Bring the World to Your Classroom: Videoconferencing

By Bryan A. Upshaw

My worst grade in high school was in Spanish I. Our teacher was tough, and the pace was blistering. I struggled to learn the vocab, grammar, and odd verb conjugation charts. I found the culture interesting, but the rest of the class was just frustrating and seemingly pointless to my future. Guess what subject I mainly teach now? That’s right – Spanish. What turned my worst grade and most frustrating class into my career?

Getting to see the world outside my little East Tennessee community and building relationships with people who at first seemed so different from me changed the way I saw the world. I was inspired to travel abroad, learn a language, join a local Hispanic church, and live with an undocumented family my last semester of college. Those relationships and experiences made language learning fun and transformed pointless grammar exercises into real-world challenges that unlocked boundaries that separated people.

How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom?

I share my stories with my students and perhaps it inspires some to consider traveling one day, but how can I motivate students right now? How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom? In my opinion, one of the most underused tools in education is videoconferencing. While expensive systems with fancy cameras and monitors can make it seamless, most teachers already have the resources to videoconference. If they have a smartphone, tablet,  or computer, then they probably have everything they need!

As a foreign language teacher, I use videoconferencing in my classroom in many different ways. For example, my friend in Nicaragua, Emanuel, converses with my students. My sister shares stories about her semesters abroad in Nicaragua and Honduras. Another friend, Garret, has talked from Germany about his year abroad in Argentina and how it helped him to learn German and get a job with BMW. My students love hearing stories from guest speakers projected in the front of the classroom. They have fun asking questions and always learn something new. Continue reading

5 Back-to-School Teacher Tips for a Brilliant Year

By Angel Rutledge
CMO and COO of SignUpGenius

With young minds to inspire and lessons to plan, every moment in your day is valuable. As you prepare to welcome your new students, plan ahead for the year. By tackling organization before classes begin, you’ll ace the back-to-school transition and be ready for what’s next. Check out these tips to save time and stave off stress, and you’ll get the year off to a genius start.

1. Think Beyond Back-to-School

Sounds simple enough, but planning ahead can help you focus on the things that matter most throughout the year. Create a back-to-school checklist for the first month of school and a master calendar with holidays, vacations and important dates such as parent-teacher conferences, field trips, teacher training and early release days. Plan your curriculum around the calendar, and jot down ideas for classroom décor, bulletin boards, and fun activities.

Don’t wait until the sniffles strike to prepare for a substitute. Get a general plan together so things will run smoothly if you’re out sick. Include a few ideas for icebreakers, books for story time, and some games to review previous lessons.

2. Start Out with Strong Parent-Teacher Communication

Building trust with your parents is key to a successful year. Reach out to parents the first week of school to encourage questions and share your preferred method of communication. Invite your room parent for coffee, discuss a plan to accomplish your goals and ideas for the year, and communicate needs such as classroom volunteers.

When creating a wish list of classroom essentials or scheduling parent teacher conferences, forget the chain of reply-all emails. Instead, use an online sign-up service. That way you won’t have to worry about whether parents saw an email and the sign-up can be updated in real time as time slots are taken and lists are filled.  Continue reading

‘A Child’s Relationships with Technology’

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Students Visit Other Countries – Without Leaving NZ from RNZ, 23 June 2017

High school students in New Zealand are piloting a virtual reality foreign language app. They can visit other countries and learn languages without leaving New Zealand.

When ELA Tools Can’t Adapt to Students’ Native Language by Jen Curtis, EdSurge, 29 June 2017

Curtis looks at some of the issues involved in creating translated online materials for English language learners. She focuses on Spanish/English and the difficulties of translation between these two linguistically different languages. Edtech companies are trying a variety of solutions, but even with good translations, there can be problems. Sometimes the level in the translated version may be beyond that of the original English text. Another issue is that some learners may not be literate in Spanish despite being Spanish speakers. Some online platforms have decided that good support in English is more useful than translations that may not be accessible to learners.

Navigation of Computer-Based Tests Matters for Young Students, Study Finds by Benjamin Herold, Education Week, 30 Apr. 2017

Herold reports on a research study conducted by American Association for the Advancement of Science, which found that while high school and college students showed no significant difference, elementary and middle school learners did not perform as well on computer-based tests that did not allow them to “skip, review and change previous responses” as they did on computer-based tests that do allow this and on paper-pencil tests.

The Role of Relationships in Children’s Use of Technology by Jeremy Boyle, The Fred Rogers Center, 23 Feb. 2017

Boyle looks at how the conversation about children and technology has shifted from whether children should use it to how they use it. Since the Fred Rogers Center focuses on relationships, Boyle makes the connection to a child’s relationships with technology and with other people.

3 Reasons Apps Foster Effective Learning

By Marie Mérouze
Founder and CEO of Marbotic

As technology continues to evolve, it’s not surprising that apps are starting to be incorporated into daily classroom activities. With more than 80,000 apps considered “educational” in Apple’s app store, educators will never have a shortage of applications to use with students while teaching various lessons.

And, while most educators welcome the regular use of applications in classrooms, some educators and even parents are hesitant to leverage technology to support curricula. However, when used in the right way, apps can complement lessons and help teachers. A recent study found that the use of tablets and apps improved both classroom learning and engagement. There are many reasons, and here are three:

Enjoyment

It’s been proven that the release of dopamine has an effect on students’ desire to learn. Dopamine is released when students are engaged in an activity they enjoy. For example, when they play an app that is fun, the released dopamine encourages them to keep learning to maintain the level of enjoyment. When learning feels like a chore, many students lose interest in the lesson. With apps designed as games, learning is no longer a chore but, rather, a fun activity.

In order to avoid apps that are solely for entertainment, I recommend apps that are not distracting to the learning environment. When classroom apps are carefully reviewed, students will have fun and look forward to playing games while learning at the same time.

Diversity

These days, educators are stretched thin. They’re working to provide the best possible classroom learning experiences for children, but the problem is that students learn in different ways. What works best for some children might not work for others. Thus, the introduction of a variety of applications provides different ways for students to learn.

Some students learn best by writing things down. Others, with visual games. Still others, with tactile activities. Because apps are so versatile, they can address various learning styles without the need for educators to print a wide range of worksheets.

Repetition

Repetition is not only a key component of learning, but it reinforces it. Contrary to popular belief, repetition doesn’t have to mean doing the exact same exercises again and again but, rather, engaging in practices that work the same skill group.

On the one hand, while worksheets are a prime practice tool for lessons, they’re typically a “one and done” activity. On the other hand, apps are meant to engage students again and again. Beyond being environmentally friendly, apps provide reinforcement each time they’re played – especially apps that automatically adjust difficulty levels to match ability. Quality apps for the classroom usually incorporate a wide range of activities for different levels, providing fun, new ways for students to grow again and again.

At the end of the day, apps aren’t solely about entertainment. They can be helpful in the classroom, too! When looking for complementary activities to support lesson plans, don’t forget to consider apps and how they can positively enhance the learning environment.

Do Mobile Devices Harm Toddlers’ Speech Development?

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Tablets and smartphones damage toddlers’ speech development, by Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, May 4, 2017

Knapton reports on a new study that makes a connection between the use of mobile devices and speech development in children under two years old.

Infographic: The ed-tech challenges faced by immigrant students by Laura A Scione, eSchool News, April 14, 2017

Scione reports on a study that shows that 43% of Hispanic immigrants who buy technology generally buy it to support their children’s education.

After Outage, Ed Department Unveils New IDEA Site by Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, June 1, 2017

Although this article is not directly about educational technology, it highlights the importance of technology for presenting and disseminating up-to-date, accurate and accessible information to the public.

New Directions for Technology Use in ELL Instruction by Scott Evans, Language Magazine, May 9, 2017

In this article, Evans describes various ways that teachers can use technology to enhance the learning of English Language Learners. These include uses in differentiation, autonomous and self-directed learning, access to diverse language content, mobility, and multimodal learning.

It Turns Out ‘Screen Time’ Isn’t That Bad for Kids, by Julia Layton, How Stuff Works, Culture, Jan. 14, 2016

This article from 2016 reports on a study that claims research on the bad effects of technology on children are outdated.

 

TCC 2017 Worldwide Online Conference April 18-20

bert-kimura-2016-80By Bert Kimura
Co-coordinator: Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference

Join us for the TCC 2017 Worldwide Online Conference, April 18-20: Changing to Learn, Learning to Change

L-R, Malcolm Brown, Veronica Diaz, Hannah Gerber, Kumiko Aoki, Peter Leong, Mikhail Fominykh

Enjoy keynote and special regional sessions by:

  • Drs. Malcolm Brown & Veronica Diaz, Educause Learning Initiative, USA
  • Dr. Hannah Gerber, Sam Houston State University, Texas, USA
  • Dr. Kumiko Aoki, Open University of Japan, Tokyo
  • Dr. Peter Leong, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA
  • Dr. Mikhail Fominykh, Molde University College, Norway

TCC is a three-day, entirely online conference for post-secondary faculty and staff worldwide with over 100 sessions that cover a wide-range of topics related to distance learning and emerging technologies for teaching and learning.

To register:

http://2017.tcconlineconference.org/registration/

Individuals participate in real-time sessions from the comfort of their workplace or home using a web browser to connect to individual sessions. All sessions are recorded for on-demand viewing.

For the current schedule of presentations and descriptions, see:

http://2017.tcconlineconference.org/program/

University of Hawaii faculty and staff: Special reduced rates are available. Contact Sharon Fowler <fowlers@hawaii.edu>.

We look forward to seeing you at TCC 2017.

Should Online Classes Be Fun?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

There’s fun as comic relief, then there’s fun as passion.

The first is temporary and a diversion. In the classroom, it’s the seventh-inning stretch in a long lecture. The piano stairs (see the video below) falls into this category, a diversion from the dreary commute from one point to another in a big city. The jokes in an otherwise long and boring speech, too, are diversionary, sugar coating for a bland or bitter pill. The assumption is that the speaker has a captive audience that requires some form of relief.

The fun that makes the most sense for education is passion. Think of our personal interests, joys, hobbies. These aren’t haha funny. They’re aha fun. And the interesting thing is, we don’t need comic relief in these pursuits because they’re inherently engaging, absorbing. We lose ourselves in them. In a word, this type of fun is what Dewey calls “educative.”

When we have passion for something, we have an insatiable hunger for all there is to know about it. My son, growing up, wasn’t the best student, but I never worried because I knew he was bright. Even in grade school, he knew all the NBA teams and players and was an expert on MJ and the Bulls and, later, Kobe and his Lakers.

Continue reading