Written by Coby Enteen
Our lives have changed drastically over the course of the last three of decades; job stability is slowly declining, manual labor is rapidly being taken over by machines, and the collective knowledge of the internet is becoming more valuable than the teacher and the textbook. Schools are largely finding it difficult to keep up with these challenges, often creating a learning void and failing to provide even the fundamental skills required for success in the constantly-evolving world. As educational paradigms shift, many new and existing pedagogies have been introduced into the classroom such as Project-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Place-Based Learning, Computer-Based Learning, Discovery-Learning, Outdoor Education, Flipped-Classroom, Design-Thinking, E-Learning (which comes in different variations), Maker Spaces, and the list goes on. This begs the question; are any of these modern teaching methods gaining ground and are they being effectively adopted in a consistent manner in the classroom or are they being viewed as “Boutique” approaches to learning that are “nice to have.”
Although there is no definitive answer to this question, it has become fairly clear that the pendulum is slowly shifting in the direction of modern pedagogy, primarily out of necessity and as a grassroots understanding that classroom learning must change to meet the needs of the modern world. However, the flip side of the issue is that many school district administrators and educational policy makers continue to battle pedagogic modernization by promoting standardized testing and teacher accountability measures. This creates a resistance to change and most often results in more traditional frontal teaching and “test-prep” approaches. One observable effect is that many alternative schools have sprouted throughout the educational landscape, using modern instructional approaches as a trademark and method of differentiation from the competition. Some prime examples of this would be the Hi-Tech High model in San Diego and the Studio Schools model in the U.K.
While teachers are becoming increasingly aware of modern pedagogy and many have received pre-service and in-service training in these areas; they are often finding it difficult to sustain this type of teaching in the classroom on a regular basis. This can be largely attributed a number of factors including the absence of adequate support during the initial implementation phase, a lack of lesson preparation time and the focus on standardized testing. Moreover, modern instructional practices are many times introduced one after another, without a clear plan and concrete steps for integrating it into the curriculum. Thus, educators have become largely skeptical regarding the promise of modern pedagogy for classroom transformation and have begun to adopt the “boutique approach”, whereby new methods are used in conjunction with specific lessons and extracurricular assignments; never really becoming a teaching standard.
By now, you’ve probably read enough to be convinced that it’s worth trying games in your classroom. You understand that games are not meant to be robot teachers, replacing the human-to-human relationship. Games are a tool that teachers can use to do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently. Games provide a different approach to developing metacognitive skills through persistent self-reflection and iteration of particular skill sets. Games offer experiential contextualized learning through virtual simulation. Games can also offer an especially engaging interdisciplinary learning space.
Read More: Using Games for Learning: Practical Steps to Get Started | MindShift.
by Coby Enteen
Tablets are quickly becoming the ideal solution for school 1-to-1 programs. They provide a simple, lightweight, low-cost option for seamlessly incorporating technology into the classroom. Here are reasons why:
1. Simple, Lightweight Solution – The deployment of laptops into classrooms brought with it a great deal of physical constraints ranging from the weight of the device to the complications with charging and electricity. The tablet weighs very little and provides virtually all of the same learning resources.
2. Battery Capacity – Laptops used in the past would continuously need to be recharged, often during a lesson. This was a cause of frustration for many teachers and students and severely inhibited learning.
3. Low Maintenance – Most schools and educational organizations are dependent on large IT departments with significant budgets to run and maintain a server-client environment. Most tablets rely on cloud-storage solutions. Moreover, tablet operating systems are very solid, hardly ever get “stuck”, and are not as susceptible to computer viruses. The tablets themselves require very little technical care and maintenance, thus freeing up funding spent on IT support for other educational initiatives.
4. The Low Cost/Personal Device – The average cost of a tablet is much lower than a laptop or desktop offering schools with more flexibility and the ability to step closer to a true 1-to-1 learning solution. Tablets also enable learning experiences outside of school when provided as a personal device.
5. Apps, Apps and more Apps – Mobile device applications are slowly becoming the most popular form of software development. Every day more and more applications are being released and many of them are suitable for education.
An additional article on the subject from Digital Trends:
How tablets are invading the classroom | Digital Trends.
The American Association of School Librarians provides a great starting point for locating relevant, useful, free teacher resources. They list the top 25 online tools for teachers in virtually all content areas. I came across the site while preparing to deliver a training to teachers and curriculum experts from West Africa. I would highly recommend trying these high-quality resources in any teaching and learning environment.
Best Websites for Teaching and Learning | American Association of School Librarians AASL.
Shared by Coby Enteen
Flipped classrooms are truly changing education (see ‘How To Flip An Entire School‘ and a report on how the flipped classroom can improve test scores.) As a school psychologist intern highly interested in ‘flipping classrooms’, I have consulted with many teachers and school staff that have adopted (or have expressed interest in) the flipped classroom model, and those that have implemented the model, have nothing but great things to say. Below are some frequent questions I get about flipped classrooms from teachers; and my answers, based on personal interactions and professional consultations with teachers.
via Answers To The Biggest Questions About Flipped Classrooms – Edudemic.
by Coby Enteen
Working with teacher and encouraging them to integrate technology is not always a simple task. Over the course of the past few months I have been leading an initiative integrating tablets into middle schools in an urban part of the country. Many of the teachers had never really used technology as part of their teaching and it was somewhat of a shock to wake up one day to a classroom in which all of the students had a tablet and all of the books had gone digital.
Overcoming the initial shock was was not easy. At first teachers tried to bypass the use of the digital textbooks by photocopying materials from workbooks and blaming the disuse on technical problems that they were experiencing. Through a great deal of coaching, guidance, ongoing hands-on training and lots of encouragement I was able to help them to change their ways.
The training sessions focus on new learning new applications and modeling effective teaching and learning with the tablet. It is then the responsibility of the teacher to transfer the skills acquired during the professional development into the classroom setting. Most are hesitant at first, but are able to with the added support of the instructional coach.
An important dimension of the professional development is the ability to provide teachers with a clear and consistent method of instruction. Once the method is in place, it is much easier for teachers to fit the content into a specific structure, at which point they begin to think more constructively and incorporate the ‘out of the box’ thinking mentality.
We have a long way to go before all of the teachers are utilizing the tablets to full capacity, but we have definitely gained some valuable ground.
By now, everyone’s heard of the major web services that have become popular in edtech circles: Edublogs and Blogger for blogging, Diigo and Delicious for bookmarking, Wikispaces and Wetpaint for wikis, and on and on and on…
via 3 Little Known Web Services Teachers Should Be Using.
Project-based learning is one of the most popular terms in education innovation today. We talk about PBL all the time and how it, combined with flipped classrooms, can basically change the way education works. It’s an exciting time to be sure.
via An Inside Look At How Project-Based Learning Actually Works | Edudemic.
A little over a year ago I wrote a post about the flipped classroom, why I loved it, and how I used it. I have to admit, the flip wasn’t the same economic and political entity then that it is now. And in some ways, I think that matters.
via Why I Gave Up Flipped Instruction.
More schools are embracing what was once considered a disruptive force in the classroom: cellphones.
Districts have relaxed their rules, allowing students to plug into their phones, iPods and other electronic devices during lunch, recess or class time when permitted by a teacher.
via Schools no longer are no-cellphone zones | The Columbus Dispatch.