Is it worth teaching it, if we can google it?

 

Well its holidays for me at the moment and all though im trying to switch off and not think too much about school, its been hard especially when ive been immersed with so many fantastic, thought provoking and inspiring ideas .  Anyway while on a run earlier this week, ipod cranking in my ears i was still thinking about some of the different things I cant wait to try in class next term. I also starting thinking about my Year 10 Phys ed class, who will be having a second attempt at the same online test I created using the excellent wondershare quiz creator. Im hoping that by doing the test again, the kids will have a chance to learn and remember the material, rather than simply scraping together a meaningless ‘pass mark’ through cramming the night before.  Lets hope…

Anyway back to my run. I started to think that just maybe my efforts were pointless, is it worth teaching content that can be accessed instantly anywhere, anytime, at the click of a button? I read earlier in the week that there is 2.7 Billion google searches a month, clearly questions are being asked. These days the worlds collective knowledge can be found online, scary?  Since my run this question has been ticking over in my mind and im not quite sure what I think just yet. One thing is for sure, I think that there is already a big shift in focus towards teaching skills in our schools rather than content and as time goes on, this will only become more obvious.

Now im not saying that we don’t teach anything, thats obviously in our job description, but at the same time our job is certainly changing. I think we are getting to the stage where we will become mentors more than anything who model appropriate lifelong learning behaviours, rather than pretending to the be the experts standing at the front of the room demading all the attention. Using a mentor model in the classroom we just may have more of a chance of creating these lifelong learners we talk about, who then go through life with the skills to pursue the knowledge and content they desire.

Although we need a massive shift before this is a possibility, for example Ive mentioned this to a few other teachers and a couple of them basically laughed at me and said it was offending that I was downplaying the importance of their expetise in the classroom. This wasnt enough to change my mind, I really think that this could be the future direction of education. I’ll be honest, I dont remember half the stuff I was taught at school, but Ive learnt alot of skills since school that give me the confidence in knowing exactly how to source an answer when the question arises. These are the skills we need to be teaching, and as a result we may just make school more important, relevant and engaging for all students as they begin to carve their own paths and not simply those set by their teachers and the curriculum.

So who was the first prime minister of england? Just give me a second, ill get back to you…

Are you engaging your students?

I stumbled across this video today while surfing through youtube on a completely unrelated topic and what a gem it proved to be. This is the kind of thing that motivates me to continue to research and introduce teaching technologies into my classes. If you disagree with the message in this video or not feel a level of excitement in watching the wonderful things mentioned, then I dare say that your students are beginning to slip away from your grasps and unless you embrace these technologies in your classes, then this gap is only likely to increase .

After my second viewing one of the clear highlights of the video was from a high school student who said ” We have learned to Play School. We study the right facts the night before the test so we achieve a passing grade and thus become a successful student”. How true this statement is, I went through school with the same mentality only truly aiming to learn when the content was delivered in a meaningful, engaging and inspiring way. Flash forward 5 years and this becomes even more noticebale, students are simply not engaged via the traditional methods.

Teachers need to realise the potential of these technologies to improve their practice and delivery, to make it easier to organise and communicate and to ENGAGE all their students, no matter what the subject is.  The skeptics may argue that todays students are starting to rely too much on technology, which is a fair call, but isnt writing and the alphabet a form of technology?  Of course it is, and how much do we rely on the alphabet? I cant even begin to imagine life without it, yet no one seems to say anything about our realiance on it being a problem. Thats because its not, and nor is our reliance on ICT based technologies. Its called progression and too many teachers, mostly the ones who have the leadership roles at schools and the power to infect change, seem to be holding onto the past and shooting down those who choose to embrace the future.

I also find it funny that teachers will boast about being computer illiterate, thinking that it will absolve them of any responsibility for not including technology in their classes. I bet these same people would not admit being unable to read or write, but as we move into the future being computer illiterate will also become shameful and embarassing. To put it simply future schools will not employ those who dont use technology in their classes and even if they do, the students wont listen.

Finally I love how this video finishes off…”If your not using technology to teach, then you should! But then again, you already knew that… and your students did too!” So True…

How to get instant feedback from your students

Occasionally you come across a tool that gets you excited, gets you flowing with ideas and this next one certainly fits the criteria

www.polleverywhere.com

Once signing up for a free account this website allows you to create online polls using a multiple choice format. Within a few minutes you will have created your first poll, ready for download via a PowerPoint slideshow document.

So how do you Vote?

1) Via a computer. When you have generated your poll you are given a website link that you can give to your students, who then simply click on their choice on the poll.

2) Via SMS. This one is super exciting, once your poll has been generated it gives you a number and a keyword for each of the choices on your poll, all you do is SMS the keyword of your choice to the phone number on the top of the slideshow

Now i have used this a few times in classroom and the most engaging aspect of the entire process happens after voting. Within real time the poll (which is being displayed on your projector) updates right before your eyes, displayed as a bar or column graph.

So why is this super exciting? Well it is really engaging, students in my classes have loved completing the polls regardless of what they are polling about. The second thing is the instant feedback that it provides, what a wonderful feature this is and certainly worth raving about as a teacher.

My First Virtual Guest Speaker…

 

 

I love the school days were you wake up super excited about the day ahead, today was most definately one of those days. I was lucky enough to have an expert in the field of Sports Nutrition speak to my students for an entire 30 minutes.  So how is this different to a normal guest speaker you may ask? Well its simply because we were seperated by over 200km…..

Thanks to the completely free program Skype, which is used for video confrencing this was able to occur. Sure Video confrencing has been around for years but it has never been this simple, this cheap or this effective…..Skype just works, no questions asked. Heres how the whole process happened

I read a post in Douchys Blog a few months ago about the potential uses of Skype in the classroom, basically it allows you to create a 24/7 classroom, helping you to connect with other students and teachers from all over the world at the push of a button. The next step was to download and set up my skype account, which literally took 3 or 4 minutes (Very Simple). While this was all happening the ideas were flowing through my head of just how I could harness this simple but powerful technology in my classes. Eventually I decided that I would aim to get a guestspeaker for one of my classes and have them speak on a certain topic. At  the time i was teaching sports nutrition to one of my Phys Ed classes, which i thought would be a great choice given there are NO sports dieticians anywhere near my tiny country Victorian town. The other great part was that the kids are mad about sport so anything discussed in the interview would prove to be highly appealing

So I set out to find someone willing to have a go at this ‘experiment’. My first stop was Sports Dieticians Australia, and I emailed them via the ‘contact us’ section of their home page. I stated my plans and was swiftly sent a return email with an interested participant. At first she hadnt even heard of Skype so I quickly introduced it and within 5 minutes or so, she was online and we were having a conversation, as if we were in the same room. We tested the connection a few more times proving that it was indeed super simple and truly amazing, making me even more excited for interview day.

September 12th was the day it all happened and at 12.oopm I received a call from our Guest speaker, with fingers crossed I answered and pheew it was working we could indeed hear and see one another. Needless to say the kids were blown away….and I mean BLOWN AWAY.. To top it all off I also recorded the conversation so that it could be reviewed at a later date via a program called ‘pamela for skype’ which is a groovy little addition that is also simple and works perfect. Finally with the technical side out of the way the kids could focus on their asking the questions they had organised in previous lessons. Overall the interview proved to be 100 times more beneficial then I had ever hoped or imagined, engaging kids who usually find a way to muck up or do next to nothing in a lesson.

So what does this mean for educators? Well it proves that we are no longer bound to the four walls of our classrooms, you can literally bring in experts from all around the world.  You might say, No one i going to have time for my class” but trust me, you’d be suprised just who would be happy to give you 15 minutes of their time. Initually thats what I thought, but have since changed my mind the second I organised my next  Virtual Guest Speaker , the 3 Time Olympic Medallist Sprinter Ato Boldon who will be speaking on his coaching and training principles.

So who will you get to speak to your class? You can only ask…

Techno Kids

On fathers day I decided to take dad out for a meal at a local eatery. My younger four year old half sister also came along, which was good as I rarely get a chance to catch up with her. From the moment she walked in I was blown away by how mature she appeared, this was compouded by the fact that the last time I saw her was probably 6 months prior. After lunch she reached into her bag and pulled out a camera, which at first I thought was a toy. It wasnt until she had taken a picture and the flash had struck my eyes that I clicked. She then changed the camera mode and took a squiz at the picture she had just taken, swiftly realsing that it needed to be deleted, sure enough she was able to do this much quicker than I would confess to. At this point I was shocked and it immmediately got me thinking about the next breed of students making their way into the education system.

 

As educators we are expected to be able to cater for these students when they finally move into classes, will we be able to cope? Will they instantly hate the learning experience because they are pre programed to receive information about the world electronically…..instantly? Well my answer is no, let me explain why. The fundamentals are still socially relevant in a countless ways but I know that as a whole we need to start changing our teaching practices to suit the future leaders. Yeh sure, I guess this statment isnt new, but too often teachers take the easy road and stick to the way they know works, the way they have always done it. The problem with this is that they will become their biggest enemies in the long run, eventually making themselves obsolute.

This isnt a far off pipe dream, it is a reality and its knocking at you door, so how will you respond? You can choose to run and hide (you wont last long) or you can face it head on and learn some new skills that will see you into the future. To find out more about different ways students are CHOOSING to learn you can view a list of Web 2.0 tools here that are designed to make our jobs easier. Although they take some initial set up and a steep learning curve, the benefits are well worth the effort and you will have your students eating out of the palm of your hand.

To finish off, i guess its a teachers role is to promote lifelong learning, but isnt it somewhat hypocritical to not expect the same of ourself.  Its time for teachers to stop pretending to be the experts and start to practice what they preach, we wont be able to bluff our lessons forever…

A couple of cool E-Learning tools

Ok so I thought i would wait a few days after my first post so i could think about which web 2.0 tools I would share first, heres what i decided

http://www.mobilestudy.org/home/

This awesome website allows you to quickly and easily create a multiple choice quiz that can be downlaoded and completed via a mobile device. Once you have completed your quiz it provides you with a web address link to the quiz that the kids can access through their mobile devices via the internet.  Once downloaded the quiz is stored on the students phone and can be completed over and over again. When a student finishes a quiz it asks them to enter their name and gives the user the option to send results via text message to the creator. Alternatively the quiz can be downloaded, stored on a USB stick then transmited to a students phone which is a longer process but you wont be charged for the download via your mobile phone carrier (small fee anyway)

What better way to spread you learning then through a device that the kids all have an use all the time. My students are showing genuine interest in completing revision quizzes via this method, they think it is fantastic, so give it a try you will be suprised just who you might engage.Honestly how many kids would prefer to write? Id say a very small percentage and that number wil soon be zero.

http://www.sameshow.com/quiz-creator.html

The next one is ‘Wondershare Quiz Creator’, this program is brilliant and allows you to make electronic tests using a variety of questions formats such as multiple choice, true and false, fill the blank, matching, click map, word bank, short essay/question. The quizzes are fully interactive and once completed can be uploaded to a website for your students to complete via a computer, or they can be saved onto a shared network drive and the kids can access them from that.

Aside from being highly engaging the best feature of this program is its ability to mark your work for you, yep no more correction, the program will recognise correct answers from a list that you enter and provide marks based on a criteria that you set up. Its Brilliant. Further to this it will email student results directly to you with a breakdown/analysis of the results. Students also recieve instant feedback and are sent a breakdown of their results, where they went wrong and what they should have done

If your intersted in seeing a working quiz up and running have a go with one ive created for one of my PE subjects http://jarrodro.googlepages.com/Nutrition.html