Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Student Engagement and Technology Resources

Student achievement is a popular topic of discussion in the world of education today.  These days school success is tied strongly to student achievement.  No doubt the concept is important.  Perhaps even more important is the idea of student engagement.  If you asked 100 people the meaning of student engagement there is no doubt about the variety of answers that would follow.  I believe without engagement the achievement level of a student will never reach full potential.

One of the most powerful components of student engagement is for the student to have a voice.  Students should be able to choose different ways they can explain/demonstrate/prove they know something.  That's one of the features of technology.  There are so many different ways for students to assign meaning and expression to learning.

Let's face facts - everyone likes to talk about themselves.  Our kids are no different.  They want people to acknowledge important things in their lives.  How many times in class do we try to relate the content to sports when we have an athlete in our class?  Technology gives us an outlet for all students to express an opinion.  Students may not raise their hand in class, but they will participate in a poll or a discussion board.

An engaged student wants to learn more about the topic.  Engaged students become very resourceful in finding answers.  For example, a student is watching a TV show and a new term is used.  Does the student know how to place a meaning?  Do they know what resources to use?  Do they know if the resource they've chosen is accurate?  I wonder what it would be like if the student picked up a device and looked it up what they might find.  I wonder how many people actually do this.

Providing methods for students to create is essential for student engagement.  As educators we must also realize that these tools must continue to be expanded.  With this in mind here is an A-Z Resource List.  It’s not comprehensive, but does include several resources to help get you started.  It is also continuously updated with new tools.  Feel free to use and share the link. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Keeping it Simple

Last week our school had an amazingly positive experience.  Every week I provide professional development to our staff regarding the integration of technology into the classroom.  My main goal of the lesson was to demonstrate the collaborative features of Google Presentations.  I got way more than I bargained for.  Here is how.

I began the presentation and then created one slide with the assignment.  The assignment was simple.  Log into your Google Apps account with the link provided and answer the following question.  “What was a great moment for you in your teaching career?”  Now, I’ll admit I intentionally asked this type of question because I wanted teachers to spend some time using the software.  The answers were absolutely inspiring.

As this project continued to develop several teachers were accessing the presentation at the same time.  It was apparent that word had gotten around.  You could tell teachers were reading what others had entered into the presentation – mostly because Google Presentations shows a color for the location of mouse pointer for everyone in the presentation.  It was such a great feeling to know that we were talking about positive professional experiences.

In the days following several teachers came up and personally thanked me.  They kept telling me how much the assignment helped them regain perspective and how it was so nice to learn about one another.  Others would tell me, “I needed that.”  No doubt the professional development came to be a great boost for staff morale.  This experience could not have been simpler to develop and hopefully will be an opportunity for someone else soon.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

1:1 Initiatives

This is my first year as an eLearning coach.  This year our school corporation went 1:1 with Dell 2120 netbooks for grades 6-8.  We had already been 1:1 in the high schools.  The job is very exciting indeed.  Perhaps the most important question I run into on a daily basis is, "What do we do with these things?"  While the answer may seem simple, "Use them," it's just not that easy.  Teachers need training before unleashing this type of technology in a classroom.

The biggest complaints seem to stem around the issue of classroom management.  The lead question in this category is, "How do I stop them from doing _____?"  I begin to wonder why we need to stop certain things rather than actually channeling those into the proper avenues for success.  If students want to see how email works why not email them an assignment? If they want to see how chatting works, why not have your class in a chat room?

On the classroom management side of things the teacher has to be mobile throughout the room.  The teacher and student also need to have a relationship in which there is a trust.  Students and teachers need to be able to stop for those 'teachable moments' when something goes wrong with a website, or a student accesses something they shouldn't.  All parties involved need to know that some difficult conversations may be had and those need to be viewed as learning opportunities.

Like it or not, technology is here to stay.  Our students today really don't know of a world without it.  Some of us do and while we reminisce about times in which life was simpler we know that today's technology has made things easier.  We also know that the technology toys we have are becoming more and more essential to our own lives and as a result we must continue to learn ourselves.  Isn't that our goal as educators?  For our students to become life-long learners?