TEDxPhilly – Chris Lehmann – Education is Broken

This was an extremely inspirational video to watch.  In the beginning, Lehmann discussed how nowadays we give our students not only post assessments but pre assessments as well.  We use the pre assessments to find out what the students are worst at and then give them more of that, sending the message that, “teaching to joy/passion/interests does not matter, it’s about making sure that you don’t suck so much at what you’re bad at.”  How powerful is that statement? And it’s true! We are so concerned with finding out what our students don’t know, but only so we can cram it down their throats in the attempts that they will meet the criteria and pass the test.  It shouldn’t be about tests, it should be about learning.

Why are we teaching this? Because someone told me that I had to teach this.

This is not acceptable.  As Lehmann suggested, school should teach us how to live, how to learn, open our minds to ideas and critical thinking, and help us become better than who we are today.  I loved how the Philly school dealt with benchmark projects instead of benchmark tests.  What a fabulous idea! This allows students to learn about themselves while at the same time creating something that is real and that has meaning instead of a passing grade on a pointless piece of paper.  Teachers should not give out mindless rubrics with specifications for font and type size, teachers should say, “teach me.”  Push kids out of their comfort zone, have them ask questions that no one, not even the teacher, has the answer to.  Encourage the students to be creative and then give them the opportunity to share their accomplishments.

I’ve mentioned it before and I will mention it again, kids still need structure and guidance.  But you can provide them with the trunk of the tree and have them branch out on their own.  Some kids will need extra help, some kids will be successful completely on their own without any extra help.  But they all need the opportunity to do so, they all need a teacher who believes in them, they all need to realize that what they do in school is important, not in the future, but in the here and now.

Education is broken…but it can be fixed.


BAM! Radio EdTech: Revisiting the Mozart Effect

This podcast was conducted by Maryann Harman with guests Don Campbell, recognized authority on the transformational power of music in health and education and Analiisa Reichlin, executive director and managing partner of Studio3Music, the world’s largest Kindermusik studio.

The topic of discussion was The Mozart Effect, which, in a nutshell, is the belief that music, when used properly, helps to stimulate and organize the brain in a way to help children and adults (and possibly animals?) Because Mozart’s music is “digestible” and structured, it allows the listener to feel organized.  If we feel more organized, we may feel better equipped to study which would hopefully result in better test/grade results.

I do not doubt that music has great effects on people.  All types of music affect people in some way, whether it be positive or negative.   I teach music 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  When I’m not at work, I rarely listen to music.  I just don’t have the energy to do it.  Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by music so much? Despite being a classically trained musician, I also need absolute silence when I am studying or doing work.  I’ve always been that way, even growing up.  Music, television, any kind of background noise distracts me.

To answer the question, are podcasts something you would consider for professional learning in the future, the answer is no.  Maybe it was just the particular podcast I chose but I found it extremely boring.  I don’t consider myself ADD but I could barely sit for 11 minutes and listen to the whole thing, and it was on a topic that interests me.  Videos are useful and more engaging because you are watching and listening at the same time.  Podcasts require you to just listen and that is difficult, especially for students.tumblr_lu7j57tFwG1qjgyuwo1_500

High-Tech v. No-Tech

In my opinion, Flint Hill and Washington Waldorf are on opposite sides of the spectrum, but not in a good way.  Each one is too far.

I like how Flint Hill incorporates technology all the time but all the time is too much! Students should not be allowed to chat/text/browse social media/do assignments for other classes while the teacher is lecturing.  Nina was able to make the choice to pay attention but she is just one student, what about the ADD students who find it hard to concentrate anyway? And part of me is just a tiny bit suspicious that had she not been in the process of being observed by a journalist and interviewed for an article, she probably would have checked her messages.

I like how Washington Waldorf embraces and promotes the idea of hands-on learning and the use of a pen and pencil.  One of my biggest gripes with students today is the lack of skill for proper writing and grammar.  They don’t care and they don’t try! Why would they when they have spell check? And if they are being asked to “reflect” via Twitter and only have 140 characters, obviously they are going to skimp on grammar.  Writing is definitely a skill that students will need, possibly forever, no matter what career they end up in.  On the other hand, I did find it odd that there was no sort of technology in the school at all.  Writing is important but so is typing because most likely, Nina will be doing her writing via a keyboard.  (Sidenote, I never learned how to type correctly, as in my fingers are not on the proper keys, but I can type pretty quickly and rarely make mistakes :)).

What I got out of this article is that these featured schools are examples of extreme cases.  Private schools have the money and freedom to do as they please so why not do so? In reality, I feel that most schools are at a happy medium, or at least working to get there.  They incorporate technology, but do not neglect the traditional skills.  Children need both, they need balance.  We, as educators and parents, need to make sure they receive this.

How do you feel about technology?

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7 Classroom Icebreakers Inspired by Social Media

I found this link via @WeAreTeachers via Twitter.  I absolutely LOVE these ideas!

Whatever your personal views are on technology and social media, one fact is steadfast: children love it, are engaged with it, and utilize it constantly.  Even if you are a teacher who might be wary of introducing social media into the classroom, I think these ideas provide an easy way to transition.  It’s all about baby steps!

One of the icebreakers mentioned was Edmodo.  I checked out the website and there is a very brief introductory video on the main page.  It gave one teacher’s perspective as to why she decided to incorporate Edmodo into her classroom.  One of the interesting points she made was that it made her, as a teacher, more relevant to her students they are in touch with her all the time.  Even though she views it as an educational, “business” tool, her students view it as a social tool.  They do her homework and assignments but at the same time, they are “playing.”  This particular teacher taught older students but Edmodo can be used with even kindergarteners.

I also liked the idea of the two truths and one lie statements.  We play this game in my classroom, although we don’t have the students write down the statements; we just have them say it out loud in front of the class.  The kids really like it and, as the helpliner suggested, it provides teachers with segue to talk about lying on the internet and social media.

The majority of these ideas do not actually use technology skills; they are all activities that are essentially paper and pencil, with the exception of Edmodo.  Still, these could be used as an introductory lesson; not just as an icebreaker in the beginning of the year but also as a way to introduce technology itself.  Have the students practice with paper and pencil and then transition them into using actual social media websites.


Extracurricular Empowerment

Here is what I liked about the video: the story of Martha and how she used her popularity and social media to help others.

Here is what I did not like about the video: none of the other kids did anything to help anyone but themselves (at least, none that were mentioned).

Here is my question: if we, as educators, are supposed to use technology in the classroom to empower children, how can we be sure that it actually is empowering them in a positive way? I mean, it’s awesome that kids want to make random youtube videos, narrate Pokemon games, create apps to make money, write magazines, but how do we actually bring that into the classroom? If we do give children the tools and time to use technology, how can we be sure that they are using it wisely for an educational purpose? Some girl has over 100,000 followers on Twitter, ok great…so what? How does that help her in the long run? Is the person she is portraying actually herself? Does she know how to interact with real people?

I have no problem integrating technology in the classroom.  I have no fear in allowing my students to use technology to their advantage.  But I want it to be worthwhile.  If I provide them with laptops or ipads, I want them to be doing something worthwhile, something educational, something that will help them with their future.  The kid who sold the app to Yahoo, his future is pretty good.  But the girl who sent Hello Kitty into space, what does her future hold? And whose responsibility is it to ensure that our children are using technology in an educational way? Is it the teachers? The parents? The children themselves?

I believe that technology should be part of the curriculum and part of the classroom but I also believe that there is a fine line that teachers need to be in control of so that it doesn’t get out of hand.  Simply providing children with the tools and then “getting out of the way so they can be amazing” as Scott McLeod puts it is just not realistic.  They are still children, they still need guidance.