Cellphones in the Classroom?




I grew up when cellphones were starting to become a normal thing in high school and only the “coolest” kids or the “most loved” ones got cell phones in middle school. Theres were many ups and downs to allowing us to have our cell phones in school. In middle school we were allowed to bring a cell phone in case of emergencies, but had to leave them in our lockers all day. This never made sense to any of us. If something went wrong how or when would I have time to get my cell phone? It seemed as if the administration wanted to make parents who were for cell phones happy and that was the only reason they allowed them.

In high school we were allowed to carry our cell phones around with us as long as they were turned off (which of course they NEVER were). Most people didn’t have internet access or smart phones just yet so for us phones were only a means on communication between friends. Because of that I understand why when I was in high school many teachers were upset when a cell phone was out, but now a days most students have smart phones which allow them to do so much more!

I’m not a big advocate for cell phone use in the classroom, but in some cases I can see the benefit. Students can look up resources to help them find information or use apps such as google docs to collaborate with one another. Teachers encourage the use of computers and internet when conducting research or going to an educational website. A smart phone is just a mini computer so why do so many educators not utilize it?

Students DO have cell phones and ARE going to use them. Its just a fact. When I was in high school my cell phone was always on and I was using it throughout the day. What we really need to be doing with our students is teaching them when its appropriate to use cell phones and in what ways. Lets teach them that cell phones ARE an educational tool. Maybe then they’d even take some of the resources or apps shown to them and continue learning outside of the classroom. We see people glued to their phones all the time, but what if when we took a look at their screen it was an article or a program teaching them another language? Technology is not evil, its a great! It just has to be used the right way.

Ted Talk Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover


In the video above Dan Meyer talks about how math needs an upgrade. I found his video interesting and very true. I remember the days when I just sat in math class working on word problems the teacher projected from the book. As she walked through them all I had to do was memorize the order in how she did them and know what formula worked for what kind of problems. When it came to studying I didn’t once practice. I simply memorized the formulas.

I had no idea in what real life settings I’d use these skills and in the cases that there was a word problem that told you it never seemed realistic. We never talked or discussed anything. We simply just watched and imitated. No wonder so many of my classmates were always falling asleep in class!

I love Dan’s idea of how to approach teaching math. He takes away all the steps and information the text provides. He makes his students look at a real life situation and talk about how they might figure out the answer. In this way he engages the students and can slowly provide them the numbers need to plug into a formula. His students now know the WHY of the formula, not just the HOW. I couldn’t have told you why a formula was laid out the way it was. I could only show you how to plug in numbers.

Dan’s approach is much more engaging and realistic. Students aren’t stuck thinking about abstract ideas they are physically seeing and working with real objects to figure out the answer. Now the “When am I ever going to need this” question has gone bye-bye!

The Flipped Classroom




The above image is from a blog by Peter Pappa. Through and infograph Peter explains the history and ability of using flipped classes. A flipped classroom is very interesting. Instead of lecturing to students during the school day teacher now have the ability to create videos for their students to watch at home. Students can then sit at home and learn the material, write any questions, and communicate with their peers and teachers about the concept. Once they come to class they now have the time to work with the concept since they’ve already listened to the material.

I can see a lot of benefits to the flipped classroom. 1) Students aren’t sent home with homework they may not understand fully. 2) The classroom is not a more interesting and engaging environment. 3) Students can receive more support from their teachers.

While all of this makes a flipped classroom appealing, I’m not completely sold. Theres a number of logistics which make a flipped classroom difficult, especially for an elementary classroom. First, what if a student doesn’t have access to any sort of technology at home? While we are living in a high tech world today that doesn’t mean every one has the same access to it. Some students may not have access to technology because of parental rules or financial reasons. A student shouldn’t be discriminated based on social economic status.

While for high school classes where most of the lessons are lecture a flipped classroom for an elementary class it doesn’t seem as useful. My own style of teaching incorporates as much group collaboration or hands-on activities as possible. Without the back and forth of live conversation I’m afraid I’d lose a lot of valuable education. Many students ask questions that may be unrelated, but pop up during a lesson. If they had the same question while watching a video would they even bother to bring it up the next day in class?

The ability of the flipped classroom to allow more hands-on and engaging work instead of lecturing is fantastic! But for myself I see it as more of a remedial tool for now.

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Twitter has turned out to be a GREAT resource for teaching! Who’d of thought? One tweet I came across linked me to Matt Gomez’ (a kindergarten teacher) blog post about using Google Doc in his classroom. But how could Google Doc be realistic for a kindergarten class? What if there aren’t many computers in the classroom? Mr. Gomez found a fun and interactive way to get his students involved with Google Docs.

Mr. Gomez, who teaches in Texas, used Google Docs as a way to connect with another kindergarten class in Montana. The two classes play 20 questions by typing back and forth to each other on a Google Word Doc. Playing 20 questions may not seem all that educational for these kindergarteners, but how Mr. Gomez used it to broaden his students’ minds about other places in the world.

Each kindergarten class pick an animal or plant that was native to their own state, but that they other may not know much about or have never seen before. In this way they were broadening their mind about other places in the country and becoming familiar with their habitats. Students also had to work together and think critically in order to discover what the animal or object was before their 20 questions were up.

The activity was short and simple, but I think it was a great use of technology in the classroom. Mr. Gomez taught the kids many lessons through a simple activity. First, they became familiar with Google Docs which they will now be able to use in the future with their assignments and learning for other classes. Second, students had to learn to work together to discover the answer. Third, students had to use critical thinking and learn how to ask good questions in order to make their way to the answer. And fourth, they gained more global awareness.

If you ask me this simple game taught Mr.Gomez’ kindergartener many lessons that will help them later on with their continued education.

The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching

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I found Shelley Wright’s The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching, a very interesting read. In her article she explains a teaching method she does with her 10th grade students. In her approach she does not stand in front of the class lecturing about the Holocaust or read from a textbook. Instead Shelley makes the students accountable for their learning. The only guidelines shes explains and that the students will be creating their own museum and it must be about the Holocaust.

The class began by sitting down and brainstorming ideas of what they thought was most important to teach others about the Holocaust. They were then able to, with the help of Shelley, organize their ideas into three umbrella topics. They then divided up into groups to collect research. The students then had to come together to figure out how to take their three different topics and create one museum out of them.

Throughout the entire process Shelley was the facilitator rather than the teacher. She was not the know-it-all who rambled off facts to her students. Instead they were active and engaged in their own learning. They were responsible for their own education. I think this approach is VERY beneficial in the classroom. The most important lesson we can teach our students isn’t facts to memorize, but how to teach themselves and others.

Overtime we all lose the information we once learned back in elementary and secondary school, but the skills of how to learn and work with groups is a trait that we can utilize over and over again. In allowing the students to become the experts of the topic, Shelley put the education of the students in their own hands. They had to learn how to collect data, collaborate, and think critically in order to successfully create their museum.

School shouldn’t be a place where students are sat behind a desk and told to memorize information from a textbook or power point. It should be somewhere they are actively working with the content they are learning. The Ted speech Shelley attached to her blog post is especially inspiring and should be watched!

I’m In LOVE With Popplet!

Click on the image to view my popplet!

Click on the Image to View my Popplet!

Popplet is a virtual spider web. Students can work on their own or with others through popplet’s website. Not only can students brainstorm with words, but they can also insert images or videos which are relevant. Popplet allows you to move each box around and create connections with one another. This could be a great tool to help students organize their ideas for writing or making connections between ideas.

Because students are able to share, popplet can also be used for group projects or even as a ‘parking lot’ in the classroom. Students can help each other learn more by adding comments or videos to help their peers. Popplet is a great tool for collaborative learning. Each box also names the student who leaves a comment making it possible for teachers to track student participation.



Blog 4: Social Learning with Twitter



In the past I’ve used twitter for personal use, but had never thought of it as a useful teaching resource. I prefer the layout of twitter. With ease I can read through various posts that give a brief description of the attached article or idea without having to leave the main page. If I do find something that catches my interest I can open it up right away or retweet it to help me find it with greater ease later.

Because twitter can be open through its app on the Iphone I can read articles or watch videos anytime. When I have those few minutes of down time I didn’t expect to have I can pull out my phone and read about something new. I also have the ability to share what I’ve read with my followers by retweeting or give feedback to others by tweeting at them or sending a direct message.

I find the shortness of a tweet very helpful. While other may think that you can’t get enough across in 140 characters, I think that it makes the author of the tweet become more creative and direct with the message they are trying to share. Theres no room for fluffy. Because of this I know what the meat of the topic is and don’t end up wasting my time trying to figure out what a blog, article, or other post is about just to realize it something I already know about or am not interested in.


Image Credit: http://www.dashe.com/blog/social-learning/twitter-as-social-learning-seven-ways-to-facilitate-the-exchange-of-information/

Blog 3: Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

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While watching PBS’s Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century, the Digital Youth Network program caught my attention. This after-school program allows students to utilize different forms of media to increase their knowledge and and pursue their interests. Before watching this video I thought of video and music production as a hobby. I didn’t see how it can be use as another way of building on top of more traditional learning.

Its not possible to produce a song or video without the ability to read, write, problem-solve, or interact with others. There are many steps to producing media, which enable a student to pursue their interests while incorporating what they have learned and potentially adding on to that. If a student wants to create a video or song about a piece of knowledge they wish to share, they first need to be educated themselves on the material.

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Bloom’s taxonomy (above) shows the steps to mastering content. Through creating games, videos, music, and other forms of media students must go through each of the steps in order to reach the top of the pyramid and create their own media sharing the information. A student has truly mastered a topic not only when they can past a test, but when they are able to teach the material again to other.

PBS’s documentary really opened my eyes to viewing media as less of a way for students to brainlessly waste their time and more as a useful resource in the classroom. Before I thought too much technology would create anti-social/anti-community members out of students, but when used correctly students learn that they have to depend on others in order to create solutions and begin to use media as a way to impact their community.


Image Credit: (1) http://www.pbs.org/parents/digital-media/ (2) http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm