Check out my article over at Western Governor’s University on how to update the classic bridge building lesson plan:
Over the past decade, a mainstay for middle school science programs has been building toothpick bridges. This type of school project—somewhat of a rite of passage in Project Based Learning—is intended to help teach students through hands-on experience. Similar projects include baking soda volcanoes, the infamous egg drop, and growing plants as a class. I remember assigning the bridge project to my students, as well as helping my own children with it, but I have since learned that the typical way of tackling this school project can leave students feeling dissatisfied.
I have written in the past about mysimpleshow, an easy and clever way educators can create explainer videos. Mysimpleshow is aligned with simpleshow foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the world. This summer, in cooperation with the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC), they are participating in a summer volunteer program to encourage everyone to promote the United Nations 17 Global Goals in support of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development:
In collaboration with the United Nations System Staff College, the simpleshow foundation has set up a volunteering program that aims to educate the world about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Using [the online tool] mysimpleshow, volunteers are encouraged to explain details and background of these 17 Global Goals of the Agenda 2030 in short and entertaining explainer videos. The program allows volunteers of all ages to gain a better grasp of the Agenda’s topics and help create a public understanding of the importance of these goals.
Volunteers can sign up at simpleshow-foundation.org.
When you sign up, you choose a topic, access mysimpleshow, and create your explainer video.
When I first visited UWorld’s College prep site, I expected what usually is included on free SAT/ACT prep sites–questions, answers, and a lot of cheerleading.
I should have known better. UWorld is a leading provider of question bank materials for professional licensing exams like USMLE, ABIM, and ABFM, considered by many to be the gold standard in test preparation. Now, UWorld has expanded into SAT prep (as well as ACT and AP prep). The site includes over 1200 questions written by experienced educators and designed to be similar to what students will find on the real SAT. With each question is a rigorous explanation, step-by-step instructions, and helpful images about the logic behind answers.
- Choose your difficulty level–low, medium, hard.
- Get hints to help you find a starting point for the answer.
- Customize practice tests to focus on mastering specific concepts within subjects.
- Create your own flashcards for quick review.
- Track your time and performance to improve your pace.
- Monitor progress with reports and graphs.
- Compare your results to peers as a gauge of performance. This includes questions they got correct, how much time they took answering individual questions, and the types of questions they are struggling with.
- Identify weaknesses and improve strengths.
- Flag questions that you’d like to review later.
- Define difficult words from within the app (for reading prep).
Registered students can access questions at the pace they’d like, take full timed tests to build test-taking stamina, pause during testing, flag questions they want more work on, save generated tests to finish or retake later, and more.
The end of the school year means graduation for seniors. If they aren’t going to college, they’re job hunting. Sara Stringer, Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, has several ideas on how to make that more efficient:
As a teacher, you’re fully aware of how much the world is advancing through technology. Undoubtedly, innovation has touched many aspects of how you teach. The Internet has made it easier to gather, evaluate, summarize and disseminate information. If for example, you’re a math teacher, you may refer students struggling to grasp the Pythagorean Theorem to view Khan Academy videos so that they can catch up with the rest of the class.
Since you have probably used the Internet to post your own resume, you know how powerful it can be and how important it is to make your online presence as professional as possible. You can also use your knowledge and experience in job hunting to guide those students who don’t plan on going on to college on how to get internships and entry-level jobs after graduation. Job searching has changed remarkably over the past few years, and if your students are to succeed in the real world, they will have to take a very different approach than your previous graduating classes.
Here are 3 tech tips you can use to point your graduating class in the right direction:
Seven million students took the SAT test last year. While it traditionally is an assessment tool for college-bound seniors, more and more high schools are choosing it as an exit exam for graduating seniors (such as these changes in Ohio and the State of Washington). Driven in part by the educational imperative to minimize student testing, what better solution than a test already heavily vetted as being inclusive and cross-cultural that many students are familiar with.
In this article, I’ll focus on preparation for the SAT essay portion. General preparation hints include:
- practice good writing with every school essay students write
- use academic-specific vocabulary whenever possible
- take practice tests
- read a lot — and let that inform your writing
Here are three different approaches to preparing for the essay portion:
- Khan Academy — work on the students’ unique writing problems experienced in their PSAT or earlier SATs
- Revision Assistant — practice writing over a long term and receive targeted feedback to improve skill
- Mindsnacks SAT vocabulary — develop depth in academic vocabulary that improves not only student writing but their understanding of what they’re reading
It’s not enough to share information with students. Unless they have an eidetic memory, much of what they see/hear/taste/smell never reaches long term memory. For that, students require study. That includes note-taking and review in a variety of formats to touch the varied approaches to learning.
Here are three apps I find helpful with students. They are flexible, scalable, and as a group, address a variety of learning approaches students use. This includes traditional handwritten notes, collecting multimedia resources, and the ever-popular drill. Which is best for you?
This is as close as you’ll get to pen-and-paper and be digital. No registration required and no ads. The start page is clear, uncluttered, with notes clearly listed. The menu bar is narrow and unobtrusive. Notes are taken on an infinite canvas as though it was a tablet of lined paper. You can add images, text, and audio files. Notes are saved in collections or singly which can then be exported as a PDF or an image.
Take notes with a finger, a stylus, or typed, even annotate PDFs (currently for an additional fee).
When kids read that America’s $18 trillion+ debt is accepted by many experts as ‘business as usual’, I wonder how that news will affect their own personal finance decisions. Do they understand the consequences of unbalanced budgets? The quandary of infinite wants vs. finite dollars? Or do they think money grows on some fiscal tree that always blooms? The good news is: Half of the nation’s schools require a financial literacy course. The bad new is: Only half require a financial literacy course.
Banzai is a personal finance curriculum that teaches high school and middle school students how to prioritize spending decisions through real-life scenarios and choose-your-own adventure (kind of) role playing. Students start the course with a pre-test to determine a baseline for their financial literacy. They then engage in 32 life-based interactive scenarios covering everything from balancing a budget to adjusting for unexpected bills like car trouble or health problems. Once they’ve completed these exercises, they are dropped into a scenario where they have just graduated from high school, have a job, and must save $2,000 to start college. They are constantly tempted to mis-spend their income and then face the consequences of those actions, basing their decisions on what they learned in the 32 scenarios. Along the way, students learn to handle rent, gas, groceries, taxes, car payments, and life’s ever-present emergencies. When they finish, they take a post-test to measure improvement in their financial literacy.
Teachers register as many classes as necessary. Their dashboard lists all students in each class and a summary of which activities they have finished. Student work is graded by the website and updated on the teacher dashboard.
High school senior at Newton North High School in Newton, MA, Yishai Barth, feels strongly about the importance of Universal Design Language (UDL). He explains his specific learning needs and calls on all educators to see life from his and millions of other students’ perspective. By sharing his specific needs with teachers, needs that are faced by millions of students across the world, he hopes to provide help in supporting their learning.
Thirty years ago a professor at Harvard University released findings from a series of studies. These findings have changed the way most experts in the field of psychology and neuroscience think about intelligence itself. Howard Gardner’s research revealed that from a practical perspective intelligence cannot be thought of as a singular noun. Instead it is necessary to consider the matrix of intelligences that exist in widely varied configurations within each human mind.
The Universal Design movement came into existence as a response to this research by leading thinkers in the engineering and design professions. It is imperative to the education of hundreds of thousands of students across the country and millions of students around the world that the techniques of Universal Design are brought to bear on the unjust barriers many students face in attempting to navigate the educational landscape under the status quo.
When the first school
guidance counselors (update: thanks to those in the profession who took the time to educate me on their title) emerged in the late 1800’s, they were almost exclusively vocational counselors, their purpose to assist students in transitioning from an educational environment to a productive piece of society. Quickly, this morphed to helping students determine the career path best-suited for their innate abilities, interests, and skills. It didn’t take long for those in the trenches to connect student success after school to the path followed during school–which included much more than grades. Counselors took on myriad tasks, such as:
- helping failing students find a remedy
- encouraging teachers to make connections between what they taught and occupational problems
- consulting student standardized tests to determine what should/could be expected of students
- urging students to stay in school
- interviewing students leaving school to validate their decision
- promoting character development
- teaching socially appropriate behavior
- assisting vocational planning
- promoting best practices in academic development (readiness to learn and achievement strategies)
- encouraging career development and planning (academic advising, school to post secondary or career transitions, and workforce effectiveness)
- ensuring appropriate social skills and self-management as well as facing challenges to school success including bullying, suicide, addictions, and abuse
- providing connectedness to school, community, state and nation
- helping students understand societal events such as Sandy Hill and Hurricane Katrina
What is the goal of education? If you ask ten people, you’re likely to get fifteen different answers. AEP Distinguished Achievement Award Winner Dennis Littky and Samantha Grabelle discuss this in their well-regarded book, The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone’s Business. They draw from classroom experience and postulate that education is expected to teach students to:
- be lifelong learners
- be passionate
- be ready to take risks
- be able to problem-solve and think critically
- be able to look at things differently
- be able to work independently and with others
- be creative
- care and want to give back to their community
- have integrity and self-respect
- have moral courage
- be able to use the world around them well
- speak well, write well, read well, and work well with numbers
- truly enjoy their life and their work
Common Core succinctly summarizes K-12 education as
“…prepare students for college and career”
Ask a Tech Teacher contributor Sara Stringer focuses in on high school and shares her thoughts on three skills important to their future: