Tagged: #teachers

Surf Report

I’m not a computer science teacher or a technology integrationist, but I’ve been trying to use computers in my classes ever since I started teaching in 1990something. My awesome new Superintendent let me attend a great conference this week that our IT Director recommended. I’m really glad I did. I need to make a plan for how I’ll use at least some of what I learned in order to get teaching license renewal credit, but meanwhile (if only to process so much information in my own brain) I put together this list of apps & ideas that I shared with the rest of the faculty at our school. Like most things I write, I’m making a blog post out of it. I hope some other teachers find it useful. If you’re a teacher or a tech specialist, please share one or some of your favorite apps in the comments.

Hello All, I know I’m not Ben or Jeremy, but Shelly & I (Ted)  got a chance to attend the ITEC Fall ‘22 Conference in Des Moines this past Mon & Tues and I thought that I’d share a few thoughts and a few apps with you. If you already use them cool, if you don’t need them, cool, if they’re just what you may have been looking for- great!

Lots of us have been disappointed by conferences or annoyed by sessions that don’t seem to prove applicable for our area. I’ve been there, I feel your cynicism, but I really enjoyed this one and felt like there was a lot to glean. They call it a Tech & Ed ”Connection,” because they really wanted to offer something for K-12 and all disciplines, not just for HS Computer Sci teachers, IT Directors like Shelly or Administrators. I recommend it to everyone. I came away with at least a little professional boost, anyway. Sometimes it’s good to get to be a student again instead of having to be a teacher, at least for a day or two. Not to mention it’s an easy license renewal credit!

Website or AppApplications, Summary or Commentary
https://coffeeforthebrain.comAaron Maurer, STEM Lead for 21 school districts in Iowa helping to expand STEM, Computer Science, Authentic Learning, and Purposeful Play into classrooms K-12 for the Mississippi Bend AEA 9Reminded us that kids need to be taught creativity & mental elasticity (neural plasticity?) In other words, don’t just teach them your subject matter, teach them to become learners. He called it making them “robot proof,” neither becoming a mere robot nor being replaceable by automation because you are so adaptable as a self-learner.
Canva for TeachersCanva for Teachers Inspire learning through the power of visual communication and collaboration with Canva for Education. It’s 100% free for K12 teachers and their students.Not only can you use Canva to create graphics to use on your worksheets & lessons, but you can use it to CREATE worksheets & lessons and so much more. PLUS- you can create “classes” on Canva so that your students can create things for you as part of a lesson. I bet some of you Millennials or GenZ teachers knew about this already.I’m so old, I used Adobe InDesign back when it was called Aldus PageMaker! Now it’s not “desk-top publishing” its “social marketing” on your phone- I gotta catch up.Maybe we should use this in Yearbook class.
https://www.commonsensemedia.orgCommon Sense Media Innovative, Digital Citizenship Curriculum & resources covering key areas like media choices, digital equity, digital literacy, & tech accountability
https://eduvolve.webflow.ioEduVolve is an EdTech company that design games and adaptive tools for learning. We build unique, flexible and adaptable educational aids that allows every single child access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities (in AFRICA!).
Flip (f/k/a Flipgrid)Flip (formerly Flipgrid) is a video discussion and video sharing app, free from Microsoft, built for classrooms and beyond. Learn more. It’s great for having kids respond to prompts as a formative assessment- especially if they’re afraid to speak in front of their classmates; like a spoken book report vs. typed. It works from Chromebook or phone. They’ve made some updates so that it’s more versatile. Teachers can now use it to leave feedback for students on assignments.
History with DoodlesHistory with Doodles by Brett Comegy & Angie Love; Of course I’d love this, being a double major in Art & Hist/Soc.Stu. I’ve been trying to train 6-8th graders in a thing called “SketchNoting” for years. Research says that it increases engagement, relevancy, comprehension & retention. These two don’t show students how to do it & hope they will. They do it with their MS History students step-by-step and have seen marked improvement on both unit and state standardized testing. Makes me wish I still taught Civics. Guess I’m gonna have to use it for color theory, elements & principles of design or some Art History. PLEASE- you don’t have to have ANY drawing skills. Watch one or two of their videos and see if you’d like to try it once or twice for English, Science, whatever your discipline. It’s basically a graphic organizer that you create with kids instead of having them fill out a worksheet. Engage more of their brain. Brett & Angie started it to help reach kids with language & comprehension struggles (ELL, low comprehension scores, trauma/poverty backgrounds etc.) Goes without saying I’m sold on it.
JamBoardJamBoard is one of the Google apps, like Docs, Slides and Sheets. It’s a collaborative tool like a virtual white board where kids can leave comments, pictures etc. Great for think-pair-shares & discussion or writing prompts. 
gg.gg/makeitprettyJanahlee Chamberlain is a former Art teacher who’s now a tech consultant & tech librarian for Iowa City Schools She offered a ton of simple design tips for non designers & non art teachers. She also introduced us to many of the new features and uses for the new free teacher program on Canva.
Lindsay Zilly, IDEA; Director of Professional Learning Tinley Park, IL
(She’s Sketchnoter! I thought I was the only person that knew about that) She spoke about ENGAGEMENT which is a huge component of learning. Turns out some AEAs have more dynamic speakers than Green Hills.
#usetech4goodMarisa Dahl, Heartland AEA; Digital Learning Consultant highlighted need of Digital Citizenship, Remembering to be human, Considering practical, appropriate applications, teaching “appropriate use” practices as procedures for classroom teachers & healthy uses for all ages. One of the thing she discussed was helping kids use features of their phones or chromebooks to help them become more organized or with time managements and tasks (great for those with ADHA). 
MoteMote is the audio toolkit for educators and learners across the world – integrated into products we already use like Google Docs. It’s highly recommended for ELL & Foreign Language, but can also be used for feedback, special notes of instruction or explanation, not to mention differentiation & struggling readers. I kinda wondered if some of you Elem folks had already tried this one. It sounded pretty popular at the conference.
https://screentime.meScreentime Research Group; seeking to learn more about the topic of screentime in our lives and society.
ShapeGramsShapeGrams This former 5th grade teacher had either too much caffeine or too much enthusiasm for me, be that as it may, I am thinking of trying these out with 6th & 7th graders. Basically he teaches kids how to make their own clipart out of the shape tools in either Google Draw or Google Slides. He’s got tons of tutorial videos and instruction pages already set up to help. Needless to say, as an Art teacher I’d prefer to teach them to draw but this does introduce kids to SO many manual skills that they’ll use in TONS of other apps & programs- plus it builds persistence. Great for 2-7 at least, maybe older. Not just as an Art thing, but maybe a “down-time” thing like a reward for finishing early or an indoor recess thing. 
Google SlidesSlides Go to File and find Page Setup, go ahead, I’ll wait- DID YOU REALIZE that you can change the size and format? If you make it 8×10, suddenly this doesn’t have to be a slideshow. It can be a wicked-easy tool for creating posters, worksheets, vocab lists, etc. What’s more, if you make a map or a PDF of a worksheet your background- and then attach/share in Schoology under Google attachments- students can fill in the…. Slides continued… blanks on Slides with the text tool or move manipulatives like text boxes you pre-create for them. #MindBlown. My Dudes, if you’re afraid of Canva or Photoshop but you’re used to using Slides- the sky’s the limit. Make newsletters, cards, almost anything you can dream up! (or that your students can dream up)
ScreenCastifyYou may have heard about ScreenCastify back back during the shutdowns when we were using Zoom. Now they have a free Chrome extension. I thought it was for demonstration videos or to record lectures or lessons, but presenters encouraged us to us it as a convenient form of informal feedback, or even having students use it like Flipgrid. 

Finally, if you want more ideas or a way to connect with other teachers trying to incorporate, integrate or implement technology into your classroom, consider joining the Iowa Computer Science Teachers Association– it’s free, gives you access to all kinds of articles, ideas & resources. Most importantly, it’s not just for CS or IT teachers, or even for STEM or Business teachers- it’s for ALL teachers. Of course, if you happen to teach a tech class or two, like PTLW, Programming, HTML, Yearbook, Digital Photography, Commercial Art… it makes sense.


Standardization, conformity can suppress individuality, imagination, creativity

Insofar as standards can provide educators with  structure around which to build their curriculum, there can be some good. As an educator, I am more frustrated by the minutia of grade-level benchmarks and detailed criteria- not to mention standardized testing.

My double major is Art and Social Studies. Without textbooks or hard district guidelines, I’ve used the J.Paul Getty Institute’s recommended standards or Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE) to help me develop units that have been tremendously flexible and differentiated. Since I cover Art History, Aesthetics/Design concepts, Art Production and Art Criticism, I feel like I’ve been able to help a wider variety of students succeed in my classes besides just those who come to me already skilled in realistic depiction through drawing.

I’ve managed to migrate to the National Art Education Association’s new national standards pretty easily since they include expression and reflection, although I’ve been frustrated with some of their emphasis on curation. 

In Middle School Civics, I’ve enjoyed trying to use the many of the newer Social Studies standards to help my students migrate to document-based and inquiry-based/question-driven lessons and away from traditional chapter-notes and vocabulary when our administration chose not to purchase new textbooks. 

This Spring, my administration told me I had to give up Civics and begin teaching STEAM. I have a couple of problems with that that relate to standards. One is that one reason for the change is that they’re eliminating Iowa History as a separate class since all of the new Social Standards are supposed to be incorporated into all of the Social Studies classes.  Why continue to teach separate Geography, American History and CIvics classes then? Why not switch to Sixth, Seventh and Eighth grade general Social Studies classes?

Needless to say, the other, more personal issue, is that while I laud the pretense of integrating Art into STEM, I have no training in Science, Math or Engineering and very little in Technology. I ASKED what the expectations, standards, guidelines or curriculum were going to be and was told vaguely to try to incorporate the 21st Century Skills. Which I do anyway in my Art classes, but I feel as if I’m being set up to fail. I wonder if this is how many of our students feel in many of their cases. Losing a class I’d taught for twelve years and was finally feeling good about making more creative, relevant and differentiated was enough of a blow to my personal and professional morale. I’d like to think I can better empathize with students taking classes they don’t want to take.

Returning to the original questions; For years our district had such an intense emphasis on standardized testing that it consumed all of our professional development time. Practice testing-drill lessons or mini-units were mandated. We were pressured to re-write our assessments so that they were modeled after standardized test formats. Our students actually complained that everything we did was for the school’s test results, not for their learning or their interests.

If anything good came of that orientation, it was that teachers frequently analyzed student test scores and discussed possible strategies for helping classes in their weaker areas.

I spoke out for years that we needed professional development that addressed the affective domain, not just the cognitive one. Mainly because we need to learn ways to inspire student intrinsic motivation to learn- curiosity. If nothing else, to motivate them to take the standardized tests seriously, because otherwise the results are constantly skewed because so many students deliberately sabotage their tests while several others just avoid taking them.

Unfortunately, I think that when we try to address relevance as well as or instead of rigor, we still try to do it in an industrial-age, systematic model. We have a few examples from my own district.

In an effort to permit students the opportunity to have more flexibility in their schedules, so that they can take more FFA classes as well as Construction, Wood shop, and Computer Aided Drafting, we went to a nine period day. As a result, teachers have a greater workload, while students have less class time to complete assignments or tests each period. We already share the shop teacher, send students to a neighboring school for the Construction classes. There was a rumor that we had to eliminate our Family/Consumer Science teacher to be able to afford the new FFA instructor, although community members had set up a foundation to help fund the Ag program, so that may have been just a rumor.

As a result of shifting our emphasis from preparing students for college to a more STEM/career focus, we also shifted to trying to improve our Math and Science scores instead of our reading and composition scores. As a result, we eliminated our silent-sustained reading time. Another consequence is that while teachers aren’t combing through test scores during professional development time, that means that we aren’t discussing in groups strategies for helping those students who are slipping through the cracks. Meanwhile, we still dedicate half days all week three times a year to standardized testing, but teachers no longer review data from the tests.

Finally, while I appreciate that we’re finally spending so much time learning about student trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), it feels like we’re not doing it to understand or care for students, or to find ways to inspire their intrinsic motivation to learn. Instead it seems like it’s just about behavioral management and (sorry if this sound’s cynical) once again, encouraging student conformity. Even while adults on the PBIS committee members, and a handful of students on Student Council or the one or two student representatives on that PBIS committee are challenged to use their imaginations and creativity to find new ways to get the rest of the student body to obey rules.

Learning to Learn as Important as Learning Subjects

One myth that too many in the media and politics have bought into is that schools should be run like businesses. Robinson explains that the standards movement and legislation like No Child Left Behind are an attempt to make schools more efficient and accountable, but they’re trying to apply industrial systems models from the twentieth, nineteenth, even eighteenth centuries. 

Some of the reasons these ideas are doomed to failure is that we don’t educate for the past or present, we have to anticipate what challenges the future will hold and do our best to prepare students for their future. Not only is the population growing rapidly, demographics are changing irreversibly and technology has been advancing exponentially since the end of the last century. 

Another myth that society (often at the hands of politicians and the media), is that public schools are bad, irredeemable, even the whole problem. Robinson makes clear that free public education is an overall good for most members of the population. You might say he’s cautioning us not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” He recognizes that there is more we need to do to help those slipping through the cracks, he just sees the standards movement as making things worse for them, rather than better.

In his speech at Mount Rushmore, President Trump recently lashed out at teachers, “our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.” He’s also tried making re-opening schools this Fall in the midst of a continued surge in Covid 19 cases into a partisan issue, accusing his opponents of wanting to keep schools closed as an effort to prevent his re-election. 

Often state and local politicians blame schools, teachers or teacher associations for poor school testing performance, school attrition rates, and all kind of society’s problems from crime to the economy.

From what else Robinson has written and spoken, I’d venture to guess that a third dangerous myth might just be the fairy tale that “if you work hard in school and get good grades, it’ll be your ticket outta here.” 

I had a professor back in the 1990’s who was a proponent of some of Robinson’s ideas for helping make school relevant and meaningful for students. While models from the industrial age may not address challenges for the future, perhaps having students learn from and work with businesses and community members on problem solving or simulations of social, technological and economic challenges outside of school can be highly stimulating. 

Ultimately learning how to learn and adapt, think critically, problem solve and work collaboratively with others are all just as or more important than learning traditional material about subjects and disciplines.

Our challenge as educators is to not succumb to any of these three myths, but this last one may be the most dangerous. Just because we succeeded in school, enjoyed it or at least enjoyed our subject/discipline/emphasis, that doesn’t mean every student can, let alone will. We have to be humble and creative in seeking ways to reach them.


Teach Anyway

The following is based loosely on a poem by Harvard professor Kent M. Keith, which was painted on the wall of Mother Theresa’s mission in Calcutta, India:

Students are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Teach them anyway.

If you teach, students (& sometimes their parents) will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Teach anyway.

If you are teach rigor, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Teach rigor anyway.

What you teach today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Teach anyway.

Transparency, integrity and candor make you vulnerable.
Be genuine anyway.

There will be days when you feel like you’re throwing pearls to the swine.
Teach anyway.

Doctors and lawyers and CEOs and politicians all get paid more than teachers.
You’re teaching future doctors, lawyers, CEOs and politicians.
Teach anyway.

What you spend years teaching may be destroyed overnight by drugs or alcohol or just bad choices.
Teach anyway.

Some students who really need the most help may attack you, offend you, or resent you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give students the best you have every day and they may not appreciate it, they may let you down, you may go home more weary than you could ever imagine.
Give them the best you have anyway.