Thursday, April 3, 2014

Digital Citizenship Project

The next project for this class is to cover a segment of digital citizenship.  I have selected etiquette for the web, including emails and discussion boards.  I hope to work with Tywanda on this project.

My students are 7th graders and are beginning to experiment with all areas of technology.  I believe that a lesson on how to properly respond to emails and discussion board posts is important.  Having knowledge early in their learning phase should help them form good habits for the future.

This presentation, while useful for the students, will be directed to parents.  Parents can assist their child in learning good habits for online interaction.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I am discussing problem-based learning in this edition of my blog.  I will again be referring to the Egbert text Support Learning with Technology: Essentials of Classroom Practice, 2009, published by Pearson Education.

Problem-based learning presents the student-explorers with real-world problems to investigate which will combine critical thinking and problem-solving skills with inquiry.  The use of problem-based learning provides much opportunity for students to think critically about a topic and discover or invent potential solutions. This delivery model is excellent for the teacher who wishes students to be the driving force and the center of learning.

PBL situations need to be well designed to avoid too many problems at the same time.  The teacher must also insure that scaffolding is present for those students who may lack the prior knowledge necessary to be successful.  Without this scaffolding, students may become frustrated and less successful.

Egbert lists numerous characteristics for incorporating technology into the PBL task.  Among them are: giving students control of their learning, fun and interesting topics for investigation, and the emphasis placed on process and content.  She also discusses the problem-solving process and the development of PBL tasks.

Potential benefits to the students who are involved in PBL are great.  For me, one of the biggest benefits to PBL is that students learn to become responsible for their learning and to exercise a level of autonomy in their work.  Depth of knowledge and understanding is also enhanced in PBL.

I hope that you will undertake a task using the PBL methods described in Egbert's book.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

This week I will discuss critical thinking and problem-solving.  Both are important aspects of a student's education and can be easily overlooked or put aside by teachers.

The ability to think critically is essential for everyday mankind; the path to critical thinking has many components.  I many use different components than you and both of us can be critically thinking about the same issue.  As a classroom teacher, teaching critical thinking to 7th grade students appears to be a lesson in herding cats.  Sometimes I hit a home run, sometimes a grounder and reach on an error, but I am always thinking about how I can phrase my questions to require answers that are more than rote memory or regurgitation of facts.

Egbert, in Supporting Learning with Technology: Essentials of Classroom Practice (2009), implores teachers to model critical thinking for students.  She gives five ways that teachers can model for students: overtly and explicitly explain what they do and why they do it, encourage student to think for themselves, be willing to admit and correct their own mistakes, be sensitive to students' feelings, abilities, and goals and to what motivates them, and allow students to participate in democratic processes in the classroom.

When I do a demonstration during math class, I think aloud.  My students hear the type of questions I ask myself as I am working through the problem.  They see me encounter a roadblock, backtrack my steps, and then forge ahead.  They see mistakes and are encouraged to correct my mistakes, many purposefully made.  When I think of it, I give the student who reports the mistake a Pez (a tiny candy).  Remember, it is scary for students to report an error made by the teacher.  They must feel safe and confident of the reaction of their teacher.  This is a learned activity.

The internet research is a perfect arena for teaching critical thinking.  Analyzing the research, thinking about who wrote the article or website and their motivation in the writing of the same increases a student's own critical thinking ability and media literacy.

Learning to think critically will not happen overnight!  Much practice is required of the fledgling critical thinker.  I say to my fellow teacher -- don't give up on your students!  Encourage, prompt, and help them develop this skill.

This blog has become lengthy and so I will leave a discussion of problem solving for another time.  Perhaps I will get back here during the week, but grades are due this week and that is always a busy time for me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Things to consider in Planning an Online Class

The development of my hybrid or blended Social Studies class for 7th grade students is still a work in progress.  I am certainly glad that I am planning this course for use next year.  I will have the time to prefect the videos which I am making and locate additional supplemental materials.  I also will be able to create graphic organizers to offer support to my students as they watching content-high videos.

Content-high tasks are common in face-to-face instruction and require little of the student.  In Supporting Learning with Technology: Essential Classroom Practice, Egbert states that content-high tasks offer little support and are often left incomplete.  Process-high tasks are another story.  With process-high tasks require more of the student but still lacks the interpersonal qualities of a f2f meeting with the nonverbal feedback and cues.  Egbert stress that eLearning tasks must be designed to incorporate opportunities for interaction.

I also found that the benefits from eLearning which Egbert delineates confirm mine, the novice.
I have always believed that when students have some control over their work they are more motivated to complete the task.  Egbert takes the idea of control and adds the element of flexibility to it.  So, not only do students have control of the task, but also of the pace and time they choose to complete the tasks.

Additional responsibility or the demonstration of responsibility is also greater in an online environment.   Often during regular ff2f classroom instruction students are comfortable with allowing the teacher to assume responsibility for seeing that assignments are turned in a timely manner, often encouraging and cajoling students to do what is required; eLearning requires the student to be an active learner, not a passive receptacle. 

Other areas Egbert discussed were exposure, interaction, anonymity/equity, and convenience.  All had brief descriptions and were worthy of my consideration as I work through the preparation of my class.

This particular chapter is worth more than a once read and done!  I will return to study, in more depth, Egbert's discussion of the portfolio as an assessment tool.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I posted my course project plan today.  I have incorporated opportunities for using technology in the classroom as well as assignments to be done independently at home.  I believe that the use of technology and the ability to make decisions for their culminating activity will provide motivation.  However, in working with pre-teens motivation is a tenuous thing.  As I work through the process of assembling the course for presentation to the students, I will search for different websites to use that are engaging.

Students engagement is the latest buzzword around my school.  In a recent professional development session, the presenter discussed four levels of student engagement.  They were from lowest level to the highest: rebellious, submissive compliant, driven compliant, and fully engaged.  The rebellious student does not engage and is disruptive in the classroom.  The submissive compliant does what is expected but desires to be left alone.  This person has, in the past, been called a wallflower or "cipher in the snow".  The driven compliant student strives to do what is required to achieve a level of success in grades or to meet parent/teacher expectations.  The fully engaged student is "in the zone".  For these students the clock does not matter.  The statistics given for the ratios place the majority of the students in the compliant zones.  The presenter stated that full engagement was a rarity.

I located a site, which lists five levels of student engagement.  The additional level is just above rebellious and places students who are not disruptive, but offer no effort to participate in this category.

While I will not disagree with the statistics mentioned above, I will say that the computer based site, GetKahoot! is something that my students are wild about.  This site is new and the developers appear to be very interested in student engagement.  If you search me on Twitter(@PrimeFactors_LJ) you can see some evidence of GetKahoot in use.  My students ask me every day if we are going to Kahoot.  On the days and at the time that we are using this site, there is 100% engagement in the activity.  Teachers and students can both make quizzes and polls.  These are then presented in the classroom via projection.  Students use handheld devices to respond.  For quizzes, time and accuracy allow the students to amass points.  My 7th graders are very competitive!  I am sure that an administrator walking down the hall when we are Kahooting wonder if I have lost total control.  I do nothing but make an occasional comment as the game progresses.  If you have not tried this site, check it out.  I have proof it is engaging, at least in the middle school.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It has been too long between posts, but sometimes life gets in the way!

I had a frank discussion with my principal this week about flipping my classroom for the upcoming school year and preparing for Social Studies.  She was excited about the idea that someone would undertake flipping; she has shared may articles and evidence concerning flipping in the past.  Her comments about my choice of Social Studies were at the least disconcerting for me.  She cautioned me that she was unsure as what grade level I would be teaching next year and expressed concern about me putting so much time into the development of the class which I might not be able to use.  I do really understand and appreciate her concern.  But, I must forage ahead with this plan as I feel that I am too far along to go back now.

I have moved the site to CourseSites.  This free teaching site is, for me, more user friendly.  Now the real work begins!  Got to get that class moving. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snow Jam 2014? ClusterFlake?

Whatever it is called by the media, the past week has been challenging for those of us who are educators. High stakes testing will come to my county the third week of April.  Could we request snow for that week?  The test is coming sure as the night is followed by the day.

Missing students the last week of January for 3 days delayed plans.  My Professional Learning Community in 7th Grade Math worked to condense and streamline the curriculum, but now we have missed 3 more student days.  The missed days may have to be made up at the end of the school year, but the teaching days prior to the testing week are gone!

I suggest that students be given the opportunity to become responsible for their own education via the use of technology.  Students need to be educated using 21st century skills, so let's incorporate those same tools into the school and classroom.  I am totally in favor of increasing student engagement through the use of technology and educating students in an online environment.