Thursday, 31 January 2013

Student Centered Learning

3 Examples of Child Centered Learning I’ve Encountered….

1. Sugata’s TED TALK

This week I watched a TED talk by Sugata Mitra, that discussed how teachers and schools often do not exist in places they are needed the most. (Click here). He set up a number of experiments across the globe from New Delhi to Italy, where he gave students self-supervised access to computers.

I believe that the results of his studies are significant for us as teachers, and that they call into question two main things: the need for us as teachers to make our teaching meaningful; and to believe in our students and not have low expectations based on their background. If children have interest, then education happens. I think so often we underestimate our students and what they are capable of. I thought it was amazing in the video how children who had grown up in slums, and who had never had access to education, were able to self-teach themselves how to use computers. After only a short period of time they were recording their singing, and teaching each other how to browse the internet, using resources to convert languages to make information more accessible for them.

2. Article: Ethiopian Students

In relation to this video, I read another article this week that I think demonstrates much of the same points of Sugatas TED talk. (Click here). This article discussed how children in two Ethiopian villages were each given tablet computers. Within two weeks, children had taught themselves the ABC song and their numbers: none of these children had ever had access to education before. Wow!

Both the TED talk and the article I read really remind me just of how much we underestimate students and their abilities. One last thought comes to mind while considering these things....

3. Montessori School Inspiration

Last semester I had the opportunity to visit a Montessori school, visit some classrooms, and interview the principle, as well as a few teachers. Going in, I was very sceptical, but I think to an extent, Montessori schools have something that our school systems are sometimes missing: the need for child centered education. Montessori education allows students to be teachers of themselves, while the actual teacher is simply a guide and is available if there are any questions. Montessori schooling emphasizes active rather passive learning, increased student responsibility, and increased independence. It was such a neat experience to watch these students engage in activities quietly and independently. One student was on a computer working on adjectives and nouns, another grade two student was creating a prehistoric timeline, while a grade one student was writing a french report about the history of a croissant! I was amazed at the student's abilities, how invested they were, and how focused they were during their independent learning because it was something they were passionate about. This is what meaningful learning is about!

Children are like sponges: are we giving them opportunities for self growth and places to build their curiosity?

Example of children working independently at a Montessori School

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Connecting With Parents

            This week I came across an article (click here) that helped me reflect on the importance of how social media can be a valuable tool to coordinate and connect with parents. I found it through following Edutopia on Twitter. (I have found the Eduptopia website to be super empowering for how it connects it’s followers to up-to-date educational resources and solutions.)

Most of the time, many of us consider traditional means of communicating with parents: such as notes home in the backpack, newsletters, or flyers. But how often do newsletters get lost? Perhaps there can be a better way of communicating with parents that is more up-to-speed, and a way that helps schools go paper-less. Thus, I believe social media is a means that allows the connections we make to parents to be all that much stronger, richer, and more valuable.
            I believe connecting through social media with parents is important for a number of reasons. Through social media you can offer activities or specific learning assignments that parents can do at home to perhaps strengthen or enhance their child’s learning process. Also, through social media, such as a classroom website, or a blog you could give a summary of what the class participated in, and what the proceeding day’s assignments are. This would allow for both parents and students to stay on top of a homework schedule.
            This article discussed 6 main ways that teachers can connect to parents via social media.
(For all of these means of using social media, I believe it would be important to gain consent before posting pictures or videos of students, as well as perhaps only using first names to protect student privacy. )
1. Facebook: By creating a professional Facebook page for your classroom, you can update parents about upcoming trips, school performances or recent student work. A very large population of people have Facebook these days, and many people check it throughout the day, so it creates the possibility of parents being able to quickly comment, like, or give feedback when they go to check their Facebook.
2. Twitter: Personally, I am not quite sold on this means of connecting to parents. Twitter seems somewhat of an informal means of communication. However, the article did say that Twitter was a valuable tool for allowing parents to view tweets about the terrific things that were happening in their school.
3. Blogging: Instead of answering the same questions over and over again, clarify what you mean for upcoming events, for student homework, or what you did that day by blogging about it. That way parents can access accurate information and you can have more time to devote to other parts of your job instead of receiving multiple phone calls.
4. Tumblir: I think Tumblir creates a unique opportunity for students to have a say in their education. On a Tumblir site, students would be able to upload videos, artwork, presentations or stories that they have written so parents can see what their children have been up to.
5. YouTube: By creating a YouTube channel, you could upload videos of class presentations, school plays, or you could get your students to create and upload their own video presentations for group projects. This helps parents stay connected with what their child is being involved with at school.
6. Live Stream: This is something I had never considered before. The article suggested the use of LiveStream where parents can view things like morning announcements as they are happening, or if they can’t make parent-teacher visits face to face at the school, they can be LiveStreamed in with the teacher. Personally, I believe I would prefer parent teacher visits to be happening face-to-face if at all possible, but if this provides the means for parents who absolutely cannot make it under the circumstances, than this is a creative tool for that.
            I think each of these tools holds value for helping parents to connect with teachers. Ultimately, I think that parents and teachers both want the best for their students and social media helps to provide a means for parents to be updated in what is going on in their child lives, as well as ways in which to promote their personal growth.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

ISTE Standards and Conditions

              This week I read about ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Teacher Standards and Conditions. ISTE gives guidance as to how to implement technology into our classrooms. A few main things stood out to me while I was reading.

Standards for using Technology in the Classroom:

First: the idea that using technology in our classrooms is a way of inspiring creativity. Instilling creativity and curiosity in our students should encourage them to have a deeper desire to learn more. If students are intrigued by a new idea or situation, teachers can use technology to compel this interest to help the student learn more about that topic. For example, if students are interested in learning about another country, allow them to explore Google earth and see real life images of what it looks like. Or, perhaps a Skype session could be set up with another classroom from that country and students could have the opportunity to interview them. After, the students could give a presentation using Powerpoint, or perhaps record their reflections in a blog entry. In this way, students would be reflecting using collaborative tools to help them in their critical thinking and creative processes. There are so many ways that teachers can make learning relevant and get students to reflect on real- life issues while compelling students interests and using technology.
Secondly, I also believe it is very important for teachers to demonstrate digital responsibility in their classrooms. Though technology and the internet can be used for many positive educational and practical uses, there can also be a way of using technology that is not appropriate. As teachers, we need to model and teach our students about safe, legal, and ethical means of using technology. This could include teaching about copyright, appropriate documentation of sources, age inappropriate websites, or communicating with strangers. If we take the time to promote responsibility using digital media, technology can be a very positive and beneficial tool in our classrooms.
Conditions for using technology in the classroom:
            One of the conditions that stood out to me was the importance of developing lessons plans using technology based on student centered learning. Teachers must plan and teach around the needs and abilities of students. I think this is where the idea of differentiated learning comes into the classroom and making sure that we are catering to each child’s individual needs: a difficult task, but a worthwhile one to help our students grow to the best of their potentials. Each of our students are going to come with different abilities, and different learning styles: we need to be ready with different ways we can help them develop those things.
              The other thing I enjoyed about these conditions was the idea about being an ongoing professional learner. While we acknowledge that we have been blessed with the opportunity to be a guide and teacher for our students, they aren’t the only ones doing the learning. As teachers, we should be dedicating ourselves to being lifelong learners; we have a whole lot to learn from them and from other educators. We should be committed to sharing, and practicing new ways of integrating technology and other creative means of learning within our classrooms. Related to this-last week I joined Twitter, and since then I have found numerous educators offering practical ways of integrating technology in the classroom. The education world is blessed to have so many people willing to share their creative ideas! It makes becoming a teacher THAT much more exciting! J

Friday, 11 January 2013

Very First Blog and Introductions!

         Hi! My name is Rebecca and I am excited to welcome you to my very first blog! I grew up on a dairy farm, in Northern BC, looking up at the northern lights, and being surrounded by ice capped mountains. But my journey has led me halfway across the country to Redeemer University College where I am an aspiring fourth year, primary/junior teacher in the Concurrent Education program. I am also currently finishing my BA with a major in Psychology, and a double minor with Disabilities, and English Literature studies. I love working with kids and I can’t wait for the day I get the honour of teaching, and learning from my very own classroom. 
I am passionate about creating an inclusive classroom environment and finding ways to help those with disabilities feel accepted. I also believe that as teachers we need to be instilling intrinsic motivation and helping to foster a love for education within our students. As a teacher I want to provide “hands-on” experiential learning and allow my students to have a voice in the classroom. I believe in the importance of allowing our students to engage in meaningful learning. This means that we are inviting curiosity into our classrooms, and allowing students to make connections between their own experiences and the curriculum. Finally, I believe in incorporating restorative justice practices within my classroom to keep my students accountable, develop competency, and create a loving community.
I am currently taking a “Computers in the Classroom” course. I believe that technology can be a very useful tool in the classroom and I would like to learn new ways to apply technology in my own classroom. I also hope to become more competent in using technology, and being able to create effective lesson plans using electronic templates, powerpoints, or smartboards.
One study completed by Bonds-Raacke (2008), indicates why I believe technology should be implemented in the classroom. In this study, upon entering a classroom, students had a dry idea of how teachers implement technology in their classrooms; by only using technology in ways like powerpoint for lectures, or using email to give assignments. However, in the experiment, they were given Tablets to work with and other creative means of using technology for learning. After this experiment students proved to be much more excited and curious about their learning. Students reported their classroom to be both engaging and interactive and found that they benefited from this technology use. As a teacher, I see this as fundamentally important to our classrooms. First of all, it is because I believe that as teachers we need to stay current with what our students are engaging with. And finally, I believe that implementing creative and effective uses of technology in the classroom allows our students to become personally invested in their learning.  
That is all for now! I am excited for what we will be learning and discovering in the next few weeks!
Bonds-Raacke, J. M., & Raacke, J. D. (2008). Using Tablet PCs in the Classroom: An Investigation of Students' Expectations and Reactions. Journal Of Instructional Psychology, 35(3), 235-239.