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:
A Year to Remember, A Year to Reflect: Pandemic Instruction
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?
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.
If you’re a teacher-author, I’d love for you to share this HS-level book with your community. In return, I’ll share yours with mine!
A boy blinded by fire. A woman raised by wolves. An avowed enemy offers help.
In this second in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa, the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. Circumstances make it clear that they can’t stay, not with the rest of her tribe enslaved by the enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.
If you’d like to know a little more about Laws of Nature, here’s the trailer.
If you’re an Indie teacher-author, you know that our most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth. We don’t have a big publisher behind us or an agent that pushes us out to the world. What we have is each other, telling our friends about the latest great book we’ve read.
I need your help
If you’re willing to help me promote my latest book, here’s how it works:
A logical step for many teachers is to progress from teaching High School to College. But that is more complicated than it sounds. Here’s an good article from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor on what you should know to make that a successful endeavor:
What to Know Before Moving From High School Teacher to College Professor
Teaching is one of the most fulfilling, albeit challenging, jobs you can do. No matter the location or level, there will be immense feelings of pride, moments of anguish and many tired nights and weekends.
For those who get started as a high school teacher, there comes a time when they think about moving on to teaching at the college level. If you have interest in becoming a college professor, the following questions will help you understand all the benefits, differences, challenges and steps to changing your career path.
High School or College: Which Has a Higher Earning Potential?
As most educators know, there is a salary bump at the college level. The median pay for post-secondary (college) teachers in 2020 was $80,790, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is well above the $62,870 median annual salary for high school teachers. In general, education isn’t the field you enter to get rich, but that extra income can be a major incentive to make the transition.
Are There Fewer Jobs Available for College Professors?
Though it may be surprising, there are actually more college professors in the United States than high school teachers. In 2020, there were 1.33 million post-secondary teachers compared to less than 1.05 million high school teachers, according to BLS. The field is also expanding faster in higher education, which BLS forecasts will add another 121,500 workers by 2029, compared to just 40,200 more in high school.
What Are the Requirements to Teach in College?
While the majority of tenure positions at four-year universities will require a doctoral degree — plus at least seven years teaching in the field for an institution — there are a range of opportunities available with a master’s degree as well. Community college teachers, for example, typically only ask for a master’s, and even well-known schools hire professors in some specialities, including the arts, without a Ph.D.
Here’s a great article from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor for those of you interested in teaching internationally–specifically, Canada:
How To Move To Canada To Be A Teacher
Canada is a country that people all over the world would love to emigrate to. It has a progressive style of government, very low crime rate and lots of work. It is not easy to get there, however. Since there are so many people trying to get into Canada, the requirements can be quite strict.
That said, there are professions that are in demand and the Canadian government is active in trying to get people to come and do these jobs. There are times when the teacher profession is on the list.
If you have the right credentials then you could end up on a plane destined for Canada. You’ll need to have your health insurance sorted out while you look for a job. Public health insurance in Canada is for citizens and permanent residents.
With all that said, let’s get into the ways you can get to Canada to work as a teacher and then sort those details out afterward.
Pick the right city
There isn’t a nationwide shortage of teachers, but there are areas that are having trouble finding enough. There are rural areas where the most eligible people are moving to cities. Then, there are the cities that are growing faster than ever and with families moving in there is a need for more teachers.
The trick is to first think about what type of lifestyle you want to live and then find the area that best suits it. For instance, Saskatoon is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and is in dire need of teachers. It sits midway between Edmonton and Winnipeg so you have to like it in a rural area. If that type of scenario suits you then you are likely to find a job there.
For those that enjoy urban and city life, Guelph, Ontario is always looking for qualified teachers. It isn’t far from Toronto and has smaller cities like Kitchener and Hamilton nearby.
Even Toronto, the New York City of Canada is always looking for teachers so there really is a mix of different types of places that suit every lifestyle.
Teacher Appreciation Week: The First Full Week of May
There’s always been something mystically cerebral about people in technical professions like engineering, science, and mathematics. They talk animatedly about plate tectonics, debate the structure of atoms, even smile at the mention of calculus. The teaching profession has our own version of these nerdy individuals, called technology teachers. In your district, you may refer to them as IT specialists, Coordinators for Instructional Technology, Technology Facilitators, Curriculum Specialists, or something else that infers big brains, quick minds, and the ability to talk to digital devices. School lore probably says they can drop a pin through a straw without touching the sides.
When I started teaching K-8 technology, people like me were stuffed into a corner of the building where all other teachers could avoid us unless they had a computer emergency, pretending that what we did was for “some other educator in an alternate dimension”. Simply talking to us often made a colleague feel like a rock, only dumber. When my fellow teachers did seek me out — always to ask for help and rarely to request training — they’d come to my room, laptop in hand, and follow the noise of my fingers flying across the keyboard. It always amazed them I could make eye contact and say “Hi!” without stopping or slowing my typing.
That reticence to ask for help or request training changed about a decade ago when technology swept across the academic landscape like a firestorm:
Thank you so much to Norah Colvin for inviting me as a guest on her wonderful education blog, Norah Colvin. Norah covers so many great topics, I’ve been a long-time subscriber, always coming away a little smarter and up-to-date on teaching our youngest learners. A topic dear to me–and one I get lots of questions about–is teaching Kindergartners to Tech. I’m reposting this article for my readers.
Teachers: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.
When I started teaching technology almost twenty years ago, I taught K-8, three classes in each grade every week. I was buried under lesson plans, grades, and parent meetings. I remember suggesting to my principal that he ease my schedule by eliminating tech for kindergartners. They wouldn’t miss anything if I started them in first or second grade would they?
And back then, that was true. Even a decade ago, technology was an extra class in student schedules where now, it is a life skill. Today, my teacher colleagues tell me kids arrive at school already comfortable in the use of iPads and smartphones, doing movements like swipe, squeeze, and flick better than most adults. Many teachers, even administrators, use that as the reason why technology training isn’t needed for them, arguing, “They’re digital natives.”
In fact, because they arrive at school thinking they know what they’re doing on a digital device is exactly why teaching them technology, starting in kindergarten, is critical.
I see a few of you shaking your heads. Does your school think kindergartners don’t need tech classes? Or, if you’re a remote learning school, do your youngers struggle with tech because they didn’t start to learn it early enough (like Kindergarten)? Let me give you four good reasons why Kindergartners need tech lessons–whether you teach remotely or in person. These will arm you the next time you have to defend a strategy you know works.
They arrive with bad habits
Parents love encouraging their kids to play with iPads and iPhones but it’s not their job to teach them how to do it right. And I’m fine with that. I’ll do it but I need to warn everyone: Bad tech habits are much (much) easier to break if I catch them in kindergarten than third grade. Here are a few that these digital natives arrive to my kindergarten classes with:
I don’t often get personal on this blog. It’s not about me–it’s about educators and their profession–but times are different this year. When you’re geeky, you don’t always think like the people around you or answer questions in the usual way. A writing class I took asked us newbies to tell the class a little bit about ourselves. Here’s how I answered that:
I am a multi-cellular, hairless, short-snouted, large-brained bipedal omnivore, evolved over millions of years within the classification of Primates, in response to dramatic environment changes on the planet Earth to become Homo sapiens sapiens.
I occupy the geologic address
34E43.29 N and 117E10.82 W
…the political address
xxxx xxxx Dr., Laguna Hills CA.
…the email address
…and the internet address (my IP location)
I am one of over 8 billion big brained creatures living on Earth, each with unique talents and traits allowing us to best fit our local environment. I am a social animal, living in a large community–too large to know my neighbors by the methods other Primates use of ‘grooming’. Instead, we ‘gossip’ and ‘storytell’. I am surrounded by peers who feel superior to other mammals based on subjective factors such as physical characteristics or brain size. This primitive attitude has allowed my kind to take over the world but not run it well. Without significant changes, we will not remain the dominant species for even as long as dinosaurs, sharks, jelly fish, alligators, Great Apes, or horsetail ferns.
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.
Teacher-authors–do you write fiction? I do! And it feeds my soul in the same way that teaching does.
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Two of my novels–To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days–are tech thrillers so fit well into my geeky tech-teacher world. The rest deal with how man survived the traumas of prehistoric times.
I feature my fiction writing over at WordDreams.
If you are a teacher who also writes fiction, I’d love to feature your book on WordDreams. I have a good readership with lots of interest in Indie authors. I’m opening up comments so you can add a note there. If you’d prefer, contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com.
Every teacher I know understands it’s not the 3R’s or science or even history that provides fundamental skills for thriving in life. If you doubt that, read the quote below from a Harvard professor about the half-life of learned skills. No, it’s something more basic, more intuitive, and happens to be the holy grail of teacher goals for students.
Learn how to learn
Here’s how to make this easy, from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor:
In the past, a university degree provided a majority of graduates with the skills they needed to succeed in their chosen careers. In the 2020s, this is no longer the case. Today, according to research conducted by Harvard Business Review and Deloitte, a college degree typically provides students with skills that have a half-life of only 5 years.
That means it won’t be long before even college-educated employees will need to upskill or retrain to remain employable.
The main takeaway: Learning how to learn is the single most important skill that our students will need to master if they hope to participate meaningfully in the fast-paced, technology-driven workplace of the future.
Yet many students do not have a solid understanding of how to effectively go about the process of upskilling. According to research published in the Instructional Science journal, individual students experience a broad variety of differentiation in their understanding of how to undertake the learning process. Sadly, it is possible for some students to make it all the way through twelfth grade without ever fully grasping the basics of how to learn.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see how this could happen. As educators, we are each tasked with teaching our students a specific body of knowledge. The knowledge typically encompasses highly focused topics such as reading or math or biology. We know our students will be tested on the knowledge that we’ve been trusted to impart to them. Our livelihoods directly depend on whether or not they will excel at the resulting tests. There isn’t room in our workdays to deviate far from the material that will be covered on the tests.
Rarely, it seems, is anybody ever specifically tasked with teaching students a step-by-step course in how to learn. Yet, collectively, if we fail to teach them this skill, we ultimately fail in our mission to equip our students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in their careers — and also to succeed as functioning members of a technologically advanced society.
How, then, can we take action to teach our students how to learn? The following are five ideas we might each have the opportunity to implement as we approach the task of teaching our everyday curriculum to our students: