I love teaching problem solving in the classroom. It’s authentic, rigorous, and often amazing to students. They think the first resource when at school is the teacher.
So I start in kindergarten and bang away at the same theme for the nine years I have them: You (dear student) are your best resource.
Here are some inspiring quotes from men who laugh at problems, shake their fist at adversity, revel at the idea that some consider a problem impossible to solve:
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
In times like these, it is good to remember that there have always been times like these.
— Paul Harvey Broadcaster
Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.
— Richard Sloma
Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well-informed just to be undecided about them.
— Laurence J. Peter
This is a hot topic with many of my teacher friends. Recently, I spent a wonderful hour chatting with efriend, Lindsey Hill (see her bio at the end) and found she had interesting ideas on game-based learning. I’ve been a fan of games in education since discovering Mission US (where students become actors in the American Revolution) and being schooled by students on the value of Minecraft. Lindsey shares my enthusiasm and took it a step further–facing head on the issues that are stopping teachers from using games in education. I think you’ll find her ideas fascinating:
Teachers have many hurdles to jump to begin using digital learning in their classrooms. One thing, among many, that we know about teachers is they don’t give up easily. As a veteran teacher of 14 years and current lead for reading engagement initiatives at Evanced Solutions, I’ve had numerous discussions with educators on best practices for today’s tech-savvy kids. They want to try game-based learning, but it has been stigmatized as “mindless” fun. Critics of game-based learning are unaware that the touchscreen taps, mouse clicks and joystick jiggles can help sharpen cognitive skills.
Integrating the right kinds of games in the classroom helps kids have fun while simultaneously engaging in the process. Yet, teachers are often criticized for pushing more screen time on today’s techno-obsessed children. That’s why I suggest this simple “A.P.E.” principle to help combat four common myths about the use of e-games in the classroom.
A: Authentic Integration
P: Purpose-Driven Usability
Myth #1: Game-based learning does not meet Common Core State Standards and is difficult to assess.
I heard from several friends at a non-denominational school I’m close to that rules regarding prayer in the classroom have changed. Now, teachers may not have the morning prayer that has started their day for over twenty years. Times change and Admin decided that was no longer the direction the school was going. They continue to have organized fellowship–just not under the direction of an individual teacher, in his/her classroom.
Serendipity brought the following to my inbox. Thought I’d share:
After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:
‘Let me see if I’ve got this right.
‘You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.
‘You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.
‘You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job.
That’s a 20% discount! (on most)
Carried over from January, this special includes:
- All Common Core bundles for K-5
- All curriculum extension bundles for K-6
- All grade-specific bundles for K-8
- All themed bundles
- Google Earth
Delivery: PDF format (Digital only)
How to Order: Publisher’s website only
Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Barbara, a principal at a local school:
There isn’t a lot of research on the topic of grading tech classes. Anecdotally, it seems to be all over the board–whether teachers grade or not, and if they do–how. The short answer to this question is: It depends upon your expectations of the tech class. If it’s fully integrated into the classroom, treated more as a tool than a ‘special’ class (some call them ‘exploratories’, akin to PE, Spanish, music), then you probably want to hold it rigorously to the grading scale used in the classroom. The projects created will be evidence of learning, more like summative (or formative) assessments of academic work than tech skills.
That’s right. It’s a new year, which means Pre-Spring Cleaning. Set aside the brushes and mops. Grab a comfortable chair, put on your problem-solving hat, and get started. The goal: To make your computer faster, more efficient, and more reliable for all the work you’ll be doing to wrap up the school year.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel>Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure it is active.
- Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USBs can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Never mind all that geek speak. Here’s what you need to know: Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Advanced Tools.
- Run Spybot or a similar spyware programs. Spybot is free, which is why I like it, and I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
- Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is also free (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
- Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
- Sort through your My Documents files and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years and is covered with dust, even spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through all those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’.
- Back up your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system, skip this. If you don’t, consider getting Carbonite or similar. If you use Windows, try their backup program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
- Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
- Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to. Move on.
- Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
- go to Control Panel>Programs and Features
- peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
- don’t look back
- Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
- Clean the junk off your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Here’s what you do:
- Right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
- Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
New Years–a time for rest, rejuvenation and repair. A time to assess. Do we settle into our life, enjoy where it’s headed, or is it time to grab our purse, our iPhone and keys and get out of there?
As most of you know, I am a K-8 technology teacher, but I have a serious interest in writing. It started with non-fiction technical writing and morphed to novels. I write techno-thrillers, scientific fiction–plots that are based in the cerebral and encourage readers to join my love of intelligent topics. Therefore, my resolutions are far-ranging and varied, so I group them. Here’s my plan for this year:
- Seek out other tech ed teachers to see what is being done to incorporate technology into the classroom. Tech ed is a chameleon, constantly in flux, changing to suit educational environs. It’s a challenge to stay on top of it and one that requires attention every week of every year.
- Keep pushing my students and colleagues to integrate technology into core subjects and add the exciting Web tools to their curriculum. Yes–it’s difficult because it’s not the way they’ve done it before, and yes–it’s worth it.
- Attend ‘a few’ tech ed conferences.
- Continue to work on my online classes, webinars, coaching, mentoring, and pedagogy.
Every year, millions of people worldwide create New Year’s resolutions. In my experience, keeping these goals will happen when Harvard wins the Super Bowl (I used to say when Notre Dame plays for the National Championship, but I had to revise my metrics). In fact, according to Randi Walsh at Empower Network:
- … 25% give up on their New Years Resolutions after just one week?
- … 80% give up on their New Years Resolutions after 20 days?
- … only 8% actually keep their New Years Resolutions all year?
Here’s an example: On a group blog I write with, we were all asked to share our resolutions with the Universe in January, then check in throughout the year on our progress. No one in the entire group–read that Zilch.–had achieved theirs (well, I did, which made our group 8%). The reasons were varied and lame and left me wondering why create resolutions if you so quickly brush them aside?
Why? It makes people feel good. They want to believe their lives will be better at the end of the year than they were at the beginning. Let’s look at the top four resolutions (according to Amber J. Tresca at About.com):
- Increase exercise
- Be more conscientious about work or school
- Develop better eating habits
- Stop smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including caffeine)
Until the day you need it, any software that promises to recover lost data seems too confusing to worry about. That all changes when the book you’ve been writing for ten months announces ‘file corrupted’ when you try to open the lesson plans you created to align the math curriculum with Common Core disappear, or that Open House slideshow of student work is deleted from the share drive where you keep it–and from your local drive. Then, it’s a big deal. Keep this review in your bookmarks (Symbaloo, MentorMob–whatever you use) so you can find it when the day arrives. And it will, exactly when you don’t have time to deal with it.
integrating technology into the classroom. They may be about how to use wikis or blogs in the classroom or what I’ve learned from my students as we got through another tech week. I have regular features like Tech Tips, Dear Otto, and Weekend Websites. I post a lot of lesson plans that have worked for me and share my thoughts on other ideas that affect teachers trying to tech-ify their classrooms (did you see yesterday’s on Martin Luther King?). It’s a fast changing world. I’m just trying to hang on and share the ride.
It always surprises what my readers find to be the most provocative and least interesting. The latter is as likely to be a post I put heart and soul into, sure I was sharing Very Important Information, as the former. Talk about humility.
A few side notes about my year:
- The busiest month was September.
- The deadest month was June
Without further distraction, here they are–the Top Ten Hits and Misses of 2013: