of time or create them in the moment. It has a draw feature, so math teachers might ask teachers to draw an isosceles triangle, for example. It doesn’t limit to multiple choice. You can pull in pictures like a map for the assessment. It also has language options for ELL or foreign language classes.

In terms of technology integration tools for the classroom, the options are endless. I will continue with more good ones later.

To Homework or Not to Homework?

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As I began my elementary teaching career, I was unsure about how I felt about assigning homework…. but in the interest of upholding school policies, I gave it four days a week to my itty bitty second graders –and I held them accountable if they didn’t complete it. I began to believe that homework was an important part of every child’s education. I gave it four days a week as a second, fourth, and fifth grade teacher; by the time I started teaching eight grade, I had changed my tune, though. Now based on my experiences and all the research that I have read, I have completely altered my thoughts on homework –especially in the elementary years. Now don’t get me wrong; when I taught little ones, I didn’t give much homework. They read, did some math practice, or spelling work depending on the night. It was all in the name of responsibility I told myself. By the time I taught older students, middle school, I wanted the projects to be completed in school for many reasons: 1) I wanted to assess what my students knew rather than than what their parents knew, and the best way was for projects and writing to be done in school; 2) middle school students have very busy lives between sports and other extra-curricular activities; I needed to plan around their other seven classes so that they didn’t have a ridiculous amount to do on a given night.

I don’t have children of my own but sometimes watch the evening routines of my friends and laugh (or cry) to myself. I see how exhausted children are by the time they get around to completing work; and how frustrating it is for parents; I begin to understand why they give in so often to hinting at answers or even going so far as to do homework with their children –gasp! What is the purpose of homework? As elementary educators, this is something that we have to carefully scrutinize. Responsibility? Practice? Higher-level thinking? To prepare for the next day’s assignment? Family projects? Could we give our students time during the evening to read with their families?

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