Category: Teacher resources

Should You Unschool?

The first time I read about Unschooling, I ignored it. Surely, it was a fad that would go away.

When I read about it a thousand more times, I dug into it.

Inspired by the teachings of John Holt (1923–1985), this free range branch of homeschooling promotes learning through nonstructured, child-led exploration. There’s no set curriculum or schedule; students learn what interests them with guidance from involved adults. There are no worksheets, tests, or structure to provide evidence of learning or templates for teaching. The children pick what to learn, when, at what pace. The result — according to unschoolers, is a love of learning, tenacity to a task, and independent thought that prepares them for college and career better than traditional methods. In fact, if you look at the list of traits valued in popular education programs such as Habits of Mind and Depth of Knowledge, the reasons why parents unschool their children mirror the traits included in these lists.

What is it

According to  Dr. Peter Gray of Freedom to Learn:

Unschooling parents do not … do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child’s learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.”

If you use Genius Hour in your classroom, you have a sense of how inspiring, motivating, and addicting learning for the love of learning can be. Another popular example of unschooling is Sugata Mitra’s 1999 Hole in the Wall experiment where a computer was placed in a kiosk in an Indian slum. Children were allowed to use it freely. The experiment successfully proved that children could learn to use computers without any formal training. This was extended to be a method called Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) where students were encouraged to learn what interests them without adult direction —  much as what is expected from unschooling.

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Tech Ed Resources–Online Classes and Coaching

tech ed helpI get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take 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: Classes

Ask a Tech Teacher offers a variety of classes throughout the year. These can be taught individually (through coaching or mentoring), in small groups (of at least five), or as school PD. Some are for certificates; others for college credit. All are online, hands-on, with an authentic use of tools you’ll want for your class.

Click the course titles for more information.


online classesThe Tech-infused Teacher

Certificate

Group enrollment

The 21st Century teacher blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, you will use a suite of digital tools while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, digital publishing, and immersive keyboarding. You will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, publish digitally, and differentiate for unique needs. Classmates will become the core of your ongoing Personal Learning Network.

Assessment is project-based so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.

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The Case for PDFs in Class Revisited

I published this about a year ago and have updated it to reflect our current teaching environment. Let me know if this fits your experiences:

The biggest reason teachers report for NOT liking internet-based cloud accounts has nothing to do with money, security, or privacy. It’s that they aren’t inclusive enough. Students can’t access cloud storage, Google Classroom, or their LMS for a project they’re working on because of the lack of Internet at home or slow internet service–or a teacher can’t get to lesson plan resources  because of dead spot in the school or overload, the excitement of learning melts away like ice cream on a hot day.

That’s why no matter how good webtools sound, I won’t install them if they’re problematic–for example, they are slow to load, the website is unreliable, or saving is an issue. The most dependable method of accessing resources is through programs preloaded onto the local computer or available as PDFs that are easily shared.

I get it. 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 results in the problems I’ve mentioned. Too often and annoyingly That has spawned 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 and most others. With a free PDF reader (like Adobe or many others–check this link for ideas), students can open a document and get started right away. Even if they’re school system is a Mac and their home is a PC, the PDF opens fine.

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Here’s How to Get Started with Ask a Tech Teacher

Hello! Ask a Tech Teacher is a group of tech ed professionals who work together to offer you tech tips, advice, pedagogic discussion, lesson plans, and anything else we can think of to help you integrate tech into your classroom. Our primary focus is to provide technology-in-education-related information for educators–teachers, administrators, homeschoolers, and parents.

Here’s how to get started on our blog (or click this link):

Read our varied columns

They include:

Read Hall of Fame articles

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9 Ways to Add Tech to your Lessons Without Adding Time to Your Day

I update these suggestions every few years to remind teachers there are easy ways to techify your lessons even on a tight schedule. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments about how you do this in your classes:

***

Because I teach graduate classes for educators, I talk to lots of teachers all over the country. It’s become clear that for most of them, adding technology to their lessons means layering more work on top of their already overburdened lesson plans. Despite the claims of tech gurus that technology makes the job of teaching easier, few educators see it that way. Even the ones who love it put in lots of extra time to do one or more of the following:

  • learn tech tools and then teach their students
  • learn tech tools only to discover it’s not what they need
  • learn a tech tool they love only to have it either disappear or switch to a fee-based program
  • rework existing lesson plans in the school’s mandated digital program that too often, changes every year. This means they have to re-enter the lesson plan in a new format for a new LMS
  • find a tool they love, but no one else in their teaching team agrees, understands it, or cares
  • the tool won’t work on the Big Day of the lesson and nothing will bring it back to life
  • the digital devices–computer or Chromebooks or iPads–won’t work on the Big Day

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Need a New Job? Here’s What You Do

You’ve been teaching for five years and love what you’re doing. You consider yourself darn lucky to be working with colleagues that are friends and a boss who always puts your needs first. Most of the teachers at your school have been there years — even decades — and you have no doubt that, too, will be you. So, you don’t bother to keep your resume up-to-date or expand your teaching skills other than what is required for your position. In short, you found the square hole that fits your square peg.

Until the day that changes. There are dozens of reasons, from new bosses who want to shake things up to your husband gets a job in a different state. The only good news: Your boss told you already, giving you time to job hunt for the new school year. For many schools, if they’re going to make staffing changes, early Spring is when they start looking for the new people. For you as a job hunting educator, this becomes the best time of year to find a job.

Digital portfolio sites

Rather than a two-page printed document that can be lost and serves only one user, a digital portfolio posts your resume online, in an easy-to-understand format. This makes it more available, transparent, robust, and quickly updated. This is the modern resume, tells future bosses you can use technology as a tool, and can give you an edge in a competitive job market. It organizes your qualifications, evidence, and background in one easy-to-reach online location. Interested parties can check it without bothering you and decide if the fit is good. You do nothing — which can save the disappoint of sending out a resume and getting nothing but silence back.

Here are suggestions for digital portfolio sites:

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15 Skills To Learn this Summer and Use Next Year

It’s summer, that time of rest and rejuvenation, ice cream and bonhomie. Like the American plains or the African savannas, it stretches endlessly to a far horizon that is the Next School Year. It represents so much time, you can do anything, accomplish the impossible, and prepare yourself quintessentially for upcoming students.

So what are the absolute basics you should learn this summer that will make a difference in your Fall class? Here are fifteen ideas that will still leave you time to enjoy sunsets and hang out with friends:

Learn basic tech problems

You probably know the most common tech problems faced last year like hooking digital devices to the school WiFi, running a tech-infused lesson, or what students face with technology. Good idea: Next year, collect a list of the problems students, parents, and other teachers struggle with and teach students how to solve them. There are about 25 (click for a list or click here for a more detailed explanation),  Know how to solve them. If you need help, add a comment at the bottom. I’ll give you ideas.

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Looking for Summer Activities? Try These

Earlier this week, we posted activities for a summer school student program. Now, we’ll focus on you–what do you want to accomplish with your summer? I’ve collected the most popular AATT articles on how to spend your education time this summer. Pick the ones that suit your purposes:

6 Must-reads for This Summer–2020 edition

Summer for me is nonstop reading — in an easy chair, under a tree, lying on the lawn, petting my dog. Nothing distracts me when I’m in the reading zone. What I do worry about is running out of books so this year, I spent the last few months stalking efriends to find out what they recommend to kickstart the 2020-21 school year. And it paid off. I got a list of books that promise to help teachers do their job better, faster, and more effectively but there are too many. Since I covered a mixture of books in a past article, many on pedagogy, this time, I decided to concentrate on content that could facilely move from my reading chair into the classroom.

I came up with six. See what you think:

10 Books You’ll Want to Read This Summer–2019 edition

Summer is a great time to reset your personal pedagogy to an education-friendly mindset and catch up on what’s been changing in the ed world while you were teaching eight ten hours a day. My Twitter friends, folks like @mrhowardedu and @Coachadamspe, gave me great suggestions on books to read that I want to share with you…

5 Apps to learn this summer

Summer has a reputation for being nonstop relaxation, never-ending play, and a time when students stay as far from “learning” as they can get. For educators, those long empty weeks result in a phenomenon known as “Summer Slide” — where students start the next academic year behind where they ended the last.

“…on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning…” (Brookings)

This doesn’t have to happen. Think about what students don’t like about school. Often, it revolves around repetitive schedules, assigned grades, and/or being forced to take subjects they don’t enjoy. In summer, we can meet students where they want to learn with topics they like by offering a menu of ungraded activities that are self-paced, exciting, energizing, and nothing like school learning. We talk about life-long learners (see my article on life-long learners). This summer, model it by offering educational activities students will choose over watching TV, playing video games, or whatever else they fall into when there’s nothing to do.

Here are favorites that my students love…

Help Students Select the Right Summer School

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Alex Briggs, has an interesting take on summer school, why you should start thinking about it now–in the Fall–and how to do that. I think you’ll find this interesting.

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