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.

 

 

A Different Kind of Student-Led Conference

Student-led conferences are all the rage right now, and rightfully so. They provide another opportunity for students to take control of their learning. The thing is, before public, shared, nonlinear digital portfolios, it made a ton of sense to bring parents into the classroom just so they could flip through the pages of their child’s paper portfolio. However, when this model began to be applied to digital portfolios (we use Seesaw), which constantly update parents on new submissions and comments via their phones, I started wondering why we were having these student-led conferences in the first place. After all, the parents had already viewed all of their child’s selected pieces!

This year, I wanted to help the students to make the most out of their student-led conference experience. Here’s what I did.

Students Shared Their Digital Portfolios

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Even though presenting the portfolio isn’t what it used to be due to the fact that every parent has seen almost every piece on their phones, it was still valuable to have parents and students sitting down and talking about the process that went into these learning experiences. My class labeled their portfolio work with a special tab in Seesaw (See 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw) so that they could filter out pieces that they didn’t want to share, and choose what was most important to share during the student-led conferences.

Students Shared Their Goals

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After students sketchnoted two short term goals for the rest of this year, they did a live drawing of their sketchnotes by recording them into stop motion videos using imotion. These were then shared onto their portfolios, but they were also displayed on an “Our Goals” display during the student-led conferences. Since the conferences, we’ve spread out the sketchnotes a bit on this “Idea Wall” (made from chart paper and plywood to cover the windows), and students have been reflecting on their goals with marker. This has led to some glorious conversations about goal-setting, the most interesting of which has been with my student that chose to give up all unhealthy foods for the rest of the school year!

Students Shared Their Peers’ Compliments

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On their desks (mine are all against the walls to make room for learning) students taped a poster with all of the compliments that their classmates had given them just a few days prior. Revisiting these with the parents was one of the joys of this year’s student-led conferences. I’ve written before about this activity, which I call “Cannon Ball”, where students choose their favorite compliment and shout it as loud as they can outside in “private” as the rest of us listen in.

Students Took Pictures of Their Families in a Green Screen Photobooth

While student-led conferences are ultimately about learning, that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Our students set up a green screen (all it takes is green chart paper) and showed their parents how it worked before snapping a quick pic in front of their chosen background. They made sure to raid the drama room’s stash of costumes before the event!

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Students Live-Tweeted the Event

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In my class, we mostly use Seesaw as our main social media platform, but we also use Twitter to connect with a global audience. Afterall, it’s how we found and connected our pen pals to our Seesaw blogs! For the student-led conferences, I borrowed another projector (my first was used to display our Moodle-based BLE) and used Wallrus, a nifty Twitter wall tool that shows all of the tweets as they come in during your event. While my students are not allowed their own Twitter accounts, their iPads are connected to our class Twitter account, and they were able to easily tweet their photos from the camera app and see them appear on this screen. All of the photos in this educationrickshaw.com post were tweeted by students to our school’s hashtag during student-led conferences.

What do you think? Could you use some of these ideas for your next conferences? Please feel free to comment below and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

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

A Letter to My Student About Goal Setting, Body Image, and Healthy Living

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Students set their goals this year by creating sketchnotes and then recoding them as stop motion videos with audio.

I’ve talked about goal-setting before on educationrickshaw.com, including the SMART model. As my school nears Student Led Conferences, using Seesaw as our digital portfolio, my students have all set goals to achieve during the remainder of their time under my care. While most of my students chose goals centered on improving in a particular academic subject or skill, one athletic student set the goal to completely eliminate unhealthy foods from his diet. The following is a letter I sent to to this student and his family after he had just resisted the temptation to eat junk food during a class party. 

 

 

March 28, 2017

Dear S,

I’m writing you tonight to tell you how proud I was when I saw you pass up the opportunity for sweets and junk food during the class party. It was your first big test that you faced since you set the ambitious goal to completely eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet. I was even more amazed when you looked ahead to your birthday and considered not having any sweets at your own birthday party! Since we are partners in this goal-setting process, I thought I’d e-mail you to talk more about the subject of body image and healthy living before student-led conferences.

The most important message that I want to communicate is that you must make sure that you are choosing to eat healthier not because you want to “lose weight”, but because you truly want to lead a healthier lifestyle. Losing weight and healthy living are two different things. There is no reason that you should be thinking about weight loss at your age. As you grow, sometimes you may gain weight because you are gaining muscle, or because you are growing taller, or for reasons that have nothing to do with being healthy. As small changes in weight happen throughout your life, you must always remember that you have an amazing body that is unique and special. Healthy living means maintaining positive feelings towards your body. You are perfectly YOU, and you should be proud of the body you were given.

As you go forward, I also want to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. As you continue your regimen, remember that eating less is not your goal. You still need to consume the amount of calories necessary to keep your body active and healthy. This will require plenty of fruits and vegetables, and reasonable portions of whole grains, meat, and dairy. When you are playing sports, monitor your energy. If you are feeling light headed and dizzy, it might mean that you need to be eating more healthy foods and drinking more water to make up for the lost calories in your diet.

I look forward to hearing how it goes throughout this year!

Sincerely,

Mr. Zach

If you would like to give me some tips or just your reaction, please feel free to leave a comment. For more about teaching and learning, keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, follow me on Twitter, and check out @SGroshell’s resources on Teacher’s Pay Teachers.

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

Teacher Toolkit For Seesaw

Many teachers are using @Seesaw for student portfolios or as an online work journal. Here are some resources that I’ve cooked up for how to go beyond simply posting student work to creating an environment that facilitates learning.

Click on any of the below articles for a thorough write-up on ways to use Seesaw in your classroom! 

  1. Developing Seesaw Activities into Authentic Learning Engagements

  2. Using Seesaw to Teach Students Social Media

  3. BLE Feeling Stale? 3 Kid Friendly Tools to Spice up Your E-learning Platform.

  4. 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw

  5. Seesaw Trick: The Imaginary Student

  6. Connected Blogs Redefine Learning

  7. C21 Pen Pals: The Global Classroom Project

  8. Podcasts (on Seesaw) are Great Way to Develop Speaking and Listening

    Other Resources:

  1. Seesaw Information from a new Seesaw Ambassador: From Mr. Hill’s Musings

  2. All of Seesaw’s Videos: From Seesaw’s Help Center

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