A Challenge: Let’s Stop Pretending and #makeschooldifferent

makeschooldifferentI was challenged by Jessica Vannasdall (@mrsvannasdall) to write a post on what educators need to stop pretending in order to #makeschooldifferent. Here are my five:

Let’s stop pretending that homework in its current typical form is important or necessary. When done right, homework can be a good thing. But it usually isn’t done right and it’s either busy work or too frustrating to help kids improve. Rethink homework.

Let’s stop pretending that we don’t have time to change our practice. There will never be a good time to make a change, but it has to happen. We can not continue to teach today the same way we did a few years ago. It’s a different world. Change it up.

Let’s stop pretending that our students are “Digital Natives” and we are anything but. I wish this term could be stricken from the record. It creates an excuse that doesn’t need to exist and it needs to go away. We are all capable of learning to use technology in order to redefine what happens in our classrooms. Take the risk.

Let’s stop pretending that our students will take risks if we don’t. We have to be the role models for our students and for our colleagues. Risk taking is growth, and if we want our students to grow, we have to show them that we are growing, too. It’s ok to be scared. But jump in anyway.

Let’s stop pretending that we can do this alone. We can’t teach on isolated islands anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of teachers “out there” who are looking to collaborate, share ideas, and who want to make the world a smaller place. Our students want to collaborate, too. Make time to get connected. Reach out. You won’t be sorry.

I’m a little late to the challenge, so if you have already been challenged I apologize in advance. I challenge my friends Pablo Diaz @teachusingtech, Holly Steele @hollybsteele, Ann Kozma @annkozma723, Catherine Cabiness @ms_cabiness, and Sabba Quidwai @askMsQ. How would you like to #makeschooldifferent?

Student-Centered Use of Technology: My Phil”apps”ophy

photo 1I created Come On, Get Appy!  to share apps and show where and how they fit with the Common Core. With so many apps in the app store, and the number is growing daily— how do I choose the apps I share?

How I Choose Apps to Share

I follow two major ideas when thinking about apps:

  • Apps used in the classroom should be predominately creation apps.
  • All the apps you use with students should fit on one screen. This gives you 25 slots on an iPad—and that’s a lot. The apps I have on my home page include creation apps and curation apps, because those are the ones I use most often. If I find I’m not regularly using an app, I’ll exchange it with one I use more often. This makes my home screen the only screen I really need for most of my work.

I realize that these ideas go against what many teachers want. I frequently get requests for content apps, and I have no problem with content apps. In fact, I’ve shared posts on content-based apps (like Sums Stacker). However, I prefer to spend my time and money on an app that can be used across the curriculum for multiple purposes and can be used in student-centered ways— rather than on an app that is only about consuming content.

Student-Centered Ways? What Do You Mean?

When I conduct Professional Development on technology integration, I always bring it back to the idea that what we are doing with technology needs to focus on student-centered uses. Actually, everything we do in the classroom should be done in student-centered ways. So, what does this look like? What I want to see when I go into a classroom is students making choices— not only regarding the tool they will use, but of the product they will create using the tool. I want students to demonstrate their learning of a topic, and I don’t direct how they demonstrate this learning. I believe that this can best be accomplished using creation apps.

For some teachers, allowing students to choose the apps they use and they products they create can feel overwhelming. It requires the use of a rubric focused on the content, not the product. It may mean that there are 20 different types of products to grade (assuming 40 students are working in pairs) for any given assignment. If the class is studying figurative language and the students need to prove their understanding of figurative language, some may choose to make a video or a presentation of some sort, while others may write and/or produce a story.  Some might not want to use technology at all. That’s completely okay. Students need opportunities to choose the best tool for the job. If they can justify why he or she has used a particular tool, I consider the use of technology to be done in a student-centered way.

Students making the decisions about which tool to use for which purpose is student-centered use of technology— even if the decision is to use no technology. In order to be able to make these choices, students need to have access to multiple apps that will allow them to create different products. As teachers, we need to make sure we are focused on the process—not the product.

Common Core Connection

This post isn’t about an app, per se; it’s about all apps. If you are using creation apps, there is a greater chance that you are addressing Common Core standards and the 7 Cs. Standard 6 of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing states: “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” Producing and publishing writing takes many forms, and creation apps allow students to produce, publish, and post their work. The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening, especially standards 4, 5 and 6, can also be met through the use of creation apps.

What Do You Think?

I have a number of favorite creation apps. I’ve already written about many of them— Kidblog, VoiceThread, ExplainEverything, Coach’s Eye, Tellagami, Skitch, and Thinglink. However, there are so many more that I will eventually feature on Come On, Get ‘Appy! 

What are your favorite creation apps? How do you use them in student-centered ways?

 

 

Kids Can Code!

HTML Code

HTML Code by Marjan Krebelj under CC License 2.0

Code.org is hosting the Hour of Code throughout the week of December 9th-15th, 2013. The creators of the website Code.org believe (rightfully so) that anyone can learn code. The most successful people in life will be those who are able to code and who understand the principles behind coding. Everything electronic is run by code, not magic! And by learning to code, students also learn to think critically, to solve problems, and to be creative.

In order to expand participation of Computer Science in schools, Code.org is promoting one hour— 60 minutes— of time for students to learn to code. On the code.org website, there are a number of coding activities for students to try using blockly, JavaScript, and Scratch. There is even an opportunity to try coding to create apps!

Apps for Coding

Speaking of apps, there are two apps to help students gain coding skills on the iPad.

  • Daisy the Dinosaur, which is perfect for Kindergarten through second grade as an introduction to coding, and
  • Hopscotch, which is a little more advanced.

Daisy the Dinosaur allows students to choose one of two modes: Challenge or Free Play. Challenge mode provides guidance for students and teaches them how to navigate and make Daisy do things; Free Play is just that— students program Daisy without direction from the app.

Hopscotch looks a little more like Scratch and other programming languages I’ve seen for kids. The toolbox with the commands is on the left and the students drag commands into the workspace on the right. Pressing the play button animates the character or characters the student has selected to use. One of the great things about programming this way is that if the program doesn’t work, students can tinker with the numbers to refine their program.

Common Core Connection

The Common Core State Standards do not include coding as a standard. However, the standards are in place so that students can leave schools College and Career Ready. Students need to be able to solve non-routine problems and think critically, and these skills are reinforced using these types of apps to practice coding. Coding apps and websites also promote Creativity and Innovation by allowing students to play with scripts and see what happens.

I’ve heard many stories recently about students who get high-paying jobs straight out of high school because they have the skills necessary to be successful in jobs that require writing code. Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch can help young students begin to build the skills they will need to be College and Career Ready.

Let’s Hear from You!

What apps have you used to explore coding with your students?