For years, my teaching revolved around textbooks as my resources. When the Internet arrived, I — as did my colleagues — adopted it mostly for two reasons: 1) research — in place of the library, and 2) rote drills, such as supporting math practice. But that has changed. Using the Internet in classrooms has morphed from optional to organic. In fact, it’s transformed 21st-century education, offering a normative tool for adapting to varied student needs, a scalable approach to differentiating for student learning styles, and a collaborative must-have with its vast offering of virtual meeting and storage options. It is regularly called the “present and future of education”, “one of the central features of modern school reform”, and “the newest way to personalize education”.
For many teachers, it’s fundamental to a style of teaching called “blended learning” (sometimes referred to as “hybrid learning” or even “flipped classroom”). Blended learning occurs when an education program combines Internet-based media with traditional classroom methods. For example, a unit on space is supported by a virtual chat with an astronaut from the space station or his Houston training facility. What used to require school buses and lots of time now is accomplished more effectively for less money through the Internet.
But blended learning is more than simply replacing lectures and books with web-based technology. If you follow the SAMR model, this type of substitution is the lowest level of the pyramid. When technology is mixed agilely with traditional teaching methods to deliver a more rigorous, more purpose-built program, it moves your class to the top SAMR levels — Modification and Redefinition — by replacing less-effective approaches (like pictures) with more-authentic methods (like a virtual visit to a zoo).
Created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design (UbD) is a lesson planning approach that visualizes the end result (what students should understand) to better select learning activities (the path that will get students there). Tens of thousands of educators use it for unit and course planning; hundreds of districts and schools use it as the basis for their curricula. Look at who has adopted UbD:
- the College Board, to guide the revision of its Advanced Placement (AP) subject matter courses and for the development of its courses AP Seminar and AP Research
- the framework for the national curriculum in the Philippines and Puerto Rico
- the state of Massachusetts, for its Race to the Top federal grant program to create more than one hundred exemplary units and associated classroom videos
- the Next Generation Arts Standards
Additionally, the two largest textbook publishers, Pearson and McGraw-Hill, use the UbD framework in many of their textbooks and programs, similar to this example from Pearson’s biology curriculum.
Today’s guest writer is Finja Kruse, a teacher experienced in different educational tools and engaged in creative writing activities in school. You can contact her via LinkedIn. Her article today can be summed up by a line in the last paragraph:
“Technology is not your enemy…”
Educators aim to equip students with an understanding of the world, its fragility, & opportunities, by teaching them various common subjects like math, language, or science. By learning various subjects simultaneously, integration between them and relativity to the world outside of academia can sometimes get lost in translation. Luckily, this is where effective explanation comes in, and thanks to 21st-century technology there are plenty of ways to explain just about anything.
Topics like health, history, geography, music, etc. are often integrated on the web, whether lessons are on the same video hosting site, LMS system, or free online academy. So, the emerging approach of blended learning is becoming more bound by technological glue per se, and tools that provide a broad spectrum of knowledge intake or creation and allow for a wider range of application opportunities are becoming more and more popular.
Using the cloud to store, share, and collaborate in the classroom is relatively new. A decade ago, accessing schoolwork from home was just about impossible. Now, it’s easy through sites like Google Drive and OneDrive.
Mary Davis, a guest writer for Ask a Tech Teacher, specializes in cloud computing. Here are her thoughts on how cloud computing is transforming today’s education:
Cloud computing technology is certainly having its moment these days. Growing in popularity and with no signs of slowing down, the cloud is said to be the “way of the future”. In short, the access to online storage and applications that today’s cloud technology provides us with is significantly easier, cheaper and more secure than any form of memory storage in the past. This is of a particular importance to the way educational institutions are run, as it allows for a streamlined experience that can be more easily maintained by the teacher, the student, and the IT department.
The collaborative properties of cloud computing are appealing to both students and teachers. Gone are the days where group projects require huddling around one computer with the slowest classmate typing. Students can now collaborate with other students and teachers in real time, without necessarily even having to be in the same room.
Students learn best when they are relaxed, happy, and feeling loved. It is challenging to include those characteristics in classes when you are concurrently trying to achieve school goals, comply with curriculum timelines, juggle parent concerns, and blend your lessons with those of colleagues.
This is where mindfulness becomes important. It reminds teachers that the fulcrum for learning is the student’s emotional well-being.
Let’s back up a moment: What is mindfulness? Buddha once said:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
If that’s the plan, mindfulness is the path. It teaches students how to quiet themselves — get to a place where their mind is settled sufficiently to pay full attention to the task at hand. Experts offer many suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your classroom experience. Consider:
- pause and take a deep breath before beginning an activity or in the middle of performing it
- reflect on an activity as a group
- reflect on the student’s own experiences and background and how that relates to the topic
Delving into these rudimentary steps isn’t the goal of this article (find more about that in Janelle Cox’s TeachHUB article). Today, I want to show you how to take the incorporation of mindfulness into your classes to the next level. Here are five ideas:
In these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.
Today’s tip: #126: 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech
Sub-category: Teaching, Pedagogy
Here are seven ways to differentiate instruction every day:
- While some students take their time to carefully finish a project as suits their learning style, others slam through the steps, looking for ‘what’s next’. Both are fine. Have a lot of authentic activities going on in your classroom so students are encouraged to work at their own pace. Let them self-manage their education. Be clear about your expectations, and then trust them to find their way. Have links on the class internet start page for organic learning like keyboarding practice and sponge websites that tie into subject area inquiry.
- Let students communicate ideas with not only text, but layout, color, and images. These can be graphic organizers like Venn Diagrams or pyramids, or an infographic made in ly. Let students
- Show students how to add pictures, borders, and fonts. Some students will tolerate the words to get to the decorating.
- Use online tools like Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker to review concepts. Move away from rubrics and study guides. Anything that gamifies learning will go down easier with students. They are digital natives so let them learn in a more natural way.
- In fact, gamify anything possible. There are an amazing number of high-quality simulations that teach through games–Minecraft,iCivics, Mission US, Lemonade Stand. Here’s a long list. There’s probably one for every subject. Take advantage of them.
- If students aren’t excited by the tools and widgets you offer, let them suggest their own. If they can make the argument for it, let them use it.
- Always offer do-overs. I call them ‘Mulligans’. In a differentiated classroom, let students redo an assignment. What if they didn’t understand? Or were sick? How does trying harder defeat education’s goal of learning? With technology, all students do is open their project and continue work based on your feedback. That’s cool. Rest assured: When you offer this in your classroom, most students won’t take you up on it. It’s too outside-the-box. You won’t be deluged with double the work. But, be happy if you are.
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four topics cover every aspect of our life. Science is our natural world, from the land we live on to the oceans and space we aspire to visit. It’s the weather that changes our picnic plans to the natural disaster that destroyed a town in our own state. Technology includes the iPads toddlers play on, the smartphones we use to guide our days, the apps that turn our lights on and off–or start our car. Engineering is why traffic flows smoothly on crowded roads and why bridges survive despite massive loads of trucks, and is the foundation for much research into global warming and alternative energy. Mathematics happens everywhere–at the grocery store, the bank, the family budget, the affirmative nod from parents to update a child’s computer to their agreement to add apps from the app store.
Every corner of every life includes STEM, which explains the increasing interest in STEM-educated students to fill the nation’s jobs. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. According to the Bureau of Labor and Management:
… jobs in computing and mathematics are projected to grow by 20 percent.
Significantly, STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. The reason: Students trained in STEM subjects think critically, develop creative solutions, solve problems rather than look to others for solutions, and create logical processes that can be duplicated in all parts of their life. STEM-trained students understand how to look at the forest and find the particular tree.
Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, Steven Wesley, has some great suggestions for using augmented reality:
Day by day, technology is becoming more and more present in our lives. As the time goes by, we tend to rely on technology more and more. A good example would be the kids nowadays. They are becoming tech-savvy from a very young age. Twenty years ago, kids were outside playing games from football to hide-and-seek, today’s kids are becoming too attached to their gadgets. They spend their time playing video games rather than hanging out with their friends.
Technology can be either a curse or a blessing, depending on how we use it. In good hands, it can be directed to the achievement of great purposes. Even so, if we use it in an unfavorable way, it can have a lot of malicious side effects.
Augmented reality is a technology that is gaining more and more popularity. Just remember what a huge hit Pokemon Go was this summer. Even though it’s a new technology, it doesn’t mean that it has to be very expensive. You don’t have to buy expensive glasses, you can just use your smartphone or a tablet for educational purposes.
Let’s take a look at three helpful reality apps. They can make your lessons exciting and beneficial for your students.
A topic I don’t cover enough is 3D printing. It’s relatively new on the education landscape and I have yet to reach a comfort level with it. Thankfully, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Lisa Michaels, has lots of knowledge and experience on this topic. Here are her thoughts on the importance of 3D printing in education:
The range of possibilities which 3D printing provides is almost limitless. As the technology evolves, 3D printers are being used to create everything from simple plastic toys to automobile bodies, prosthetic limbs, replacement parts, and even gourmet dishes.
One area where 3D printing has yet to make a difference despite the potential of fulfilling many needs is within the educational systems. Elementary schools, high schools, universities and even vocational training courses are ideal places to incorporate 3D printing as part of the curriculum.
A Revolutionized Classroom
The ability to produce almost any object in 3D is poised to revolutionize learning. Instead of using linear, two-dimensional teaching methods to transfer knowledge and teach concepts, you can facilitate the learning experience by providing hands-on three-dimensional models. Concepts that have been historically difficult to grasp can be directly demonstrated with 3D printed visual aids that help students learn and retain ideas more easily.
I recently got a question from a reader asking how the lessons in my K-8 curriculum supported Dr. Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge philosophy — an integral concept to her school’s mission. It got me thinking about lesson plans in general — how far we’ve come from lecture-test-move on. Now, exemplary teachers focus on blending learning into the student’s life knowledge base with the goal of building happy, productive adults. There are several concepts that address this reform in teaching (such as Art Costa’s Habits of Mind, Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrix, or the tech-oriented SAMR Model). Depth of Knowledge (DoK) is arguably the most thorough with its four concise levels, each supported by a collection of words that contribute to delivering content at that level. Like the SAMR Model, involvement grows with each level from a basic recall of knowledge to the ability to use that information in new circumstances.
Here are general details about Webb’s DoK:
- With Webb’s DoK chart, not only can you figure out how to teach a subject more deeply and expect students to demonstrate complex understanding, but teachers can evaluate where students are in the four-step process starting at the rote application of knowledge to its synthesization from various sources that is then transferred to other uses.
- Level One: Identify details in the text, specific facts that result in a ‘right’ answer. Tasks that require Level One thinking include words like memorize, state, and recognize.
- Level Two: Show a relationship between an idea in the text and other events. ‘How’ and ‘why’ are good questions to bump an activity into Level Two. Tasks that require Level Two thinking include words like compare, infer, and interpret.
- Level Three: Analyze and draw conclusions about the text. Support conclusions with details. Use a voice that is appropriate to the purpose, task, and audience. Tasks that require Level Three thinking include words like hypothesize, differentiate, and investigate.
- Level Four: Extend conclusions and analysis (which might be the result of Level three) to new situations. Use other sources to analyze and draw conclusions. Tasks that require Level Four thinking include words like connect, analyze, and prove.
- As Dr. Karin Hess says, DoK is not about difficulty, it’s about complexity. Level One may be difficult for some students, but it isn’t complex. They may memorize a calculus formula (which I’ll stipulate is beyond difficult), but it doesn’t represent rigorous thinking. That happens in Level Four’s application to the real world.
- For DoK’s Level One and Two, there are usually right answers. That’s not true in Levels Three and Four.There, it’s about higher-order thinking.
- DoK is not a taxonomy (like Bloom’s). Rather, it itemizes ways students interact with knowledge.
- To work at a Level Three or Four requires foundation. Show students how to accomplish Level One and Two goals first.
With that in mind, here are seven steps to transform your current lesson plan into one aligned with DoK guidelines: