Tag: back to school

5 Ways Ed-tech Can Enhance Social Studies Lessons

As is my habit, I spend a lot of time exploring new ways to teach old subjects. Lately, I’ve concentrated on social studies. I chatted with my PLN, browsed forums where I knew efriends hung out, and taught a slew of online grad school classes to teachers who always are willing the discuss their newest favorite social studies tech tool. I picked everyone’s brains and came up with a list of five webtools you definitely must look at:

Classcraft

Some call Classcraft a classroom management tool but really, it’s more about injecting excitement in your teaching and touching on the important social-emotional learning that sometimes gets forgotten. Here’s a great quote I heard in a sponsored video:

“It might sound crazy to you and me but the kids love it.” — Sarah Murphy

The more I dug into Classcraft, the more I understood why Sarah Murphy said what she did. It’s pretty simple. Kids have a passion for learning and playing games. You incorporate that into your passion for teaching by gamifying your middle- or high school classroom. When students and teachers work together, toward the same goals, everyone wins.

The free (fee for Premium) Classcraft doesn’t teach standards or curricula for academic subjects. Instead, it focuses on core SEL (social-emotional learning) skills fundamental to the fullness of the education journey. That means it’s easy to apply to your social studies class. It uses tools already popular in your school — Google Classroom or MS Office 365, a browser, and an app (iOS or Android). You set up different tasks and customize rules to fit class needs.  Students work individually or in teams, becoming accountable for their behavior to themselves and their teams. When they achieve goals and/or abide by rules, they earn stuff they want (that you’ve organized beforehand). You can blend Classcraft activities into your existing lesson plans or use those available on the website. Robust analytics (included in the Premium package) allow you to track student behavior over time and compare it with the class average.

Also available: a timer, a class volume meter, and parent features — great basic tools for every class.

ClassroomScreen

ClassroomScreen is probably one of the most robust, versatile, and useful classroom tools to cross education’s “free” landscape in a long time. It will make your social studies lessons run smoother, make them more responsive to needs, and keep students focused on the lesson. When you click on ClassroomScreen.com, it opens a blank screen that is a digital board ready to be displayed on your class smart screen. You personalize it with the most popular tools desired in classroom, all lined up at the bottom of the screen. These include preferred language (you pick from about a hundred languages), customized background, sound level, QR code (for the classroom screen; students scan it in and it displays on any mobile device — isn’t that cool?), a whiteboard, a text tool, a start-stop traffic light, a timer, a clock, a random name picker (for teams), an exit poll, Work Symbols (four options for collaborative student work — work together, ask a neighbor, whisper, and silence), and more.  There’s no download, no login, no registration. Simply click the link and get started.

Commonsense Media calls it:

“…the Swiss Army Knife of the classroom…”

I agree. Here’s a video that decodes this already-simple class tool.

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7 Apps That Inspire Students

You probably found dozens of new apps over the holidays that you can’t wait to try out in your classes. They all sound educational, rigorous, and dynamic but the problem is there are far more than you can use. You may have decided to try one a week — or one a month — or some other method of doling them out in measurable quantities that won’t overwhelm you or students.

I have a better strategy: Limit new apps to five. All year. Introduce them; let students get comfortable using them in varied circumstances, in multiple subjects. Only then expect students to take ownership of the apps’ ability to share the student’s knowledge. Here’s why five is a good yearly number. When students see too many apps, they:

  • decide technology is confusing
  • decide your class is confusing
  • think they don’t need to get comfortable with any app because you’ll introduce a different one any moment

A colleague considers technology “as approachable as a porcupine”. Don’t let students think of the apps you’re so excited about as porcupines!

So, how do you pick those five apps? Here are three general guidelines:

  1. The app must improve outcomes. Award-winning educator, presenter, and teacher-author Alice Keeler says, “Paperless is not a pedagogy”. What she means is: Go paperless not to save trees but to improve the education experience. How does this apply to the selection of apps? Apps used in your lessons should improve learning rather than just being a cool app kids might like.
  2. The tech must be there. You and your students must have the techiness to use the app. This is the most critical bottleneck for app selection. You may love what the app can do (like gamify math or quizzify science) but the technology required is more than you can handle, might require hours of time just to learn how to apply it. That’s not a good app for your circumstances. The app you choose should be within your skillset. Even better, that metric should apply to your students. If neither of you can self-train on an app, find a different one.
  3. It must fill the M and R of SAMRThe SAMR Model (click link for more information) organizes technology as Substitution and Augmentation at a beginning level and Modification and Redefinition at the critical thinking and creativity level. For over a decade, teachers have considered it “good enough” to meet those first levels — like rote drills to replace worksheets. Not anymore. Now, apps you pick should require critical thinking — the M and R levels. These sorts of digital tools are not more complicated to use or more expensive. What they do is leverage learning more rigorously for both you and students.

* For ideas on how to select a specific app, read the introduction to 5 Favorite Classroom Apps.

Having said all of that, here are a selection of great apps to consider as you select your group of five:

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Back to School Tips

back to schoolIt’s hard to imagine school is back in a few weeks. I’ve collected a series of back-to-school tips that are suited for in-person or remote learning. Pick those that work for you:

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Great Activities for the First Week of School

The first week of school is different from all others. During this week, teachers and students alike spend time getting to know each other, become comfortable in the classroom where they’ll spend countless hours for the next nine months, and take time to reach a comfort level with leaving summer behind. I’ve gathered suggestions below from some of the leading education folks, those who are all about project-based learning rather than the application of pedagogy, to share with you. I’ve also included a few general back-to-school activities with a digital spin to get you back into school quickly and agilely.

Activities include:

  1. Authentically use forms
  2. Build a puzzle to decorate class walls for Back to School night
  3. Let students prepare how-tos to share with classmates
  4. Prepare English Language Learners to participate fully in class
  5. Review class tech tools so students are comfortable with them and not surprised when they pop up
  6. Review the class LMS
  7. Set individual goals
  8. Share back-to-school thoughts with a #hashtag
  9. Take class selfies
  10. Write a Back-to-school story

Authentically use Forms

Digital forms have become a go-to activity for polls, bell-ringers, exit tickets, quizzes, and more. When used early in the school year, they become an easy way to show students how technology can update classroom activities. Catlin Tucker suggests using forms the first week of school to collect student background information that is not only useful for you as the teacher but helps students get to know each other. Click her link and check out the complete lesson plan. She includes a video and a template you can use of her survey.

@Catlin_Tucker

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16 Back-to-School Articles

On everything from get-to-know-you activities to getting yourself ready:

  1. 11 Back-to-school Activities for the First Month of School
  2. Great Back to School Classroom Activities
  3. Plan a Memorable Back to School Night
  4. New School Year? New Tech? I Got You Covered
  5. 5 Top Ways to Integrate Technology into the New School Year
  6. 5 Ways to Involve Parents in Your Class
  7. 6 Tech Best Practices for New Teachers
  8. How to Prepare Students for PARCC Tests
  9. 8 Tech Tools to Get to Know Your Students for Back to School
  10. 3 Apps to Help Brainstorm Next Year’s Lessons
  11. What Digital Device Should My School Buy?
  12. 4 Options for a Class Internet Start Page
  13. 5 Ways Teachers Can Stay on Top of Technology
  14. Back to School–Tech Makes it Easy to Stay On Top of Everything
  15. Dear Otto: I need year-long assessments
  16. 5 Tech Ed Tools to Use this Fall

For the entire list, click this Back-to-School category tag.

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11 Back-to-school Activities for the First Month of School

A new school year is a fresh start. For students, that means a different teacher and new classmates. For teachers, it’s another chance to make an impact on the lives of kids, turn them into life-long learners or at least let them experience the joy of learning.

In the chaos of getting ready for that all-important first day, it’s tempting to “do things as they’ve always been done” — like lectures, quizzes, student plays, and posters — but more and more teachers want to shake things up by adding innovative activities that differentiate for student learning styles while creatively accomplishing classroom goals.

Here are eleven such activities I’ve collected from colleagues using transformative tools that optimize learning while making students active participants in expected learning outcomes:

Class management

Use the webtool Too Noisy for the first month of class to show students how loud the class can get.  Demonstrate how it works by showing that the louder classroom sounds are, the more the needle moves into the red. After that, project it onto the class screen occasionally throughout the day when voices and activity exceed what is best for learning.  Let students notice the meter and then self-correct.

This tool is intuitive, easy to use, and is available on mobile devices only. A good alternative if you don’t have the ability to project your iPad to the class screen: Bouncy Balls.

Class Rules

Post a draft of class rules on the wall based on those followed last year. Ask students for suggestions. As they offer ideas, jot them down on the list. When everyone is done, post the edited list in place of the draft. Now, everyone is a stakeholder in classroom management.

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Great Back to School Classroom Activities

The first week of school is different from all others. During this week, teachers and students alike spend time getting to know each other, become comfortable in the classroom where they’ll spend countless hours for the next nine months, and take time to reach a comfort level with leaving summer behind. I’ve gathered suggestions below from some of the leading education folks (like Catlin Tucker, Alice Keeler, Eric Curts, Richard Byrne, and Monica Burns), those who are all about project-based learning rather than the application of pedagogy, to share with you. I’ve also included a few general back-to-school classroom activities with a digital spin to get you back into school quickly and agilely.

Classroom Activities include:

  1. Authentically use forms.
  2. Build a puzzle to decorate class walls for Back to School Night.
  3. Let students prepare how-tos to share with classmates.
  4. Prepare English Language Learners to participate fully in class.
  5. Review class tech tools so students are comfortable with them and not surprised when they pop up.
  6. Review the class LMS.
  7. Set individual goals.
  8. Share back-to-school thoughts with a #hashtag.
  9. Take class selfies.
  10. Write a back-to-school story.

–read more on TeachHUB

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Plan a Memorable Back to School Night

Back to School night is a time-honored ritual where teachers and parents meet, with or without children, and preview the upcoming school year. Teachers share information about their teaching style and methodology, how they grade, what students can do to thrive, and how parents can connect to classroom activities. It’s a way of easing everyone back into the education journey after a long summer break and is arguably one of the most impactful days in the school year.

But Back to School night has changed over the years in large part because families have changed. Consider this list of reasons why from Edutopia:

  • Increased pace of life
  • Greater economic demands
  • Alterations in family composition and stability
  • Breakdown of neighborhoods and extended families
  • Weakening of community institutions

The most important goal of Back to School Night — establishing the parent-teacher partnership — is a lot more complicated to reach than it used to be.

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