Category: Guest post

4 Long-Term Benefits of Bilingual Education

This is such a great article on the benefits of bi-lingual education. Sure, we intuitively know what these are, but what are the real metrics? From an educator with a passion for her calling, see if you have any reasons you’d add:

4 Long-Term Benefits of Bilingual Education

Raising bilingual children is the norm in Singapore. From an early age, the children living in this multicultural city are exposed to a number of languages at home, in their preschools, and in their communities. At the same time, the government here has adopted a bilingual policy wherein students are required to gain proficiency in English and their respective ethnic mother tongue, which is Mandarin for the Chinese, Malay for the Malay, and Tamil for the Indians. If you’re staying in the country with your family for work, it’ll be a breeze to find a bilingual program that will provide your children with the right environment for improving their language proficiency. These schools can focus on your mother tongue, English, as well as other languages that your child might be interested in acquiring. With the assistance of the right bilingual program and teachers, your child will have a better chance of acquiring, retaining, and deftly using multiple languages.

The beauty of bilingual education is that it presents students with immediate as well as long-term benefits, many of which the children can utilize even as they find their places as productive members of the workforce and society at large. Here are some of the advantages of having your child undergo a bilingual education program and how they can benefit from it in the coming years.

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Coping with COVID in the Classroom

A lot of teachers are also authors. In an effort to spotlight their two hats, I feature teacher-authors on both my writing and education blogs. Guests can write about any topic they’d like as long as it revolves around those skills.

Today, I’d like to introduce Anne Clare, a teacher as well as a historical fiction author. Anne Clare is a native of Minnesota’s cornfields and dairy country. She graduated with a BS in Education in 2005 and set out to teach in the gorgeous green Pacific Northwest, where she and her husband lived. She also serves as a church musician, singing in and occasionally directing choirs, playing piano, organ, and coronet (the last only occasionally, when she forgets how bad she is at it.) After the birth of her second child, she became a stay-at-home mom, and after the birth of the third she became reconciled to the fact that her house would never be clean again, which allowed her to find time to pursue her passion for history and writing while the little people napped. Although she’s back to teaching, she continues to write historical fiction and to blog about WWII history, writing, and other odds and ends at thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com.

I reviewed her amazing book, Where Shall I Flee, (click for my review and a purchase link) about the battle in Italy during WWII from the perspective of a female nurse. Today, I’m excited to share her story of teaching through the pandemic. With not only apocryphal but statistical stories about the damage done by the pandemic to student learning, I was eager to read about this through the eyes of a teacher in the trenches. I think you’ll enjoy this:

Coping with COVID in the Classroom

I’ve always found that teaching is a profession that requires some flexibility. Since March of 2020, “flexibility” doesn’t seem like quite a strong enough word for the mental gymnastics required in maintaining any kind of workable learning environment. All of the teachers I know have their own stories of Covid craziness. Here are a few of mine.

The First Round

As soon as we heard that our state was going into full lockdown, my school’s faculty started looking for online options. I teach in a small “church school” with just over a hundred students. Small size has its own challenges, but when it came to pivoting to a new teaching plan, it allowed us to adapt quite quickly. Over Spring Break we set up Google Classroom pages, learned how to do Zoom, and created packets of papers for students’ families to pick up and drop off outside the school weekly. By the time break was over, we were ready.

Sort of.

Technical difficulties, struggling students, and the stress of a total change of lifestyle made online learning challenging.

Then there were difficulties with the physical space. My husband worked from home in our bedroom while my eldest daughter did her 4th grade work in her room, my son worked on first grade in his, and my youngest wrapped up her Kindergarten year at our kitchen table, occasionally weeping over the ipad when she couldn’t find the correct sheet. Meanwhile, I tried to record lessons in such a way as to keep my students accountable, tried to keep up with online correcting, and tried to be there to assist my children as needed.

While my faculty and I adapted to provide the best learning situation for our students that we could, I didn’t complain when we decided to end the school year early. It made sense—the loss of sports and extra curriculars meant that we finished our curriculum ahead of schedule anyway. Perhaps, after summer, things would return to normal.

The Long Haul

As I approached the 2020-2021 school year, I hoped (as I’m sure many did) that maybe things could go back to normal. They didn’t.

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Simulations as a Teaching Strategy

Simulations and games have grown from rote drills using a computer to challenging learning experiences for students that hone problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They are fun for students, keep them engaged, and teach the foundational pieces of a lesson. I

I’ve talked about gamifying elements here and here (and under this tag). One of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors goes into depth about simulations–what these are and how to use them. The article’s about 1000 words and well worth the read:

Simulations as a Teaching Strategy – Everything You Need to Know

In the diverse and ever-evolving world of simulation, there’s no doubt that tactics such as gamification continue to have a positive impact across a broad range of industries and activities. This is certainly prominent in the workplace, where some 90% of employees say that gamification makes them better at their job and more productive at work. What’s more, employees experience an average 48% engagement increase through gamification, highlighting its ability to impart potentially complex subject matter to individuals.

This is why gamification and wider simulation strategies hold huge value in educational facilities across the globe. But what are the key considerations when leveraging simulation as a viable teaching strategy?

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A Year to Remember, A Year to Reflect:  Pandemic Instruction

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Christian Miraglia, taught for 36 years before retiring. He has some interesting reflections on the year that was the pandemic:

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A Year to Remember, A Year to Reflect:  Pandemic Instruction

Feeling Overwhelmed

Over the past year teachers have been bombarded by colleagues, administrators, and social media pundits on which platforms can best serve them and their students. As an experienced educator who has been in the forefront of technology integration, this past year seemed like a tidal wave. Nearpod or Pear Deck, Google Classroom or Canvas, Flipgrid or Adobe Spark? What did one do?

Road Map 

Once it was determined by my school district that we were continuing with distance learning when the school year started in 2020, there was a flurry of activity from our district in an attempt to create some type of training for teachers, many who were winging it in the Spring 2020 semester. Most of the training was put together to assist teachers with the basics of integrating technology such as using Google Classroom or Canvas. The district stayed away from the mandate of having to use one platform exclusively. As far as the pedagogy for using any type of technology integration, it was lacking. I think this could be said for most school districts. And this gets to my point. How did a teacher decide what was the best fit for their students?

Looking Back on Instructional Design

Now that the school year is over I can genuinely reflect on how I utilized my go to applications and programs. First of all, as a veteran Canvas user I continued on my use of the LMS. For me it served multiple purposes. One, all assignments were created so that students could have access 24/7. I made sure that there were only two assignments a week with the final assignment being a type of assessment. It is important to note that going forward I would record video instructions using Flipgrid for my students who did not attend on a given day. Integrated in the instructions were screen recorded examples of what I wanted students to achieve in the form of the assignment. Canvas’s ability to allow for Learning Tool Interoperability (LTI) with applications such as Flipgrid, EdPuzzle, Google Drive, Quizizz made by decision quite easy. For students having everything in one location was key as it eliminated navigational confusion. Time and time again I heard parents complain about their children having to use four to five different applications and getting lost in the process. I cannot fault them, nor can I fault many of the teachers who had little experience in course design and the pedagogy behind it. 

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Be Featured on Ask a Tech Teacher

I get thousands of visitors a day–over a million since I started. The most common reason why you-all drop by is for resources. I have lots of them–lesson plans, tips and tricks–but one area I have not enough depth is the experiences of fellow teachers:

  • your personal teaching experiences
  • your informed take on tech ed topics
  • Education pedagogy

If you’re interested in guest posting on this blog or having your own column, leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch. It’s a challenging time but one we-all can get through if we talk to each other.

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4 Ways HS Students Develop the IT Skills for Higher Education

There’s still time this school year to help high school students learn the skills they’ll require to thrive in Higher Education. Here are basics you don’t want them to graduate without–from one of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors:

4 Ways to Help High School Students Develop the IT Skills They’ll Need for Higher Education

Being able to use technology to its fullest is vital for students as they move from high school into higher education, yet it is not enough to assume that they will pick these skills up on their own.

Teachers can be proactive in their approach to fostering IT abilities in students, and here are just a few sensible strategies that will make this easier to achieve.

Leverage remote learning tools

Remote learning has become a reality for millions of people recently, and a study of higher education IT found that 70% of universities are planning to take a hybrid approach to teaching in the coming year. This means that students need to be familiar with the tools and techniques that are involved in this scenario, so that they do not fall behind their better-prepared peers.

That is not to say that teachers should simply pile in every remote learning tool and app available to them just for the sake of it; think about which tools and resources are actually appropriate for the subject in question, and use these in a way that makes a positive impact to the students’ experience. This will avoid making the process of remote learning overwhelming, while still giving them an understanding of what solutions will be part of their higher education ecosystem going forward.

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Opportunities prisoners have to study

Education is a passion, both teaching and learning. For those of us who consider ourselves lifelong learners, we understand how learning can make everything feel right even when it’s wrong. What I didn’t think about until Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Claire Ward, submitted this article was how true this is even for those in prison. She’s written a thoughtful article about the availability of education, books, and learning even for those without access to where you and I typically fulfill our need for knowledge:

What opportunities do prisoners have to study?

The main asset that all prisoners have is time, and while there are only a limited number of options for how they can spend it, studying is one of them.

So what opportunities do inmates have when it comes to training and education, and how does this vary depending on their circumstances and the facility where they are incarcerated?

Historical complexities

While the rehabilitative purpose of being jailed is a comparatively modern idea, prisoners were offered basic forms of education from the 19th century onwards, with campaigners arguing that expanding the horizons of inmates through education was the best way to allow them to successfully re-enter society after release.

It was not until the mid-20th century that college-equivalent courses were provided, and this blossomed in the US until a change in legislation in the 1990s meant that the funding for such schemes was significantly reduced.

Efforts to reinstate Pell Grants for prisoners and allow them to study in a more structured way began in 2015, and it currently seems likely that programs will be reintroduced nationally, thanks to the bipartisan support this initiative has received.

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What are the popular file extensions kids should learn about?

There is so much tech kids need to learn these days, it’s easy to forget the basics. Like file extensions. These help kids categorize websites, prioritize credibility, and streamline their browsing. Here are the most essential of these:

What are the popular file extensions kids should learn about?

As kids work their way through the education system, they will use different types of documents for their projects. Therefore, it is important that children learn about the popular types of file extensions early on.

A file extension is the suffix used at the end of a file name to show what type of computer file is being used. The suffix also implies what program can be used to read the content of the file. Here are the most popular file extensions that kids should learn about.

DOC and DOCX

There is no actual difference between DOC and DOCX. Both are native formats of Microsoft Word, which is one of the most commonly used file types used for school projects and beyond. Whether DOC or DOCX is used is simply dependent on the version of Microsoft Office being used. DOC and DOCX files can contain text, images, tables, and other elements. The file type is perfect for writing essays and presenting graphics. Once a DOC or DOCX file has been saved, users can easily edit it in a Word program.

PDF

The PDF file extension is used for documents created in the PDF file format. PDFs are so popular because they maintain the formatting used to create the document. A PDF can contain text, images, tables, graphs, 3D drawings, and other elements. Due to the formatting being maintained, the elements of a PDF document appear richer and more presentable, making them ideal for school projects. PDFs have many benefits, but users can often not edit them directly unless they have a specific Adobe program. However, you can convert PDFs into other file types, such as DOC or JPG, by using an online tool. For instance, with PDF Simpli, you can convert a PDF into an editable JPG picture file in an instant.

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Inspire Young Writer’s with Young Writers Program

A warm welcome to Sean Clark, Instructional Aide, and his first time contributing to Ask a Tech Teacher. He’s also a Teacher-Author with a wonderful experience involving his students in November’s NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program:

School-age kids these days are bridging huge linguistic and literary gaps almost every day: reading books checked out from the school library, but also online assignments, texts, and instant messages from parents and classmates.  They’re learning cursive and concurrently expected to raise their words-per-minute on the QWERTY layout, possibly both in the span of one week.  They must know an adjective from an adverb, but also a header from a heading.  

My name is Sean Clark, bearing the official title of Technology Instructional Aid, though most of the time around the school, I am referred to simply as ‘the tech guy.’  I’m one of several at the elementary level holding this job description in my district where 1:1 devices are now the norm.  On that gap described earlier, the teaching of the latter half is my responsibility.  Before current events transpired, my work week involved heading to each classroom to give a lesson on whatever I had made up for the day; typing, coding, docs, slides, or other various thematic and interactive activities I’d discovered through sites like Ask a Tech Teacher.  

Outside of work, I’m still connected to technology, often for playing games, but also in the pursuit of satisfying my creative mind by typing out my thoughts into stories, and sometimes turning those stories into novels.  I run a writer’s blog by the name of Fifty Shades of Grease, a title birthed from a time where I worked a less glamorous job in a deli.  In my blog, I archive many of my short stories, as well as track progress on other, bigger works that get the full run-down to be turned into proper ebook and paperback novels.  To date, I’ve self-published two trilogies, a short story, and a literary collection.

I’ve been writing on and off properly since community college when a guest teacher running the English 1A class revealed the wonders of creative writing, rather than just the regurgitation of rhetoric that High School had taught me to focus on.  At some point that semester, I had a flashback to 4th grade when I was voted ‘most likely to become a writer.’ It wasn’t until after graduating from University five-and-some years later that I finally found the time and motivation to write a complete story from beginning to end.  At that point, I knew I couldn’t stop at just one.

My biggest outlet of story writing energy is the National Novel Writing Month- abbreviated to NaNoWriMo– community.  Running two short events during the summer, and a full-fledged 50-thousand-word writing sprint in November, writers find themselves bound by their own honor to write more-or-less every day in order to meet their goals.  Since joining the community a few years ago, I have not missed a single session.

So, you’re probably wondering- how do my tech lessons and my students fit into this?  Personally, I’ve enjoyed the chance to bring in my own books to read from for various classes.  While it is slightly self-aggrandizing, the message that I hope students can find is that with the proper effort and dedication, they can produce something unequivocally theirs (a sentiment not only limited to writing, of course). In fact, the NaNoWriMo community can serve such minds just the same, with a special space all its own for school-age children wanting to attempt something so grand as writing an entire story; the Young Writers Program.  Rather than being thrown in with strangers and set up with strict goals, the YWP allows a teacher to curate a class with a class code, ready to be set to run for any month, any topic, and any word count.

When we began teaching at a distance this spring, over Zooms and Google Classrooms and less-than-ideal Youtube lessons recorded from Chromebook cameras, this program was one of the first I jumped on to offer as a tech lesson.  Maybe it was the lack of a stimulating home environment, growing burnout out from Cool Math Games, or just having the desire to create something original, but more than a few became truly engaged in their newfound project.

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Music, Academics, and Keyboarding–Transferable Skills

Dr. Bill Morgan is a frequent contributer to Ask a Tech Teacher. Today, he is sharing his experience and research on how keyboarding skills benefit other topics I found this every interesting:

Finger Dexterity

Transferable Keyboarding Skills

Dr. Bill Morgan, Ph.D.

“How do you play the piano as well as you do?” someone in the choir asked me last Sunday. The choir director had apologized as he handed me an arrangement that I had never seen before, saying, “I should have given this to you earlier.” I reassured him, “If you pick ‘em I’ll play ‘em.” I have learned to play not only all of the hymns in the book but most choir arrangements, as well. 

I have since reflected on how I had accompanied school choirs and solo ensemble students from both the band and the choir while I was still attending high school. As I was playing a Beethoven sonata my piano teacher praised the amount of practice that I had put in that week, but the truth was I had only warmed up for an hour before the lesson. While attending a junior college I was paid to accompany a choir while taking the class for credit.

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