Making Required Homework More Effective: An Experiment in My Class

It is increasingly common knowledge that homework is modestly effective in the upper grades, but barely effective at all in elementary.

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While we all have our own thoughts and opinions on how to empower students to engage in learning activities at home, most schools have specific policies in regards to homework, including how many minutes per night and on which days homework should be assigned. This presents most elementary teachers with a challenge: How do we make these required homework minutes more effective? 

Thanks to the fabulous Karen Boyes from Spectrum Education, I was able to publish a second article in her Teachers Matter Magazine all about my recent experiment with making homework more effective, which started as a blogpost that you can read here. This follows my first article on the arrival of fidget spinners in my school in Sudan.

My plan is to keep contributing as many publications as I can to those who like my ideas and writing, including guest blog posts such as my Guest post: Balancing work and play in the sands of Sudan on Mr. Hill’s Musings. Feel free to contact me if you think my writing can make a difference in the lives of our teachers and students.

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With Karen Boyes at AEC 2017

To read my contributions to Teachers Matter Magazine in PDF form, click on the links below:

Fidget Spinners: Annoying or Cool?

and. .

Making Required Homework More Effective


 

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com, a website by international teaching couple, Stephanie and Zach Groshell. We have plenty of articles on our blogroll that will fit your interests, so feel free to explore and learn more about the international teaching circuit.

– Zach Groshell @mrzachg

Evaluating Blended Learning Classroom Design

At this year’s AISA Educator’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, I had the opportunity to present some of the models that I have used and created to evaluate blended learning classroom design. Much of this work was done alongside Brad Arnold (@leybradly), and was previously discussed in my article, That digital program your school bought will never transform learning.

The format included a short mini-lesson on the need for self-reflection and self-evaluation of C21 learning environments by educators, and ended with enroled teachers using our rubrics to evaluate my own elementary digital courseroom. I was surprised and honored by the feedback that I recieved from this portion of the workshop. Many teachers noticed the quality of the learning experiences that my students have been engaged in this year, and I felt motivated to keep pushing forward with finding better descriptors and observable student actions for this kind of work.

As more and more teachers see the need for authentic technology integration to not only improve achievement, but to transform the learning experience for today’s learners, I hope to be a part of that change moving forward.

– Zach Groshell @mrzachg

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That digital program your school bought will never transform learning

It seems like most teachers and students have access to a paid-for digital learning program. You know the kind – RAZ kids, IXL, Spelling City, any one of those listed in the featured image of this article – and they all promise to raise achievement while making learning “fun”. These CAI (computer assisted instruction) programs can be traced back to  when Skinner first created his “teaching machine”, the original solution for replacing the teacher, pictured below.

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Skinner’s Teaching Machine

The thing is, these “learning” programs have not been proven to be as effective as the edtech industry overlords would like us to believe. In fact, the meta-analysis of John Hattie, which was shared with me at AEC 2017 by Dr. Sonny Magana (@sonnymagana), clearly shows that telling a kid to “go do Mathletics” will not make a sizable difference in the learning of our students.

Let me explain the research:

The Bad News: When technology is used to replace a teacher, it has a very small positive effect size on student achievement. Hattie’s research includes studies on the use of CAI programs across curriculum and contexts, as well as other approaches that mistake the transmission of information for authentic knowledge generation (Powerpoint use by teachers, for example). The graph below indicates with a black arrow the average of all of Hattie’s researched initiatives, programs, and strategies in education to be a 0.4 effect size. When we look at the effect size for how technology has been implemented over the last 50 years, including using computers for passive absorption of information transmitted by a CAI teaching robot, it falls below the average at 0.34. In short, Skinner’s Teaching Machine wasn’t particularly effective and neither is your school’s CAI program.

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“Despite the extraordinary developments in computer technology since the Kennedy Administration, not to mention the vast sums of taxpayer money spent on digitizing classrooms since the 1960s, the average effect of computer technology in education has been stuck well below the zone of desired effects. This is hardly cause for celebration.” Dr. Sonny Magana at #AEC2017

The Good News: When technology is used to enhance proven teaching and learning methods, the positive effect size is off the charts. When you compare the status quo, which is a below-average 0.34 effect size on student achievement, and the 1.6 effect size of a framework like the T3 (see below to learn more about this), it is clear that we need to change the way we facilitate learning with technology.

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Edtech models for transformation of learning

Poke around this blog a bit, and you will see several articles we have written on best practice technology integration. I hope that the theme that all of these articles have touched on is that technology should only be used as a tool to transform and maximize learning. Replacing traditional teaching with a computer is not going to ensure achievement for our learners. The use of a CAI like Mathletics or Spelling City to replace teacher and student-led instruction only gives them automated, rote practice. While this is not a bad thing, we need to refocus our planning so that students are spending more time developing their higher-order thinking skills through producing, inquiring and contributing with technology.

Here are some models that can guide the 21st century teacher away from edtech as a direct substitute to edtech as a tool for transformation:

#1 Early Years Blended Learning Development Guide (Zach Groshell et al)

The first model I’ d like to share is a guide that I created last year, in collaboration with Brad Arnold and elementary teachers at my school, which was subsequently implemented in early years classrooms. It uses 5 common and observable student actions (seen on the left column) and the SAMR scale to measure the level of edtech use. When teachers observe student learning that falls under the examples of modification and redefinition of the learning task, we know that instruction is likely going to have a positive effect size on student achievement.

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Click here to see the whole thing

#2 Blended Learning Development Guide (Brad Arnold et al)

This is another blended learning design model that I helped to develop with Brad Arnold (@leybradly), and it is slightly different from the rubric above as it is less focused on observable student actions and more on the traits of the learning environment. The 7 traits of a learning environment are the observable traits of any learning environment, shown in the left column below, and the top row of the rubric includes the SAMR scale to measure the level of edtech use. This guide is best used to facilitate teacher self-reflection on the effect of educational technology on the learning environment.

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Click here to see the whole thing

#3 T3 Framework for Educational Technology Use (Dr. Sonny Magana)

The third and final model I’d like to share for edtech instructional design is the T3 Framework (see video below). Based off of the body of research and implementation by Dr. Sonny Magana, the T3 Framework is designed to disrupt the current narrative about educational technology by contextualizing its use into 3 stages: Translational, Transformational, and Transcendent. Grounded in sound research and theory, the T3 Framework is designed to support how educational systems measure the ways classroom technologies are used to unleash student learning potential. Teachers seeking to base their instruction on the most effective strategies for student achievement should be looking up at the T2 and T3 stages, and pushing themselves to transform education by having students produce and contribute, and to “transcend” by using technology tools to facilitate inquiry and solve world problems that matter.

 


While the edtech companies may not agree that their expensive math and reading programs have limited effect sizes on student achievement, we should be looking closer at the last 50 years of research on this topic and seeking a better way forward when it comes to edtech use in the classroom.

We need to stop:

  • Using CAI technology to replace teacher and student-led instruction
  • Using technology to fill time
  • Calling the use of CAI programs “blended learning”
  • Thinking that a game or a program can teach just as well as a teacher

And start:

  • Looking at student actions through the lens of transformational and transcendent learning.
  • Considering the traits of an effective learning environment and how we know students learn best
  • Seeking to increase moments of “redefined” or “transcendent” learning  in our own practice

 

What do you think? Could this help to improve your teaching? Comment below with your thoughts on blended learning and keep coming back to EducationRickshaw.com.

– Zach Groshell, @mrzachg

Is it worth becoming recognized as an Apple Teacher?

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As my husband and I have been busy recruiting for positions in the 2018-2019 school year (I know, international schools hire early!) I wanted something extra to add to my CV about integrating technology into the classroom. Although I can say that I work in a 1:1 classroom, I wanted to give schools concrete evidence that I know what I’m doing. That’s when I began looking around for free online iPad professional development courses or certifications and found the Apple Teacher Program.

 

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The Apple Teacher Program

The relatively new Apple Teacher Program aims at giving teachers basic knowledge on how to use iPads or Macs and inspire them with ideas on how to use them in the classroom. Teachers need to gain badges in 8 areas for either the iPad or the Mac: (1) iPad/Mac, (2) Pages, (3) Keynote, (4) Numbers, (5) iMovie, (6) GarageBand, (7) Productivity, and (8) Creativity to earn their recognition as an Apple Teacher. There are then additional badges for Coding Concepts and the Swift Playgrounds App.

 

What Do You Do?

You have three choices for how to learn the content: download a free Teacher Guide, use the iTunes U Course or attend an in-store workshop. I chose to download the Teacher Guides.

All of the Teacher Guides for the iPad and five apps are split up into generally the same sections (which makes it easy to read).

  • Chapter 1: Welcome/how to use this guide
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started with (fill in app name) – the most basic app information
  • Chapter 3: Practice creating a real project that your students could potentially do
  • Chapter 4: Sharing Your Work/Collaborating/Revising
  • Chapter 5: Going Further – ideas on how do use app in different subject areas

As with most everything that comes from Apple, the guides are easy to read and have pictures and videos that make everything very clear to understand. What could have been a very dull read, though, was made much more interesting by chapter 3. In chapter 3 of each guide, you practice using the app by creating a school project. As the guide walks you through building and designing the assignment with pictures and graphs, it describes how to add content and format. This was my favorite part of the guide, because I learned some really useful tips that I hadn’t known about, even for apps I’d already used quite a bit.

The guides for Productivity and Creativity I found less useful, because I’m already using iPads in my classroom and the ideas weren’t new to me. However, for anyone struggling to decide how to use iPads or new to having iPads in their classroom, these guides might be a great starting point.

 

Would I recommend it?

By the time I had gotten about half-way through reading chapter 3 in my first Teacher Guide on iPads, I came to the conclusion that every teacher who has iPads or Macs in their class needs to do this program. This is my third year teaching with iPads and I still learned more from this program. Even more impressively, some of the new features I excitedly showed Zach, he didn’t know about yet either!

Whether you are brand new to having iPads in your classroom or not, I highly recommend gaining your recognition as an Apple Teacher. As schools are increasingly using technology in the classroom and as technology is constantly changing and improving, it is vital that teachers keep up so they can effectively use the tools they are handing to their students.

 

Have you also become a recognized Apple Teacher? Please comment to share your experiences!

-Stephanie

 

 

 

 

Ways to Enhance Reading and Writing Workshop with Technology

Our school recently made the switch to Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Although Stephanie and I received some surface level training on the project in our previous school, this has been the first time that we have been asked to follow the program with a high level of fidelity.

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Like with any program, there are ways to improve outcomes by looking at how best to use technology to maximize learning. We’re all about looking at traditional teaching practices and seeing how they can be improved. The following are some of the things that we have tried in our classrooms to facilitate 21st century learning experiences within the Reading and Writing Workshop model.

Use online forums and chat rooms for class discussions, teacher and peer feedback, and ratings

Class discussions can happen in many ways. When the program asks for reading and writing partners to turn and talk about their thoughts, students can also do so in an online forum. The tool that you use doesn’t matter: This could be on Seesaw, Flipgrid, EasyBlog, Edmodo. . . whatever! I use Moodle for forums, because I find it to be very customizable, but you can have kids discussing on almost any platform. Again, it’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning.

There are inherent benefits to having discussions online. Instead of always communicating in informal language, as is the case with “turn and talk” in class, students are forced to use formalized language. There is a record of what they have said, and teachers can see it, give feedback on which terms they are using correctly, and can have students go back and edit their ideas for clarity. Students can continue the conversation at home, alone or with their parents, and you can always go back to the conversations during your conferencing, which is much harder to do with traditional “turn and talk”.

Use online multimedia journals with links, videos, photos, audio, drawings, table of contents, dictionary and thesaurus

I am a fan of both paper/pencil journals as well as multimedia online journals. While the benefits of the paper/pencil journal are well known, it is sometimes effective to give students the chance to write or write about their reading in an online journal.

In my students’ wiki journals, they are able to create new pages whenever, wherever they feel like. This creates great situations where they can [[link]] to a new page (for example, a character page), and then fill in their ideas there. If they need inspiration for character development, setting, or anything visual, they can pull up images from online and stick them in their journal. If they need to create a quick sketch, they just insert a drawing into their journal, and can move it around as they wish without feeling that they are getting in the way of their writing. When I provide them with materials from the program, they can link to these materials, refer to them, and annotate the parts that they feel they need to work on. By just clicking on a word, they can look up new words in online dictionaries and thesauruses and build their vocabulary . . the multimedia journal creates learning experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with a 100% paper/pencil workshop.

Give assessments with feedback, rubrics, checklists, infographics, memes, pictures, video, inline editing

I find the assessments in the Reading and Writing Project to be easily convertible into online resources. For the beginning of the year reading assessment, I put all of the questions into an online assignment, and had kids take the test.

After the kids took the assessment, the data came back to me organized by student and question type. I was then able to give students feedback to enhance their learning. I did this in the form of inline editing, inserting the rubrics right into their answers, and providing checklists, infographics, memes, and links to previous discussions and journal entries that they had made. After I helped one student with a certain problem – using pictures, videos, or whatever – I was able to use that same teacher-created resource to help the next student that had the very same problems.

The point is, with technology you can link up all of the resources that you and your students have created – assessments, discussions, journals, rubrics, glossaries, etc –  at any time, so that students are not only making digital connections, but connections in their craniums as well.

Make the Heinemann resources accessible to students online

Instead of printing everything that I’m provided in the Reading and Writing Project from the Heinemann online resources – the sticky notes, the reading logs, the anchor charts, the exemplars, etc – I put them on my class website and into student hands. It saves a tree, and it helps students engage with the materials by actually using them in various ways.

Why not just project the resources? I find that projecting these resources without putting them up on my online courseroom makes it so that I become the “keeper of all resources”. I believe in a student-driven classroom, where information is accessible to all, parents included. By putting the resources up onto our Moodle page, students can not only access them anytime they want, but they can manipulate the content, insert it where they want, and ask questions and post comments about it.

Go nuts combining apps, web tools, social media and productivity tools!

There is so much out there that can help kids think and remove potential barriers for learning the content required in the Reading and Writing Project. I’ve written before about some of my favorite tech tools for getting kids writing, but I really recommend that you go sit on your couch with your device in hand, and explore the unlimited possibilities that exist out there.

Even if the Reading and Writing Project doesn’t explicitly say that you should or could use technology, that doesn’t make it wrong to take advantage of the best tools at your disposal. For me, technology is ubiquitous in the learning process, and learning is non-linear.

So, have kids record podcasts and watch their speaking and listening skills grow as they engage with the Reading and Writing workshop. Put up a green screen in your classroom, and explore the possibilities this has for student learning and engagement. I also believe that learning should be shared and public, and with technology this is possible. Have kids share out their reading and writing on blogs, social media, and e-mail. Get parents engaging with the Reading and Writing Project from their phone.

There are so many ways to make this program more dynamic and better for the learner. So if you’re like me and new to the Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, keep at it. I know I will!


Thanks for coming back again and again to educationrickshaw.com, a website by Stephanie and Zach Groshell. Feel free to comment below!

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5 Traditional Teaching Practices Enhanced By Technology

For those of you that regularly follow educationrickshaw.com – by the way, we just celebrated our one year anniversary with our most views ever! – you’ll know that we talk a lot about blended learning environments. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, there is no point in going digital if it is simply a digital substitution of what you always do. These tips will enhance your traditional teaching practices.

Digitize your daily schedule

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I used to write the order of my lessons on the whiteboard everyday before class started. I definitely didn’t do it as creatively as this guy. The kids didn’t tend to read it unless I read it to them, and it wasted a good portion of my whiteboard space.

Instead of doing that now, I use padlet to write up my lessons and part of our morning meeting consists of students looking at the schedules on their iPads. I’ve made a conscious effort to democratize the process so that students have a say in the order, or even the activity, of each class period. I try to change the role of who can edit the schedule every month so that a different student is in charge of getting this ready for our class.

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With padlet, I can include links to different activities (cmd + k) and provide pictures, quotes, memes, tweets, and videos to enrich their schedule with multi-media. It is also always online, right at the front of their BLE courseroom, so parents can check in whenever they want and see what we’re doing at any moment.

Digitize student planners

In the past I’ve used paper planners that students would schlep around everyday with a lot of other wasteful paper resources. Despite my every effort to get the kids to open it, including getting a parent signature every night, I wasn’t so sure how much it helped them keep up with their school responsibilities.

While I’ve used Homework.io in the past, as well as the planners on various BLE platforms such as Edmodo, Moodle, or whatever else, this year we’ve been using the “reminders app” that is native to IOS for my 1:1 iPad classroom. As I’ve argued before, the point is not which technology to use but how the technology is being used.

Students are taking advantage of their digital planner by setting alarms for their responsibilities, getting notifications well in advance for things that are coming up and by using hyperlinks to the various resources that I want them to have access to at home.

Digitize Textbooks

If you have the choice to go with an e-book or go with paper copies during your school’s next round of purchases, go with the digital version. Finding free digital versions is another option. Even if the version of the textbook is not built to be interactive (aka it’s a .PDF), you can make it interactive.

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For my math book, for example, I use .PDF resources combined with the app, Notability. This way, students can annotate directly onto the .PDF with text, drawings, and their own voices. They can easily cut/paste or screenshot parts of their math into other apps, including Explain Everything or Seesaw (see Teacher Toolkit for Seesaw), and manipulate the math in even more ways. Once any resource is digital, you can have students engaging with the material in so many more ways – Green screen? Youtube Channel? Twitter? How about good ol’ AirDrop? The possibilities are endless, unlike the paper version that ends the moment you start writing on it.

Digitize Learning Journals

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While there are many great platforms for student journaling – Class Dojo, Seesaw, and FlipGrid to name a few that I’ve used – I’ve been getting into the idea of the wiki as a journal of late. The possibilities for a wiki (think Wikipedia) are endless, and they provide ways for students to engage in more complex technology skills, such as simple html, embeds, hyperlinking, and much more. I currently use the Moodle wiki for both my reading and writing journals, and it has been such a sight to see these kids creating page after page of learning.

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Putting something online from paper to digital doesn’t make it an authentic learning experience, or a learning experience at all. It just becomes a formality for you and for the student. What makes a digital learning journal so much more effective than the paper/pencil version is the inclusion of multimedia, and the possibilities for peer and teacher feedback. When thoughts are contained in a paper journal, they stay locked there inside the classroom overnight and over the weekend. The only way for students to comment on each other’s learning is by passing around the journals and marking on them. Teachers spend an enormous amount of time saying the exact same thing on 25 – 30 journals instead of using digital features such as immediate and automatic feedback, or copy and paste. Help in the form of student exemplars, rubrics, memes and infographics can be easily shared between all in your learning environment through a digital learning journal.

Digitize Class Communication Channels

All of the students in my class have an e-mail address which they use to contact their teachers and their parents when the need arises. This has cut down immensely on confusion over homework, after school pick ups, and other responsibilities that students have at school.

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In addition to e-mail, I make sure that students have ways to socialize with one another in a safe way, such as with an instant messaging system or chat app. Students often solve their own problems (“When are basketball tryouts?) instead of relying on teachers and parents to do it for them.

When students share their learning with one another, that learning may also be filtered into various public channels such as Twitter and YouTube. This way, I’m not writing a newsletter every week about what we did because there is a student-updated feed of learning going on in our class that parents follow.


We at educationrickshaw.com sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article about traditional teaching practices that can be enhanced by technology. While it is clear that any one of these five tips can be misused so that learning is not maximized, we hope that there was enough included in the article to steer you towards something that you are comfortable trying out in the coming weeks.

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, a website and blog about international teaching.

 

 

What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel Like?

Part of a technology coach’s role these days is to convince teachers that their job description has changed. The industrial model of education is well past its expiration date, and the generation of students born today are going to graduate into a world that will look completely different than our own. In order to train 20th century teachers to reach the conceptual understandings required for 21st century education, school leaders and tech coaches need to focus on describing what this could be.

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This article tries to describe how I imagine the 21C classroom and I will try to integrate theory on 21C pedagogy throughout. Edutopia’s 10 signs of a 21st century classroom is a good read, as well this tech4learning’s article. To describe the 21st century here, I’ll divide it up into three categories: What can it potentially look like, sound like, and feel like?

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Look Like?

Imagine what the workplace looks like at one of the more hip startups near you. Is it rows of desks and dividing walls? Is everyone sitting in silence? I was surprised to not see Seattle – the city of my university – in the top five on this Fortune list for startup activity in 2016:

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What I picture is couches, colors, and bright lighting that facilitate the collaboration between professionals. I see devices, headsets, and outlets. Take a look at some of the Google campuses that I googled below:

Clearly these two photos have a very contemporary look, but what’s more important is that the space signals to the professionals at work that their knowledge and skills are better harnessed when shared spontaneously and collaboratively. Every part of the space is purpose-built, and there are fewer barriers between inside spaces and outside spaces than what you’d find in a traditional workspace.

In my classroom (above), the setup has changed many times to fit the purpose of the unit, the activity, or the dynamic of the students in my class. We’ve had weeks of free inquiry where students worked without walls, and once we just needed to read and learn in a fort:

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Sound Like?

I’ve talked before about how noisy classrooms are overrated in my article on growing up the child of a Deaf mom and teacher.  My Twitter Feed is always full of teachers and administrators professing a “new” messy and noisy style of learning. Now, while my classroom will become extremely loud when they put on a cardboard arcade with coded games, or a in the heat of a good debate, you can also find my entire class sitting around with headphones while diligently completing a project.

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From CBC slideshow on 21st Century Jobs

Take a look at the photo above. These “custom implant organ designers”, one of the newest jobs popping up in the world our children are graduating into, are all working mostly in silence. However, there are multiple points of contact for face-to-face interaction; They are not limited in their ability to turn and interact with one another. The point is that sometimes students need quiet time to think, and other times, they just need to dump ice on each other and figure out how things freeze (see below). There are many ways to learn, and it is a teacher’s job to figure out the pedagogy that best matches the circumstance.

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My students making a mess at our class Science Fair

Is my class loud? Sometimes. When they are quiet, is it because I have demanded compliance and they are passively listening to me? Not usually. Perhaps they are fully concentrating as they practice something, or are preparing in silence to teach others. It might be because they are writing, or communicating with others on social media or in our online courseroom, and the language-use is intense, but not loud.

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In general, I try to use what we know about retention, such as the pyramid above, to plan and evaluate how my classroom looks and sounds. Now, onto the touchy-feely stuff.

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Feel Like?

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Via http://www.hrreview.co.uk/

It’s time to face the facts that many of the jobs of today will be gone tomorrow (See: 15 jobs that will be gone in 10 years) – this is just the way of the world. According to some, 47 percent of jobs will disappear over the next 25 years. Computers will simply be able to do things more cheaply and effectively than humans.

The students of today will be designing those computers. This is why, in the classroom of the 21st century, technology should feel ubiquitous; It is just as much a part of learning as pencil and paper and it is omnipresent. I constantly work to hone my technology skills (on my couch while watching T.V.), and I fully embrace the technology that I have available at my school.

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One setup I’ve had in my class – students partnered elbow-to-elbow, teacher is “guide on the side”, students can connect to Apple TV for sharing what’s on their screens

The 21st century-ready classroom feels democratic, and behaves much like a democracy. 21st century skills (see below) cannot be developed in an entirely top-down, authoritarian environment. I don’t imagine that the workplace of the future will behave that way either – remember which jobs are disappearing, and which are being created.

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Companies today want our kids to graduate having mastered the 4Cs of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. A child should feel like their ideas matter in their classroom, much like a professional should feel valued for their ideas in the workplace of the future. It is important to give your class back to your students so that they gain the necessary confidence and perseverance to pursue and communicate their ideas when they enter their future careers. If it were up to me, I’d make it a school-wide rule that every child should have access to snacks, drinks, and bathrooms and should be able to choose their clothes. But alas, that sounds like a whole ‘nother article.


 

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and links that try to describe the 21st century classroom. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, check out more about us, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com for more teaching ideas in motion.

The Power of Digital Manipulatives

I wanted to share this Infographic by MIND Research Institute today, as it confirms some of my experiences with digital manipulatives in my classroom. My biggest takeaway from the infographic is the idea that you can scaffold the concepts by first starting with physical manipulatives (we do learn with our bodies!), and then transitioning to digital manipulatives to “improve transferability of math concepts”, and then finally representing the concepts with numbers and symbols.

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This webapp allows students to see money with the number blocks of their amounts – from mathlearningcenter.org

In my class, I created an elink of digital manipulatives so that students can have most of the digital manipulatives from mathlearningcenter.org at their disposal. You can download all of these tools as apps, but I found that the webapps were almost just as functional (downloading takes up precious storage on student iPads!). I very much followed a scaffolding strategy similar to what the infographic describes.

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I created an e-link on my Moodle course with links to all of the webapps. For more on elink, see Easy-Peasy Way to Give Great Links to Students)

Good teachers use everything that they have at their disposal, and don’t get caught up in searching for silver bullets. There is a place for physical manipulatives in the 21C classroom, as well as a place for digital ones.

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com! Enjoy!


Digital Manipulatives Infographic

Courtesy of MIND Research Institute. 


What do you think about the role of digital manipulatives? Comment below!

5 KeyBoard Shortcuts Every Teacher Needs

The connected teacher of the 21st century has a need for speed. The following are 5 MacBook keyboard shortcuts that I find that I use everyday to get the job done for my class.

#1 Emoji Keyboard

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Command + Control, Space Bar

The emoji keyboard shortcut not only allows teachers to communicate with students in fun ways as they learn to use social media, but it also serves a number of purposes throughout  my lessons – from arrows, checkmarks, to any symbol, really.

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I even use the emoji shortcut to make the play buttons on my videos (WordPress doesn’t let me embed videos unless I pay mo’).

#2 Link

Link

Command + K

If you’re like me, you’re always wanting to give kids great links to great content, fast. I am constantly sending e-mails to students, commenting on forums and social media, and creating web pages on our LMS that require quick links. The link shortcut may be the most used keyboard shortcut in my teaching repertoire.

#3 Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Command + Control + Shift + 4

While you may have known that Command + Shift + 4 saves custom sized screenshots to your desktop (useful for many sites), did you know that you can save your screenshot to your clipboard with just the addition of one more key stroke?

I use this shortcut whenever I want to quickly paste a moment from a website onto almost any web page, textbox, or e-mail. I also quite often end up using the markup tool or Preview to make a few annotations before sharing my screenshots with my students.

#4 Switch Between Applications

Change applications

Command + Tab or ~

As teachers are constantly changing between applications and programs during lessons, this is one of those shortcuts that can make transitions easier and increase student attention and engagement. Press Q while holding the command key and you will quit whatever application you’re currently highlighting.

SwitchingAppsOSX.Small_

This shortcut is also one of the most natural feeling of the macbook shortcuts, and one that I definitely miss when switching to other devices. As we are a 1:1 iPad school, the students can do the same thing with a double-click to their home button, but I’m not how many mac users regularly switch between applications in this convenient way.

#5 Undo

Link

Command + Z

An oldie, but a goodie! I make mistakes, and I make them a lot while I’m teaching. I sometimes wonder if the pioneers of the shortcut knew this when they designated the last letter of the alphabet and the first letter of my name to be the undo shortcut. If you’re not comfortable teaching with technology, I hope that you take this small piece of advice: Don’t worry about screwing up. There is always a way to undo what’s been done. Don’t be more afraid of mistakes than your students. And don’t be afraid to play around with edtech at school or on your couch. If you mess up, just push Command + Z!

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First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Why Students Need HelpDesk Too.

Most schools have a HelpDesk system for faculty to get help in a number of ways. My school has one such system, and I am constantly using when I need assistance with maintenance or our school’s IT systems. The reasons for using these HelpDesk systems are obvious: They are a way to organize and timestamp requests based on urgency, location, and other factors that are not possible with a direct e-mail. HelpDesk makes it so that complicated tasks aren’t forgotten, and that nobody can cut in line.

hd

It recently dawned on me that students and teachers need a similar system for their classrooms. My students are constantly asking for help, but that help is usually poorly recorded and responded to. Requests for help get forgotten, and the loudest, pushiest students are able to cut in line. Using the Moodle Reservations Activity (Also check out: How can Moodle be used in Elementary?), I put together a HelpDesk system for math that has really worked for my students.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 2.58.52 PM

Check out this video for more info:  https://youtu.be/PhsIvwTPFl4

How does it work?

At different times during math, I have students enter into the Math HelpDesk to indicate their needs in a simple note. They are effectively “reserving” a spot on the carpet with me. I take a look at all of their requests and group them according to what they need help in. As a result, my ability to group students by need has been streamlined, and students that are not being helped are always busy working instead of waiting.

HelpDesks for Everything!

I love that these HelpDesks give students agency and voice in their classroom. I am always trying to give my classroom “back to my students”, and this puts the onus to learn and problem-solve their gaps in understanding on the students. So far I have made HelpDesks for math, writing conferences, and for checking in with me about goal-setting after student-led conferences.

Can you think of any more uses for HelpDesk in your classroom? How might you put one together using your school’s LMS and available tools? Comment below, follow me on Twitter, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!