EdTech: Teacher Tested, Student Approved

An Enthusiastic Introduction

“This is going to be so cool! Just wait.”

*Crickets*

“Well, what do you think?! Isn’t this neat?!” The students remain silent, looking nervously to see the reaction of their peers. Finally, they breathe a sigh of relief as one speaks up to voice what everyone else is thinking. “Is this it?”

I’ll admit that I’ve been there. I’ve experienced that very situation, when I was sure I had chosen an edtech tool that my kids would love, only to be met with unimpressed shrugs. Not only was it disheartening for me as a teacher, but it was hard to come back from, too. I had to start from scratch again and rethink my entire plan and who has time for that?

Interactive boards can be a great tool when used to their full extent. This Kindergartener practices sequencing during a station activity.

 

Back to the Drawing Board

In hopes of saving you from the same scenario, Educate’s intern, Saaif Ahmed, has shared his opinion about a few tools. This particular list primarily showcases tools for upper-grade students (Middle and High School) and includes a brief description of how they may benefit students. He speaks from his own experience with the tools and notes which subject areas they may be utilized most appropriately.

Click here to access Saaif’s collection of tools.

Are you looking for more of a wide-range list of tools? Then you’re in luck. During one of our monthly meetups, the members of the Innovative Teaching Co-op (an educator community hosted by Educate) spent some time discussing the multitude of edtech tools available. It seems they are coming out with something new everyday, so how can educators make an informed decision and choose the best for their students?

Sign up for our free online community to access the resources from the meetup and become an expert at selecting high quality digital tools.

 

@Ed_Tech-Em

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