In considering the question, Is technology outpacing you?, let’s first look at technology’s place in the current education landscape. True, it is touted as a magic wand that will fix all education woes. Sure, 73% of teachers use cell phones in their classrooms and 92% say the Internet has a “major impact” on their teaching. We gush over new hardware like iPads and Chromebooks. We spend millions on training teachers to blend tech into their lessons. We darkly predict that the day will soon arrive when technology erases the need for teachers.
But truthfully, technology is less a magic wand than a unicorn. It will never:
- take over education. Using webtools and burying noses in digital devices won’t provide the interpersonal skills required to succeed in the working world. Any job students get post-school will require listening to real people, responding, and adapting when body language says you’ve confused the person in front of you.
- replace teachers. The human piece to education can’t be overstated. The attention and care provided by a teacher — technology may measure it but can’t provide it.
Current research supports this:
“… among school-related factors, teachers matter most. … good teachers are irreplaceable assets for coaching and mentoring students, addressing the social and emotional factors affecting students’ learning, and providing students with expert feedback on complicated human skills such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, communication, and project management.” — RAND Education
What technology does, and does quite well, is make learning materials more accessible, more equitable, more up to date, and better suited to individuals. And importantly, it automates tedious tasks like roll call and grading so teachers have more time for students.
TeacherKit, a useful classroom management app for iOS or Android, provides teachers with one location to log student attendance, take note of student behavior, record grades, create student-level reporting, and other tedious tasks that traditionally take time away from teaching. The intuitive interface allows all this to be done with quick taps and swipes, generating data visualizations on the fly, both for whole classes and individual students. The student-profile system allows teachers to quickly contact students and parents via email, and the premium version adds the ability to send detailed progress reports, complete with behavior and attendance breakdowns. Plus, teachers can send announcements to an entire class, letting them know a date change, assignment due dates, and/or to update class information.
TeacherKit is a global Microsoft and Tradeline Strategic Education Partner with over 1 million teacher users around the world.
How it works
TeacherKit is easy to initiate and intuitive to use. Simply download the app from iTunes or Google Play and build classes. Students can be added via your class list, from other classes, or by photo. Once the class is set up, you can generate reports that summarize grades, behaviors, and more by class or student. Reports can be shared (as a PDF) via email or print. Optional reports include an overall class report, student performance, student/class grades, a class seating chart, and attendance. Here are samples of several:
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m taking a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: Organizing your classroom
18 webinars (more added as they become available), approx. 30 minutes each, show how to set up your classroom to be tech-infused.
We all have a memory of our favorite teacher, almost always, the one who made us think we could do the impossible. In my case, it was Ms. Sampson. I left third grade and my third-grade teacher Ms. Gordon feeling like I didn’t measure up — and I didn’t. I wasn’t as fast, as clever, or as driven as my classmates. Ms. Gordon actually reprimanded me so roughly in front of the class once that a classmate I barely knew came to my defense, explaining to Ms. Gordon that it wasn’t my fault. Some students learn differently.
My fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Sampson, changed all that. When I entered her class, I did think it was my fault, that I wasn’t smart enough, but she explained without a single word where I was wrong. She didn’t do it by being an easy grader or downsizing my work requirements or even unduly praising me. She didn’t try to be my best friend and she didn’t make excuses for my third-grade failures. Maybe this was because she was new and didn’t know how to profile students who would succeed from those who wouldn’t. In fact, she wasn’t any of the characteristics we often equate to great teachers.
Now, as a teacher myself, I wanted to understand why Ms. Sampson succeeded where Ms. Gordon, a Nationally-recognized Teacher and in the Top Five in my school district, so abysmally failed to spark my love of learning. I started by reviewing knowledgeable websites like Benchmark Education. I read books like James Stronge’s Qualities of Effective Teachers. Then, I queried colleagues, administrators, and parents about why they thought some teachers succeed in preparing students for college and career and others just don’t.
Turns out that effective teachers all have certain characteristics:
“tailors instruction, expression of learning, and assessment to each student’s unique needs and preferences.” — ISTE
If you think it sounds like differentiated instruction, it does with this caveat: Personalized learning is student-directed, student-paced, and designed for each learner.
Why switch to personalized learning?
There are many reasons to take a deep dive into personalized learning. Some schools realize students aren’t learning to their full potential. They see this not just in test results but in student response to the grade-level curricula. They feel it is unrelated to what happens to them outside of school. We as teachers know that math and science can easily be taught using real-life experiences in lieu of a textbook. The problem in the past has been convincing our learning partners of that truth. Now, anecdotal evidence shows that well-delivered personalized learning encourages excitement about learning, improves test scores, and leaves students wanting to learn even complicated math and science topics.
New teachers quickly realize that one size doesn’t fit all in the classroom. Students are wonderfully different in the way they learn, listen, and absorb. While teaching to the majority sounds good superficially, let’s look at the math:
A majority is 51%
That means 49% may not get what you put out there.
The popularity of personalized learning makes it abundantly clear that those numbers just aren’t good enough anymore.
Luckily, there are lots of options. Over the past months, I’ve cataloged many of those for you in short articles that provide an overview, pedagogic characteristics, and educational applications. If you’re wondering what you can change about your teaching so that you reach more students this year, check out some of these amazing options:
Every teacher knows that students do better with positive reinforcement. As tempting as “punishment” might sound when referring to that student who has scrambled your last nerve, to explain consequences of actions in positive terms goes much further toward student success not only in school but in the ongoing effort to build life-long learners.
“Positive reinforcement, whether it be with your family, when following laws, or with students, can best be defined as the logical consequences of doing what’s right.” –Jacqui Murray
As an education pedagogy, pursuing a classroom management system that revolves around positive reinforcement is called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, or PBIS. The importance of using tools that prevent disruptive behavior and support students is explained by NEA Past President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:
The most effective tool teachers have to handle problem behavior is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs help teachers recognize the significance of classroom management and preventive school discipline to maximize student success. PBIS strategies are critical to providing all young people with the best learning environment.
Committed teachers can accomplish this in a variety of ways including supportive words, prizes, special activities, certificates, badges, and modeling proper behavior. Here are four online options that support the goal of recognizing students in a positive way:
The first thing most teachers think about when discussing gamified learning is the online math games kids play. Maybe Vocabulary.com and its spelling games come to mind next. But those webtools exemplify where the gamification of education started. Their approach is good but way down the SAMR pyramid to what can be done today, easily, in classrooms.
Let me step back a moment to explain the SAMR Model as it applies to the use of technology in education. It is used to discuss the implementation of technology in the classroom by organizing tech-in-education tools into four categories or types of usage:
- Substitution: Technology is a direct replacement for something, e.g. ebooks in place of print books or online math drills in place of worksheets.
- Augmentation: Technology not only replaces a traditional tool but adds functionality, e.g. using Google Earth to explore the setting of a story rather than a map
- Modification: Technology allows for a significant change, e.g. using screencasts to explain a process.
- Redefinition: Technology allows for the creation of completely new ways of learning that were previously not possible. e.g. using virtual meeting tools (like Google Hangouts) to include housebound students in a class.
The SAMR Model directly relates to the evolution of games in education, from simply substituting online drills for worksheets to creating new ways to learn that students love. The gamification of learning became popular at first because students exhibited great aptitude and tolerance for learning new material when gameplaying, but the reason that popularity lasted is even more simple: Applying the characteristics of gameplaying to learning works! The most well-known example is the viral popularity of Minecraft and the way it has been applied to every academic corner of learning.
Here are some general ideas of how you can gamify learning in your class, on a budget and without extensive retraining:
For the past decade, schools have invested millions of dollars in technology. It started with a push for desktop computers which soon expanded to iPads and the wonderful apps (like art programs) that made tablets essential tools. Quickly after iPads, schools fell in love with Chromebooks and their amazing ability to allow students to collaborate and share, not to mention their ease of maintenance. Today’s focus is to give every student a digital device, much as kids used to be provided tablets and pencils.
The next game changer, according to education experts, will be digital textbooks. This is driven in large part by the affordability and portability of digital devices like Chromebooks, tablets, and laptops. Why lug around half a dozen heavy books in a backpack that too often is left behind on a sports field or at the library? Why spend a year studying information in a print textbook that doesn’t match the thinking or values of the school and its students? It’s no wonder proponents of digital books are pushing for change.
But there’s another side to the story of print vs. digital, one that is at the core of why 2015 e-book sales dropped in the United States and the UK. Let’s take a clear-eyed look at the pluses on each side of this argument. Then, when it’s time for your school to make that call, you’ll be ready.
One of the strategies I grew to appreciate in my several decades of teaching was starting my class with a warm-up. A tangible transition between the previous class (or recess) and mine seemed to orient students to my topic and make the entire class go more smoothly. For me, because I taught what is called specials or pull-outs (I taught technology), I did this at the beginning of a class period. When you do this at the beginning of the day, it’s called not a warm-up but a morning meeting.
What is a Morning Meeting
Morning meetings are a time when students and teacher gather together, usually in a circle, for an organized start-of-day activity. They can be as quick as fifteen minutes or as long as thirty. You determine this based on what students need to start their day as lifelong learners. Some days are quick; others, not so much. That’s OK. In fact, it’s good to be flexible with the schedule and responsive to student needs. They learn faster when you’re listening to them and come to believe they are worthy. As such, they begin to believe in themselves.
Goals of a Morning Meeting
The broad purpose of a morning meeting is to transition students between home and school, to greet them as you would a guest in your house. It’s an informal way to re-acquaint everyone with each other and with the classroom ecosystem. Think of it on par with a family dinner, where parents and children come together in a relaxed environment to do something everyone enjoys. You start by welcoming students, reviewing the day’s activities, discussing changes in the classroom, meeting new students, celebrating the accomplishments of classmates, and anything else that benefits from a whole-group meeting.