Monday Success: Student Thoughts on Blogging

Apr 21, 2014 by

The Monday Success story this week is from a conversation that I had with a colleague who recently attended a student panel at a technology conference.  The students on the panel were speaking about the changes in their education that stemmed from the technology their teacher was integrating.  One of the topics that the students all spoke of was the change in how writing is done now in class.  All of the students have blogs and freedom to write about topics that interest them.  The students still have to adhere to the writing conventions but the topics are much more flexible and can be things that the students are truly passionate about.  Students can express themselves through writing and demonstrate their creativity with the design of their blog.  All of the students on the panel indicated that the most important thing about blogging and publishing compared to writing to a prompt in a notebook was the authenticity of their audience.  One student even said, “I’m sorry but my teacher and my parents are not an authentic audience if I am writing about the things that are important to me.”  Giving students freedom to express themselves while learning is a great way to personalize and empower them.

Student voice and choice are so important as we educate The Last Backpack Generation.  Blogging is a great path for both!

The rest of this week the blog will highlight some tools that students and teachers can use to express themselves. 

Please keep sharing your Success Stories!

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Friday Photo: Take the first step

Apr 18, 2014 by

Sometimes when we are trying new things we let the outcome or the big picture and our fear of failure keep us from getting started.  This is a great picture to keep in mind when trying something new.  Take the first step and after the first one, take one more!Take the first step

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Musings on Approaching Change

Apr 17, 2014 by

I recently received this e-mail from a young teacher starting their first student teaching/practicum assignment:

Hi Prof,

This may sound kind of weird but I do not know who else I can share this excitement with but you.

This morning I went to the school I am working at for my practicum.  I am very excited to know that the school is adopting technologies in their teaching approach.  The school works with Apple and is introducing iPads as early as the first grade.  The school gets parents to purchase an iPad for their child and then has parents present it as a gift during a gift ceremony.  For parents who are not able to afford devices for their child, the school has about 300 units for loan.  Classrooms are equipped with Apple TV too.  The school also adopts the pedagogical approach of Purposeful Play while realizing that play for these students includes mobile devices.  I am very excited about the vast possibilities of things that can be done to support and teach the children in this school.  I think this is a school I want to work in after my practicum experience is complete.

Thanks so much,

William

I love these kinds of e-mails.  I love teachers who are not scared to try new things and I love schools that embrace change for the good of their students.  But…. wait for it, wait for it… I spoke with another teacher recently who was sinking into despair because he was trying so hard to personalize learning but was receiving some backlash from administrators and colleagues.  This teacher is excited about teaching everyday, works hard for his students, and really makes an effort to create a “non-failure culture” where students are willing to go outside their comfort zones, to push themselves, to be creative and think about possibilities and not failure.  He does this by teaching with abandon and not suffering from paralysis of pedagogy.

However… as good as he is, his colleagues and administrators don’t support him.  Part of this, as he will admit, is because he doesn’t always do a great a great job of communicating his ideas.  So here are three things I think are important when trying to change the culture of your school and your classroom.

How we tell the message is as important as the message itself.  We have to think about our words as we try new things in our classrooms.   Saying, “I am going to let students use devices all day and let them do what they want in math” sounds much more dangerous than “I am going to really try to personalize learning in my classroom so every student is engaged and I think one of the ways I can do that is to use more mobile technology.”

Are you being a positive pragmatic?  Anybody who works with me knows how much emphasis I place on the power of our attitudes in the classroom.  If people don’t want to work with us, they won’t care how good the message is that we are proclaiming.  But even if we are well-liked and positive, most teachers will need to be reached at an intellectual level too.  It has to make sense.  This is why I encourage teachers to have some facts on hand about the proliferation of mobile devices and why it is important that we use them in the classroom.   Colleagues may not like our message but it is hard to argue with the truth.  We are Social has some great infographics on this.

Finally, it is also important to Find or Be the first follower (and this takes guts too).  If you have ever moved, you know that sometimes the key to initial happiness is just finding one good friend.  Change can be like that too- sometimes we need to find just one good colleague to support us.  Finding that one follower can be hard.

BUT if you can find that one person or if you are willing to be that one person, magic can happen!

Stay Crazy in the Classroom,

Zachary

 

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July Institutes

Apr 16, 2014 by

Registration is now open for the two National Institutes I will be speaking at this summer.  The first is Cutting Edge Technology to Enhance Social Studies/History Learning (Grades 6-12).  Three action-packed days will cover the best, available technology and resources for teaching history-social science.  Topics include iPad apps, Google tools and time-saving tools for educators, to name a few.  The Institute is July 14-16 at The Palazzo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The second is institute is Best, New Strategies for Using iPads, Phones, Mobile Devices and Other Cutting-Edge Technology to Enhance Content Learning (Grades 6-12) is great for those brand new to technology as well as experienced technology users who are looking for new apps and ideas.  You are guaranteed to leave with dozens of tools and strategies that you can apply immediately and a hardcopy handbook.  This institute is July 21-23 at the Hotel Sax Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

You can register through the BER website.  You can also register by printing out the flyers linked to the titles above.

Take a look at the exciting highlights of each event below!

Las Vegas History-Social Science Institute

Download (PDF, 177KB)

Chicago Mobile Technology Institute

Download (PDF, 165KB)

 

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Monday Success: Thomas Suarez-App Developer

Apr 14, 2014 by

The Monday Success Story this week comes from a very inspirational TED Talk by Thomas Suarez.   Thomas is an app developer who released his first iPhone app, Earth Fortune, in 2011.  He was 12!   Thomas began teaching  himself to code using online resources, because that is what he was interested in.  When Apple released the developer kit, he set to work building an app.   After releasing his app, he created a club at his school so that he could share his knowledge with others, including his teachers.   He has since established his own company, CarrotCorp, and founded App City.   App City is an extension of the coding club that he started at his school that supports young people in their desire to learn programming.  Thomas was genius.  Are we supporting genius in our classrooms?

It is important to recognize all of the successes in this story.  Thomas was able to develop apps and release them in the app store because his parents supported his genius and paid the Apple Developer fee instead of telling him to go play outside.  Thomas was able to create a coding club at his school because his teachers recognized and embraced the fact that Thomas knew more about coding than they did.   Even the folks at Apple had a part in Thomas’ success because they supported his genius and answered his questions instead of telling him he was too young to make apps.

Kudos to Thomas and all of the adults that encouraged his genius!

If you would like to see more of what Thomas is doing, you can follow him on Twitter @tomthecarrot.

 

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Friday Photo: Next Generation

Apr 11, 2014 by

We know that children in this generation are walking around with a device more powerful than the average desktop was just a few years ago.  It only makes sense that we leverage that power for teaching The Last Backpack Generation.  While we may not like the message below (I spent all my time outside playing sports growing up), it is important that we acknowledge and transform our teaching for this generation of learners.  Keep up the good work and have a great weekend everybody!

Slow Children Texting

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Grammar Up

Apr 8, 2014 by

Grammar up iconGrammar Up is a helpful app for studying grammar skills.  It has a large question bank with over 20 categories such as adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verb tense and much more.  Grammar Up has a timer, a progress monitor, and detailed feedback on missed questions.  This app has been listed as part of Apple’s “High School Survival Guide.”  The app is also very helpful for those studying for a business English proficiency test.

Grammar Up is also available for Android.

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