11 Tech Tools and Suggestions for Using Them

By Melissa Comer
SPRING 2021

In the words of the great philosopher (okay, singer/songwriter) Thomas Rhett, “Life changes!” From a teaching standpoint, this has never been truer than during the coronavirus pandemic and the transition to online learning and teaching. Many of us found that we were at a loss as to where to begin, regardless of how comfortable we might have been in using a smartphone to make calls, watch TikTok videos, or read the news. Suddenly, we were (and are) being tasked with using technology as the chief means for teaching.

With technology as the primary mode of instructional delivery, answering the questions of where to begin and what tools to use is critical. To that end, read on for suggestions and not quite a baker’s dozen of Web 2.0 tools that are free and relatively easy to use.

  1. Check out Flipgrid (info.flipgrid.com), a discussion platform that allows you to record a short, 2-minute video. After setting up your educator registration, create a Grid on whichever topic you choose and share a link or code with your students. Suggestions: Assign students to complete learning reflections, project presentations, or discussion-question responses.
  2. Use Thinglink (thinglink.com) for interactive projects using images, videos, and other media. Rather than something static, you can include various links and other information to reinforce the content of the image or video posted. Suggestions: Post a word cloud of vocabulary relating to a specific topic or insert URLs that provide more information.
  3. Make a visual story using Adobe Spark (spark.adobe.com). This easy video platform allows you to add photos, video clips, soundtracks, and even your own voice. Suggestions: Use as a platform for making an engaging lecture, have students practice digital storytelling, or explain the step-by-step process for answering an algebraic equation.
  4. Try podcasting with Vocaroo (vocaroo.com), a free voice-recording service that requires no registration. Simply press the button to start recording. Once finished, save it, download it, or share through social media, email, embed, or via a QR code. Suggestions: Read/tell a story, discuss a science experiment, or review historical or current events.
  5. Stay in touch with students via Remind (remind.com), a free text-messaging tool that requires no phone numbers. Set up a class and have students join with a code. Add to your messages by uploading documents, photos, or more. You can also send direct links to Google Classroom, Flipgrid, SurveyMonkey, and more. Suggestions: Set virtual office hours so students can text you with questions, send reminders of assignment due dates, and share handouts.
  6. Assess students using Google Forms (google.com/forms/about). Design a quiz using multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay, or scaled questions. Suggestions: Find out students’ interests and attitudes toward reading by implementing a reading interest survey or give a traditional test over content studied.
  7. Create an online character, or avatar, with Voki (l-www.voki.com). Customize the avatar by selecting hair, skin, and eye color. Record your voice and share via a link or embed it on a website. Suggestions: As an alternative autobiography, ask students to share 10 tidbits about themselves, or use a historical figure and include 10 facts about that person’s life.
  8. Engage in online discussions on documents you upload with Now Comment (nowcomment.com). Suggestion: Form cooperative groups of students and have them work together to do a close read of a document.
  9. Get a quick response to a question using Easy Poll (easypolls.net). Pose your question, share the link, and get responses. Suggestions: Have students rate their understanding of a particular concept or indicate their answer to a direct question.
  10. Check students’ ability to listen actively with ESL Video (eslvideo.com). Insert a link for a YouTube video and pose questions that can only be answered by watching the video. Suggestions: Use a video/quiz already designed or locate a high-interest music video and create your own active listening assessment to reinforce content comprehension for ESL/ELL students as well as native English-speaking ones.
  11. Share data with the Data GIF Maker (datagifmaker.withgoogle.com). This is extremely easy to use! Create rectangle, circle, or racetrack graphs. Suggestion: Ask students to agree or disagree with a statement and create a circles-data GIF to show responses.

Many of us would love to be in the classroom, interacting with students in a face-to-face environment; however, given the current circumstances, that’s an impossibility. To paraphrase Thomas Rhett, you woke up and found nothing the same; your teaching life has changed, and “you can’t stop it [so] just hop on the train.”

Breathe and know that you’re not alone. It’s a learning process that we are all going through. There will be failures; learn from them. There will be successes; celebrate them!

Dr. Comer, a Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at Tennessee Technological University, teaches graduate and undergraduate literacy courses. Professional activities include presentations at local, state, regional, national, and international levels as well as publications of conference proceedings, scholarly articles, and book chapters.

Socially Just Technology Access in the Post-COVID Era

By Rebecca J. Blankenship
SPRING 2021

Since its inception in the 1960s and 1970s among radical criminologists, social-justice research has certainly evolved from the initial focus on injustices and inequities within the criminal-justice system to become a peripheral research interest among other disciplines. Within the field of education, social justice through equal access to technology has become a research area of particular focus as existing and emerging technologies have significantly changed teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Although the increase in technology use has, for the most part, significantly impacted pedagogy and instructional practice in a positive way, issues of equitable access frequently overshadow the anticipated benefits of providing students with alternative ways to engage with instructors while enhancing deeper cognitive development. This is particularly the case when engaging with vulnerable (marginalized) student populations, which has certainly changed the focus of the instructional technology and pedagogic narrative among educators and educational researchers.

These inequities in technology access require the redefinition of equitable engagement, understanding the current state of technology access among vulnerable populations and persistent barriers to access including hidden curricula, and proffer a change in the narrative towards more sustainable and equitable practices as educational theory and technologies continue to evolve in the new decade. Accordingly, the conversation among teacher preparation programs, especially in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and transition to complete remote instruction in the spring of 2020, has shifted from preparing future educators to implement best face-to-face practices to how teachers can translate those practices into a virtual classroom setting.

Additional considerations in terms of online best teaching practices parallel the narrative of equal technology access from the standpoint that many students transitioning to online learning did not have a computer or Internet access in their home. Further, for a large percentage of marginalized students, their only opportunity to interact with computers and mobile technologies is in the face-to-face school setting, which results in an imbalanced technical skill set for them compared to their non-marginalized counterparts.

Thus, the transfer to remote instruction created three imbalances in teaching and learning:

  1. Classroom teachers must now teach traditional face-to-face content in a virtual setting,
  2. Classroom teachers must now teach digital-literacy skills so that all students can actively engage with content, and
  3. Classroom teachers/school administrators must now ensure that marginalized students have equitable access to technology in addition to enhanced support services in order to actively and positively participate in the virtual classroom setting.
  4. Classroom teachers/school administrators cannot work in isolation.  In order to move forward, it is imperative that all stakeholders work in tandem with local, state, and federal agencies to secure funding and support services through specialized grants and programs that direct funds specifically to address the ongoing educational and technology access among historically underserved populations.  

Thus, teacher preparation programs moving forward in the new post-COVID era of virtual instruction are now charged not only with helping pre-service and beginning educators implement best online teaching practices, but also to do so in such a way as to ensure their practices are equitable for all students, especially those most vulnerable among marginalized students. Suggestions for program changes moving forward include:

  • Provide additional field clinical experiences that include working with sociocultural and socioeconomically diverse student populations,
  • Provide enhanced field clinical experiences that include working in more Title I and similar schools with large marginalized populations,
  • Redesign existing technology—key assignments to include more assistive technologies for marginalized students, and
  • Provide ongoing support especially for beginning teachers navigating the uncertainties of teaching marginalized populations face-to-face and virtually in the post-COVID era.

Additional Reading

Bridging an engagement gap: towards equitable, community-based technology leadership practice. International Journal of Leadership in Education, by E. Chang. (2019)

Cruel optimism in edtech: When the digital data practices of educational technology providers inadvertently hinder educational equity. Learning, Media and Technology, by F. Macgilchrist. (2019) 

Equitable access to education and development in a knowledgeable society as advocated by UNESCO. Educational Research and Reviews, by C. M. Jemeli and A. M. Fakandu. (2019) 

“Just access”? Questions of equity in access and funding for assistive technology. Ethics & Behavior, by E. Durocher, R. H. Wang, J. Bickenbach, D. Schreiber and M. G. Wilson. (2019)

Technology for equity and social justice in education: Introduction to the special issue. International Journal of Multicultural Education, by S. Marx and Y. Kim. (2019)

Working toward equitable access and affordability: “How private schools and microschools seek to serve middle-and low-income students.” Bellwether Education Partners, by J. Squire, M. S. King, and J. Trinidad. (2019)

Dr. Blankenship is an Associate Professor and TESOL Program Director in the College of Education at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Blankenship teaches ESOL Endorsement and Compliance courses required by the state for professional certification. Dr. Blankenship’s research interests include the development of virtual training environments for pre-service teacher candidates, the digital agency and literacy development of pre-service teachers and university faculty, and the effects of politics and social media on the teaching profession.

Teaching (Calmly) During a Pandemic

By Kayla Oscarson and Susan Trostle Brand
SPRING 2021

On Friday, March 13, 2020, Mrs. Peecher’s world changed. As a kindergarten teacher, she and other teachers in her building and throughout the nation listened with astonishment to the intercom announcement, “Please pack up your belongings and take them home today. Prepare to teach from your computer for the foreseeable future.”

Teaching virtually during a pandemic is definitely not in the New Teacher Manual. During these uncertain and turbulent times, teachers, parents, caregivers, and children alike have been forced to learn a new way of teaching, learning, and coping. For many parents, assuming the role of teacher opened up a plethora of stressful factors, including emotional, physical, social, and economic considerations (Shea, 2020). For students, the pandemic and school closures have signaled a decline in opportunities for cultivating new friendships and sustaining old ones.

In the past, while at school, students learned how to make new friends, control impulses, delay gratification, see others’ perspectives, assume responsibility for their work, adhere to a regular schedule, and show respect to their teachers and classmates (Ho & Funk, 2018; Kostelnik et al., 2015). Darling-Churchill and Lippman (2016, p. 2) added, “Interactions with other children and adults early in life set the stage for future academic and personal outcomes.” A plethora of skills emerge from students’ experiences in school.

With the advent of learning from home and the need for isolation, students devote approximately 4–5 hours to computer time each day, and rarely if ever see their classmates aside from onscreen. Therefore, consider the importance of students’ social–emotional skills in the context of virtual teaching and learning.

Creating Virtual Teaching and Learning Success

The following suggestions may support the delicate balance between achieving academic goals and maintaining emotional and physical well-being for teachers and students alike.

  • Understand the family/home dynamic.
  • Learn families’ schedules. Find out when they are available to support learning and with whom the students spend their days.
  • Review a plan of action. Consider caretakers’ native language.
  • Ensure that families and students understand how to navigate interactive assignments.
  • Establish a routine and stress the importance of consistency.
  • Provide daily communication hours.
  • Check in with students and families at the end of each week; showing that you are thinking about them goes a long way!
  • Keep track of students in a spreadsheet regarding work completion, attendance, participation in Zoom, and scores on assignments.
  • Create a plan of action for those who are difficult to contact.
  • Provide meaningful feedback and effective, focused praise.
  • Identify best ways to learn, track data, and incorporate differentiation.
  • Consider students requiring additional supports, and ensure those supports are provided.
  • Incorporate frequent body breaks in interactive assignments.
  • Make suggestions for multiple ways to complete an assignment.
  • Include challenges within assignments for those who are higher-level thinkers.
  • Include character education and promote positive thinking.
  • Recognize their hard work by posting a weekly “shout-out” or certificate.
  • Create suggested scavenger hunts and STEM or STEAM projects.
  • Offer an Author’s Share, Joke Day, or Show and Tell.
  • Schedule “Make a Difference Mondays,” sharing stories about how they spread kindness.
  • Read stories with protagonists whose emotions match those of the students.
  • Follow up stories with related activities.
  • Use mistakes as learning experiences and ways to improve your distance teaching.
  • Brush up on your tech skills and collaborate with other teachers to share ideas and knowledge.
  • Take time to check in with yourself and reflect on your experiences.

The Silver Linings of Distance Learning

  • More opportunities and time for one-on-one teaching
  • New technology skills for teachers and students
  • Enhanced family involvement with students’ learning
  • Strengthened home–school connections through daily communication
  • Savings on costs of travel to and from the school building
  • Flexible schedules for students and teachers

Concluding Thoughts

Students mirror their teachers’ dedication, enthusiasm, and love for learning, whether in the face-to-face or virtual classroom. In these uncertain times, teachers need to stay calm and continue on.

Ms. Oscarson is a second-grade teacher. She has her master’s in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kayla has been teaching for more than 10 years. She specializes in the psychology of teaching, and social–emotional well-being. Kayla also runs workshops devoted to mentoring new teachers.

Dr. Brand is a Professor of Early Childhood Education and Social Justice. A 35-year counselor of the Iota Sigma Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Brand is the author of four education textbooks and numerous articles and chapters. She served on the KDP Executive Board as Vice-President and President-Elect.

References

Darling-Churchill, K.G., & Lippman, L. (2016). Early childhood social and emotional development: Advancing the field of measurement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 45, 1–7.

Ho, J., & Funk, S. (2018). Promoting young children’s social and emotional health. Young Children, 73(1), 1–12.

Kostelnik, M., Whiren, A., Soderman, A., Rupiper, M. L., & Gregory, K. (2015). Developmentally appropriate curriculum. Cengage.

Shea, S. (2020. April 22). How parents can help children cope with mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts General Hospital. https://www.massgeneral.org/children/coronavirus/how-parents-can-help-children-cope-withmental-health-concerns-during-the-covid-19-pandemic .

Technically Speaking: Ed Tech for the Danielson Domains

Hello, friends! In this issue, I am sharing educational technology tools across the Danielson domains.

TechDanielson

The Danielson domains refer to four domains of teacher responsibility as defined within the Framework for Teaching (www.danielsongroup.org/framework). This is a curated list from preservice teachers at Grove City College, who were tasked with identifying a tech tool for each domain.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

Domain 1 focuses on knowing your students beyond the student interest survey, understanding the content area and how to best teach it with evidencebased practices, assessing students’ learning, and ensuring that your content is coherent in sequence and scope.

  • Share My Lesson
  • Teachers Pay Teachers – Find a library of resources created by teachers, for teachers! Edit the lessons for your students’ needs.
  • Planboard – Organize lessons, share documents, track standards, and collaborate with other educators in your district. Record attendance, grades, and observations within this easy-to-use tech tool!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Domain 2 is about creating a classroom of respect and rapport among students, and between students and teachers. It is a space where students feel safe to think creatively, solve problems, and collaborate.

  • Classtools – Classtools is an EdTech treasure trove with a QR code creator, random name picker, Fakebook, fake Twitter, and more.
  • Adobe Spark
  • Canva – Don’t buy a motivational poster—make your own! Or better yet, have your students make them and display their work.

Domain 3: Instruction

Domain 3 is the heart of the framework, focusing on engaging students in learning and instruction. It pulls in features of teaching such as assessment, communication, and being a flexible educator.

  • Screencast-O-Matic – Record a lesson or presentation that is easy to share and embed in your class website or LMS.
  • Padlet – Add comments, links, pictures, and videos to this virtual sticky note board.
  • EdPuzzle – Do you want to make sure that students watched the video before class? Try this tool to embed questions into videos.
  • Kahoot
  • Gimkit
  • Socrative – These tools offer fun ways to conduct formative assessments.

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Domain 4 relates to the power of reflection. You don’t want to be that teacher who uses the same lessons each year. Shake it up. Ask yourself, what is best for my students? This domain also relates to professional development (PD) and growing as an educator of excellence.

How can you implement educational technology based on the domains? Share your ideas!

Image result for sam fecich grove city collegeDr. Fecich is a former special education teacher and now is Assistant Professor and Instructional Technologist at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She enjoys connecting with other educators about teacher prep, STEM, augmented reality, and mobile learning. Please send your educational technology questions to Sfecich@gmail.com.

Five Reasons Your English Language Learners Should Be Using Adobe Spark

When I first started teaching English Language Learners (ELLs), the classroom was a very different place. I had a chalkboard and one teacher computer. Fast forward seventeen years and even on campuses with the most limited technology resources, I can piece together enough computers or iPads to provide my ELLs with engaging lessons using any number of apps and sites. One app my students and I have fallen in love with is Adobe Spark (https://spark.adobe.com).

Here are five reasons to use Adobe Spark in your classroom.

The ELPS or English Language Proficiency Standards in Texas require that our lessons address both receptive (reading and listening) and productive (writing and speaking) language skills for ELLs every day. With Adobe Spark, your students can record their own voices to narrate videos they create using images from the app’s built-in library. Students can listen to their own and other student’s video presentations without all of the pressure of standing up in front of a class.

Intrinsic motivation in language learning can be nurtured through activities that allow for authentic use of English with a specific audience in mind. Many students tell me that their first year in school was filled with frustration and isolation because they could not communicate their deepest thoughts and feelings to their teachers and peers. Adobe Spark allows students to tell their own stories using images, music, and their own spoken words.

Speaking a new language can be very difficult without ever speaking the language! That sounds obvious, but in my experience, I see ELLs go through entire school days without saying a single word in English. Some teachers shy away from calling on ELLs because they don’t want to put them on the spot. Adobe Spark allows students to take their time thinking about what they want to say and to record their words as many times as it takes to be happy with the quality. When we can lower students’ affective filters by taking away the pressure to perform on the spot, students will be more successful.

Differentiation is a must with our classrooms becoming more diverse each year. The number of ELLs in our classrooms and communities is consistently rising each year. As an ESL campus specialist, I see teachers struggling to meet the needs of their students when the range of ability levels in a single class can be vast. Adobe Spark makes student-driven storytelling accessible to all of your students.

Free and easy accounts make Adobe Spark an irresistible choice for the classroom. If your school is one of the many that has jumped on the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) bandwagon, your students can sign up by clicking the “Continue with Google” button. Once they agree to the terms of use, they are up and running immediately. Since students don’t go anywhere these days without their earbuds, most will already have a microphone to record in their own pocket or backpack!

The true beauty of Adobe Spark is that it can benefit and empower all your students, not just your ELLs. Using technology tools in your classroom is a great way to engage students who may otherwise tune out another teacher-centered lecture. Twenty-first century literacy skills go beyond traditional text and trade books, and we must define what counts as knowledge by modeling a respect for digital literacy in our classrooms. This tech tool allows for creativity in student work beyond what can be produced with the minimalist pencil and paper of yesterday’s classrooms. Our future leaders and active citizens must think creatively if they are going to find and solve the problems of tomorrow’s world. We as teachers must keep in mind that we are not preparing our students for the world we know today but for the future we want tomorrow.

Faith Kane is the campus ESL Specialist at McCollum High School. She is a technophile using technology to empower students in her ESL Reading classes.

Top Websites for Inclusive Classrooms

The demands upon teachers continue to grow, especially as they seek to accommodate all of their students’ learning needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act provides that students with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment, or that of their same-grade peers. According to the The U.S. Department of Education, 95 percent of 6- to 21-year-old students with disabilities were served in regular schools.

It is incumbent upon teachers, in an era of accountability and mandates set by the Every Student Succeeds Act, to prepare themselves to face the challenges in meeting the needs of students with exceptional learning needs. At the same time, student engagement is at an all-time low and decreases every year starting in the fifth grade; reaching its lowest point by eleventh grade.

Continuing to build classroom supports is essential to keep students encouraged to learn and hopeful for their future. The following websites offer teachers the opportunity, at no cost, to reinforce classroom knowledge and skills while giving students the opportunity to use technology to reinforce their learning.

Flocabulary

Flocabulary offers an engaging approach to K-12 vocabulary instruction aligned to the Common Core State Standards. It offers a free trial and discounts for school-wide subscriptions. Through the use of rap music, Flocabulary helps activate auditory processing and memory and reinforces concepts in all academic subjects including Life Skills and Current Events, necessary for students with exceptional learning needs. All videos have captions, include transcripts, and have variable speed controls to accommodate all learners.

Reading Educator

Students with disabilities must be explicitly taught how to use reading strategies because they do not automatically know how to use these strategies. Reading Educator assumes that every teacher is a reading teacher, and support in the general education classroom comes through the teaching of research-based strategies, which help students become more active in their learning. The website provides sample lesson plans and models of effective strategies such as active reading, vocabulary development, classroom discussion, and higher-order questioning. Additional resources include fun supplemental activities for parents to encourage reading at home.

Funbrain

Designed primarily for grades Pre–K through grade 8, funbrain includes a variety of educational games and videos including all traditional academic areas as well as memory challenges, strategy skills, patterns, logic, and sign language. These animated and interactive games disguise learning through video gaming modules.

Free Rice

Students with exceptional learning needs require review and practice of basic concepts and reinforcement of material previously learned. Based at the United Nations World Food Programme to end world hunger, Free Rice is a win-win website. Teachers are able to register their students to play as a group. As the students answer the questions correctly, a visual representation is shown of the grains of rice that will be donated. This website is appropriate for students at all grade levels. Subjects include: basic math operations, grammar, science, and geography, anatomy, chemistry, pre-algebra, and SAT preparation.

Bookshare

Accommodating the diverse learning needs in the classroom can be challenging and costly. Bookshare.org is an accessible online library for persons with a documented print disability. This website has over a half a million titles and many different options to read books. Students are able to listen to books using text-to-speech voices. Books are available in enlarged font, digital braille, and image description.

Quizlet

Quizlet is an interactive website which allows students the opportunity to practice material learned through digital flashcards that are created by both teachers and students. Study sets can be transformed into games and practice tests to promote application of the vocabulary terms. Students can search for previously created study sets that align with specific course content. Quizlet Live is another version of quizlet. In this feature, teachers can create teams throughout their classroom to play collaborative games to further reinforce vocabulary.

Guysread

Students with learning disabilities are reluctant readers and have motivational problems due to repeated reading failure and negative reading experiences (Melekoglu & Wilkerson, 2013). It’s based on the premise that when children and youth are given interesting material to read, they become more proficient and life-long readers. Guysread is a web-based literacy program for boys, who are more likely than girls to receive special education services and have markedly lower achievement in language arts from elementary through high school (2009). The website includes book recommendations by genre and age range. Interesting reading material on superheroes and supervillains, graphic novels, cars, mystery, fantasy, and sports can also be found.

With these resources, you will provide opportunities for students with disabilities to review and practice educational concepts with technology, all the while facilitating your engagement and motivation to learn.

 

Rachel is a senior undergraduate student at Flagler College and plans to attend graduate school in the fall. Her current interests include students with exceptional needs with focus on best practices in working with children with autism, and behavioral issues.

Cheryl has a Ph.D. in Special Education with expertise in Learning and Behavioral Disorders. She currently teaches in the Education Department at Flagler College.

New Teachers, Don’t Accept the Default: Suggestions to Ensure Success in Your First Year

araoz-lee2Our blog today comes to you from Lee Araoz, who maintains “The Golden Age of Education: Highly Effective Tools and Strategies”, who recently posted this blog. (He’s approved us to share it with you!) It was originally shared as part of a speech he gave for the KDP Initiation Ceremony at Molloy College on March 14, 2016. Enjoy!

I’ve compiled a list of statements offering new teachers advice as they enter their first year of teaching. It is my intention that these suggestions will dispel many of the myths preservice teachers encounter as they complete their training programs.

blog-image1

Don’t accept the DEFAULT. Seek out an option that will be BETTER for students:

  • Make it your mission to fight the “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.
  • Be a disruptor and shake things up. Create an epic classroom!
  • Start slowly with little tweaks like replacing rows of desks with clusters of four in all classrooms—especially those in middle school and high school.
  • Create the change you wish to see in your school.

blog-image3

Be so GOOD they can’t ignore you:

  • Do MORE than the default — arrive early and stay late.
  • Work during your lunch hour — hold review sessions, play RISK with students, treat them to lunch occasionally and allow them to work on projects.
  • Volunteer for everything — start a drama club, be a student government advisor, go to PTA meetings, and/or join the site-based management team.
  • Read Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, for more inspiration.

blog-image4blog-image5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Establish a strong PERSONAL CONNECTION with your students:

  • Share family stories with your class — include your spouse, your children, and your pets. Describe how things were in school when you were a kid.
  • Share your writing folder — read stories you wrote when you were their age. Show them your horrible handwriting.
  • Get to know your students — provide ample opportunities for them to share verbally and in writing. Start a class blog. Go to your students’ soccer games, dance recitals, and drama shows. They will never forget this!

blog-image6

Be FIRM, FAIR, FLEXIBLE, and FUN:

  • Establish clear and simple standards of behavior and stick to them. Students need to feel loved, and they all want limits (although they may not realize it).
  • Flexibility is a key factor to success in your first year. Every student is not at the same instructional level and has different social and emotional needs. For example, I had a student in my first class who was a genius. He absorbed knowledge like a sponge, but his desk was a mess inside and out. Rather than scold him repeatedly about his disorganization, I allowed him to “take over” the empty desk next to him so that he would have more room to put his things.
  • I’ll never forget the FUN I had in 5th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Weiner, made each learning task a joyful experience. We played game shows like Password to review material, created our own videos and filmstrips (cutting-edge technology in the 1970s), wrote extensively and read voraciously. We participated in a Gong Show talent contest, dressed up as our favorite book character and played kickball in her class. Content was being created on a daily basis and it made for an unforgettable experience. I credit Mrs. Weiner as a primary influence on my desire to become a teacher. And, I’ve made sure to incorporate fun activities like these into my lessons every year regardless of grade level. My students come back to tell me how they will always remember the Ancient History News programs they created and filmed live in front of the class.

blog-image7

Make a daily effort to be a “GUIDE ON THE SIDE” rather than a “Sage on the Stage”:

  • Move from a teacher-centered to a LEARNER-DRIVEN classroom.
  • Plan group work activities into ever lesson — play Breakout EDU!
  • Allow students to explore and innovate — do passion-based Genius Hour projects.
  • Incorporate student choice into learning labs — think-tac-toe.

blog-image8

DIFFERENTIATE:

  • Assess prior knowledge as soon as the lesson begins with Socrative, Nearpod, Padlet, Poll Everywhere, Google Forms, or plain old pencil and paper.
  • Then, group students accordingly for that lesson (Flexible Skills Grouping).
  • Offer multiple project options for students to create evidence of learning. Be sure to include choices that reflect various learning styles. Refrain from assigning “cookie-cutter” projects where every student creates the same exact thing.

blog-image9

Get students MOVING in the classroom:

  • Take your class on “learning walks” inside AND outside the school building.
  • Switch up the seats and your classroom configuration often.
  • Use GoNoodle, a fun, interactive way to get kids moving.
  • Don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time engaging in seat work.

blog-image10

Don’t overwhelm students with too much homework:

  • Homework takes the joy out of learning for many kids.
  • “There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students,” shares Harris Cooper of Duke University.
  • Family across America battle over homework nightly. Parents nag, cajole, and often end up doing assignments for their children.

blog-image11

Establish a POSITIVE and PROFESSIONAL digital presence for yourself and your class:

  • Understand that your digital tattoo is permanent and you have total control over the content you put out there. So keep it positive!
  • Provide multiple pathways for students and parents to remotely access learning materials outside the classroom.
  • Model and demonstrate that “Learning Doesn’t Stop at 3 O’Clock”.

blog-image12

Don’t try to keep up with EVERYTHING in education technology:

  • You can’t; nobody can.
  • Curate your resources for quick and easy access using tools like: Padlet, Pearltrees, Pinterest, Smore, or Symbaloo.
  • Ask your students what’s new in technology and social media.
  • Test-drive a new tech tool this year.

blog-image1a

Foster a GROWTH MINDSET in your students:

  • blog-image14

    For example: Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and Michael Jordan all overcame many obstacles before becoming famous.

    Teach students that failure is an important part of learning.

  • Promote the power of positive self-talk. Change your words; change your mindset.
  • Give examples of famous people who failed multiple times before achieving success.

 

 

Don’t EVER stop learning:

  • Embark on self-directed, passion-based professional development.
  • Curate and share content with colleagues.
  • Listen to podcasts, view webinars, and READ whatever you can get your hands on.
  • Become an expert in your field at your own blistering speed. “The standard pace is for chumps.” – Kimo Williams

blog-image16

GET connected:

blog-image18

SHARE your work:

  • Brag about your lessons, your students, and your school on social media.
  • Use apps like Remind to send home positive messages and pictures of students in action.
  • Create a class blog, a digital newsletter, or a YouTube channel to spread the word.
  • Don’t hold back because you worry that it’s not good enough or original enough. “To be original, you don’t have to be FIRST, you just have to be DIFFERENT and BETTER,” – Adam Grant.
  • As a teacher in the new millennium, you are your own personal brand. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to promote yourself.
  • Read Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work, for more inspiration.

Save EVERYTHING:

  • Keep a teaching journal and/or blog about your successes and failures in the classroom.
  • Take pictures, make “best of” slideshows, and share your work!
  • Keep a digital portfolio of your work.
  • Continually update your résumé.

I’d like to emphasize that teaching is a difficult job, but it is the MOST REWARDING profession there is. I had a friend who owned his own business and he asked, “Isn’t it boring teaching the same grade/subject each and every year?” and my immediate response was, “No, it NEVER gets boring because each year, you are challenged with a new and vastly different group of students.”

EMBRACE CHANGE and you will rarely be disappointed!