Educate Impacts Student Life

How many students experience a first day of school where they walk in excited, but leave utterly confused? Every year, hundreds of schools implement new software and expect us to master the programs. Their intentions are great and, if implemented  correctly, those tools serve to better the classroom experience. However, this is not always the case; in many instances the learning suffers. That is why Educate’s mission is vital to students in this modern era of education. Coaches from Educate inspire teachers to innovative instruction by integrating high quality technology.

Technology Hurting the Classroom

When I say hurting the classroom, I am not talking about how students can be distracted by the internet or their phones. Software that is implemented by the school itself can be just as harmful. This happened during my junior year in high school, when my Honors Pre-Calculus class switched to the Flipped Classroom Model.

In a Flipped Classroom, students learn content through online lectures outside of school and apply the new knowledge during class time through various activities.

It seemed like a great system, that is until my school implemented a program called ALEKS. ALEKS was an online course study program that gave us questions based on topics set by the teacher. While the program was not designed to teach students, ALEKS could be used to assess our understanding of content. However, like many others, my teacher fell into the trap of using ALEKS as a replacement for himself. He truly believed we were learning when in reality, many students were simply looking up the answers. ALEKS provided review and assessment for the basics, but we were left to our own devices to learn more. Many students either resorted to an online calculator or outdated, incomprehensible articles.

The following weeks felt like a total waste of time. I still remember when the first test rolled around and every student looked at the first page and said, “You never taught us this.” My next year in AP Calculus BC was my toughest course yet, simply because I did not learn enough in Pre-Calculus.

Technology Helping the Classroom

Technology does not have to be detrimental to learning.

The goal of integrating technology is to provide an easier and effective academic environment for teachers and students.

Quality educational technology allows students to capture the material and utilize it to enhance their learning. What else does it have to offer? The answer is quite clear: marketable skills.

Students practice marketable skills when utilizing technology in a creative way.

As we look towards the future, we can see changes occurring in the professional world. Being familiar with computers is required for most positions today; many even require a specialization in technology such as programmers, engineers, web-designers, etc. Students that have quality experience with technology in the classroom are well prepared for their future work environment. For instance, while many are able to use Microsoft Word with ease, do they also have experience with software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, or Final Cut Pro? Speaking from personal experience, these types of programs allow students to develop universal skills that can be applied anywhere.

An aspiring graphic designer may begin to use Photoshop in their school. He/she may take on projects for the school, students, or faculty and develop his/her professional portfolio. Students that go through that journey learn how to become self-starters and create unique opportunities. While working with people on numerous projects, they learn to collaborate and problem solve. In addition, they have already constructed a small professional network. At a young age they have already begun to meet the requirements of the professional world, just by experiencing quality educational technology.

The Big Idea

It is quite simple really. Technology is a great tool, not only for teachers, but for students to better prepare themselves for the world. They can practice important skills and build their resume while still in school. However, if a school tackles a new program or tool without the support of an expert, they may implement it poorly. This can lead to harmful results in the classroom. That is why it is crucial to have a coaching staff like Educate to guide schools, teachers, and students into implementing whatever tools they need. To be a teacher you must first become a master and to be a master, you must first learn.

Written by Saaif Ahmed, @EducateIntern

 

About the Author

Saaif Ahmed is a recent graduate of high school and is currently completing an internship with Educate LLC. He enjoys using his passion for technology to help students and teachers implement different online tools.

Saaif will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Fall of 2018 to study Computer Engineering. Look forward to hearing a student’s perspective in upcoming posts!

Embracing Failure in the Classroom Setting

Until you make a mistake, you won’t know it’s a mistake.  

It was my first year teaching Science. I had covered everything my 4th graders could possibly need to know for the New York State 4th grade Science test, or so I thought. While grading the test, I noticed a question about states of matter, one my kids should’ve been able to answer easily. After all, I had seen them distinguish and give examples of all sorts of solids, liquids, and gasses.

Never in a million years, it had ever occurred to me that the word “state” might be a problem. You can be sure, though, the next year I explicitly taught students that “states of matter” in Science refers to whether something is solid, liquid, or gas and not the US state where it is located! Had I not made that mistake, I wouldn’t have discovered something very important about my kids and about teaching.

 

How do I recognize when I’ve made a mistake?

One of the easiest ways to recognize teaching mistakes is to use a tool like Swivl to record your teaching. You’ll want to allow yourself a moment as you watch your recording to deal with the less relevant questions such as “Why did I wear…?” and “Does my voice really sound like that?” Sometimes, you’ll already know you made some type of mistake (especially if a student pointed it out to you), but often you won’t realize it until you see it on video (or listen to a recording of the lesson). 

Consider using questions such as these to guide your reflection as you watch:

(Click on image to download your own copy)However, watching and identifying your mistakes isn’t enough. You have to be able to get past any “I can’t believe I did/didn’t do that” embarrassment to be able to determine how you can adjust your teaching. Reflecting on your teaching in this way allows you to hone your practice and find what works best for you and your students.

 

Shift your classroom culture to embrace failure.

Transforming your own thinking to the Growth Mindset (rather than the Fixed) can do wonders in promoting reflective learning in the classroom.

In a classroom where the dreaded red pen dominates, students often fear making mistakes. Their goal is to make as few as possible and hope that the mistakes they do make aren’t noticed. Consequently, they don’t try new and/or challenging tasks because they worry about being wrong. In addition to admitting your mistakes and learning from them, there are several ways you can promote this thinking in your students. 

  • Praise process rather than genius
    • For example, “You persevered so well through that task, trying 3 different strategies before finding the one that worked for you,” as opposed to, “You got the answer correct on this hard topic, you must be good at this topic” (see Carol Dweck’s video).
  • Question rather than correct
    • How did you arrive at this answer? What was your thinking in this part?  What steps did you take to solve this problem? Why did you take this step? Is there a rule we have learned that we could apply here? How do you know?
  • Analyze errors
    • In her video “My Favorite No,” Leah Acala utilizes a document camera to capture and share incorrect student answers. She guides the students through an analysis: What went well in the problem, determining where there was an error, why it was incorrect, and how to go about correcting it. (This could also be done with an interactive whiteboard, Google Drive, etc.)

As reflective practitioners, it is our job to continually learn and grow from our mistakes, teaching our students to do the same. Think about how you can put this into practice in your own classroom. How can you set up or continue a classroom culture that embraces failure?

Written by Sharon Johnsen, @EdTech_Sharon