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Education reform

Why College Matters for a Successful Career in Tech

There is a lot of conversation about college vs. career–the pros and cons of each weighed against the needs of individual students. Here’s a thoughtful article from Peter MacCallister, an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, on why college is a good idea even when considering a career in tech:

Why College Matters for a Successful Career in Tech

Technology is one of the areas where self-education, or autodidacticism, can bring outstanding results and allow an individual to achieve professional success without holding official certifications to prove his knowledge and skills. Self-taught people study better without guidance and prefer to have full control over what, when and how they study. Why would such a person interested in a tech career spend thousands of dollars to go to college instead of learning at home? The reasons are plenty so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

A Prestigious College is a Playground for Networking

Getting into a highly-ranked college or university can give your career an incredible impetus if only for the fact that you’ll be surrounded by intelligent and accomplished people with similar interests. Colleges offer countless possibilities for networking both with professors who are experts in your field and with fellow students.

Imagine having attended classes with Elon Musk or Warren Buffet as a fellow student at an elite institution like the University of Pennsylvania. Good colleges and universities are filled with incredibly driven and passionate students from whom you can learn a lot and with whom you might collaborate professionally one day. Having many bright minds in one spot increases your chances of meeting future visionaries in your field.

Colleges Have an Extensive Network of Resources

At first glance, it seems that programmers, software developers and other tech professionals need little more than a computer with an Internet connection to develop their skills. However, no matter how motivated and passionate you are, there is a cap to self-education. A point comes when you need serious output from the external world to continue to grow at the same rate.

Libraries, laboratories, expensive software licenses, access to reputable academic journals and career assistance – all these represent only a part of the wide range of resources that a good university provides to students so they can excel in their field. Hunching over your computer for weeks and months to find a solution to a problem that your peers have solved long ago is counterintuitive. Meanwhile, having access to valuable resources allows you to keep in touch with the latest developments in the sector and make sure you stay on track.

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Categories: Education reform, High School | Tags: | Leave a comment

Teaching Online During COVID-19–More from my Inbox

I am so proud of how the education community has stepped up to the challenge teachers face to continue the learning despite apocalyptic changes in the delivery system. Definitely this means teachers, administrators, parents and students, but I also include the companies and resource providers in the education ecosystem.

Here’s a sampling of the many and varied emails I got this past week offering help:

  • New Remote Learning Tools and Resources
  • How to teach remotely

New Remote Learning Tools and Resources

Zoom is also offering a free upgrade to educators to help them to teach remotely during the pandemic. Here are a few tips on using Zoom to teach remotely:

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Categories: Education reform, Online education | 1 Comment

Resources You Need During COVID-19

My inbox–probably yours, too–is flooded with suggestions, how-tos, and don’t-do’s, on teaching online as a strategy for dealing with Covid-19. Though I’m not happy about the reason, I’m thrilled at the interest in online classes. I’m an adjunct professor – online only–for a variety of major universities (CSU for one). I’ve taught many years in both environments and love online teaching because it is flexible, diversified, self-directed, and self-paced. I agree with many studies—that online is more effective (one from IBM).

As I received the onslaught of teach-online resources, I collected those that made the most sense. Below is a short curation of the most useful articles, links, resources, and webinars to help you through this challenging environment:

Online articles:

Resources, tips and more for remote and e-learning (teaching online) — from Educational Technology Guy

Tools to prepare for school closures–suggested by Common Sense

Advice for new Online Teachers–from EdSurge

Navigating Uncertain Times: How Schools Can Cope With Corona virus–from EdSurge

Understanding the Impact of Coronavirus on K-12 Education–from EdSurge

Newsela COVID-19 resource center (and free access to their paid products this school year)

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Categories: Education reform, Online education | Leave a comment

8 EdTech Trends to Watch Out for This 2020

As always, education is changing. There are so many new ways to differentiate for varied learners, back-fill for some while enriching others without slowing anyone down. Being a teacher and a learner today is awe-inspiring. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Wally Clipper, has a great run-down on 8 trends you’ll want to watch in 2020:

8 EdTech Trends to Watch Out for This 2020

Technology has vastly disrupted and improved numerous sectors around the world, be it the government and banking, or retail and marketing. Unsurprisingly, technology is also impacting the world of education. In fact, a study on Forbes found that global education technology (EdTech) is one of the fastest-growing segments today, and is expected to be worth $252 billion by the end of this year.

While EdTech has been helping schools and other educational institutions a lot since it was introduced, its benefits have grown even more this year. From digital certificates to learning analytics, here are eight EdTech trends to look forward to in the coming months.

Video-assisted Learning

Gone are the days when teachers had to drag TVs into classrooms to let students watch films. Now, nearly every classroom is at least equipped with a screen and projector. Additionally, Chron reports that some schools have even replaced the usual blackboard and whiteboard with smartboards this year. These devices double as both a whiteboard and a screen. Plus, they have apps that let you interact with whatever’s projected onto them with the touch of a finger.

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Categories: Education reform, Teaching | Leave a comment

10 Great Virtual Reality Apps

The potential impact of Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom can’t be overstated. It has become the most exciting education device in a decade, enticing students to become engaged in pretty much any topic that includes a VR overlay. As a learning tool, it’s affordable, inclusive, and worth the moderate learning curve required to get it up and running.

Let me step back a moment and explain what VR is. HowStuffWorks defines it this way:

using computer technology to create a simulated, three-dimensional world that a user can manipulate and explore while feeling as if he were in that world. 

Marxent explains it simply as:

the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Virtual Reality’s most immediately-recognizable component is the head-mounted display (HMD). 

If you (desperately) want to unpack this revolutionary tool in your classroom, there are lots of online resources — some free, some with a fee — available to address a wide variety of education needs. Here are my favorites:

900 VR Expeditions

If you use the Expeditions app (see below), here’s a curated spreadsheet of 900 free expeditions available to you and your classes.  It is crowd-sourced and sorted by tag, name, Panorama title, location, brief description, link, with a cell where teachers can note any additional required materials.

On a separate tab of the spreadsheet is a similar curated list of augmented reality expeditions, for those who have that technology available.

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Categories: Education reform, Teacher resources | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

What is Constructivism and How Does it Fit Your Class?

constructivismConstructivism is a student-centered philosophy that emphasizes hands-on learning and active participation in lessons. Constructivists believe that learning is an active process so the most effective way to learn is through discovery. With hands-on activities, learners actively create their own subjective representation of objective reality. Because new information is blended into prior knowledge, the result is – of course – subjective, heavily dependent upon the personal lens of each learner. That, in turn, is dependent upon their society, culture, past knowledge, personal experiences, and more.

Learning is constructed, not acquired, and is based on the fullness of a person’s individual lifetime of learning. It is continuously tested as new ideas are added, either causing long-held beliefs to evolve or be replaced.

Constructivism is not a pedagogy or a theory. It is a mindset — a way of thinking used to guide learners.

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Categories: Critical thinking, Education reform, Teaching Strategies | Tags: | Leave a comment

Encouraging Students To Take Responsibility For Their Education

This topic is a hot button for me. So many parents think education is the school’s job and student think it’s SUD–Some Other Dude’s responsibility but not them. I was thrilled when Ask a Tech Teacher guest author, Pete McAllister, sent this article in:

While teachers are often challenged with students who lack responsibility and self-motivation, enhancing student learning can be a tedious ongoing task. Because many students are unaware of the true importance of tertiary education and relevant qualifications, following a career path can be an overwhelming task. However, there are several effective ways that teachers can encourage students to further their education and take full responsibility for their own educations. The following top tips will enhance student learning and encourage a more positive attitude from students who would otherwise fall behind and lose sight of future planning.

Discuss Potential Career Options

A large number of young students in high-school would rather avoid thinking about how to further their education after high-school simply because they are unaware of alternative options. When taking into account that students lacking motivation may be burdened with financial stress at home, it would be wise to discuss potential paths that make studying further a possible reality. Discussing the details of bursaries [a ‘bursary’ for those not familiar is basically a grant for students] and partial subsidies would essentially enable students who are unable to rely on their parents’ financial situation to understand that they can take their futures in their own hands. In addition to this, you may find that some students are unable to attend universities full-time for several realistic reasons, which is why discussing part-time and correspondence tertiary education is absolutely necessary. By providing your students with ample realistic options, it is far more likely that you will be able to spark interest.

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Videos: Why, How, Options

videos in educationWhen I started teaching, videos were used only for a few reasons: to teach historical events, as a prize for something students did well, or for the sub to fill the time while I was out. A lot has changed since then, most importantly, teachers now recognize that students learn in a variety of ways, only one of which is via text.

Why use videos

It turns out, videos are much more than the distraction from life Hollywood would have us believe or the visual encyclopedia those educational movies of a decade ago always were. Today’s videos are highly-effective learning tools, cerebral entertainment, and well-suited to visual and auditory learners.  Videos are entertaining but not in the sit-back-and-eat-popcorn sort of way that you experience with Netflix or the theatre. Rather than check out of the world, viewers willingly dig deeply into the topic in a way that can’t happen from a textbook or lecture. The videos you show in your classroom likely will be professionally produced with a script that appeals to short attention spans and draws students into the excitement of the material. Students will engage actively meaning you can expect them to take notes (digital is fine and rewind to rewatch either to review, to ensure they got everything they should, or simply for the entertainment.

Once you accept the reality that learning can take place outside of a textbook, reading, or notetaking, it’s not hard to see the great value of videos. Done well, students retain more information, understand concepts more rapidly, and are more enthusiastic about what they are learning. Videos have become a cornerstone to the effectiveness of self-paced learning programs like Purpose-driven Learning and Unschooling. Teachers provide the essential question and big idea, and then share a collection of videos students can select from as they design their own learning.

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Categories: Education reform, Videos | Tags: | Leave a comment

How Behaviorism Can Turn Your Classroom Around

I first ran into Behaviorism in child psychology classes I took for my Early Childhood Education credential (ECE). It was developed by a renowned psychologist named John B. Watson and formed into the Theory of Behaviorism by another famous psychologist, B.F. Skinner. The technical definition they provide is:

“…scientific and objective methods of investigation concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors; all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment.”

They used the infamous example of Pavlov’s Dogs. No surprise, with this gobbledegook definition that used dog training as the example, I laughed, rejected it, and then forgot it.

Fast forward a decade, to a time when I was studying for my teaching credential. One of my classes reviewed education pedagogies such as Purpose-driven Learning, the Socratic Method, Depth of Knowledge, Unschooling, and Behaviorism. Applied to education, Behaviorism focuses on:

“… conditioning student behavior with various types of reinforcements and consequences…”

I still cringe at words like “conditioning” and “consequences”, but in the fullness of the class, I came to understand that whether teachers know it or not, they use Behaviorism as an effective, reliable teaching tool. I’ll get back to that later but first, I want to deconstruct how a theory that started with training dogs is now a cornerstone in education pedagogy.

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Categories: Classroom management, Education reform, Teaching Strategies | Tags: | Leave a comment

How to Do Student-led Conferences

sad girlI remember report card days as a child, me sitting outside on a brick wall, scared to death as my mother met with the teacher and received the (always bad) news about how I wasn’t doing. It never motivated me to try harder, didn’t make me like school better, and angered me at everyone involved.

Fast forward to me as a K-5 teacher. I love report card days now because this is when I get to meet parents. Often, it is the only time I see those who don’t drop in with questions or email me about concerns. Even before it became protocol, I invited students to join the conversation. I wanted to let parent and child know I considered the three of us a partnership in the student’s success.

Today, that inclusive approach is integral to student-led conferences.

What is a student-led conference?

studentled conference is where students between kindergarten and 12th grade meet with parents (with the teacher quietly at the side) to share the work they completed during the grading period and their progress toward overall goals. Simply stated, student-led conferences are about process not product. Where traditional conferences seek to delineate how students rank academically at a point in time, student-led conferences revolve around the work students have produced. They are less about grading than measuring learning. In fact, the grades earned are secondary to how students understand what happened in the lesson.

The philosophy behind student-led conferences

If we were teaching writing skills, the philosophy would be called “show don’t tell”. In student-led conferences, this means that students demonstrate their acquired knowledge not by a grade but by communicating their progress.  For student work to be relevant, students must be engaged, responsible for the learning and involved in reporting that to stakeholders. 

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Categories: Education reform, Parents, Teaching Strategies | Tags: | 1 Comment