Thursday, June 16, 2016

Simplicity

Simplicity, Efficiency, and Quality will make anything a success!

That is my motto that I live my life by. I try to make everything as simple as possible, as efficient as possible, and as high quality as possible.

Whenever, I can achieve on high levels of all three categories I know that I am doing something right.

Simplicity in Education:
Schools (and everyone else) tend to over complicate things.

Hour long staff meetings that could be covered in a short sentence/paragraph email.

1000 rules for classroom behavior.

Lesson Plans on one computer program, grades on another.

College-prep or tech-prep.

Things could be simpler. 

Tools can make life and work simple and we should use that in education as often as we can. Listed below are just a few examples of how simplifying education can improve students learning and overall experience:
  • When studying or giving notes use a tool like Socrative, kahoot, quizalize, or a Google Form to receive instant feedback on student learning. My favorite is Nearpod! Instant feedback is simple and efficient!
  • Passing along information...can be a major headache. It's important to keep parents informed. It is also important to give them multiple ways of getting information. Unscientific studies show that 86.324268u394% of paper handouts do not make it home. Using online technology to share documents, videos, presentations, or just a quick message to whoever needs to see it makes this task simple. Tools that educators and administrators need to utilize better. 
    • School Websites
    • Email Contacts/Groups or Messaging Apps like Remind
    • Blogs
    • Twitter Feeds
  • Give links not downloads! Downloads are a headache! Instead make whatever you are trying to share accessible with a link! 
  • Make the rules in your school/class simple. (all the rules you need are listed below; no more than 5 rules usually works best) Here is a link to my class rules presentation that I give at the beginning of the year: Classroom rules (See wasn't it nice that you didn't have to download that presentation?)
    • Be Ready
    • Be Responsible
    • Be Respectful
What are some other ways we could simplify education?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tenets of Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool in schools. It can also be a waste of funds. The advancement of technology in the last decade has really changed the landscape of what is useful.

Telos: Thinking of The End

By by: Vadim Sherbakov
Technology should make a job or task easier. Completing a task with technology should always be a better experience than completing a task with out technology. If the user experience is better without the tech, then don't use the tech. When conversation about technology comes up, the conversation should center around the desired objective not any particular tool. 


Tenets of Technology for Teachers

  1. Universal - This means that it is available over the internet. It doesn't require a particular device (apple, android, or windows) and it doesn't require downloads. The best tools remove the barriers to using the tool.
  2. Free - Because there are so many that are free...the tool has to be extremely exceptional to pay. Many internet tools are free or versions of the product are free. It's not to say that there are not tools worth paying for but they have to meet the telos perfectly to be better than a free alternative.  
  3. Intuitive - If the tool is not easy to use, then is not a good tool to teach with. Design matters a lot. If the tool is complicated and requires expert knowledge to use then it isn't meeting the telos (unless you need a tool to make you an expert).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Maintaining High Expectations

I know of classrooms where the teacher goes over every assignment with the class and holds it in a folder for the students so that it is not lost in their notebooks and then on the day of the test, the teacher allows the students to use any of the materials in their folder to answer the test (including the study guide).

I'm sure you can imagine what the grades looked like. If you are imagining all A's your way off. The students still failed in embarrassing numbers.

This can leave a teacher feeling completely hopeless. If you give the students the answers to the test and allow them to use those answers while taking the test and they still have major issues...then most educators are out of ideas that can help the students pass.

"They can't even cheat to pass!"

They throw their hands up with frustration and sit in the corner of the lunchroom during faculty meetings rolling their eyes at the administration who proposes new ideas to help the students.

If you have been in education very long you can probably imagine a similar scenario. This is an absurdity on a college campus where bright young educators are preparing to change the world.

They have such high expectations. They would never allow students to go through their class without being challenged.

The level of expectation is generally higher for a new teacher than a veteran teacher who "knows" what the students are capable of accomplishing.

The difference is that the new teachers haven't failed to meet their expectations.

The general trend of a teachers career is to start out with high expectations only to fail miserably, then to lower the expectations. That trend continues until at some point the expectations level off with the results.

The inherent problem is that we stigmatize failure to a degree that we expect less in order to succeed. (tweetable)

I tend to agree with the new teacher mindset. I know that it can be difficult to always fail, however failure is only bad when you do not learn from it. Make adjustments,  tweak the way you teach, or your classroom policies, but don't give up.

If we shoot for the stars and land on the moon...did we really fail?

If we shoot for the status quo and make it, did we really succeed?

Maintain your high expectations in the face of failure

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Years Themes

I normally try to make resolutions for the new year that look something like this.

I have since been introduced to a new concept by +Chris Brogan for New Years Resolutions. Instead of making generic resolutions that fall apart weeks into a year, you set a theme/vision for your goals.

I really like the idea and plan to give it a try this year. You simply choose three words that make up your vision and help you narrow or focus your goals.

My Three Words:

Drive - Motivation, determination, will power, endurance. This year I want to focus on doing more with the time that I have. I want to stay in drive mode...I don't want to have to gear up for everything that I do. Driven people are more passionate about their work and are able produce better quality. (here is another kind of Drive)

Finish - I am tired of not getting completely done with the projects I start. I want to finish things and move on to new tasks. This is probably going to be the most difficult theme for me. I start so many different things that I leave unfinished. No more. I would be ashamed to tell you how many "draft" posts I have started and not finished. I am going to focus on my tasks until I get them checked off.

Enjoy - This is an easy one and yet so many people struggle with it. Life is not worth the effort and work you put into it if you do not take time to enjoy those sweet moments that movie directors are able to capture. You know when the violins start playing that slow music full of harmony? Anyway, I am planning to enjoy life because we are more likely to do the things we plan to do.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chrome Apps Package

 This is another addition to Technology Thursday. On Thursdays we will be highlighting a different online technology that Teachers can put to use in the classroom. You can find more articles on the Technology page.

Teachers are very busy and don't have free time to test apps to see if they are suitable for their class. It is hard to know where to find the quality apps for education that can really enhance your class without digging through a ton of coloring pages apps.

Google has created "packs" of apps that are best utilized in each school setting elementary, middle, and high school. Follow this link to take a look at each.

The page was designed for schools that are considering or have purchased Google Chromebooks for the Classroom. The apps listed range from free to freemium (free but costs for premium features) to paid. None-the-less, it is a nice place to look to find quality web apps for your class.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Course Evaluations...Now Not Later

This article is a part of the Pedagogy section on the "Philosophy" page. The intent of these articles is to help teachers use proven methods of teaching to improve student performance.

At the end of a semester it is common on most college campuses to give course/instructor evaluations.


It is an opportunity for students to voice their unbridled opinion of the course they just finished and the instructor who taught it. 

The typical questions look something like this:

  • What were the strengths of this course?
  • What were the weaknesses of this course?
  • Did the professor treat the students fairly?
Here is a sample evaluation from Glencoe.

Colleges do this to think reflectively on the effectiveness of a course. Evaluations allow schools to improve courses and determine if staff is doing a good job.

I think that course evaluations are great for reflection. Students are able to voice their opinions and give real feedback on their education. That is powerful.

Just one problem. 

They are given at the end of the course. 

This tool is so ill timed that it basically defeats its purpose. If you want to make changes to your course do it now. 

If your on a sinking ship, don't wait until your at the bottom of the ocean to fix the holes...start repairing now!

An innovative way to do this is through Google Forms. Allow students to give you their opinion of your class and organizes responses conveniently in a spreadsheet.

Christmas break is a great time to get feedback from your students.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Difference a Great Teacher Can Make

Infographics are neat visual ways to communicate a lot of information and data in a concise manner. TeacherAde finds the best ones on the web that deal with education and shares a new one once a month. You can find all of the infographics on the Resources page and under "Infographics".

If you have ever wondered about your influence on the life of children then you will find this research by Harvard to be pretty interesting. They seem to be able to quantify the impact of great teachers.




This infographic was created and shared by Teacher Certification Degrees