Do you remember the first time you made a paper airplane? Who taught you to fold one? Did your plane fly? I think I was about 6 years old and my uncle visiting from the Philippines showed me how to fold one using one of my homework sheets. I was fascinated as I watched him make the folds, ensuring that each fold was precise, explaining each step. Then he took the newly built paper airplane, lifted his arm, and – whoooosh!-- it flew across my living room. It worked!! This was my first exposure to science and engineering, and it was one I often repeated throughout my elementary school years – design, construction, and test flights to identify the “perfect” paper plane. I was doing STEM before STEM was part of our educational vocabulary! Well, today is National Paper Airplane Day and this is the perfect time to explore the different areas of STEM with one activity.
Today, you’re facilitating your weekly online lesson and the focus is transition words. As usual, your ‘regulars’ are doing what they do best – answering questions, participating in discussion, and sharing examples. Your quieter ones are sending you chat messages when they have questions or are confused. Who you’re not hearing much from are your English Language Learners, or ELLs. They are on camera, smiling through the lessons, even raising a ‘thumbs up’ when you ask the class if everyone understands. But you’re having doubts about how well they are comprehending. You can’t easily stand next to their desks and check work. Your aide isn’t there to do a double-check or ask a question in the native language to ensure understanding. What can you do to help your ELLs in a virtual classroom?
Math questions and story problems have the unique reputation of being the focus of many memes on how confusing they can be (Question: If you have 3 pencils and 6 oranges, how many waffles will fit in a car? Answer: Blue because ducks quack.). Now imagine a teacher repeating, reviewing, restating terms and solution steps so that students finally understand. A scheduled one-hour lesson can easily take half a day! Now imagine that scenario in a virtual environment. (I can already hear the crying…from teachers, students, and parents!) Thankfully, G Suite for Education has tools that can support math teaching and learning, while making the experience engaging, interactive, and successful.
As we have all learned recently, not only can teachers adapt well to change, but they can do it quickly! Having been accustomed to in-person interaction — roaming a classroom to check ongoing progress, meeting with small groups at the “round table” for personalized instruction, and generally just being able to be with their students -- shifting to a remote, distance teaching environment has been a challenge. Yet, millions of teachers have done so with an enthusiasm and grace that is astounding and admirable.
Now that most of you are finding your rhythm with distance learning, here are some reasons to start using Google Classroom*, if you’re not already.
In The World is Flat, economist Thomas Friedman explains how technology can level the playing field in many industries. His Brief History of the 21st Century was ironically published in the 4th year of that century. The commentary was much more of a “looking forward” than a history, but it does frame the ideas in the context of the historical progress that has come before us. His thesis was simple: technology will act as a “leveler” in the 21st century. Technology allows an even, level, or “flat” playing field for economies across the world. Once individuals have access to the world wide web, they have access to markets all across the globe.
We have seen his vision of the future play out in many different industries. Take renting a hotel room for example. Vendors like VBRO and AirBNB have allowed “hotels” to pop up all over the place and access to these hotels to be controlled in a much different way. Uber and Lyft have done the same thing to the transportation industry.
Classrooms have been flattened too. I’m not sure most educators have realized it, because we don’t see the outcome in the same way. Now that curriculum is accessible, in essence, for free from a computer, any parent who has the time is able to homeschool their student. Additionally, students can take courses from teachers all around the globe. Adaptive learning programs now allow the student to learn at their own pace and will challenge them at their exact level of learning. The “market” that schools had on education has changed, how have classrooms adapted to change with it?
Topics: tips for teachers
As a teacher, you have been through all the training. You buy into it, you embrace it, you are as “trauma informed” as possible. You know about ACEs, toxic stress, and restorative justice. Your classroom reflects all of the best practices that we know. You always ensure that Maslow comes before Bloom and you know that in order to learn students must have the executive functioning capable of doing so.
And it works. You have seen it work and have seen students make great strides in every aspect of their schooling: attendance, behavior, academics, and social skills. You are a believer.
Until the new student arrives.
Topics: tips for teachers
Which works better for students...competition between peers to motivate them to try harder or cooperation between them in order for them to learn from one another. This has been a bit of a “debate” in the education world, which I feel is unfortunate.
This kind of “either/or” thinking is very common in our country right now. You are either “red” or “blue.” You are either “woke” or lost in the past. You are either a “believer” or you are not. There are many reasons for these stark divisions we see in our world and the “either/or” mentality is one that is prevalent amongst many people. It even happens in education...think about the phonics vs. whole language debate, the direct instruction vs. constructivist learning debate, or the controversy of whether students should learn cursive or not. Dichotomies like this can, in my opinion, be very harmful to really examining an issue.
Topics: tips for teachers
In education, we often hear how we need to be more business minded. In the education world that is not always our natural inclination. And while I feel there is some truth to this, as evidenced in this article, I do believe it is worth saying that the model of public education is much different than most models found in the private sector.
That is not to say there aren't business principles that we could use to help improve the educational experience for students. I do think there are things to be learned from the “business world.” Marketing strategies are one of these principles.
Most of the time, we don't think about marketing when it comes to our schools. Every school is an essence in a competition for students. Because of this, telling the story of what makes us better than the alternatives is important. Schools where I have worked did not have large public relations budgets, or even personnel, but that is not to say there are ways that schools can make an impact when it comes to engaging and meeting the needs of their consumers.
Topics: tips for teachers
Keeping schools safe is the number one concern of everyone involved in education. Without safe classrooms and schools, students cannot learn. And if the worst were to happen, students can be lives can be threatened.
Schools have taken this very seriously as the number of violent incidents in schools has increased. Layers and layers of specific safety measures are now part of the day to day operation of schools.
The impact this has on students and teachers is probably a good topic for another time. For our discussion, it is important to note that state and national agencies have taken a much broader view of keeping our schools safer than some of the visible measures that impact the daily lives of teachers. This support has given school districts a framework for how to think about crisis planning.