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.
Each year, the world produces more than 300 million tons of paper. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper typically found in a school or office environments such as copier paper, computer printouts, and notepads, comprise the largest category. Mitigating the use of paper has long been a goal for schools. Every year, a prodigious number of lesson plans center around dwindling rainforests, the shrinking world forests, and the ever-growing waste associated with paper.
Now, beyond the moral and ethical persuasiveness of a paperless classroom, there is compelling evidence that the time is right to eliminate paper from the classroom:
- the high cost of printing: Yale University noted that “Every 2.5 minutes, a ream of paper was ordered.” No surprise that schools who go paperless experience huge savings in the cost of buying and repairing printers as well as the investment in all the fancy printing papers required for newsletters, class projects, announcements, and more. Who would argue about investing these vast savings in faculty salaries, student services, or reduced tuitions?
- reduced waste: Most of those tons of paper end up in the trash. We want them to be recycled but studies show that despite best efforts, about half of used paper isn’t. Schools who replace paper with a digital distribution of newsletters, announcements, homework, and anything else possible may not increase recycling but do dramatically reduce the amount of paper they use. The results? Among schools who push digital over paper, most report that only about 5% of their usual amount of paper ends up in the trash. Who wouldn’t love that number?
- saves time: Every teacher knows how much time they spend copying, stapling, sorting, and then searching for lost documents. An increasingly-popular alternative is to upload a document to the computer, server, or cloud and push it out electronically. No copying, stapling, sorting, or losing templates. No last-minute “I forgot to print this”. Yes, digital files do get lost but that’s a story for another time.
- increased organization: All those permission slips, AUPs, and exams can be curated into a digital file folder that is backed up automatically and never lost (“never” being a fungible sort of word). Teachers no longer find themselves frantically searching for misfiled records or the approvals required before a field trip. Instead, they access the digital file folder. If it’s not there, most of the time, a universal search on the school server will find the document. Anecdotal experiences (no studies yet on this topic) indicate that teachers who file digitally rather than in paper file folders lose fewer documents.
- security: Digital files aren’t lost to floods or fires. Even if the server crashes or corrupts, every school I know has backups. No data is lost; just the equipment.
Three years ago, I wrote about going paperless in your classroom but much has changed. Today, replacing paper with a digital distribution is common. Newsletters go home via email. Homework is posted to classroom websites. Student portfolios are rarely manila file folders. In fact, many education experts predict that the printer will soon disappear as a critical tool in the classroom.
Back to School night is a time-honored ritual where teachers and parents meet, with or without children, and preview the upcoming school year. Teachers share information about their teaching style and methodology, how they grade, what students can do to thrive, and how parents can connect to classroom activities. It’s a way of easing everyone back into the education journey after a long summer break and is arguably one of the most impactful days in the school year.
But Back to School night has changed over the years in large part because families have changed. Consider this list of reasons why from Edutopia:
- Increased pace of life
- Greater economic demands
- Alterations in family composition and stability
- Breakdown of neighborhoods and extended families
- Weakening of community institutions
The most important goal of Back to School Night — establishing the parent-teacher partnership — is a lot more complicated to reach than it used to be.
All around the country, schools are turning around education through the use of technology. Here are two, one in Hawaii and one in California that show you steps that might work for you:
[caption id="attachment_59609" align="alignright" width="300"] Kalakaua Middle School leadership team gets into the spirit to boost positive behavior.[/caption]
King David Kalakaua MS, Hawaii
When innovative school leaders decided to try a new technology program at King David Kalakaua Middle School this year, they hoped recognizing students’ good behavior would lessen their bad behavior. Their goal was to improve school climate and build positive relationships with everyone on campus by focusing on the positive. In less than six months, not only have they met that goal, but they also changed their peer’s perception of “trouble” students and helped boost grades.
“We feel like it’s had a major impact on students,” says MTSS Coordinator, Tiana Kamiko. She spearheaded the program with her fellow Behavioral Health Specialist Kristen Shimabukuro. “The campus itself feels happier. The kids are smiling more. Just the other day, we had a student telling Kristen that we’re part of the reason he likes to come to school now.”
The idea of rewarding students for positive behavior has a long history in schools, and numerous studies have shown the practice can improve student behavior, reduce suspensions, and even boost student achievement. It is, however, unusual for a school to see such a large jump in so many categories so quickly.
The biggest reason teachers report for NOT liking cloud accounts has nothing to do with money, security, or privacy. It’s that they aren’t reliable. No matter how many redundancies are in place, if a student can’t access their cloud storage for a project they’re working on, if a teacher can’t get to lesson plan resources, or if a student started a project at school and can’t finish it at home, the excitement of learning melts away like ice cream on a hot day.
I remember when web-based tools first arrived (yeah, that long ago), As good as they sounded, I insisted my IT folks install computer-based programs for when the Internet didn’t work or the school’s network lost its connection. It seemed the only reliable programs were those loaded onto the local computer, not floating around in the cloud.
Fast forward to today. 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 isn’t without its own set of problems. In particular, in the area of files and documents, there’s 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 as well as almost all others. With a free PDF reader (like Adobe or hundreds of others), students can open and get started right away. Even if they’re school system is a Mac and their home is a PC, the PDF (with or without annotations) opens fine.
A stand-out webtool among standards-based grading platforms is a free online program called Kiddom (click for my review). Kiddom is designed to help teachers curate individual learning experiences with pages that are visual and easy-to-understand, and enable teachers to quickly determine student progress and where remediation is needed.
While it offers many appealing pieces (homework assignment and grading, easy communication, and built-in metrics), one unique to Kiddom is their robust K-12 content library. Designed to offer lessons, videos, lectures, quizzes, and more that differentiate for individual students, its real power is making the resources of the most respected names in edtech available with one click. This includes:
- IXL Learning
- Khan Academy
- Learn Zillion
- PBS Learning Media
- Rocket Lit
The library is searchable by topic with preview features for selections.
There’s a lot of chatter about PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) on educator forums I participate in. I don’t have direct experience with it so I jumped at the chance to share Middle School teacher Karessa Parish’s experiences. In this article, she explains what PBIS is, lessons learned rolling it out, and a tool called Hero that helped make it happen in her school:
Studies show that students need a ratio of about five positive interactions to every negative. Up until a year and a half ago, our campus had this ratio all wrong. It seemed like we were giving five negatives for every positive. Our teachers were spending more time on a small percentage of the students who were having trouble or who were making trouble. We were spending 80 percent of our time focusing on 20 percent of our students, who were the ones with behavior issues. But that means 80 percent of our students were excellent and weren’t getting the recognition that they deserve. The result was that the vast majority of our students — students who were doing the right thing — were getting little positive attention from our faculty. We decided to refocus our attention to be intentional in recognizing positive everyday occurrences that had been overlooked for too long and we picked Hero to help us do this.
We wanted to flip the culture at our school. We had two objectives when we created our Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program and started using Hero:
- Motivate the students who weren’t following expectations
- Celebrate the kids who were doing what they were supposed to be doing
Hero helps teachers and administrators monitor all forms of student behavior, both good and bad. Using any web browser or an Android or iOS device, teachers and administrators can capture student behavior where and when it happens, keep accurate attendance records, and assign warnings and consequences (or rewards for positive behavior) automatically. We have customized the software with specific behaviors, incentives, and interventions. Our students can track how many points they have accumulated through the Hero app, and they can redeem their points in the school store. We have a variety of incentives ranging from mystery brown bags with three or four trinkets in them to earbuds and t-shirts. We also host parties like student vs. teacher basketball games, Powder Puff games and time on the athletic field with snow cones. These parties are hosted every six weeks that students can use their Hero points to attend.
It’s the end of school. Everyone’s tired, including you. What you want for these last few weeks are activities that keep the learning going but in a different way. You want to shake things up so students are excited and motivated and feel interested again.
Change your approach. Provide some games, simulations, student presentations–whatever you don’t normally do in your classroom. If you’re doing PowerPoints, use the last few weeks for presentations. Make them special–invite teachers. Invite parents. If you never serve food in your lab, do it for these presentations.
Here are my favorite year-end Change-up activities:
6 Webtools in 6 Weeks
Give students a list of 10-15 webtools that are age-appropriate. I include Prezi, Google MapMaker, Scratch, Voice Thread, Glogster, and Tagxedo, These will be tools they don’t know how to use (and maybe you don’t either). They work in groups to learn the tool (using help files, how-to videos, and resources on the site), create a project using the tool (one that ties into something being discussed in class), and then teach classmates. Challenge students to notice similarities between their chosen tools and others that they know how to use. This takes about three weeks to prepare and another three weeks to present (each presentation takes 20-30 minutes). Students will be buzzing with all the new material and eager to use it for summer school or the next year.
Designed for grades 3-12. Need ideas on web tools?
A few weeks ago, I got an email from Nancy with a great suggestion for an article topic: Google Classroom. She writes from her perspective as a Kansas City teacher who loves teaching and blogging. I think you’ll enjoy her ideas on essential apps for her Google Classroom:
Not much time has passed since Google Classroom first entered K-12 and higher ed classes, outmaneuvering all other classroom software providers with its availability and a great variety of apps.
A well-known fact: A large portion of every teacher’s workflow is actually consumed by the assignment review, collecting the student work, notifying the class about upcoming events, changes in the timetable, revision, and grading.
In Google Classroom many educators like me found a great additional functionality and apps, which allowed managing the workflow efficiently, leaving more time for the teaching.
In our school we started using Google Classroom LMS as a way to collect, review and grade the assignment, now we use it as a basis for creating greater learning opportunities becoming real due to the apps that hugely extend the functional set and diversify the learning.