15 Skills Teachers Can Learn this Summer and Use in Next Year’s Classroom
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 class in the Fall? Here are fifteen ideas that will still leave you time to enjoy sunsets and hang out with friends:
Learn how to handle basic tech problems
You probably know the most common tech problems faced last year (like hooking digital devices to the school WiFi, this list you might face running a tech-infused lesson, or this one students might face using technology). These are collected from students when they tried to use tech for class projects, parents when their children couldn’t finish their homework because of tech issues, and members of your grade-level team who wanted to use tech for a lesson plan but Something Happened. Know how to solve all of them. If you need help, add a comment at the bottom. I’ll give you some ideas.
9 Must-have Tools for Ed Conferences
It’s summer, time for teachers to recharge their cerebral batteries. That could mean reading, going on field trips, spending time with online PLNs, or taking calls from family members who usually end up at voice mail. For many, it means attending conferences like ISTE and NEA to learn how the heck to integrate technology into their lesson plans. If you aren’t a veteran conference attendee, you may wonder what you should bring. That’s a fair question considering learning is no longer done sitting in auditoriums nodding off to the wisdom of a guest speaker behind a podium. These days, you might be asked to scan a QR code and visit a website, access meeting documents online, interact digitally, or use a backchannel device to share your real-time thoughts with the presenter. Besides a toothbrush and aspirin, what should you take to your upcoming conference? Here are five tools that will make you look and act like the Diva of Digital:
Besides a toothbrush and aspirin, what should you take to your upcoming conference? Here are five tools that will make you look and act like the Diva of Digital:
Some conferences take multiple buildings spread out over several blocks, and depending upon the number of attendees, your hotel may not be around the corner from the Hall. Bring the latest version of Google Maps on your smartphone or iPad, complete with audio directions. All you do is tell it where you’re going, ask for directions, and Siri (the voice behind the iPhone) will lock into your GPS and hold your hand the entire way. If friends are looking for a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts near the conference, Google Maps will find one. If you want Chinese, use an app like Yelp to find one patrons like (although I’m becoming a tad leery about Yelp. Anyone have a good alternative?)
Most educational conferences have one. I find these more useful than the conference website. They are geared for people who are manipulating a digital device one-handed, half their attention on the phone and the rest on traffic, meaning: they’re simple and straightforward. Test drive it so you know where the buttons are, then use it to find meeting rooms, changes in schedules, and updates.
19 Ways Students Keep Learning Fresh Over the Summer
Teachers have known for decades that ‘summer learning loss’ is a reality. Studies vary on how much knowledge students lose during the summer months–some say up to two months of reading and math skills–and results are heavily-dependent upon demographics, but the loss is real.
To prevent this, teachers try approaches such as summer book reports, but students complain they intrude on their summer time. When teachers make it optional, many don’t participate. The disconnect they’re seeing is that students consider these activities as ‘school’ rather than ‘life’. They haven’t bought into the reality that they are life-long learners, that learning is not something to be turned on in the schoolhouse and off on the playyard.
This summer, show students how learning is fun, worthy, and part of their world whether they’re at a friend’s house or the water park. Here are nineteen suggestions students will enjoy:
- Youngers: Take a picture of making change at the store. Share it in a teacher-provided summer activity folder (this should be quick to use, maybe through Google Drive if students have access to that). Kids will love having a valid reason to use Mom’s smartphone camera.
- Any age: Take a picture of tessellations found in nature (like a beehive or a pineapple). Kids will be amazed at how many they find and will enjoy using the camera phone. Once kids have collected several, upload them to a program like Shadow Puppets where they can record audio notes over the picture and share with friends.
- Any age: Pit your math and technology skills against your child’s in an online math-based car race game like Grand Prix Multiplication. They’ll know more about using the program and will probably win–even if you do the math faster. You might even have siblings compete.
- Grades 2-5: Set up a summer lemonade stand. Kids learn to measure ingredients, make change, listen to potential customers, and problem-solve. If you can’t put one up on your street, use a virtual lemonade stand.
- Any age: If your child wants to go somewhere, have them find the location, the best route, participation details, and other relevant information. Use free online resources like Google Maps and learn skills that will be relevant to class field trips they’ll take next year.
Summer Tech Camp–Everything You Need
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Five Great Summer Jobs For Teachers That Involve Education
Sometimes, for teachers, summer is so busy we can’t breathe. Between enrichment to summer seminars to watching kids who are out of school, there isn’t a free moment. But other times, summer offers an endless vista of time, perfect for a part-time job that provides a nest egg for a special project. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Joyce Wilson, has five great ideas that will help you stay busy this summer:
Last year, there were more than 3 million teachers in school systems across the country, and a good many of them find the need to look for at least part-time work during summer breaks. That’s a lot of jobs, and a lot of competition between educators who are all vying for flexible, temporary work. And while there are often jobs to be found in malls and offices during school breaks, there are also opportunities that will allow you to put your experience in education to work.
From tutoring to instructing test preparation classes, there are many places to look for summer work that will give you freedom to enjoy the season as well as some income. Here are five of the best jobs to look for in summer.
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6 Summer School Tech Activities
With the growing interest in coding comes a call for after school tech camps that supersize student enthusiasm for learning technology. If you’ve been tasked (or volunteered) to run this activity, here are five activities that will tech-infuse participants:
Working in groups, students research opposite sides of an issue, then debate it in front of class. They tie arguments to class reading, general knowledge as well as evidence from research. They take questions. Listeners must ask evidence-based questions, look for information that will convince them which side is right. This is an exercise as much for presenters as audience, and is graded on reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
Debates help students grasp critical thinking and presentation skills, including:
- abstract thinking
- analytical thinking
- critical thinking
- distinguishing fact from opinion
- establishing/defending point of view
- identifying bias
- language usage
- public speaking
- thinking on their feet—if evidence is refuted, students must ‘get back into game’
- using research authentically
8 Tech Tools to Get to Know Your Students for Back to School
The first day of class can be daunting. Students are curious about the new faces around them, intimidated–even frightened by the prospect of so many people they know nothing about. As a teacher, you might feel the same way. You knew everything about last year’s students, got excited when their baseball team won the playoffs, cried with them when a favorite pet passed away, cheered when they got an A in math. Those details–that intimate knowledge–helped you understand what motivated them so you could differentiate instruction to reach each of them where they were.
Now, you’re starting over. It would be easy to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves, but you want the first-day ice-breaker to be more–enriching but fun, to set the tone for the rest of the year. You want students to quickly get comfortable with each other, bond as a group, without turning the classroom into a party room. And, you want an activity them haven’t done so many times in the past it’s boring.
One truth never changes: Students love talking about themselves. There’s no better ice breaker than one where students share information about themselves. There’s no better way to discover new friends than have a classmate understand perfectly what you’re saying about a tough soccer game because s/he too plays soccer.
Another truth: Kids love technology. This year, try a get-to-know-you that uses one of the many free online tech tools. How about these ideas:
17 Take-aways from Summer PD
Summer PD 2015 just ended. A couple dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for three weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation tools, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, Common Core and tech, backchannels, digital citizenship, assessment, and more (12 topics in all). It was run like a flipped classroom where class members picked 60% of daily topics, then they read, tested and experimented. Failed and tried again. Asked questions. They shared with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, Tweets. Once a week we got together virtually (via Google Hangout or a TweetUp) to share ideas, answer questions, and discuss nuances.
The class awarded a Certificate based on effort, not end product. Here are my takeaways as moderator of this amazing group:
- They are risk takers. They kept trying long beyond the recommended hour a day in some cases.
- They were curious. They wanted to get it right, see how it worked.
- They are life long learners. Some had been teaching for thirty years and still enthusiastically embraced everything from twitter to the gamification of education.
- They were problem solvers. I often heard, ‘if I tweak it here, I can solve this problem’.
What’s a Tech Teacher Do With Their Summer Off?
School’s been out for at least a few weeks and I just finished up three online classes that started in June. Next week, I’ll feel like I have an endless span of hours to do all the activities that got sidelined by grading, projects, training, and general ‘school’ stuff. Once I get through reading until I’m bored (or I run out of food) and straightening up the house (I won’t get carried away), I’ll start on the meat of my summer activities. Truth, that list is more of an overstuffed file cabinet than a carefully-constructed To Do page, but here’s what it looks like:
- Finish a tech thriller I’ve been working on this for four years. I’m 99% there (10% to go). Of course, it has lots of cutting edge technology and a quirky AI named Otto (a palindrome). If you follow my blog, you know this is on my list every summer, as predictable as the Golf Channel. This time, I’m doing it!
- Under the file folder, “The world doesn’t change in front of your eyes; it changes behind your back,” I realize a few tech trends are passing me by. This includes 3D printing, Maker Spaces, and Google Classroom for starters. They are seeping into tech conversations regularly on my social media and there’s little I can contribute other than questions. I need to fix that this summer. Any suggestions?
- Learn a new tech tool every week. This also I do every summer. I’ll share a video, a project, and academic tie-in each week.
- Get back to my inquisitive, curious roots. I used to spend hours figuring out how to solve problems, find solutions, determine what made something tick. Now, I’m too busy. I can feel the rift in my spirit, my sapped energy, my fuzzy brain. This summer, I’m getting back to that. Here’s my promise:
When I see something techie I don’t understand, I’ll ask: