Online Education

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More and more school districts and universities are turning to online education. There are many critics and many supporters. What do you think? I recently read an article that helped shed some light on the matter. A link to the article is here. Leave a comment.

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TED Video – Math class needs a makeover

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This video goes very well with the concept of PBL.

Project Based Learning

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The Common Core State Standards are more than just a new set of standards to teach. The pedagogical implications behind the CCSS are more important than the standards themselves. The days of simply checking off a list of standards are fading faster than the tributes in Hunger Games. There is a great need to begin the process of identifying new and more effective strategies for learning. One of these strategies, though it is not very new, is Project Based Learning (PBL).

The idea has been around for a while though it has had several iterations; inquiry instruction, discovery instruction, problem based instruction. The purpose regardless of what you call it is to allow students the opportunity to direct their own learning with little direction from the teacher. The teacher in this approach is meant to be a resource and advisor rather than a planner and director.

PBL is not something to jump right into though. Like any new strategy it takes time and effort to build competency. There are numerous resources to help guide teachers. Edutopia and Buck Institute for Education (BIE) are two of them. Once you decide to begin working toward PBL take it slow and do some research. There are pre-made projects available for those of you that want to try it without the huge time investment needed to do one on your own.

WARNING. PBL is not creating activities that involve “real-world problems”. It is way more than that. PBL is a drastic change in the point of view of learning. Go on, try it. Your presentations are getting stale, your students are not as engaged as you would hope them to be, it’s time for a change. All subjects and all grade levels can use PBL as a way for students to learn.

ANOTHER WARNING. Students will come to you with questions that you may not know the answer to. That’s okay. You don’t have to know everything. Your job in PBL is to guide students to the right answers, not to give the answers to them. Think of yourself as a guide rather than an instructor. Direct students toward the right resources and information.

Most teachers that have introduced PBL into their classroom have been very happy they did. Teachers feel more students are learning, they are learning more about their students, and they feel students are becoming better thinkers. Students will not just be able to spew out information on a test. They will begin to be able to find the information on their own. A novel idea.

Gulp: You Want Me to Use Technology?

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Using technology in the classroom is scary, unpredictable at times, and down right nerve-racking to some people. Students have the ability to run technological circles the size of Jupiter around us. These two ideas come together in each of our classrooms every day. Meeting students, the digital natives as it were, needs technologically is very difficult for us to figure out. However, that does not mean we have the right to say that this technology has no place in our schools or even say that it is harmful. Though it is likely our society will never be the same because of social networking and online media it is safe to say that society would never be the same at any stage in history. Using the latest and greatest technology is as important as using the latest and greatest teaching styles. Math, Language, History, and any other subject taught in school rarely changes. But the way in which students learn best has changed. That is the primary focus of the new standards. Take some time to find a new way to present the same content using technology. Also, take a moment to read this article about using a few pieces of technology in your next unit of study. I think you will find some of the data surprising.

Keeping Students’ Interest

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How many times have you walked into something because you were paying more attention to your phone than where you were going? Our students have the same problem except they have it much worse. The amount of time a student spends immersed in their own digital world is hard to believe. Students are becoming more and more seduced by the power of digital media. What are we going to do about it? Checking all electronic devices at the door usually creates undesirable results and makes students less likely to be interested in school. One option is to use students’ love of electronics to get them to learn. More and more teachers are using online games and tools to enhance their daily instruction. The use of online resources though has its own undesirable consequences. How do you find games that are educational? How do you make sure the game is school appropriate? NCTM Tips gave a helpful guide for using online games including, the benefits of using games, how to choose the right games, and a list of games that are appropriate. Check out the article here. Consider using more games in your instruction but make sure that you take the time to play the games yourself. Your time will be rewarded in student learning.

7 Reasons To Leverage Social Networking Tools in the Classroom

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Check out this article about using social networking sites to increase communication in your classroom. Try it some time and see how students respond. http://www.emergingedtech.com/2011/06/7-reasons-to-leverage-social-networking-tools-in-the-classroom/

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