Monday, May 9, 2016

Pairing Best Learning Practices With Technology

When integrating Educational Technology, it is important to pair best learning practices to engage students and maximize their success.  Several best practices include: Learning Through Collaboration, Learning Culture, Problem Solving, Digital Content Implementation, and Information and Knowledge.  Research confirms that the use and frequency of teaching and learning best practices makes a difference in technology rich classrooms.  We want our students to learn independently, be creative, think critically as well as be successful socially and emotionally.  To make this happen, it is important to create a visible learning environment.  Visible learning entails that our instruction aligns to the the ways that our students learn outside of the classroom.  It's no surprise that one of the best practices is Digital Content Implementation.  We need to take into account that our students spend hours outside of school using various technologies, many of them participating in game based activities.  This is one reason that there has been a push for gamification, or game based learning in the classroom.  (You can also read my blogpost "Bring Gamification to Your Classroom With SMART Lab" by visiting SMART's EdBlog

Using gamification in the classroom is a great way to engage students, as it is a form of visible learning.  When developing games to implement in instruction, there are several things to keep in mind.  First of all, we need to remember that in order to maximize student success, teaching practices need to be put first, followed by educational software and hardware.  Second, we need to create an "active learning" environment for our students.  "Active learning" means our students engage with the content, they are active participants, and they collaborate with each other.  We cannot nor we should we not expect our students to simply listen and memorize the material.  Rather, we should encourage our students to help and demonstrate a process, analyze an argument, or apply a concept to a real-world situation.  We want our students to see themselves as their own teachers as this enables us educators to be the "guide on the side" as we act as facilitators instead of being the "sage on the stage."  According to Dr. Kecia Ray, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Education, "Active Learning environments are critical to student success and the use of technology in these spaces amplifies the level of engagement we can expect to see."

To create an "active learning" environment using gamification, I have used SMART lab (formerly SMART LAT), SMART Response, and Kahoot.  These tools have readily available content created by other teachers that can be used as is or can be modified to fit the needs of one's class.  When I enjoy creating content for my students, my students will enjoy learning it.  Utilizing Educational Technology has most certainly had a positive impact on my students' test scores.  Not only have my students enjoyed learning the content, but they also grasped the material at a greater extent than they did beforehand.  Out of the six sections in the grade, my class' reading comprehension skills were stronger when compared to the other classes that were not using Educational Technology to aid with game based learning.  The proof is in the pudding.

How much do you know about pairing best learning practices with technology in order to maximize teacher and student success?  You can test your knowledge by playing my SMART lab activity which you can download here.  Have fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lessons Learned From an Inspiring Teacher

Teachers are leaders who support us.  No matter what grade we are in - whether it's preschool through post-graduate and beyond, we are never too old or too smart to be inspired by a teacher.  My story takes place only a few years ago, when I was completing a year long course in Educational Technology Integration.
As part of the course, I was required to blog about my experiences and reflections of using various EdTech tools in the classroom as well as different kinds of student centered learning.  I never liked writing - especially creative writing.  I don't know whether this was due to my inability to focus or maybe it was my fear of being vulnerable.  People from all over the world would be reading my thoughts.  What if they didn't agree with them?
was fortunate that my course facilitator was Dr. Shira Leibowitz.  (You can find her on Twitter @shiraleibowitz.) Dr. Leibowitz realized my passion for EdTech integration through reading my blogposts (which eventually led to her hiring me as an EdTech Coach for her school) and she therefore  continued to challenge me to think and reflect on the topics that I blogged about by responding to my blogposts in the following way:
1) I notice....
2) I wonder.....?
3) What if.....?
4) How might....?
By posing these questions as a response to my blog, I was challenged to think critically and discover more about myself.  As teachers, it's our jobs to teach our students to become independent learners and think critically for themselves.  Spoon feeding them and taking the "easy way out," might make things easier in the moment, but it's not doing anything but an injustice for them and for us in the long run.   When we teach our students to think and discover on their own, not only are we challenging them to think critically, but we are also preparing the generation of leaders.