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If You’re Not Struggling and Embarrassed, then You’re Not Teaching Digital Natives.

If You’re Not Struggling and Embarrassed, then You’re Not Teaching Digital Natives.

Back in 2006, my 4th-grade colleague, Mr. Glenn patiently tutored me in using wikis and blogs. I gave it a whirl with my students but I really wasn’t very competent in my tech know-how to pull it off. Honestly, it took me YEARS before I’d get back on the horse again. Perhaps you can relate-As a teacher, you always feel like you are racing against the clock, trying to get all the standards taught and using tech just seemed so frivolous, so you forgo its use. I definitely suffered from technophobia as my awkward attempts caused more frustration than bore fruit. However, I didn’t stay marooned on this island for too long, as seeing my daughter engage with technology really compelled me to take a closer look at its use in learning. This blog actually is the outcome of this realization and it has evolved from an exploration and curiosity to my digital professional portfolio to being a reflective tool of my educational interests and practices.

I remember early in my teaching career a well-intentioned high school administrator told me that a “good teacher” can teach anything. I felt like a really terrible teacher for a long while, thinking that I was somehow grossly incompetent because I couldn’t successfully coach volleyball (never played it competitively) or teach Spanish (I studied French). It took me changing schools to see what ridiculous advice this was. But c’mon– Like who can teach cross-stitch or linear algebra without any previous knowledge or training?  Well, let’s just call bulls@#$t on that! And that is why this “good teacher” is a student rather than trying to wing it with a textbook. You cannot teach what you don’t have any experience in, let alone knowledge of.

So, later when I went back to 4th grade I realized that I had been digging up dinosaur bones for too long and avoiding technology. Yes, I could app smash and flip my lessons, but I really wasn’t moving my students from being “consumers” idare to teachnto “creators”, which is what I now define as the purpose of using technology in our classrooms. Plus, I really wanted to move them to the highest use of technology–Connection!-sharing their ideas and finding others in their “tribe” in the digital landscape. How could I possibly teach kids about stuff that I wasn’t actively doing myself? If I was going to get these kids prepared for their future, I had to be a 21st-century learner right along with them. I couldn’t possibly blindly ask them to create something unless I could somehow mentor them. That’s exactly when I started to get serious about blogging.

You see blogging is about one of the most humiliating things you can do, other than getting really smashed at a party and stripping down to your undies. Your ideas and thinking are “naked” and it has the potential to be seen by tons of people. You can sound like an idiot and these online ramblings leave a digital footprint. So, not only can your current boss and colleagues see what kind of fool you are, but your future boss and co-workers can too. But I have to do it because I want to teach to the future and not to the past. The expectations of my students to be creators are going to be higher since being “googleable” is a prerequisite for their job search. There’s no way I can teach them about digital citizenship and managing their online life if all I ever do is post an occasional Facebook update and never become a contributor to the World Wide Web myself. Seriously, how could I actually help them navigate these waters?

Now I’m teaching myself about podcasting. It’s not hard, but it ain’t easy. In case you were thinking about it, there’s all this stuff that you need to know about creating quality sound, editing tracks, uploading it onto feeds and publishing it. Plus you need to have graphic art for your podcast and I have to design a logo and description for it.  Geez! I haven’t used GarageBand in years and it is a heck of a lot more complicated than I remember. I’m harassing our music teacher to tutor me in making audio tracks and how licensing works in the recording world. There’s a lot about copyright that I don’t know about. And writing a script is not the same as writing blog posts, let me tell you. (As an avid podcast listener, it’s annoying to hear aimless talking. My time is precious, so if the podcast is a bunch of blah-blah-blah, then why bother?-right?!) I worked on my podcast this weekend and I sound like such a boob. But it’s my first step. I have to remind myself that everything is hard at first but eventually it gets easier and more fun. However, I’m hopeful that I can take this experience into the classroom. I really want to have my students create podcasts for kids. I think that would be so fun.

So, what about you?–are you rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty with all this digital awesomeness or are you hiding behind your whiteboard and 3-ring binder? (No offense, but I see you.) I don’t think our children can afford to have Luddite teachers. Our world needs more courageous and tech-curious educators to not only help prepare them for their future but to help them create the future that they will live in.

 

Online Fire Drill and Lockdown Procedures

Online Fire Drill and Lockdown Procedures

 

The more I embrace 21st-century skills as a learner, the more I recognize how much I inadvertently underserve my digital natives. And that became plain to me in the latest YouTube Live Chat with Jennifer Casa-Todd during the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC). These educators discuss how students need mentoring in their online life just as much as in their physical life. Some of their conversations included:

  • The impact of teaching students how to create a positive online digital image.
  • Fire drills and lockdowns–can we do that online?

As I listened to Jennifer Casa-Todd, it really got my head reeling a bit, thinking about how one’s digital footprint matters as much to what we do in our real life. As soon as they spoke about it, it seemed intuitive and easy to take for granted, but I know how much our digital and physical worlds can collide 1m234cand affect the learning in a classroom.

And although platforms like Google Classroom, Edmodo and SeeSaw offer wonderful “training wheel” experiences, it pales in comparison with the interactions that one may encounter on YouTube, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, WeChat and other sites in which comments are made and ideas are shared.  So what happens when something goes wrong online?

Jennifer reminded us that schools often prepare students for emergencies with having fire and lockdown drills, and she suggests that we also practice that in the online environment as well. Having an action plan for when someone comes in hijacks your post with smutty language or disparaging remarks can be really helpful and it is a benchmark skill for our digital natives because at some point in their lives, someone is going to say something hurtful or they themselves might behave badly on social media. In the digital world, those sorts of things can be tracked down, and they need to consider the repercussions of those interactions.

In the event of spam or a nasty or negative comment, how one responds can either determine whether things go out of control or gets “locked down”.  One thing that is important to remember that your site or your post is technically your responsibility to manage. So here are just some ideas that I’ve curated from other sources like this one that others can use to moderate their posts:

  1. Delete or hide the post if it’s spammy. Leaving it there delegitimizes the value of your content.
  2. Have members of your online community respond to the negative comment.
  3. Respond to the commenter in a private message, preferably in a compassionate tone that is equal to the respect that you wish to have online.
  4. Ignore it but keep posting other great ideas.
  5. Address it, but with lightness, humility and/or humor. Intend to diffuse the situation.
  6. If it really spirals out of control, and you have the opportunity to delete the post, then do so.
  7. If other attempts to make peace with the hater fails, you can block or ban the person from commenting.

Hopefully, these give some good food for thought as to how to approach online interactions. However, one thing that they didn’t discuss in the session, but I think it’s worth noting here, is also preparing students if they post something that is ignored. Yes, in these learner management systems like Edmodo and SeeSaw, we have parents and other community members coming on and giving it a “like” or a positive remark, but more often than not, when you create content, it might rarely be viewed, let alone commented on or shared. Take, for example, a YouTube video that a student creates–EVERYONE wants their stuff to go viral, right? But what if it doesn’t-what if only your mom and dad and your best friend watch it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids disappointed that their content was ignored or under appreciated by an audience. And I totally get the feeling of that because I blog. If no one reads or comments on a post, I wonder if my ideas are of value and worth sharing. Because of the high level of exposure that goes with digital media, this vulnerability can create self-doubt and anxiety, lowering one’s self-esteem. Since our children do not have the maturity and resilience that us adults have to not take this personal, we also have to develop their mindset when it comes to this factor as well, recognizing that the WHO consuming it isn’t as important as the WHY we create online.

I think approaching these aspects are critical to our digital natives and I’m grateful that I was able to reflect on how I might make a positive impact on teaching and learning that is relevant and meaningful.

 

Ancient World, Modern Times

Ancient World, Modern Times

Have you ever taught a unit that you wanted to do over again-either because you bombed at it or because it was so engaging? Well I’m closing the year on a high because this unit went so much better than expected.

Our central idea was: Ancient civilizations have influenced many things in our modern world.

The art teacher and I decided to use the Greek civilization as our model for an influential civilization. The history of us provided the fodder for our discussions and then we began to talk about the Greek philosophers as we began tuning into and engaging into our unit. The students were intrigued by Socrates, mostly because he drank poison. These lively stories cultivated a keen interest in crafting questions that “hurt our brains” to think about, as we explored metacognition.  img_9429-1

As we delved into aspect of the Greek civilization, I decided that I would focus on reading content of our unit on myths and legends, Greek and Latin roots in our English words, while developing their listing and speaking skills. I provided a variety of media sources other than books, and decided to introduce them to podcasts to add a twist to the listening skills. Listen Current  was a great resource and provided listening guides for their podcasts which was very ELL friendly and helped us to tackle challenging vocabulary terms.

I asked them what ancient cultures they were curious about and explained that we would do podcasts, in which they interview each other about their civilizations.They were so excited, which genuinely surprised me. It was hilarious to see them craft questions for these interviews that were meant to “hurt each other’s brains”, going deeper than their typical questions.  We used the app Spreaker Studio to create very simple podcasts.

The podcasts took longer than I expected, as they needed more guidance with writing scripts and all those tricky questions made it a bit of a challenge to find research materials that were at their reading levels. However, it created a need to find multiple sources of information and it was a true RE-SEARCH unit, in which they had to keep reading, watching videos and keep looking for information on the internet.  They would stop and discuss their civilizations naturally and made a lot of great connections. The students researched the Aztecs, Chinese, Egyptians, Incas, Mesopotamians, Mayans, Norse, Romans and Nubians.

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My co-teaching partner and I had talked about having the kids put together a “museum of ancient history” as summative task, but the podcast ended up taking up more time than we expected and instead we had them decide to take something that we take for granted in our modern world and trace it back to its ancient roots. Students chose topics that resulted from some things that they learned about from these podcasts–from armor to lipstick, from books to medicine. It was a rich variety of topics. The kids made “fortune tellers” that described the why and how of this invention, and then they shared them, taking turns with each other.
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Although I would do things a bit differently if taught again, it is a good feeling to know that our students can appreciate the drive, creativity and curiosity of ancient people. I was generally concerned if this was too heavy of a history unit, but the curiosity and motivation sustained itself.

 

 

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Have you ever taught a unit that you thought would be awful and turned out great OR vice-ver
sa, you thought it was going to be wonderful and turned flat? I wonder what makes students’ so committed to their research on topics.

 

 

Teaching Patterns

Teaching Patterns

I love teaching patterns, particularly in the beginning of the year so we can keep referencing them throughout the year. However, this year, my programme of inquiry had patterns being taught last with my homes unit (Where we are in place and time: People make their homes in different places and in different ways). Since I do a balance of integrated math and stand alone, the student really enjoyed going on pattern hunts as we looked at different homes, along with discussing and creating brick patterns. I thought I was doing a pretty good job when one of my 4 year olds turns to me and says, “You know Ms. Judy, we learned patterns last year in EY3 and we are pretty good at it. I think we should learn something else.” Krikey! Out of the mouths of babes, I was properly told off. So I reflected on what we were doing and decided to add symmetry into the mix.

After the topic was introduced, out came the mirrors and rulers, and the children began exploring how to create mirror image patterns: symmetry. They were absolutely captivated. Although I don’t have any pictures of the early explorations (I was too busy helping them hold mirrors) , I would like to share some of the later activities.

In the first set of pictures, we clamored upon the playground, drawing lines of symmetry with some chalk, and then the children worked as partners, taking turns making patterns with various manipulatives, which the other had to copy. They did a great job, and even helped to create the PicCollages that you see.  Later on, we worked with the app, Geoboard, by The Math Learning Center, to create symmetrical patterns. Again they did fantastic job, and worked very cooperatively, much to my chagrin. At last, we just got plain silly and used the app Photobooth by Apple to create symmetrical pictures using the “mirror”. Some of the kids took those images and recorded ideas and stories using the app Fotobable. It was a wonderful way for them to extend their idea of patterns, and they did such a wonderful job working together to collaborate on the images.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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