Today, in our series of “10 Tips for a Successful Synchronous Lesson,” we will discuss tip #2: Send a preparation task for students to do before class.
It sounds crazy—to me, literally crazy! Crazy to think about how we organize and design learning most of the time. We have content or standards that we need to teach of course, but how do we go about arranging a lesson or creating an activity? 99.9% of the time, we use an adult perspective.
We might get ideas on Pinterest from other adults, we might use a textbook that was written and edited by adults, we might use strategies that we enjoy as adults, or—if we are really cutting-edge—we might organize around a topic that (adults think) will be relevant to our students. In the end, it’s all about the adults. How upside down is that?!
Now, it does make a lot of sense when you think about it. Adults are the ones spending the money on curricula. Adults are the ones scanning through Teachers Pay Teachers for a new classroom idea or bulletin board. If people want to make money in education, they need to market to adult tastes—not to what kids actually want, like, and need.
Allowing Student Choice
So, how important is it that we listen to kids when it comes to these decisions? Isn’t it possible that we have been doing a great job over the years by allowing teachers to make these decisions? I think the answer is complex.
Yes, teachers know what kids need—for the most part. We aren’t talking about allowing kids to decide which phonics rules they learn and in which order. We aren’t talking about students thinking that history is boring so they won’t need to learn about that. What we are talking about is allowing student choice in some aspect of the learning, and that those choices are a result of students’ reflection and feedback about their learning.
For example, when I was a teacher, I had what I felt was a great unit on Of Mice and Men. It was usually a story that students liked and could relate well to, plus it was short, which they also liked. I would set up my classroom in “bunks” like the bunkhouse, which is one of the main settings of the story. Each set of desks (bunk) had a character, who the students followed and studied. I thought it was wonderful, but after a few years of doing the lesson, I had some feedback from a student who didn’t think it made much sense. He said, “You just rearranged our desks, but the classroom didn’t look anything like the bunkhouse in the book. Why didn’t you actually create the setting?” What a great idea! This could have been much more impactful and a deeper aspect of learning for all of the students. “What if they could do the decorating?” I thought. They would really be thinking then!
This is just one small example of how I, the adult, thought I knew how the content/lesson was being received by the students. It only took me asking and being open to feedback to learn more about how this particular student thought we could learn better together. It wasn’t about a grade or an assignment—it was about collective learning as a team.
What Holds Us Back?
Why didn’t I do this more when I taught? Why don’t other teachers do this more? Here is a look at some of the reasons why we don’t look to the students as the ultimate “consumer” for our decisions on lesson planning and content activities:
- We don’t have time: This is always a number one reason for teachers to hesitate from making a change, and it’s a very valid concern. How do you plan for the week on a Sunday when you don’t have kids around to ask for input? Planning is almost always a solitary activity, or at least done with a team of teachers during a PLC, so finding the right time to seek student input about their learning can be tough.
- We can’t keep it all straight: We might get a different option from every different student in our room. Just this thought alone could make a teacher stop and abandon the idea that kids should have input in the process. Differentiating is hard enough when we just have one opinion in the mix—how much harder will it be if we add in a bunch more?
- We aren’t sure we trust students to know: The reality is that many students wouldn’t know what to do with this opportunity, especially if they are older. They will think it’s a trick or will just give answers that they feel are correct, trying to please the teacher. But even if students were in tune with their own learning and the classroom culture, teachers might find it hard to trust what they have to say about it.
- We might not be sure what we’re looking for: Some teachers will want to seek student input in their classroom design, but it isn’t just as simple as asking, “What do you guys want to do?” Students will need a base set of skills to work from in order to be able to guide and determine their learning. To do this well takes some skill from the teacher.
The truth of the matter is that good teachers do monitor how students respond to lessons. It’s usually much more of a trial and error approach than anything scientific. There are different research-based avenues for approaching our classrooms to become more student-centered.
Want to connect with fellow educators to discuss topics like this, share lesson plans, and get tips on classroom tech? Consider joining MimioConnect™, our interactive educator community!
Happy New Year! I can’t even believe it—where has half the school year gone? Hopefully, you have just enjoyed a restful holiday and are gearing up for the second semester. Resolutions seem to be a thing of the past these days, and focusing on a single word is now the way to go. It’s less pressure, but still gives you something to work toward.
What better word to focus on for the new year than the word “new” itself? Webster defines new as: not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.
Here are a few ways to adopt some newness into your life in 2020:
New Routine: We all know our students thrive with routines and efficient ones can save a lot of valuable time, but maybe there are some routines that aren’t working for you (i.e., how your students sharpen their pencils or turn in homework). Perhaps you need to figure out a new routine for your practices as well. If you’re still bringing home bags of papers to grade, you may need to rethink things. Don’t feel like you need to grade all of your students’ work—you could grade only portions of the assignment or just give a completion grade. Using rubrics or peer grading can also help. And just for kicks, drive a different way to school or change another morning routine like drinking your coffee before you get to work instead of after. Changing a simple routine allows your brain to work differently and can aid with problem solving and creativity!
New Adventure: Find something you’ve always wanted to try and just do it (thank you, Nike)! Honestly, life is short and self-care is real. It’s the middle of the school year and the middle of winter, but it’s also the start of a new year. I’m a busy teacher and a busy mom, so I totally understand how sometimes we don’t feel like we have any time for ourselves. Last year, I joined an online writing class and was able to work from the comforts of my home. It was a wonderful experience—I learned a lot and met some amazing new friends. Making time for yourself and pursuing a new interest can ignite a passion that will leave you feeling happier and more self-confident. And of course, all this happiness will trickle down to those lovely students sitting in your classroom right now.
New Learning: We’re in the business of learning, so how can we expect our students to become lifelong learners if we don’t model that behavior ourselves? Whether you‘ve been teaching for four years or 24, there is always room for improvement. The only constant in education is change. Education is a science, and with any science comes observations, investigations, and experimentations. While there are some concepts and teaching strategies that have stood the test of time, there will always be some type of evolution. For example, forming relationships with my students has been important ever since I started in education, but I have since learned so much about being trauma sensitive, de-escalating a situation, and building resilience. We can’t be afraid to admit when we don’t know something, and we need to be willing to learn—after all, we expect our students to do the same. Having this growth mindset allows you (and your students) to become more successful. So, roll up your sleeves and let the learning begin!
New Attitude: There, I said it—some of us just need an attitude adjustment. You’ve been with the same complaining coworker for years, you have the super teacher next door who always makes you look bad, you have the most difficult student (or class!) you’ve ever had, you haven’t received a raise in years, you have so many complaining parents, you are constantly having to implement new district initiatives, and the list goes on. I get it, and I know I have said or thought these very things. But all that negative energy can get inside me and just weigh me down. It makes for a very long, excruciating year when you let pessimism take over. I’ve learned that I can either try to do something about it or let it go. I try to change the things I can and practice gratitude and kindness. It’s amazing what a little kindness will do! If I can’t tell the super teacher she’s making me look bad, I can suggest us teaming up to work on a classroom project together. If I can’t convince the board to give me a raise, I can cut back on my spending to save money. Creating a positive attitude is a state of mind. You need to be deliberate and calculated, but once you get started, it gets easier!
Happy New Year, my amazing teacher friends! I hope this year brings you new routines, new adventures, new learning, and a new positive attitude. With a little newness in the air, let’s go live our best teacher lives.
What are you focusing on in 2020? Let us know in the comments below. To stay up to date on the latest teaching tips and trends throughout the year, be sure to subscribe to the Educator blog!
Today’s educators know how vital STEM fields are for their students. STEM learning covers a multitude of necessary skills: hands-on, critical thinking, problem solving, student-driven, creativity, innovation, collaboration, inquiry, leadership, and teamwork. These skills will help today’s students excel in STEM careers, which are growing at a rate of 17%—compared to 9.8% in other professions.
Robotics and coding are becoming more and more popular for incorporating STEM in the classroom. Both activities are engaging for students while providing the ability to apply their knowledge of science, mathematics, and technology to solve problems.
Interesting in incorporating these activities into your classroom? Here are our top picks for robotics and coding resources:
- Hopscotch: Designed for ages 8–11 and excellent for beginner programmers, Hopscotch is a free iPad app that uses video tutorials to teach students how to code popular games. Kids can then play games created by other users with the app. There are also resources for educators, such as lesson plans and transition guides.
- Kodable: This program provides a tool for coding in the classroom with over 49 free levels of exploring. It is recommended for ages five and over, and is both iPad and web-based. Their comprehensive curriculum focuses on group and independent practice activities that build creativity, collaboration, and communication.
- Code.org: If you are looking to integrate coding in the classroom, Code.org provides courses built off curriculum that contain lesson plans, handouts, offline activities, videos, and online tutorials. Using a teacher dashboard, lesson activities can be assigned, activities can be monitored, and sharing permissions can be set. The activities provide a mix of online independent practice, discussions, and unplugged group activities. The Computer Science Fundamentals courses provide educators with many options to use with students and are designed to be flexible. Plus, they provide Hour of Code tutorials for beginner coders.
- Scratch: This project from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group teaches math, programming, and creative expression through technology. Students can create animations, games, and models that communicate artistry and learning. The application is split into three sections on the screen. In the middle, students can see available drag-and-drop programming blocks. On the right, students can program and edit the appearance of various sprites (characters) that the program provides or use one of their own. On the left, students can see their coding work in action. Scratch meetups are hosted in many different states and provide opportunities for Scratch educators to meet and share ideas and resources. Check out Scratch Day, a yearly gathering of students, parents, and teachers to share Scratch ideas and participate in various activities.
- Google CS First: This site provides students aged 9–14 with activities that introduce computer science and programming through Scratch. Different themes such as animation, sports, game design, storytelling, and art engage students with video tutorials and practice. Each theme includes eight activities and about 10 hours of content that can be spread out over several days or weeks. It is ideal for computer clubs and/or courses. They also offer various Hour of Code activities such as Create Your Own Google Logo, Animate a Name, and High Seas Activity. CS First earned an ISTE Seal of Alignment for addressing the ISTE Standards for Students.
- Wonder Workshop Dash/Dot Robots: Dash and Dot for ages 6–11 are a pair of robots from Wonder Workshop with five accompanying apps that help kids program the robots. Blockly introduces students to coding using visual blocks of code. Though the apps are free, the robots must be purchased either individually or as a package deal, with various accessories for each. In Blockly, students work through a hands-on tutorial and then can complete puzzles where they have to write the prescribed programs. They can also create their own programs, including custom sounds, and save them in the app. The robots will need to be detected via Bluetooth by the app each time they play. Cue robots are designed for students aged 11+.
- Mimio MyBot educational robotics system: The robotic opportunities are endless with the Mimio MyBot system. Students can build a variety of robots, connect them to a browser, and code with a simple drag-and-drop interface. Educators have access to on-device materials such as tutorials, videos, user guides, and programming guides.
- Machine Learning for Kids: Find projects to introduce students to the concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence using the Scratch block-based coding language and MIT App Inventor. Users sign up for a free account from IBM Cloud to get access to Watson, the question-answering computer system. Machine Learning for Kids provides step-by-step instructional guides for creating various data sets to train the AI. Students can then see the machine learning in action as it runs through the Scratch interface.
- Tynker games: Teach your elementary students coding concepts with a focus on activities for grades K-8. Tynker has a comprehensive curriculum, STEM courses, and classroom management tool built right in. They also offer free training for schools.
- Unplugged coding activities: These do not require the use of a computer and are a great way of introducing coding concepts before students use the computer. Codespark Academy provides various unplugged activities such as Make Your Own Foo and Design a Comic—these activities are provided to educators with a free account. CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach computer science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons, and student movement.
Need some assistance bringing robotics and coding to your classroom? Consider using DonorsChoose.org or find other creative ways through social media to acquire funds for your program. To read more about robotics, coding, and STEM learning, be sure to download our new and improved STEM guide. In this guide, you’ll find best practices to engage students in STEM subjects, updated top 10 STEM resource lists, a how-to guide for creating hands-on STEM lessons, and much more. Download your free guide today!
In part one of this series, we reflected on the inadequacy of the professional learning model that we see most of the time in education. Teachers receive one day of learning and then are sent on their way. Instead of getting a chance to really work on the model with time to implement and then reflect on the learning, teachers are thrown right back into their classrooms.
Here are the top three issues that were discussed in part one:
- Professional learning has to be more timely—teachers can’t wait to learn something they need to learn.
- Professional learning should include opportunities for the teacher to practice and use the strategies, just like we have students do in the classroom.
- Professional learning should be relevant to the learner. If the teacher believes something doesn’t really apply to them, the leader of the professional learning should work to make it relevant to the audience.
First, we are going to think about how we can make professional learning more timely for staff. It’s true that bringing in a speaker for an entire staff development day is very efficient and can be very impactful, but if your district is like mine, we have these spread out throughout the school year. Teachers often comment that certain times of the year aren’t convenient to be learning something new. I respect their opinion—to an extent, there is never adequate time to practice and implement new things. I think what they mean is that this strategy would have been better earlier in the year or during a period with less going on. There is probably no perfect time for all teachers, so what do we do?
If we take the “I do, we do, you do” instruction model from Explicit Instruction that we discussed in part one, we can think about it in terms of making learning timely for teachers. We can ask ourselves how the “I do” portion can be more timely, and then do the same with the “we do” and then the “you do” portions of this model.
Here are some tips to help you achieve timeliness for your teachers:
I do: This part of the learning is when the teacher gains the knowledge. While full-day workshops are often great for this, they can lack the timeliness that is needed for our teachers. For example, when a teacher would like more information on a topic—like classroom management or an instructional strategy—they have to wait until a local training is available, which can take a while.
One solution is to use online resources for teachers to learn new information. This can be effective in that these can cover just about any topic, are usually professionally made, and are able to meet the needs of teachers in a timely way.
Another opportunity for being more timely is to create on-demand video resources yourself for teachers. I often use this strategy in our district if there is something simple that can be demonstrated over a screencast video. Teachers can watch it when they have time and revisit as needed.
We do: Teachers need the chance to practice and implement the strategies that they have learned. When they return to the classroom, they usually jump right into the next school day and put the new materials to the side. How can we help to prevent this?
First, we can help them to plan and process the information they have learned. When I travel to a conference with others, I sometimes schedule time at the end of the day for us to discuss our next steps and plans. This helps put a timeline to the learning so we don’t put it to the side.
Another model that is very impactful is professional coaching. Some schools have instructional coach positions who do this full time. This is really an ideal way to do “we do” practice in the classroom. The coach can model, co-teach, or just provide feedback to the teacher.
You do: Depending on the topic, the steps above might not be necessary. There are times when the professional learning is something that a teacher can easily implement quickly into the classroom. Even so, it’s good to have a plan or timeline for the “you do” portion of the teacher trying the strategy. This can come from a principal creating a deadline for implementation or from the teacher’s individual plan for how they are going to use it. Essentially, some kind of accountability can be created to ensure that the learning isn’t pushed to the side and not used by the teacher.
Hopefully these tips can help us think differently about how we make professional learning a timely experience for our teachers. Did you miss the first part of our Professional Learning That Works series? Be sure to check it out here.
While you wait for part three, be sure to check out Boxlight’s training and professional development opportunities.>>
Hundreds of educators joined us this fall for another rendition of our Transforming Learning in the Classroom webinar series. These robust sessions featured insights from experienced leaders in EdTech and provided educators with helpful tips for utilizing technology to promote critical thinking, implement project-based learning in the classroom, and support students as they prepare for college and STEM careers.
These three webinars are full of valuable ideas for using technology in the classroom to promote student engagement and success.
Here’s what you missed in this year’s live series, and what you can learn by watching the webinars on demand:
- Project-Based Learning Resources for the Classroom
Learn the fundamentals of project-based learning (PBL) and find out how you can implement this practice in your own classroom. Experienced educators and tech experts Paul Gigliotti and Lynn Erickson discuss what PBL is, how you can utilize it in your classroom, and why this pedagogy is so useful in engaging students in complex real-world topics.
- A Robotic Odyssey: How Robotics Is Helping Prepare Students to Be Tomorrow’s Inventors, Programmers, and Astronauts
In this webinar, Stephen Barker (Boxlight’s VP of STEM Education) and Jim Christensen (Executive Director of ShareSpace Education, a key program of the the Aldrin Family Foundation) discuss how robotics prepares students for complex STEM majors and future careers. Viewers will learn about the important skills students can learn from robotics programs and STEM education that help set them up to become the next generation of STEM professionals.
- Surface Learning vs. Deep Learning: How Technology Can Help Students Think Deeper
Discover how technology can change the way students think in an insightful session about the importance of both surface learning and deep learning. Kelly Bielefeld, an experienced educator, discusses the dilemma that occurs when educators focus too strongly on basic surface knowledge or spend too little time building foundational deep knowledge. Bielefeld also shares how you can utilize technology to find the right balance between surface and deep learning.
Not only can you find this fall’s engaging webinar series on the on-demand webinar page, but you can also access webinars from previous seasons of Transforming Learning in the Classroom. From personalized PD to mobile devices in the classroom, watch webinars at your convenience by visiting our on-demand webinar page!
If you missed the live webinar series, you can now access the fall 2019 Transforming Learning in the Classroom collection of webinars on demand.
Lo invitamos a leer y poner en práctica los siguientes tips de lecciones para docentes, los cuales potenciarán sus lecciones y permitirán que la enseñanza y aprendizaje dentro del aula, laboratorios, etc sea llevado a cabo al siguiente nivel. PRESENTAMOS MEJORES FORMES DE APRENDER
Potentes Funciones para Mejorar las Lecciones
Dentro del software especializado para el aula MimioStudio™, tiene una amplia variedad de herramientas muy útiles que están a su disposición. La Galería de MimioStudio está precargada con gráficos, multimedia y plantillas que se pueden usar para mejorar cualquiera de sus lecciones. La característica más poderosa de la Galería es que es totalmente personalizable, lo que le permite crear sus propias carpetas de contenido a las que se puede acceder fácilmente cuando estás en MimioStudio.
Si te encuentras realizando procedimientos repetidos a medida que creas una lección en MimioStudio, conviértela en una plantilla de lección. Puedes arrastrar páginas completas de una lección a cualquier área de la Galería que elijas para crear una página de plantilla de lección que se pueda usar en cualquier momento. La Galería sirve como un gran almacén de multimedia con clips de sonido, objetos Flash y clips de películas, junto con gráficos que puedes agregar para acceder cuando sea necesario.
Regístrate hoy para nuestra próxima sesión de Aprendizaje Rápido: Tour por la Galería MimioStudio
Crea Videos y Presentaciones Fácilmente
Hay muchas tendencias educativas excelentes diseñadas para cambiar el formato típico del aula con el fin de mejorar el aprendizaje de los estudiantes, como lecciones interactivas, carteras digitales y aprendizaje combinado, solo por nombrar algunos. Una de esas tendencias es el modelo de aula invertida, que implica el uso de breves conferencias de video que los estudiantes ven antes de la clase, lo que permite que el tiempo de clase se centre en proyectos y debates centrados en el alumno.
Usando la herramienta Grabadora de MimioStudio, puedes crear fácilmente videos para estudiantes. Esta herramienta le permite capturar cualquier cosa que se presente en la pantalla de su computadora. Tienes opciones para guardar una ventana, área o incluso la pantalla completa seleccionada. Usando un panel de control simple dentro del software, tienes todas las características necesarias para iniciar, pausar y detener una grabación. Cuando esté completo, puedes guardar el video como un tipo de archivo .AVI, lo que facilita compartirlo con los demás como mejor te parezca.
Regístrate hoy para nuestra próxima sesión de Aprendizaje Rápido de MimioStudio: Ampliando lecciones
¿Estás interesado en consultar más sesiones de Aprendizaje Rápido que se ofrecen este mes? Haz clic aquí para ver nuestra lista completa!
Some of the common comments that I hear from teachers about how students have changed over the past 10 to 20 years is that they have less of an attention span than they used to, play too many video games, and want everything instantly. The degree to which this is harmful to students is probably up for debate, but I think it is hard to argue against the premise. Today’s students have many more distractions than those who were in school a decade ago. There are probably numerous reasons for this, but most teachers would point to the influx of technology as the main culprit in this situation.
As we think about infusing our classrooms with engagement and technology, how often do we reflect on this ourselves? How much are we as a system contributing to the distractions that surround our students each and every day?
If we are honest with ourselves, we might admit that there is a danger to too much technology use in the classroom. We must use it with intention and purpose in order to make it worth doing, otherwise anything we do can just add to the distractions. And it really isn’t just technology that is a factor in this. Students are inundated with ads, billboards, print, electronic, and social media of all kinds. There is a tremendous amount of input for students—so much so that it can be hard to stay focused.
Here are some ways teachers can combat distractions in the classroom:
Only turn technology on when it is being used: Technology can be very engaging for students, but can also be a huge distraction at the same time. Unless there is a need as part of the lesson or the learning, technology should be put away. Some teachers allow students to listen to music while they work, but I have found that the amount of time students waste fiddling with changing songs and adjusting the volume turns it into a huge time-waster in the classroom. Not to mention that research does not support students being able to multitask. This is mainly a classroom management solution, but an easy one to help our students focus.
Only add the essentials to classroom walls: There is very interesting research that’s come out in the last year that points to cluttered classroom walls as a distraction for students. To some extent, I think this makes sense to us as educators. The information that students are exposed to day in and day out is probably overwhelming for many. There are good strategies for using word walls and vocabulary displays to help support student learning, but if the walls aren’t walls that teach, they are probably better off being walls that are bare.
Keep group work structured and maintain accountability: Student group work or cooperative learning is a great way for students to learn, but it can turn into a huge distraction if not structured well. Students need to be taught not only what is expected of them, but also what is expected of the other people in their group in order to maintain accountability. Another great strategy during group work is to make the learning visible in some way—classroom management is easier when the teacher can see productive groups from a distance.
When presenting, keep it simple: I recently attended a professional learning workshop by someone whose use of clip art was almost offensive. Each slide had at least five photos and two pieces of word art—it was nearly impossible to understand any of the content. This is an extreme example of course, but teachers need to be aware of the same impact. Visuals are great when they serve a purpose, but cluttering up our flat panel displays doesn’t help anyone learn and can even be a distraction.
Identifying (and guiding!) distracting students: Finally, one of the other big distractions for students doesn’t come in the form of technology at all—it’s other students. Teachers can use many tools to help this, like separating students who are being distracting, giving students the tools to minimize distractions, and working with off-task students to ensure they have the tools to make better choices.
The are many other instructional tools that we can use to help offset distractions. Keeping to one topic at a time during instruction helps students to stay on track. Having desk and locker clean out days is also important to help students who might struggle with organization. All of these can help support our kids to stay focused.
Want to connect with fellow educators to discuss topics like this? Consider joining MimioConnect™, our interactive teaching community!