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7 Books that will make you a better teacher

Reading makes your smarter.  More importantly, it makes you a better teacher.
Smart districts offer in-service or professional development compensation for instructors that read relevant resources.
Most people think that the summer provides educators with well deserved time to recharge.  While that is true, most importantly, it provides educators time to read. I challenge you to read the list of books described below this summer.  They have immediate and actionable implications with the way you instruct your students.
While contemplating the massive shifts in curriculum and assessment methods, teachers are left to ask themselves: What do my students really need to be successful in the future?  What skills do I prioritize and cultivate?”

7 Books that will make you a better teacher

For the answer, don’t ask an educator.  Ask Daniel Pink and Thomas Friedman.
Pink argues that successful individuals will be able to synthesize knowledge by curating existing information in his book A Whole New Mind.
This makes sense according to Friedman in The World Is Flat.  He says that the digital revolution has leveled the knowledge playing field and simply knowing a lot is no longer a desired (or needed) quality.
A Whole New Mind and The World Is Flat go hand-in-hand to provide insight into the skills required to be successful in the professional future.
Neuroeducation is revolutionizing the way students are educated.  However, tossing “neuro” into any phrase sends shutters down the collective spine.  “Too hard!” we shout.
Difficult, maybe.  But inaccessible, definitely not.  You owe it to your students to investigate this emerging field because coupling the way the brain learns with pedagogy and methodology will make your teaching not only more effective, but more interesting, fun, and efficient.
Start with John Medina’s fantastic introduction to everything neurological called Brain Rules.  This is unlike most self-help books because it offers pragmatic advice supported by evidence.  Among other topics, he discusses the impact of aerobic exercise, stress, and memory formation on learning.
Follow Brain Rules with a resource more centered around education.  Why Don’t Students Like School is a pessimistic sounding book with positive implications.
School is hard for students and Daniel Willingham describes why using rational explanations based in cognitive science.  He follows with fixes to make learning easier.
Combining Willingham’s ideas with Medina’s results in a book called Make It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel.
Learning is retaining perceived information.  The problem is that not all perceived information is learned.  Make It Stick gives educators the tools needed to give their content a competitive advantage in the memory retention world.
I want my content to stick in my students brains, don’t you?
Lots of educators leave the profession because they burn out.  But not you or I, because we have read (or will read!) Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor.
Intrinsic motivation to teach often wanes as educators become entrenched in the daily battles of education.  To jump-start your “why”, Deci and Anchor help us reframe our perspective.  We began teaching to help kids, and this innate drive makes us happy according to Deci.  Anchor, on the other hand, gives us seven tools to keep us motivated and happy as we progress through our careers.
Together, Why We Do What We Do and The Happiness Advantage will provide the regenerative spark that many of us need.
I’ve done the heavy lifting and have read dozens of resources that claim to have education implications.  The dozens are distilled to seven that are worth your time.
More from Chris Reddy here.

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How To Increase Your Chances Of Finding A Job In Education

Ron Chernow is a master biographer. His style can make even the mundane task of describing an American icon’s search for employment interesting:

“Despite incessant disappointment, he doggedly pursued a position. Each morning, he left his boardinghouse at eight o’clock, clothed in a dark suit with a high collar and black tie, to make his rounds of appointed firms. This grimly determining trek went on each day- six days a week for six consecutive weeks-until late in the afternoon. The Streets were so hot and hard that he grew footsore from pacing them. His perseverance surely owed something to his desire to end his reliance upon his fickle father. At one point, Bill suggested that if John didn’t find work he might have to return to the country; the thought of such dependence upon his father make ‘ a cold chill’ run down his spine, Rockefeller later said. Because he approached his job hunt devoid of any doubt or self-pity, he could stare down all discouragement. ‘I was working everyday at my business-the business of looking for work. I put in my full time at this every day.’ He was a confirmed exponent of positive thinking.”

If you haven’t put the pieces together yet, the passage refers to a very young, teenage John D. Rockefeller looking for his first job.
Arguably the most powerful and successful business man in American history, Rockefeller wasn’t given his first gig, he had to work for it.
I was surprised too; we naively assumed that the man who would be worth 228 billion dollars today was given a head start.
He was not. He actually had a very bumpy upbringing.
Rockefeller eventually was given an opportunity and excelled which led him to another opportunity, which led him to another…
Deconstructing Ron Chernow’s passage above will prove valuable for young educators looking for employment.
This article uses Rockefeller’s modest start as a model for successfully searching for jobs.

“Each morning, he left his boardinghouse at eight o’clock, clothed in a dark suit with a high collar and black tie, to make his rounds of appointed firms.”

This was in the 19th century, which was devoid of technology we take for granted. There were not job posting on websites and a job applications were not submitted electronically. Rockefeller had to physically meet and converse with potential employers.
Take away message: get out and meet people. Go to schools after dismissal and try to speak with administrators. At the very least you can talk to secretaries (the gatekeepers) about potential openings and get your foot in the door. The summer months are a perfect time to make your rounds because the school is absent of students. The only people in the buildings are the ones you need to meet: the decision makers.

“Because he approached his job hunt devoid of any doubt or self-pity, he could stare down all discouragement. “

Job hunting stinks. Not only is a daily reminder that you don’t have a steady source of income, but you become best friends with rejection. Not matter how hard we try, it always seem to become personal and second guessing become a daily occurrence.
Rockefeller did not doubt his skills or talents. Nor did he feel sorry for himself. He became the living testament of resiliency.
Take away message: keep your chin up and don’t take rejection personally. Do not doubt your skills and do not feel sorry for yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere. This is simply your time.

“I was working everyday at my business-the business of looking for work. I put in my full time at this every day.”

I love this line. Rockefeller, though not making money, considered his day-to-day job search as working. His time was an investment in himself.
Looking for a full time job is a full time job.
Take away message: give it your all and put in your eight hours of job searching a day. When not meeting with people, perfect your interview answers, read, become an expert with you content, and get to know your surrounding districts. Idle time while job hunting is wasted time.
Thanks for reading and good luck 🙂
More from Christopher Reddy here.

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Social media networks can be more supportive than you think

The lanky teenager silently cradled his mobile. Tears scattered as he turned towards me. His fear, his confusion, his helplessness were palpable. ‘He said he’s going to commit suicide.’ And there it was. The first confronting social media experience for my son.
I stared at his mobile; Messenger showed half a boy – smiling. Orchestra friends. My empathetic son was shaking, totally focused on keeping his mate alive.
Why? Physically and emotionally abused by his parents because his report card did not reflect what was ordered.  My son had already said – it’s just a report.
My son frantically typed – can you talk with our band conductor? Already have. What about your mentor…the school psychologist….apparently support systems were in place.  I breathed a quiet sigh of relief – he was not convinced. He kept texting. He looked on Facebook. Another boy had set up a page to like if you wished he were dead. By now I was bitterly regretting agreeing to a Facebook presence.
But as I watched the texting frenzy on Facebook and mobile, I remembered the local boy from my childhood. The one no one knew felt this way. The one we didn’t talk about. The one we couldn’t support because we didn’t know. Yet here, I saw a group of boys supporting two of their mates; one very obviously on Facebook, the other via Messenger and all in my sitting room.  Using the very social media that as parents we frequently deplore.
It is so very easy to send careless messages or images, to provoke or tease on any of the social media worlds our children inhabit. And as parents we bemoan the permanency of such exchanges and the seemingly careless attitude our children have towards their postings. We agonise over any sign of mistreatment, or poor representation of the self.  And we convince ourselves we are protecting our children.  Reminiscent of holding hands to cross the road. What does it mean for our children if we still do this at 15?
Here, in our sitting room, a different experience was evident. Two extremely distraught boys had drawn on their social media networks for guidance and support.  Now a cynic could argue they are attention seeking and taking advantage of their friends. Well that’s another issue and one I cannot judge. I don’t know these boys. I can prompt my son to think about it though.
What I saw was a community where the members were all collaborative, were listening and communicating. My son mentally listed mutual friends, selected one and sent him a quick text explaining the situation. As he did, he muttered to me – I think he could help. He returned to his vulnerable friend – will you make it through the night? Yes, I had visions of copycatting – then Messenger pinged – I’ll be OK, help the other boy. He needs more help than I do now.
And I have a theory. Some of these boys have empathy, some have learnt how to be empathetic.  And some cannot learn – but my theory is that their school has fostered social skills through collaborative learning activities.  Students learn how to listen to their peers, how to share ideas and the confidence through years of practice to argue. They are learning how to be democratic participants in their community. They are learning to think. That’s what I want for my sons.
Photo: Jason Howie, on Flickr

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Video: Does your mobile addiction make you a 'head-bower'?

Like many of his classmates of his age, 20 year-old Lin Chenglin is your average mobile phone user. Little did he realise that the pace of his life was so integrated with his mobile phone that he would manage to go about daily activities while just peering at the screen of the phone.
This did not leave him immune to his father’s criticism of what many Chinese call the “ditouzu” — literally Chinese slang for the “head-bowers” — mobile phone addicts who keep their heads low while looking at their mobile phone screens.
After hearing his father’s rant, Li began to notice the problems caused by many of the “head-bowers” he would encounter in public places. During an animation course at his university, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Li was given the task by his teacher of making a short animated film on a “societal problem”.
Li took the chance to depict the horrors of mobile phone addiction with his short three-minute feature entitled “Head-Bowing Life”.
Li explained that he got the inspiration for the project through his daily encounters with “head-bowing”mobile phone addicts. “When I would go out during the week, or when I would go to take a foreign language class, I would see them on the subway, on the bus… it’s very, very obvious. So I thought that this is a subject which continually dredges on (everyday). So I started to do this (animation),” Li said.

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Online Games Can Teach Your Kids about Math in the Coolest Way Possible

A lot of children have trouble keeping up with school nowadays, especially when it comes to math. For some reason, it can be quite hard for kids to understand certain math aspects as taught in school. This is probably because they have to go through boring computing and reading problems that may confuse them even more as time goes by.
Fortunately, cooler math games have been introduced on the World Wide Web, so kids can now learn math in a more effective and fun manner. Studies actually show that kids learn more if they play while studying. This is because they have this uncanny ability to retain information better when they are having fun at the same time.
Generally speaking, every child finds the traditional learning process for math very boring. Because of this, it would be vital for both parents and teachers to realize the need to use cool online math games as a learning platform for children in today’s day and age. Since teaching math traditionally may just bore children and make them learn slower and harder; something more advanced, more entertaining and more stimulating is sure to get their brains working much better in the long run, there are online betting apps that using them together with the kids can teach them how to use numbers and money, for example Skybet sign up offer of £20, so you can play with those £20 to teach the kids math.
Since the main problem that most children have in today’s day and age has to do with their attention, it really isn’t much of a surprise that boring things no longer get through to their minds. Children prefer games, in general, and won’t care very much whether the games in question are puzzle games, adventure games or number games. They just want to be entertained and to have fun when it comes down to it. I recommend to check 144hz monitors for gaming that way you can watch your games in the best monitor.
Math games are especially welcome for struggling students who hate going through structured math worksheets and studies. Since today’s kids are very adept in terms of computers, they would prefer to play these games online. Once given permission to play online games, they really won’t care very much if the game is Bitcoin Casino or if it involve math, you just have to Learn how to play here first.
Ideally, as a parent, you should motivate and encourage your children to learn math via online games. A lot of parents are actually very involved in the study programs of their kids and this is definitely a good thing. After all, you won’t just be able to guarantee that your kids learn something in the process, but you will also get to bond with them at the same time.
Aside from that, you’ll be able to understand the different problems that your children are going through on a daily basis at school and help them overcome the trouble that they are having while learning.
Another thing that you can do is use video games as an incentive for your children to study properly and to finishing studying early. Conversely, you can also talk to them and request for them to play several math games online before moving on to the other games that they usually look forward to playing. Both ways, knowing that games are at the end of the bargain is sure to motivate them to work faster and harder and to finish their schoolwork as needed.
There are actually various online math games out there that are especially made for parents to use as motivating tools. Some of these games can be played alone, while others can be played with a group. The latter is usually the best option though because children will be able to learn better conversational skills and teamwork. Playing with other children will also help them think faster as they try to answer each question first – a very beneficial and healthy competition for kids overall.
Photo: Unsplash

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How to use iBeacons in the classroom

This point in the school year is often a time of reflection for teachers, instructional technology coaches, and administrators. Practitioners begin to think about ways to redesign their learning spaces and schools in the upcoming 2015-16 school year to encourage innovative teaching and learning, making this the perfect opportunity to introduce an emergent technology called iBeacons.

What are iBeacons, anyway?

This technology, which works with iOS7 or iOS8 devices such as cell phones and iPads, allows students to react to pingable content that is presented in the classroom. iBeacons are based upon the geo-location of the users: what that means in English is that if the student is close to an iBeacon device in the classroom or the hallway, the Bluetooth signal will cause pop-up notifications/content to be displayed on the device. Consider the possibilities of the physical space providing learning materials to the students! This piece will highlight how some of the early pioneers across the globe are adopting iBeacons in their schools.

Pioneer #1- Paul Hamilton (@PaulHamilton8)

  • Date of iBeacon Adoption – December 2013
  • Location – Australia
  • Brand of iBeacon Used – Estimote

It would not be a complete piece about the history of iBeacon technology without mention of Paul Hamilton, Head of Learning Technologies at the elementary level within Mathew Flinders Anglican College. He inspired the global education community with his creativity in this area. As he coached teachers and designed lesson for students, Paul used iBeacon technology to create learning zones within his school and connect via a game of hot/cold on the iPad.

Paul placed iBeacons in his school to notify students that they are in different “learning zones” in the library and the technology/coding area. When students walk into the school library, the screen of their iPad turns icy blue showing them that they are so far away from the iBeacon – that they are “cold”. However, as they get closer to the iBeacon, the screen of the iPad the will turn from blue to yellow – letting them know that they are “warm” and getting closer to the learning zone. Then when they get really close to the iBeacon, there is a pop-up notification on the iPad which directs them to the desired content. Paul has this to say about the use of iBeacons: “they have created a learning environment where the learning finds the students instead of the students having to find the learning.”
At the elementary level, Paul uses iBeacon tech to promote active learning and curate exciting lesson plans which the young learners engage in through game based learning. Eventually, the games take them to a new task like coding in Hopscotch on the iPad or selecting a book in the library based upon the iBeacon triggered book reviews created by their peers. Also in the “art zone,” iBeacon tech creates a flipped classroom environment in which the students learn specific art skills by watching customized video tutorials.

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The iBeacon tech makes the iPad screen get “hot” as the student approaches the iBeacon. This is a 21st century interpretation of a traditional child’s game.

Pioneer #2 – Julie Wilcott (@WillcottJulie)

  • Date of iBeacon Adoption – November 2014
  • Location – Maine
  • Brands of iBeacons Used – rad Beacons and the Locly App

Julie first learned about iBeacon technology at the Apple Distinguished Educator institute in July of 2014 and was admittedly intimidated by the amount of programming required. However, in October of 2014 she learned about rad Beacons and the Locly App which she felt made the iBeacon user experience much less intimidating. In November of 2014, Julie integrated iBeacons into her presentation at the 2014 Boston EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, and since then has used the iBeacons in several different professional development settings including the Challenge to Change Conference in Italy and the Moosetech Conference in Maine. Instead of asking a participant to scan QR Code or use a short link to access her presentation materials, when the teachers enter her PD space – whether she is in Maine, Boston, or Italy – they receive notifications that take them right to the presentation materials.
Julie loves the way that pingable technology has influenced her professional development presentations by allowing participants to easily access information. She states the “pingable technology has made possible just-in-time learning, specifically the ability for me to distribute content whenever or wherever I am.”

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Performance Based Beacon Learning Task, photo used with permission of Jonathan Nadler @jnxyz

Pioneer #3 – Gavin Smart (@gavinsmart)

  • Date of iBeacon Adoption- Spring of 2014
  • Location: London, England
  • Brands of iBeacons Used: Estimote & Locly

Gavin Smart is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning at the Clevedon Learning Hub as well as a teacher of science for students ages 11-18. His school integrated iBeacon tech with their Clevedon School Handbook App.

A student in his school created a series of iBeacon notifications that would pop up to help new students become oriented to their learning environment. In the past, a student would have to go to a web site or scan a qr code to find out what the teacher might want them to do upon entering the room. Now, their iPad knows when the student has entered the space because of the iBeacon and provides an instant pop-up directing them to the learning task as well as their content for the day.
The iBeacon technology helps to welcome visitors to the school and parents to events. Also, the staff designed iBeacon treasure hunts, enabling the faculty to create outdoor learning experiences as well as iBeacon independent circuit training in the sports hall. Gavin says: “iBeacons have engaged students, staff, visitors in the school; the WOW factor really influences them to find more content and complete more learning tasks.”

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Student created iBeacon notifications linked to the school handbook app

Right now, I am going through the process of implementing iBeacon technology at the A. Harry Moore School of New Jersey City University. Since we are a demonstration school, we frequently give tours to prospective parents, students, or potential interns. Our building is almost 100 years old and visited by FDR, so I am currently working to use iBeacon technology on all five floors to provide various pop-notifications about the history of the building to give a sense of context when visitors are doing a building tour. I am grateful to iBeacon technology for giving me the opportunity to connect the traditions of the past with our present; I am optimistic about what pingable technology can do in the classroom and school spaces of the present and the future.
Workshop for ThatCourtney Pepe will be presenting about Scannable, Pingable, and Wearable Technology this summer at ISTE 2015
Learn more about iBeacons and other innovative technologies that allow you the opportunity to redesign your classrooms and schools with the future in mind with EdTechTeacher this summer.
Featured image via Flickr

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Should we grant technology status as a sentient being?

Reading dystopian novels is almost a rite of passage, made easier today with technology. There’s irony there. How many of the classic dystopian novels you read explored how the seemingly perfect society is maintained through oppressive societal control usually through a combination of corporate or totalitarian state using some form of all powerful technology?

My favourite was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. Bradbury’s main character, Guy Montag is a fireman. Working in a futuristic American city, Montag’s job is to light fires, not put them out. In this dystopian society people don’t read, don’t enjoy the natural world, don’t think independently, nor have meaningful conversations. No, they drive very fast cars covered by the best motor trade insurance, watch very large room sized televisions, and listen obsessively to the radio using Seashell Radio sets attached to their ears.

So?  you say. What is your point? This is my point.  Our children read dystopian novels, they watch movie interpretations, they raid the internet. And here’s the rub. Our children are living in a world that could be described as plugging into hedonism   – Bradbury’s radio, or Aldous Huxley’s Soma in Brave New World.  Of George Orwell’s Big Brother (Murdoch springs to mind). Or governments monitoring and controlling online activity.

What do we do? We panic. We ban computer time. We read articles describing the destructive effect computer games are having on our vulnerable children’s brains. We worry about long term damage. We read another article that disproves the first research. We rate ourselves as parents determined by how we control technology in our homes, and usually fail spectacularly. And what does this achieve? We give power to technology. We make technology a verb. We set technology up as a sentient being. We lose or deny an understanding not only of the world we inhabit, but the future world our children will create.

What should we do? Stop, look both ways, look again then cross the road. With our children.

Let’s consider technology as a tool. Take the internet. It’s a vast evolving library. How would you guide your children when they want to open that door? You don’t know what’s in there. You don’t really know what will interest them – which shelf they will walk past cursorily glancing at the pages, what will grab their attention, will lure them to dig deeper into the stored information or spend hours disproving. Nor do you know what they will find. We are not all knowing.

What would you do at the library door? I would want to help my sons read, and to think, to question and challenge that library.

I want them to learn how to select reliable information, to question what is in front of them.

To engage widely across topics; deeply into areas that interest them. I hope they have fun – dream, learn and share with friends both using social media and the more traditional cafe.  So why not help them learn how to manage this technology? They already know at 14 and 12 far more about new technological developments than I can even imagine. But… I can teach them the social skills they’ll need to navigate and interact online. I can talk with them about the consequences of their postings, the permanence of their images. Help them learn to be resilient and manage cyberbullying. Equip them. Isn’t that our role as parents?

Think about it. Work with your school. Teachers are incorporating new technologies and exciting ways to learn in the classroom. They are teaching our children how to manage online life. We should too. Have a look. Talk with your children. You might even find you want to play that game after all.

When kids are little they are looking up to us; we are their role model. Do you want to teach them to fear the unknown, by default? Let’s help them navigate the world of today and they can think with their dystopian novels

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5 digital tools (and tips) that will help new school leaders

It is that time of year when aspiring school administrator candidates are polishing their resumes and getting job interviews to make the jump from teacher to administrator. Technology is always a topic that comes up on an administrative panel: what do you do with education technology during the first 30 days on the job, on the first 60 days on the job, on the first 90 days on the job?
Since I have recently moved into my first administrative role, I wanted to share some technology tools and implementation tips that will be helpful to new administrators who wish to effectuate change within their organizations.

Give Digital Feedback on Lesson Plans in Google Drive

Many states require that schools keep records of their teacher lesson plans. A common complaint from teachers is that they submit lesson plans year after year and never receive any feedback from building level administration. This is the perfect opportunity to use a technology tool.
The comments feature in Google Drive is a great way to give feedback on these teacher lesson plans. Reviewing the lesson plans is really a good way to get to know the instructional needs of your staff, and the fact that the comment feature in Google Drive allows the teachers to immediately respond to the feedback is really useful. Also, by having your teachers submit their lesson plans electronically, you are modeling digital workflow for your faculty.
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The comment feature in Google Drive makes lesson plan feedback interactive.

Create Maker Spaces

As a first year administrator, and an Assistant Principal at two different primary schools, Ross Cooper (@RossCoops31) helped to establish a makerspace at one of his schools. As part of the makerspace, they obtained a handful of iPads, and Ross took the lead in loading the devices with apps. When approaching this challenge, this first year administrator wanted a mix of creation apps and those that were more makerspace specific. Some of the creation apps now include Book Creator, Canva, and iMovie, while some of the makerspace apps include Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch Jr., and Kodable.

“So far, it has been interesting to see how the students embrace the technology and are able to literally teach themselves how to use the devices and the apps without much teacher/administrator involvement. This learning process is a shift in mindset, as no longer does the teacher have to be the holder of all information, while in a makerspace or while in a classroom.” – Ross Cooper

As an administrator you set up classrooms that give students the opportunity to engage in higher level thinking as well the creation of their own content. The more students are engaged in the learning, the less disciplinary issues an administrator will have to deal with throughout the school day.
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Image Credit: Ross Cooper

Send Weekly Electronic Letters to the Faculty

It is important to recognize that educators are busy people. However, this does not mean that they are not hungry for new information related to best practices on the implementation of technology in the classroom. Every Monday, I send out a weekly memo via email called Resources to Infuse 21st Century Skills into Your Instruction. My advice to other administrators would be to limit information in your weekly tech memo to 4 or 5 items. If you throw too much new information at the teachers at once, it could be overwhelming.
Here is an example of the two resources that I shared in a recent memo:

  1. Using Angry Birds to teach science, sorting skills, and math with links to YouTube videos that modeled the instructional technique for them
  2. Sphero Challenges that were provided to me by other teachers who had their students use their coding skills to make Sphero the robot to do the hokey pokey as well as navigate an obstacle course.

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A snapshot of one of my memos

My advice to new administrators is not to think that every teacher will embrace every item in the tech memo overnight. These ideas do take time, so make sure to give them time to marinate. Then after the first 30, 60, and 90 days you will see evidence of your suggestions in the classroom.

Leverage GAFE Tools (Google Apps for Education)

The Edison School district is in the midst of a digital conversation, and they are going 1:1 with Chromebooks in grades 3-8. Steve Figurell (@SteveFigurelli) – 1st Year Supervisor of Elementary Education – feels that “Technology in the hands of students creates unprecedented access: access to both information and one another.” He also stresses the importance of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). The package of productivity applications that Google offers for free to schools helps to increase the culture of collaboration in the classroom through the use of Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs and Sites.
As a first year administrator, Mr. Figurelli has seen the power of Chromebooks first hand. “Embracing Chromebooks and GAFE has enabled us, as a district, to truly embody the mantra of we’re smarter together – all in an unrelenting effort to better serve our kids.”
Dr. Scott Rocco, Superintendent of Schools in Spotswood, NJ, is also supporting the implementation of GAFE this year and further argues that “Google Apps for Education provides educators with the resources and collaboration tools necessary to be effective and efficient.”

Differentiate the Coaching You Provide

When you land your first administrative job, you may be in a school with iPads, Chromebooks, or BYOD. No matter what technology infrastructure exists in your new job, it is important to remember that not all teachers learn the same way. Just as you would differentiate for students with varying needs in the classroom, it is important to differentiate the instructional coaching and feedback you provide for your staff.
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Image Credit: Wikipedia – Roger’s Bell Curve

I like to use this graphic when I think of teacher coaching. It is always important to find new ways to inspire your innovative teachers as well as support those who are not quite yet on board. I have shared augmented reality resources like Blippar with my innovators while some teachers on other parts of the tech Bell Curve have benefitted from more concrete tasks such as how to accept a calendar invite in Microsoft Outlook. Any accomplishment that any teacher on any portion of this bell curve makes with technology is significant because it supports a change mindset and a willingness to try to new things.
Courtney Pepe and Ross Cooper will be presenting on Effective Leadership in the Digital Age at the ISTE Conference in Pennsylvania in June. There are also great learning opportunities this summer with EdTechTeacher –
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Thumbnail via Appoet

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How to start using game education (plus 4 games worth trying)

Jean Piaget once said that “play is the answer to how anything new comes about.” As educators in the digital age, it is important that we embrace the power of play in our classrooms. One of the ways that we can redefine our practice is by using game education in our schools.
Game education is a powerful way to engage 21st century learners in a variety of cognitively complex tasks that lead to deeper levels of understanding. Educational games help students to learn about certain subjects, expand their thinking on specific concepts, and reinforce skill development while they play while increasing engagement, empathy and excellence in the classroom.

Game #1 – Minecraft

Teacher #1 – Matthew Farber (@MatthewFarber), Social Studies

At Valleyview Middle School in Denville, New Jersey, Matthew Farber -7th Grade Social Studies teacher and doctoral candidate in the Educational Technology Program at New Jersey City University – uses Minecraft and project-based learning to help his students make a deeper connection to the concept of the colonization of America. With Minecraft, students create worlds that are reflective of the original 13 colonies including crops, climate, and societal structure. They then create videos intended to showcase their understanding of their colonies. The video below provides an example of how the students created these worlds in Minecraft and then demonstrated their understanding of the history through their video presentations.

The Delaware Hour from Matthew Farber on Vimeo.
Says Farber of Game Education; “I use games in social studies because the mechanics (e.g. empathy and role-play) bring authentic meaning to past events.”

Game #2 – Osmo Tangible Play Words

Teacher #2 – Kristi Meeuwse (@KristiMeeuwse), Literacy

At Dayton Hall Elementary School in Charleston, South Carolina, kindergarten teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, Kristi Meeuwse, chose to pilot Tangible Play by Osmo because it is hands on and manipulative in nature. Young learners can use the Words app and then Scrabble tiles to practice sight words, spelling, and phonics. The iPad displays a picture of a word, and students play a guessing game, Wheel of Fortune Style, where they place Scrabble tiles that can be read in front of the iPad.
Recently, Osmo has included a new feature which allows the user to load in his or her own sets of vocabulary images, meaning that this game can be used to teach academic vocabulary in any subject area or with any age group with minimal prep time on the part of the teacher. Meeuwse says she loves using this form of game education with her little ones because “it incorporates both technology and tangible objects to meet the diverse sensory learning needs of my students.”

Game #3 – Land of Venn

Teacher #3 – Ryan Read (@Ryan7Read), Math

At Christian Life School in Genoa Illinois, Technology Facilitator, Ryan Read, uses the Land of Venn to explore the concepts of Geometry and Strategy with students in his third, fourth, and fifth grade math classes. Land of Venn takes a great approach to learning by combining two theories behind the teaching of math education. The first of these is Van Hiele’s Model which encourages analysis of both properties and classification of shapes in elementary math classes to build a strong foundation for the later grades. It asserts that students will understand the hierarchy between shapes rather than being locked into remedial patterns.
The second theory behind this game is the creator’s theory of “Gameducation” where the learner is not passive but is actively engaged in the content. The student is so engaged in the game that they have the chance to practice the principles of geometry with intense focus and repetition as they analyze and apply them in a constantly changing situation.
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Read has this to say about the implementation of games in schools: “in game education we aren’t trying to beat the game – we are always coming back to get a higher score in education.”

Game #4 – Sphero the Robot

Teachers #4 and #5 – Jessica Ali and Wendy Thompson, Special Education Interdisciplinary

The faculty at the A. Harry Moore School of NJCU recently received a grant from Sphero, a company that makes ball-size glowing robots that teachers can use to o teach literacy, coding, STEM. All of the teachers, support specialists, and students in the school are enjoying the 10 Sphero Robots which can be paired via Bluetooth with an iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle, and most Android devices. The Sphero website features 10 different lessons that involve coding and programming the robot and are aligned to various Common Core standards as well as four different STEM engineering challenges such as a Chariot Challenge, a Hydro-Hypothesis, and a Maze Mayhem. The demonstration teachers have been exploring the 15 different apps that can be used as games to expand academic concepts while reinforcing different skills.
In Ms. Ali’s classroom, students use the app Pass Sphero to practice speaking and listening skills as well work on cognitive skills such as following directions. Students are able to use the app to identify their favorite color. They smile, laugh, and applaud as the iPad visually prompts them to shake the robot so it will change color over and over again. They sit in a learning circle and are instructed to pass the robot to their neighbor when the robot changes color. Ms. Ali says, “the connection that creative play supports development in multiple areas such as language skills and cognition was happening with my students when they interacted with Sphero.”
Wendy Thompson collaborates with building therapists and uses the basic Sphero App on iPad to have students compete in teams where they drive Sphero with a joystick and then measure the distance traveled by the robot and collect and analyze this data as a class. She also uses Sphero Macrolab to teach her students basic coding commands. In the words of Zachary, a 13 year old student in her class, “Sphero made learning how to measure distance fun. It was like playing a game with your friends.”

How To Get Started With Gamification In The Classroom

Are you wondering how you can implement game education in your school? You can start small and dream big. Have your elementary language arts class play with Osmo for twenty minutes on a Friday. Have your math class play Land of Venn for five minutes a day as their digital exit pass. Ask your principal to play bingo online at Boomtown Bingo and find out about all the top promo codes and welcome bonuses.
Regardless of your discipline, using any of the games mentioned in this piece will change the look, feel, and tempo of learning in your 21st century educational environment.

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