Teaching Today: One Teacher’s Perspective from Hong Kong

 

 

OUR FUTURE IS YOUR OLD AGE

OUR FUTURE IS YOUR OLD AGE (Photo credit: infomatique)

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.

Stephen Hawking

 

 

 

Today, knowledge is everywhere.

My international school students access educational videos, tutorials and simulated learning. They realize early on that I am not the end all, be all, and that they can just as easily, and more creatively, find knowledge on their own. Why watch me struggle with an answer when they can easily go to http://www.Brainpop.com?

 

Essentially, my traditional professional life has ended and is not coming back. Just last week, our school’s librarian (another profession on the ropes?) passed out Kindles for the teachers. My students already have mastered eBooks and are waiting for me. I have ridden the waves of educational technology and even I am having a difficult time keeping up. I foresee the day when my classroom is devoid of any books whatsoever. (Perhaps within the next twelve months!)

 

My students have little need for traditional learning. They beg to use Google docs and back channel websites such as TodaysMeet so that they can collaborate and learn together. They beg to play math games online. Who am I to stop them from learning this way? They demand that I let them learn in learning pairs or trios.

 

Everyday, supervisors judge me on how engaged my students seem. I know that the students are trying to focus but oftentimes they wait for me to stop talking so they can go back to learning their way. I do not blame them in the least.

 

It is scary how fast their world is moving. Due, in part to this, my confidence in my teaching ability is low. I remain optimistic about their future and I do see tangible positive results. However, my days as a teacher are dwindling; at least, the classroom teacher that I have always recognized.

 

When I was their age, Cape Cod was a journey. My students give each other tips on how to deal with jet lag.  I used to memorize world capitals, while they visit them. At their age, I was reading Encyclopedia Brown; they are comparing the internal and external traits of the many characters in Harry Potter. I helped my teacher thread film into a projector. They are creating brain-friendly presentations and asking me how to embed video. When I was ten, I didn’t even know the meaning of the word, “embed.”

 

Each teacher and parent is struggling with change. What gives me hope is curriculum development. Curriculum is best when it rewards innovation and collaboration to solve real problems. I see a near future where curriculum builds on the students’ energy and wish to make their world better. I see schools changing to fit the needs of students and not our misconceptions of what they need to learn. I have been able to give my students snippets of Challenge-Based Learning. During these times, I never once need worry about student engagement.

 

Essentially,teaching is redefined each year. I accept this as fact and give up thinking that traditional teaching practices work.

 

Am I the only teacher that feels this way?

 

 

 

 

 

Educational Technology: What We Use Today

When Free Technology for Teachers founder, Richard Byrne, sent a shout out for guest bloggers, I needed to reply. Byrne is an amazing resource in my 4th grade classroom and I’ve sent more than a few colleagues his way.

For me, Educational Technology has changed everything. I am constantly striving to improve a bit each day. Ed Tech helps me go forward in my career. I’m pretty convinced that education rituals will continue to radically change in the next five years or so. Specifically, online or distance learning will grow exponentially, I believe. Master teacher-leaders will be compensated well, I imagine.

Hopefully, this will shift schools’ leadership arrangement. Perhaps, excellent teachers will bypass the political firestorms and create online versions of “schools” on their own. That said, most teachers are still confined to brick and mortar institutions.

The following is a body of thought upon my current practices with educational technology. Everything that I  highlight  is used now in my classroom. I want to share what I am using to exemplify that Ed Tech is constantly evolving and the fact that today’s master teacher needs to constantly evolve, as well.

TodaysMeet.com is used for my reflections of learning. I use a visualizer to so that students can see their thoughts published on a giant screen. This tool really helps with developing a community of learners and gives hesitant speakers a voice.
Garageband: Garageband is used primarily for my podcast interviews. Soon my children will be creating book trailers.
Instagram: Used to promote exemplar thinking in my classroom. I instantly send photos of student work to teacher friends around the planet.
Twitter: Simply, the best professional development for educators.
WordPress: An amazing tool. Its software actually improves my writing by highlighting my many passive verbs and complex expressions.
Brainpop: The kids love the animated videos. I love that each is habitually excellent and end with a touch of humor.
Evernote: Great cloud device for saving URLs of note. Very user-friendly.
Confer: I am hoping to use this soon along with Dragon Dictation to save conversation notes with my student readers and writers.
iPhone: Incredible for documenting evidence of learning.
Keynote and Keynote Remote: Stylish, easy to make presentations. I embed exemplar writings and student thinking. I routinely embed excellence using iPhone videos.
Skype: Great for connecting with experts. I have used them also for connecting with students that have moved overseas.
Stickies: I have over thirty “virtual stickies” reminding me of things to do.
Bamboo Web Tablet: Used for creating online tutorials in mathematics. Helps to increase the math conversations outside of the classroom.
Smartboard Notebook: Simplifies my day-to-day math lessons. Smartboard took me a very long time to master. I had given up on Smartboard a numerous amount of times.
Excel: Used to organize my blizzard of Everyday Math Assessment data.
Google search (safety mode) Teach the kids to use advanced search only and to search smartly.
Pages: Not as easy to use as WordDocuments but it helps me create a more stylish document.
Google Drive: My students love that they can collaborate online using GD. I hope to use this as my primary teaching tool for Writers’ Workshop. Sadly, no more anchor charts will be posted in my classroom. Student and teacher thinking will be documented and posted primarily on-line thanks to the good people of Google.
Screencastomatic: Super easy, free tool that helps me create online tutorials.
WolframAlpha: An unbelievable resource that is perhaps, over my students’ heads. Still, I try to promote this site when possible.
Citationmachine: Helps my kids learn the habit of citing research at a very early age. I am hearing Easybib is a pretty good resource as well.
Google Alerts: Great for staying updated on trends in education. I now receive news from around the world about start-up online education companies.
Poetryfoundation.org: I use this site for they have a children’s poem of the day. I hyperlink a poem each day and my students analyze a new poem each day after daily devotions.
Google Sites: Easy access to homework announcements and storing PDFs for students to have access to HW. No more excuses need for forgotten homework, although I normally do not care if students choose to avoid homework worksheets.
Polleverywhere: Teacher friendly site that makes for a quick resource bank of student thoughts.
Google forms: Outstanding data gathering tool for the classroom.
Gmail: I send useful hyperlinks easily using my student Gmail addresses.
Google presentations: Does not work as well as Keynote but is great for the kids can collaborate outside of the classroom. Students love its usefulness.
YouTube and Vimeo: I regularly show relevant Bill Nye the Science Guy on Friday afternoons before holidays.
ted.com: Inspirational and thoughtful talks that keep me hopeful.

I welcome your comments, thoughts and help in allowing me to grow as a fourth grade teacher. Feel free to contact me @ merninbar@gmail.com

Take care, have fun and good luck!

A Discussion with Mr. Aaron Metz, Apple Distinguished Educator

Teachers.

Yesterday at the 21st Century Learning Conference, Hong Kong; I was fortunate to meet up with Apple Distinguished Educator, Mr. Aaron Metz. Aaron was kind enough to allow me twenty minutes to interview him for this podcast. In this interview, Aaron discusses trends in educational technology, social connections and the value of dynamic leaders in schools. He closes the discussion by highlighting the meaningful work that his students are doing.

If you are an educator, I am positive that you will be highly impressed with Aaron. Enjoy.

AaronMetzpodcast

Teaching Technology to Expat Teachers

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Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the educational professional development course, Teaching Technology to Teachers. Justin Reich and Tom Daccord  led the class. The training was held at Harvard University’s Adolphus Busch Hall. Below are some notes and reflections I found useful for international educators. Additionally, I have provided some links from the course.

Justin clarified to me that effectual educational technology assists students to:

Collect information needed for understanding.

Relate to each other in collaborative learning groups.

Create meaningful, authentic performances of understanding.

Donate their work to a broader audience.

Moreover, Justin and Tom got me questioning my teaching habits, such as, “What is my educational technology mission statement? How do I spend my time? How specifically does my technology choices improve student learning? How do I differentiate my audiences’ level of technical comprehension?How can I use technology to more readily collaborate with my teammates and teachers?”

I envision that this class will help me prod my teammates to contemplate their own philosophies on use of educational technology. I hope to offer opportunities for students colleagues and parents to appreciate that technology is not a cure-all but rather a tool delivering content.

Reich and my cohorts shared teacher-tested professional development models including:

Digital Educator Academy: (Providing college credits for Ed Tech professional growth.)

Nine tech lunch talks throughout the school year

Ed Tech prize drawings provided throughout the school year

Bagels and Laptops: Monthly voluntary breakfast meetings where cohorts share tech secrets and successes

Tech Leader Representatives per Teaching Team or Department

Geek of the Week (I love this idea in spite of the label)

Technology in practice weekly blogs

Technology Fairs where teachers are given time to informally” test drive” tech ideas

Reich explained the rewards of challenges to inspire confidence to change. He presented digital challenges that show, and not tell, teachers the joys, benefits and relative ease in using technology.  A highly engaging challenge is here.Expat teachers can reach available protocols and tutorials to cut issues that will appear. You can use your students and teachers partners to develop tutorials and screencasts. Commoncraft is one such site that has a bevy of tutorials. Screencastomatic is a simple and free site that allows users to produce screencasts while instructing. They can later be linked to teachers’ websites for future viewing.

Upon reflection, the course, Teaching Technology to Teachers, will profoundly affect how I teach my students. Specifically, my students will more markedly share their work with fellow learners worldwide. This is a path to improving student learning.I strongly recommend that international educators consider enrolling with Justin and Tom in the future. I most definitely plan to attend again next summer. I am quite grateful for this time well spent.

Have a great year and I hope this helps. Below are some links that had a great deal of buzz:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc

xtranormal.com

mathtrain.tv

goanimate.com

Polleverywhere.com

http://thwt.org/

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Please write back.