Finding the Why: Part 5-Communication


Communication is the last skill in our 5 part “Finding the Why” series.  Why did we save it for last? Because it is the skill that ties all the others together.  Critical Thinking. Creativity. Collaboration.  To make these work-we MUST be able to communicate our ideas effectively.  Do people understand what we are saying, are we sharing our information with the right audience, are our ideas grounded in research and critical thinking? Not only must we be able to speak to communicate-but we must be able to listen.  Are we hearing or truly listening?  In a world where communication has dwindled down to a host of acronyms & emojis via text messages (BTW, BRB, LOL, ROFL,  CB, DUR, etc) we have to be intentional about our words and our message.

(Anyone want to go watch these folks in action? WOW!)

The Global Digital Citizen has a great article on Communication:

Students must be able to communicate not just with text or speech, but in multiple multimedia formats. They must be able to communicate visually through video and imagery as effectively as they do with text and speech.

Why it’s important: Communication is a broad term that incorporates multi-faceted levels of interaction and imparting information to others. Students love to communicate using technology, and this is an essential part of Media Fluency. But it’s more than just being able to effectively use digital media—it’s about personal interactions as well.

We must remind our students that responsible communication practice puts forth their best representation of who they are as individuals in every relationship and alliance they make in their lives. Whether talking face-to-face, blogging, texting, or creating a visual product, their values and beliefs are defined by how well they communicate with others. Encouraging them to develop and hone every aspect of their communication skills will serve them well in both their personal and professional lives.

Where do I begin with communication in my classroom that addresses these 21st Century Skills? Below is a picture of just a “few” ideas that make communicating and collaborating in the classroom easier.

This is a wheel of the vast amount of tools available for communicating and collaborating with others. There is someting for everyone!

EdTechReview blog has a great post about Enhancing Students’ Communication Skills:

How to Enhance Your Students’ Communication Skills? Does Technology Help?

 Communication skill is an indispensable skill to become successful in 21st century. This skill is required in every part of life. A good communication skill is quality of a well-educated person.
Reading, writing and listening are the three most vital components of communication skills for the students. Well! These three skills sound very common therefore, we usually take them for granted.

Technology also plays very supportive role in enhancing student’s communication skills. Students can enhance both their written and oral communication skill using technology under the sound guidance of their teachers.

Oral Communication and Technology

It has been argued in many instances that technology today is hampering oral communication in students. Belinha S. De Abreu – a media literacy educator writes, “Are students losing their ability to orally communicate because of the amount of technology?  Parents feel that their children are more monosyllabic and teachers are experiencing a lack of word connectivity with students.  With students texting and chatting via symbols and acronyms, there is actually less “talking” happening.

Well! This is the one side of argument. But if you believe that every coin has two aspects then you will agree that technology does have positive impact on oral communication.

Audio Tape/Podcast

The use of audiotape is essential in the oral skills class. For receptive skills development, the tape player or podcasts are the easiest way for students to listen to a variety of speakers on a variety of topics in a variety of genres – dialogues, interviews, lectures, stories, songs, and poems. Learn how to use it in ESL class.

Videotape/Digital Movies/Digital Storytelling

Videotape is a step up from audiotape. First of all, playing prerecorded tapes provides the audiovisual information that helps students observe, understand, and imitate oral communication, from language expressions and sentence structure to lip shape, facial expressions, gestures and distance between speakers, not to mention other cultural, behavioral, and sociological aspects of language.

Language Lab

Another technology that is invaluable for the promotion of listening and speaking skills is the interactive language lab. Because the language lab does many things that benefit oral skills development better than the regular non-tech classroom. For example, in choral repetition drills, students can concentrate on the model (teacher or tape) with far less interference from the voices of classmates, they can concentrate on the sound of their own voice, and they can record both the model and their own voice for later comparison and practice.


You’re probably wondering, what kind of technology is good for students but not so time-consuming for teachers? To get students to do oral assignments that you can hear and assess but don’t respond to orally, assign voicemail homework!


There are numerous apps to build oral communication skills such as:

  • Paper Telephone
  • Voice Thread
  • Voxer
  • Shake-a-phrase
  • WhQuestions

More apps at:

Some of the other great resources that will help you teach oral communication skills:

Debate, discussions and presentations are other ways by which teachers can actually help their students to enhance their oral communication skills. By encouraging your students to participate in debate and discussion on various subjects in the classroom or the seminars, They can actually sharpen their student’s oral communication skills.

Written Communication and Technology

Educators can enhance written communication skills in their students by motivating them to write papers in their own words. They should give more assignment that requires their own thinking and writing skills. Teachers can also conduct writing competition in the classroom or ask them (student) to share their experience or thought about anything.

Technology has significantly impacted the written communication process in terms of both quality and quantity. Middle and high school student writings takes place in different form. They write blogs, update on social media or complete their classroom assignments online. Here, obviously there is no pen and paper but the fluid used for writing is fueled by technology.

In a survey a lot of educators agreed that technology has enhanced student’s writing skills. Technology has facilitated their personal expression and creativity. They can learn more and keep themselves engage through sharing their work to a larger audience or beyond their classroom. Educators agree that there are many instances where it has shown that using tech in writing has actually developed critical thinking, imagination and analysis as well as vocabulary.

Outside of their classes, students most often encounter digital writing—that is, writing created or read on a computer or other Internet-connected device, as defined in Because Digital Writing Matters. Digital writing assignments “match the real world” and give students experience composing “in a form people will actually read. How teachers can make use of technology for writing skill development is by creating a text jointly, through shared documents or wikis, or they can take turns posting on a collective blog.

These websites and apps are popular with tech-savvy teachers who incorporate digital elements into their writing instruction.


Finding the Why: Part 4-Critical Thinking

infografia_critical-thought_ENG2Critical Thinking

What is critical thinking? Although we hear those buzz words flying around in education-there are so many ideas-it is hard to know if we fully know what it really means in the context of a classroom.

crit·i·cal think·ing
 1. the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

critical thinking

1. disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

Below you will find a short YouTube clip that explains critical thinking in very basic terms.  It boils down to 2 words: How & Why.

Edutopia (if you can’t tell, one of my favorite blogs for great information!) has a great post about News Literacy and how we can teach Critical Thinking Skills for the 21st Century:

News Literacy: Critical-Thinking Skills for the 21st Century

Every teacher I’ve worked with over the last five years recalls two kinds of digital experiences with students.

The first I think of as digital native moments, when a student uses a piece of technology with almost eerie intuitiveness. As digital natives, today’s teens have grown up with these tools and have assimilated their logic. Young people just seem to understand when to click and drag or copy and paste, and how to move, merge and mix digital elements.

The second I call digital naiveté moments, when a student trusts a source of information that is obviously unreliable. Even though they know how easy it is to create and distribute information online, many young people believe — sometimes passionately — the most dubious rumors, tempting hoaxes(including convincingly staged encounters designed to look raw and unplanned) and implausible theories.

How can these coexist? How can students be so technologically savvy while also displaying their lack of basic skills for navigating the digital world?

What to Believe?

Understanding this extends beyond customary generational finger wagging. While it’s tempting to blame students themselves for failing to think critically, we should remember that the digital revolution represents one of the most radical changes in human history.

Students today face a greater challenge in evaluating information than their parents or grandparents did at their age. The cumulative amount of information that exists on the planet, from the beginning of recorded history to the present, is, by realistic estimates, doubling every two years. And even though digital natives have grown up in the information age, many of the adults and institutions in their lives are still grappling with its implications. In other words, it’s likely that the kind of credulity we see in young people reflects our own collective uncertainty about what we encounter on the digital frontier. Finally, the skills that students need to effectively sort fact from fiction are often missing from school curricula.

Explore the Power of Information

Pose an “essential question for the day” that explores the power and impact of information (e.g., “What changes would we see in the U.S. if the First Amendment protections of speech and press were repealed?”). Then use such websites as the Committee to Protect Journalists or Reporters Without Borders to examine press freedoms around the world. Track the number of journalists jailed, kidnapped or killed in 2014, and investigate the circumstances surrounding these incidents.

Fact-Checking Challenge

Display a different example of dubious information each week or month and challenge your students to research its accuracy using non-partisan fact-checking resources and advanced web searching. Give prizes or extra credit to those who get it right, or work collaboratively to seek answers as a class.

The Practice of Critical Thinking

Not only can these ideas be adapted to explore a range of relevant issues in a variety of academic subjects and grade levels, they also embody the principles of 21st century learning and are aligned with Common Core State Standards.

Another great visual to help support scaffolding of this concept in all classrooms.

Critical Thinking Skills

Tech Tip of the Week: Fun!

In a week of high stakes testing, sometimes it is nice to let your brain relax, slow down, and just have fun.  This week’s tech tip(s) are just for you-for fun.  No major learning curve-just some things that might make life a little easier and let you have some fun along the way!!

lost mind

Apps on your smart device (Apple/Android):

(These links are for the iTunes app store-but most are Android compatible as well!)

  • Action Movie
  • Super Power This one is so fun! You can shoot lasers, fireballs, and even make things disappear.  My 3 little guys at home think I’m a “super mom” with real super powers! 
  • Camera Awesome (I replaced my default camera on my phone/iPad with this app!)
  • Apps Promo
    • Who doesn’t love free?  This is a free app that loads new apps daily that are free for a limited time.  I’ve saved TONS of money and learned about some really cool apps this way!
  • Our Groceries
  • Personalize your iPad
    • I don’t know about you-but I get tired looking at the same background on my iPad/iPhone.  Plus-now you can even get really creative with new keyboards.  Here are some of the apps I use when I need to change things up.

ipad personalization

Gamesbecause we all need some fun.  These three are my favorite! (And they are addicting-and don’t require much thought or brain power to play!)

  • Cubis
  • CollapseBlast
  • Dumb Ways to Die (1 & 2)
    • Warning-this is a little twisted-so be warned.  However-if you want some brain numbing game play-this is quite fun-and addicting.  But be warned-it isn’t rainbows and butterflies when you play.  It’s a little quirky! You’ve been warned…

Finding the Why: Part 3–Creativity

What is creativity in the classroom?
How do we inspire creativity in our students?
How do we nurture their creativity for growth and engagement?

This video does a great job of building on last week’s post on collaboration.  What if we let them collaborate & be creative? What are the possibilities for their learning?

One of them most frightening things we can do in a classroom is to allow freedom to our students and give up some of our control.  What will happen? Why chaos erupt? We are forced to step out of our comfort zone in order to do what is best for our students.  I’m not saying to give up complete control and enter into a world of chaos.  However, we can enter into a world of controlled chaos and freedom of choice.  I was never good at art growing up.  So when my assignment required some “art” to go with it-I knew I was in trouble.  But if a teacher let me figure out the best way to prove my learning-and I didn’t have to draw a picture-or fit into the teacher’s box of expectations-I knew I could do great things.  Inspiring creativity in our students will allow them to grow and they might just blow you away with what they come up with.  Our students are digital natives-they don’t know a world without technology, apps, and instant information.  They can teach us so much–if we are open to learning from them.

What is creativity in the classroom?

The Web 2.0 teaching tools website does a great job of defining creativity in the classroom:

Creativity, along with innovation are critical skills for achieving success in the 21st century workplace.

Creativity is the ability to produce new, diverse and unique ideas. Thinking creatively means looking at things from a different perspective and not be restricted by rules, customs, or norms.

Innovation is the implementation of creativity – the introduction of a new idea, process, or product. Creativity provides the necessary spark to get the ball rolling.

The  Fedena blog has a post about the importance of creativity in the classroom.  Here is an excerpt:

We live in a world that is creative; we live in a time where innovation is the key word; inventions by human have reached every sphere of life. We cannot deny the fact that much of the education that has been imparted till now has been memory-based. But proper learning should involve memory-based learning that triggers the cultivation of use of analytics, proper evaluation of skills and above all, the presence of creativity, the urge to create something new that would bring about an evolution!

Kristen Hicks has an amazing post on the blog about why creativity in the classroom matter more than ever:

In his popular TED talk, Ken Robinson made the powerful point that most of the students doing work in your classrooms today will be entering a job force that none of you can visualize. That talk is from almost ten years ago, so we already know he was right and can only assume he’ll continue to be so in the years to come.

Learning a specific skill set doesn’t have the value in today’s world that it once did. Learning how to be more creative (and thus adaptable) – now that’s what prepares students for life beyond the classroom.

Schools and businesses throughout the world are latching onto this idea. Academia has started to embrace providing courses in creativity. Many of the biggest and most successful businesses in the world now practice the 20% rule – the commitment to allowing employees to devote 20% of their work time to thinking creatively and exploring new ideas.

But this trend toward valuing creativity goes beyond the big tech companies that have long treated “innovation” as a buzzword. A 2010 survey of over 1,500 executives found that creativity is valued as the most important business skill in the modern world[K1] . “Creative” is one of the most commonly used terms on LinkedIn year after year.

Creativity is no longer seen as just being for artists and musicians (not that that view was ever accurate). It’s a crucial skill for everybody to master.

How do we inspire creativity in our students?

 The  Fedena blog goes on to say:

We have to stop and think- can we really teach our kids how to be creative within the boundaries of a classroom or is it something that is inborn? Creativity is definitely different to different people and for some, inventing new ways to do the same things might be creative; while for others, discovering new things is all about creativity. But whatever is the concept, motivation should be given to children to be more inventive in education.

As a teacher, you can do a lot to cultivate creativity among your students and let them utilize their brain. Share with your class the attributes of being a creative person through the lives of great names in the creative field; sharing their life stories including how they used to generate ideas or how they dealt with all kind of reactions from everyone around will surely motivate them. Discussions on how important it is for everyone to be curious to learn new things and also how to deal with failure should also be included. For all these discussions and other motivational activities, being the teacher, you must develop a creativity friendly classroom where great ideas and views can shared freely. Develop a classroom where the flow of invention is not disrupted by the regular class routines, textbooks and assignments. A proper creativity driven classroom is characterized by encouragement to question-answer sessions, assessment of performance and feedback, a  class that promotes cooperation with others when it comes to sharing ideas as well as the rightful independence needed to let creativity flourish. In short, create a place where all these activities flourish and not discouraged.

In order to make a classroom creative, a teacher too has to be creative, to some extent.

 When I stumbled on this blog post by Kristen Hicks on the blog I found it to be exactly what I wanted to say-so why invent the wheel! This is such great information! (Thanks, Kristen, for the awesome post!)

5 Ways to Bring More Creativity Into the Classroom

Introducing more creativity into your classroom and assignments doesn’t have to make your job harder. It can actually make it a lot more interesting. Having to go home to a stack of dull papers to grade was never anyone’s favorite part of teaching. Giving assignments that require more creativity will likely result in more engaging work for your students, and a more entertaining grading process for you.

1.    Don’t limit assignments to one format

You can provide them the subject to cover, but give them some freedom in how they complete it. Some students will get more out of creating a video or drawing a comic strip than writing a paper.

Even better, have them mix and match formats. Weda Bory wrote on our site about the impressive (and creative) work she received from students by combining iPhone photos with creative writing in her assignments. Your students could analyze a relevant film by creating a podcast about it. They could collect famous images that represent important themes and make a short video that discusses their common relevance.

When you start allowing more formats in the way students create and learn, they’ll have more opportunities to engage with the work they do and will become more invested in it.

2.    Set time aside for creativity

Take a cue from the 20% rule practiced by businesses. Work a “genius hour” into the school day. The amount of time is really up to you, but deciding to devote time to encouraging your students to explore new ideas and be creative can pay off.

You can provide them with some tools to enable their creativity – crayons, clay, notebooks, iPads, or even just access to the library or internet (within reason).  They can choose to create, or they can choose to do some digging into a subject of interest to them.

Encourage collaboration in these times, but don’t force it. Allowing students the chance to follow their own interests and passions is the whole point and they should be given some leeway in what that looks like.

3.    Use tech to broaden your idea of assignments

Tech literacy is almost as important to succeeding in the world today as creativity. And conveniently the two go hand in hand. Just using Google tools alone, we’ve already covered five creative assignments teachers can give.

You can teach students about geography alongside history, literature, or any number of other subjects by having them map out a road trip in Google Maps.

You can teach students how to make new contacts, conduct interviews, and turn what they learn from their interviews into a well-researched paper by making use of Google Hangouts or Skype.

Students can take more ownership over their work by keeping a blog or making their own educational videos on their smartphones. And they can work more collaboratively with the help of social media.

While all of these ideas teach students skills that will benefit them in finding jobs later in life, that’s far from all they accomplish. They make them better learners, better thinkers, and give them more incentive to care about the work they do.

4.    Introduce unconventional learning materials into class

Have you ever seen a student excited when you assigned a chapter in a textbook? How about if you assigned TED Talks instead? Or educational (and entertaining) podcasts like Radiolab and StarTalk? Or comics like The Oatmeal or xkcd, both of which sometimes touch on educational topics?

Many of the people creating a lot of the entertaining pop culture out there have embraced the geekiness that pop culture used to shun. As a result, teachers have a ton of options for bringing more interesting and cool explorations of educational subjects  into their classrooms.

5.    Encourage discussion.

Debates get kids involved and actively engaged with the topics they’re discussing. The Socratic seminar method provides a lot of different benefits:

  • It gets students thinking more critically about the material.
  • It helps them learn to better communicate their ideas and opinions.
  • It challenges them to listen to other students’ opinions and think critically about their contributions and ideas.
  • It gives them the opportunity to challenge each other intelligently and build off of each other’s ideas.

The ability to communicate your ideas clearly and respectfully is something that will benefit students in all areas of their life – and something a lot of people grow up never learning how to do well.


Finding the Why Series-Part Two: Collaboration


What does collaboration look like in a 21st Century classroom? Why is it important?

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success. (Henry Ford)

This week we will focus on one of the 4Cs we learned about in part one of this series: Collaboration.

According to proponents of collaborative learning, the fact that students are actively exchanging, debating and negotiating ideas within their groups increases students’ interest in learning. Importantly, by engaging in discussion and taking responsibility for their learning, students are encouraged to become critical thinkers (Totten, Sills, Digby & Russ, 1989). Many researchers have reported that students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is being taught. Moreover, they retain the information longer and also appear more satisfied with their classes (Beckman, 1990; Chickering & Gamson, 1991; Goodsell, et al , 1992).

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning. published a great article on How Colllaborative Learning Leads to Student Success.  Here is an excerpt: (You can find a link to the entire article at the bottom of this post.)

Establishing a culture of collaboration isn’t resource-intensive. It doesn’t take hours of professional development, or technology, or even technical know-how. And assessing collaborative work is usually simple and straightforward. But you do need open minds and the willingness to trust students with their learning. You need a culture that values every student’s strengths and a school community that believes everyone can learn from each other. In other words, it requires the very things that nearly every school strives for. So why not give it a try?

Edutopia also has a great article on going a little deeper to make this learning model a little easier to replicate in your classroom. (You can find a link to the entire article-with step by steps examples and guidance at the bottom of this post.)

What’s ideal when it comes to collaboration in our classrooms? Here’s one coveted scenario: several children gathered at a table engaged in a high-level task, discussing, possibly debating an issue, making shared decisions, and designing a product that demonstrates all this deeper learning.

As teachers, we’d love to see this right out the gate, but this sort of sophisticated teamwork takes scaffolding. It won’t just happen by placing students together with a piece of provocative text or an engaging task. (Heck, this deeper learning collaboration is challenging for most adults!)

In preparing our students for college and careers, 21st century skills call on us to develop highly collaborative citizens — it’s one of the 4 Cs, after all.

Most of our HCS are Leader in Me schools with one habit being to SYNERGIZE! What a great example of synergy in action when students are collaborating to build and scaffold their learning, thinking critically, while Sharpening the Saw all at the same time!

What is the impact of collaborative learning or group work? 

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.


Here is a great article with resources from Global Digital Citizen.  It was so great I couldn’t just summarize-so I brought the entire article over to share with all of you!

7 Resources for Student Collaboration

7 Resources for Student CollaborationVia eClassroom News

Collaboration is increasingly emerging as one of today’s top skills. Part of the 4Cs, it is needed in K-12 classrooms, in higher education, and in the workforce. Students who leverage technology to build collaboration skills are building strong college- and career-ready skills.

More and more classrooms are going mobile, whether that is through school-issued laptops or tablets, or via BYOD initiatives that allow students to bring and use their personal mobile devices in school.

However collaboration is accomplished, it’s evident that mobile collaboration tools are as important as ever.

Here, we’ve listed a number of free and fee-based collaborative tools and apps, along with developer-provided descriptions, for students to use as they develop collaboration skills in and out of school. This is just a small sample of collaborative tools, and if you have a favorite that is not listed, please let us know in the comments section below.

Scoodle Jam
Challenge curious minds with an engaging, collaborative, Common Core-aligned product for school and home. Scoodle Jam marries powerful creation tools with imaginative content that supports critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, turning your iPad into a flexible learning environment.

Drawp for School
This creativity tool offers built-in sharing, cloud storage, and workflow management. The tool also features a family edition, which educators could use to strengthen home-school connections.

Mind42 allows you to manage all your ideas, whether alone, twosome or working together with the whole world. Mind42 runs in your browser, so no installation necessary for the ultimate hassle-free mind mapping experience. Just open your browser and launch the application whenever and wherever needed.

Scribble Press
Scribble Press is a multimedia creativity platform for creating, sharing, and publishing stories. Students can access the tool online or on iPads and can work together to create stories supporting classroom topics or lessons.

Whiteboard Lite
This app lets students collaborate on the same whiteboard, whether for brainstorming, art projects, or visualizing concepts.

ThinkBinder uses a simple, focused set of tools to allow users to collaborate and work more efficiently. This features chat, sharing, whiteboard collaboration, and more. Tools are designed around seamless communication and collaboration. Sign on and ask a question about calculus homework, work through a physics problem on the collaborative whiteboard, or video chat with a Spanish partner, all in one place.

Dweeber is a social website that connects students and helps them get homework done faster by working with their peers online.

This article appeared on eClassroom News on September 19 2014 and was written by the staff of eSchool News.

Resources on Collaboration

Tech Tip of the week: iPads in the classroom (camera & video)

Many of our schools in the district are purchasing iPads for our students to use in the classroom.  With the millions of apps currently out there-we sometimes forget about some basics that come with the iPad that can help our work in the classroom.


The Camera App

How can this simple camera/video app add engagement and learning into your classroom?

The camera on the iPad is probably the most comfortable and powerful feature available on the device. An iPad camera in the hands of students allows them to capture learning as it happens and document it through self expression, make connections and reflect. (Getting Smart blog)

  • Take a screenshot.  Many times we want to see what our students are doing on their iPads-but the app they are using don’t give an option to save or show their work.  Teach your students how to take a screenshot. (Press the lock button (top right of iPad) and the home button at the same time.  The screen will flash to show that a picture was taken and then that picture will appear in your camera roll in the “photos” app.)  When they finish what they are working on-take a screenshot.  Then, you can look through the pictures on your iPad and have proof of their work and scores.)
  • On Raki’s Rad Resources, this post includes some great ways to utilize the came with your students:

1.)  Allow students to take pictures or completed work.  This is especially powerful for creations (blocks, Lego,   patterns etc.) but also works for science experiments, building numbers with base ten blocks, drawings, writing etc.  Kids can also take pictures of the evolution of their work.  These pictures can later be shared with parents or included in an online portfolio.10 Ways to use your iPad's camera in the classroom - create virtual portfolios


2.)  Take a photograph of a whole group brainstorming or mini lesson.  These photographs can later be printed and added to Interactive notebooks, or left on the iPad to be brought up again later for reference.  Earlier this week, I did a simple verbs lesson with my students, but didn’t have time for them to finish their independent practice worksheet.  When I told the kids they would have to complete their practice later, I had a student ask me to take a picture of the board so she could reference it the next day.

3.) Let kids video their thinking.  Have students explain their for problem solving, scientific understanding, critical thinking abut reading etc. to the video camera.  Later you can review their thinking with them.

4.)  Have kids interview each other.  Students can learn about their classmates in the beginning of the year, or about the holidays or cultures of their students as the year goes on by interviewing one other student and then presenting all of the interviews to the class.  They could also interview each other about a project or science experiment they created.  Last year, my students created cars and then interviewed a partner about the steps they had taken.

10 Ways to use your iPad's camera in the classroom - photograph creations5.)  Send kids on a photo scavenger hunt to find a given topic in your classroom or school.  Younger students can find all the items that begin with the letter of the week, items in groups of 5, or items of a given color.  Older students can take pictures of nouns and verbs, simple machines, or the states of matter.

6.)  Have kids create video summaries of stories they have read.  The summaries don’t have to be long or complex, but can include an acting out of the basics of a book they have read.  Students love to watch books come to life, so why not allow them to be the one who brings their story to life.

7.)  Have kids interview an adult.  Whether you are working on community helpers, or countries of the world.  I am sure that there is an adult at your school who could give your students more information about a topic that interests them.  Have them capture that information in a video interview.

10 Ways to use your iPad's camera in the classroom - document field trips8.)  Let kids document their field trips.  iPads are portable.  Take them with you to the zoo or factory and let kids  document their learning from their perspective – literally.  Since pictures are taken from a child’s height, you can see exactly what they saw through their pictures.

9.)  Document student’s physical growth.  Take each student’s pictures on the first day of each month.  At the end of the year, line up the pictures and have students watch how they have grown or changed, including haircuts, missing teeth etc.

10.)  Create a misbehavior log.  Am I the only one who has ever taken a picture of a misbehaving student to send to a parent?  I hope not!  Nowadays, we can add these pictures into Evernote, e-mail them directly to a parent or administrator, or simply keep a file that documents issues with those problem children.  (Works well for falls and scrapes too!)

Want to add a few more apps to take the photo/video idea to the next level? Go to the Getting Smart blog to learn about some apps that use this basic idea-but rev it up using the SAMR model approach to really engage students in rigorous learning-using photos and videos–and an iPad. (Once you read this and decide to try them out-if I can be of any help with coaching or modeling-just shoot me an email!!)

Finding the Why Series -Part One: Introduction to the 4 Cs

In the weeks leading up to the May 28th Technology PD day, we wanted to be sure everyone understood the “why” behind this work.  So often we talk about the how…how does this device work… how to use an iPad…how to use a specific tool or app…how to manage devices in our classrooms.  However, before we can effectively understand the how-we MUST understand the WHY. Why integrate technology? Why do students need it? Why should teachers step out of the box to try “one more thing”?  These are the questions we hope to address in the coming weeks.

We ask that you take 5-10 minutes to read through the posts and watch the videos included.  We wish we had the time to meet each one of you in your buildings to engage in conversations together-but since it is testing season and end of the year activities time-we decided to get the message to you utilizing technology.

If you aren’t willing to ask what if….
Then you will always be left with what is.

“If there are no new ideas, there is no innovation.  And if there is no creativity, there are no new ideas.” -Max McKeown The Innovation Book

What are the 4Cs?

A great company, P21, came on the scene in 2002.  

P21, The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (formerly the Partnership for 21st Century Skills) was founded in 2002 as a coalition bringing together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers to position 21st century readiness at the center of US K-12 education and to kick-start a national conversation on the importance of 21st century skills for all students.

Through this organization a Framework for 21st Century Learning was created.  In this framework the 4Cs were introduced under the Learning and Innovation Skills category: Critical thinking; Communication; Collaboration; and Creativity.

This blog post will look at the 4Cs as a whole group.  In each of the following blogs in this series-we will explore each of the 4Cs in depth.

The 4Cs-an overview

First, take a moment to watch these videos.  They do an amazing job of explaining the 4Cs and giving examples of what it looks like in various classrooms. (If you do nothing else-you MUST watch these videos! They are sooooo good!)

I’ve had the privilege of attending many technology integration conferences.  There is one picture that keeps surfacing over and over again.  You can see it below.

pope comparison

The first picture was taken in 2005 with Pope Benedict’s election announcement.  The picture on the bottom was taking for the same reason with Pope Francis.  Notice anything?  You can count the devices present with one hand. (Anyone see the flip phone?)  However-in 2013, just 8 short years later-it might be easier to count the individuals without a device.  In the bottom everyone has some sort of mobile device.  Think about the years you have been teaching.  I bet it looked similar to the top picture-but if we met our students outside the school walls-they would resemble the bottom picture. It is time to meet our students where they are.  It is time to adapt to how technology is changing our culture.  If you give a device to any child-even ones that can barely speak-most of them would have no problem swiping the screen and access the apps to engage.  However, this is a piece that is missing in many classrooms not only here-but across school districts in our nation.

A Fellow Blogger’s Thoughts

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach is co-founder of the Powerful Learning Practice and an internationally-respected author and speaker. Here is a link to her blog.

In her blog post You Can’t Give Away What You Do Not Own-I think she summarizes the “WHY” beautifully:

Technology, used correctly, has the ability to level the playing field and open doors for all children, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, life experiences, background, or exceptionalities. And so I find myself driven to ensure that all policy makers, educational leaders, teachers and parents with whom I work have the technological vision and skills they need to unleash the unlimited potential in the children under their watch.

We can’t educate students who have been raised in a world of instant, interactive information by simply thinking up clever ways to use computers in the typical row-and-column classroom activities. What Roland Barth calls the “cemetery method”… neat rows and very still.

We have to ask ourselves what principled changes are we making in our districts, schools and classrooms that guarantee we are developing the #futureready  skill set these students will need as they face the challenges of the future- their future.

Are the current curricular strategies we are using helping those we mentor become future scientists, historians, mathematicians, technologists, risk takers and imagineers who will problem find and solve the social ills of the society of the future?

Are we developing skills such as: 

  • Personal and social responsibility on and offline
  • Planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity expressed in both traditional and contemporary means
  • Strong communication skills with a global emphasis
  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Visualizing, design driven problem solving and decision-making

The truth is none of us can give away what we do not own ourselves. Spilling out rhetoric you hear others say on Twitter or at your favorite tech conference will not change anything on the global scale needed in your district, school or classroom. Rather you have to own it, personally first.

Ask yourself, How important is it for someone in your position to model technology use? How do you do that? Do you understand effective ways to learn using social media, digital tools, and devices? Can you share/show how to embed deep learning into transparent use of technology and other connective tools in a classroom setting? If not, why not?

As future ready leaders you need to be present guiding, celebrating and nurturing the culture of change you want to see established. But first you have to own it, then you can give it away to faculty and they in turn can give it away to their students.

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