You became a teacher not to pontificate to trusting minds, but to teach children how to succeed as adults. That idealism infused every class in your credential program and only took a slight bump during your student teacher days. You graduated sure you’d never teach to the test or lecture for 90% of a class.
Then you got a job and reality struck. You had lesson plans to get through, standards to assess, meetings to attend, parents to council, and state-wide tests that students must do well on. A glance in the mirror said you were becoming that teacher you hated in school. You considered leaving the profession. Until a colleague mentioned the inquiry-based classroom, where teaching’s goal was not the solution to a problem but the path followed. It’s what you’d hoped to do long ago when you started–but how do you turn a traditional entrenched classroom into one that’s inquiry-based?
Here are 11 ideas. One or more will resonate with your teaching style:
Wall Street Journal sent a young-looking journalist back to high school to test out the effectiveness of the web’s newest homework helper, ChatGPT. It will write entire essays for students, take notes on literature, and compare-contrast chosen pieces in seconds. If you aren’t aware of this hot new (questionable) tool, check out WSJ’s video here:
What are your thoughts on this–education assistant or cheating tool?
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.
When I grew up, teachers ran the classroom and parents stepped back, but a lot has changed in thirty years. COVID hit schools hard, closing them down and forcing parents to become teachers. Most schools are again open, but parents found that their children learn better when education is a three-legged stool: Parents, teachers, and kids.
Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Drew Allen, is an active working parent with some ideas on the new reality of parents-as-educators:
Managing Your Kids Needs as Educator and Parent
If you’re a teacher and you have children yourself, you face a somewhat different set of challenges than parents who aren’t teachers or teachers without children. Whether you work at the elementary level, with older kids or college students, managing the responsibilities you have to kids both at work and at home can be daunting. However, there are several things you can do to make this easier. If you aren’t an educator, many of the tips below will still apply.
There can be something whiplash inducing about bouncing between the role of teacher talking to parents and parent talking to teachers. Even as you know there are certain behaviors that you dislike in a parent during a conference, you can find yourself displaying them yourself. Above all, you may know how unhelpful it is as a parent to lean on your professional authority when you’re talking to other teachers about your kid. Resist this temptation or you could end up pushing the educator away, leaving them reluctant to involve you further in your child’s education. It’s also important that you give the educator authority when your child asks for help with their homework or other tasks. Of course, you can help them, but try to defer to their teacher unless there is some good reason not to.
I reprint this post every October, to remind all of us about the treachery of bullying.
In October 2006, thirteen-year-old Megan Meier hung herself in her bedroom closet after suffering months of cyberbullying. She believed her tormentors’ horrid insults, never thought she could find a way to stop them, and killed herself. She’s not the only one. In fact, according to StopBullying.gov, 52 percent of young people report being cyberbullied and over half of them don’t report it to their parents.
Everyone knows what bullying is — someone being taunted physically or mentally by others — and there are endless resources devoted to educating both students and teachers on how to combat bullying. But what about cyberbullying? Wikipedia defines “cyberbullying” as:
the use of information technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner
Cyberbullying occurs on not just social media like Twitter, Facebook, and topical forums, but multiplayer games and school discussion boards. Examples include mean texts or emails, insulting snapchats, rumors posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing photos or videos.
How serious is it?
The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center estimates that nearly 30 percent of American youth are either a bully or a target of bullying. 7% of high school students commit suicide, some because of cyberbullying:
On October 7, 2003, Ryan Halligan committed suicide by hanging himself [after being cyberbullied by high school classmates]. His body was found later by his older sister.
The first time I read about Unschooling, I ignored it. Surely, it was a fad that would go away.
When I read about it a thousand more times, I dug into it.
Inspired by the teachings of John Holt (1923–1985), this free range branch of homeschooling promotes learning through nonstructured, child-led exploration. There’s no set curriculum or schedule; students learn what interests them with guidance from involved adults. There are no worksheets, tests, or structure to provide evidence of learning or templates for teaching. The children pick what to learn, when, at what pace. The result — according to unschoolers, is a love of learning, tenacity to a task, and independent thought that prepares them for college and career better than traditional methods. In fact, if you look at the list of traits valued in popular education programs such as Habits of Mind and Depth of Knowledge, the reasons why parents unschool their children mirror the traits included in these lists.
According to Dr. Peter Gray of Freedom to Learn:
“Unschooling parents do not … do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child’s learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.”
If you use Genius Hour in your classroom, you have a sense of how inspiring, motivating, and addicting learning for the love of learning can be. Another popular example of unschooling is Sugata Mitra’s 1999 Hole in the Wall experiment where a computer was placed in a kiosk in an Indian slum. Children were allowed to use it freely. The experiment successfully proved that children could learn to use computers without any formal training. This was extended to be a method called Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) where students were encouraged to learn what interests them without adult direction — much as what is expected from unschooling.
There are great notetaking apps and suggestions out there for students. Check out this article from The Tech Edvocate with a list of six ideas, including:
- Google Keep
- ClickUp (not familiar to me)
Taking notes from discussions helps greatly in remembering important points raised and in aiding you to study for exams and other assessment activities. These apps can help you do that.
We’ve written on this topic a few times. Check out these articles for more ideas:
- OneNote–the all-in-one digital notetaking, classroom app for educators
- What is Google Keep and Why Use it in Your Classroom?
- 5 Programs That Make Digital Note-taking Easy
For over two years, many schools, parents, students, and teachers have struggled with how to teach remotely, and then–when can we go back to in-person learning. The education system is comfortable with teaching students face-to-face. For hundreds of years, that’s how it’s been done, but done right, remote learning is a winner. Here’s EdTech’s take on using classroom tech to elevate remote learning:
Many school districts are enriching their remote learning programs by stocking educators’ physical classrooms with remote- and hybrid-appropriate teaching technology. To facilitate remote students, schools are equipping classrooms with digital whiteboards, green screens, headsets, body cams and other tools to create an engaging virtual learning.
More from Ask a Tech Teacher on remote and hybrid learning
I published this about a year ago and have updated it to reflect our current teaching environment. Let me know if this fits your experiences:
The biggest reason teachers report for NOT liking internet-based cloud accounts has nothing to do with money, security, or privacy. It’s that they aren’t inclusive enough. Students can’t access cloud storage, Google Classroom, or their LMS for a project they’re working on because of the lack of Internet at home or slow internet service–or a teacher can’t get to lesson plan resources because of dead spot in the school or overload, the excitement of learning melts away like ice cream on a hot day.
That’s why no matter how good webtools sound, I won’t install them if they’re problematic–for example, they are slow to load, the website is unreliable, or saving is an issue. The most dependable method of accessing resources is through programs preloaded onto the local computer or available as PDFs that are easily shared.
I get it. Schools have moved many of their educational resources to the cloud. This might be to save money on maintenance or to make them accessible from anywhere or any number of other great reasons, but the change results in the problems I’ve mentioned. Too often and annoyingly That has spawned a rebirth in the popularity of Portable Document Formatted books and resources, commonly referred to as PDFs. While not perfect for every situation, they are exactly the right answer for many.
Here are ten reasons to consider when evaluating PDF vs. cloud-based resources:
PDFs play well with others
PDFs work on all digital devices, all platforms. No worries about whether they run better in Firefox or Chrome, Macs or PCs (or Chromebooks or iPads), Windows or MacOS (or Linux or iOS). They work on all of these and most others. With a free PDF reader (like Adobe or many others–check this link for ideas), students can open a document and get started right away. Even if they’re school system is a Mac and their home is a PC, the PDF opens fine.
I update these suggestions every few years to remind teachers there are easy ways to techify your lessons even on a tight schedule. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments about how you do this in your classes:
Because I teach graduate classes for educators, I talk to lots of teachers all over the country. It’s become clear that for most of them, adding technology to their lessons means layering more work on top of their already overburdened lesson plans. Despite the claims of tech gurus that technology makes the job of teaching easier, few educators see it that way. Even the ones who love it put in lots of extra time to do one or more of the following:
- learn tech tools and then teach their students
- learn tech tools only to discover it’s not what they need
- learn a tech tool they love only to have it either disappear or switch to a fee-based program
- rework existing lesson plans in the school’s mandated digital program that too often, changes every year. This means they have to re-enter the lesson plan in a new format for a new LMS
- find a tool they love, but no one else in their teaching team agrees, understands it, or cares
- the tool won’t work on the Big Day of the lesson and nothing will bring it back to life
- the digital devices–computer or Chromebooks or iPads–won’t work on the Big Day
It’s always a challenge to evaluate teachers. I’ve been through many systems, often different each year, and honestly, none seems better than the other. But Christian Miraglia, Education Consultant and part of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew, suggests asking students to evaluate the teacher. Here’s how that would work:
A Teacher’s Best Evaluator
Years ago, I was involved in an effort to restructure my school district’s teacher evaluation system. Months of work were put into the project, which focused on a professional growth model and also allowed for the traditional method of checking the boxes. Hours of research and meeting with other districts took place. One might ask about your typical administrative evaluation, but if you have gone through these, they are cursory and don’t do much to improve your actual instruction. So I was prompted to think about teacher evaluations and their effectiveness. Who ultimately is the best person to analyze the teaching? I concluded with the students. After all, the students are with you daily. They observe teachers at their best and their not-so-effective moments.
Wait a minute, some might say. “Students are evaluating teachers; they do that on social media and Rate your Teacher. And it is ugly.” Acknowledged, it can be ugly. However, if an environment of trust is established, one might be surprised by the results.
If a teacher wants a good picture of how teaching impacts students, I suggest using a Google Form survey or Microsoft forms. This approach is low-tech as it is pushed out to the students to the teacher’s choice of platforms.