Sign-up Now for eLearning Fall 2012 Courses

Don’t forget to check out the new eLearning for Educators online professional development courses for fall semester at: http://www.elearningmo.org/register/fall-2012/ eLearning courses are available to educators across Missouri and in all other states.

New courses for this semester include “Flipped, Upside-down, and Blended Instruction for the K-12 Classroom” and “Going Mobile K-12: Capturing the Power of Smart Phones, Tablets, Apps, and More.” Many of the standard favorites are also available including “Classroom Management,” “Algebraic Thinking in Elementary School,” and “Google Tools for Schools.”

Courses cost $150 per person and graduate credit is available for an additional $100 per credit hour. Registration closes on September 19. Courses begin October 3 and conclude by November 20. Start your registration process today! For more information about eLearning for Educators see the website at: http://www.elearningmo.org/

Brought to you by the bloggers for the eMINTS National Center.

Crazy about QR Codes

QR Code

Those who know me know that I am a little obsessed with QR (quick response) codes.  You know those little boxes of rectangles and squares that are on almost everything now a days.  They really are just about everywhere when you start looking.

Now I am from Sedalia and the biggest thing getting ready to start this Thursday is the Missouri State Fair.  As I was taking routine drive through the fairgrounds to check on the progress of set-up, I suddenly noticed… QR codes.  A sign is in front of the major buildings on the fairgrounds with a QR code boldly printed on it.  Of course I whipped out my phone and scanned and was pleasantly surprised to see a page of historical information about the building.  The fair has embraced a piece of technology and utilizing it to teach history by creating historic-walking-tours with QR codes.  I love it.

This brought back the memory of a recent conference I attended where a group of teachers presented how they use QR codes in their classroom.  Some of the things mentioned for their use were center directions, interactive bulletin boards, information to parents, and links to resources.   With the combination of ideas from the conference and what the fair is doing, my mind hasn’t stopped thinking about how a school or classroom might utilize QR codes.  I think about scavenger hunts, historic background, or even star student information.

So I would like even more ideas and possibilities.  Please share with me how you have used or would like to use QR codes in your school or classroom?

Terri Brines is an eIS and Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer for the eMINTS National Center.

FUNdamentals of Learning: An Intel Webinar

We have often talked about PLN (Personal Learning Networks) in the blog but I thought I might share a specific site that you may want to add to your PLN.  It is the Teachers Engage site from Intel.  This is a community of educators K-12 and the focus is transforming learning with the integration of technology.  It is free to register and provides many helpful ideas and tools to use in the classroom.

There are discussion boards, webinars, unit plans, and various communities you can join to meet your particular interests and needs.  The resources that are provided are excellent and there are so many of them.

I mentioned webinars, an example of one of the webinars you should attend is tonight, Aug. 7th at 6:00 Central time. Doug Caldwell, Debbie Perkins, and Julie Szaj, all eMINTS Instructional Specialist, will be presenting a webinar called The FUNdamentals of Learning.   In this webinar, they “will present on websites that help teachers and students get, become, stay engaged. Focusing on middle school-aged resources, they will show tools and have participants brainstorm classroom uses with an emphasis on back to school planning.”

If you are interested in the Teachers Engage or just want to check out a webinar, come and join them tonight and see if maybe Teachers Engage is a site you might want to add to your PLN.

Terri Brines is an eIS and Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer for the eMINTS National Center.

Edutopia Hartville Profile: Meet the eIS…Doug Caldwell

Yesterday Edutopia featured an article in their “Schools That Work” Section about the eMINTS implementation in Hartville, Missouri.  Tonya Wilson’s and her 6th grade students were the stars. The article and video both give a glimpse of Tonya’s classroom and how eMINTS has transformed not only her teaching but her own learning as well.

In the video Monica Beglau, Executive Director, and Doug Caldwell, eMINTS Instructional Specialist, share what makes eMINTS successful in both improving teacher effectiveness and raising student achievement. The keys to the success of the program lie in its continued professional development spread throughout the year being relevant to the teaching, connected to the learning, and supported by face-to-face coaching.

Doug Caldwell, the eIS featured in this profile video provides that support and more. The Instructional Specialist at eMINTS take on several roles in the eMINTS organization.

Doug Caldwell, eMINTS Instructional Specialist

Doug lives in Lynchburg, Missouri, (pop. 75). He has been with eMINTS for 12 years and has trained countless teachers. While working at the eMINTS National Center he wears many hats. Not only does he facilitate eMINTS Comprehensive Professional Development sessions he also visits teachers in their classrooms to help them implement what they are learning through coaching, consulting, and collaborating. Doug is a Senior Trainer for the Intel program, presents at local, state, and national conferences, supports district technology staff as part of the eMINTS4Techs program, provides custom PD including training for veteran eMINTS teachers, and serves on various committees. He does all this with his ever present easy going  attitude and smile on his face.

Tell us about your connection with eMINTS. What eMINTS program/s have you participated in? Who is/was your eMINTS Facilitator? What eMINTS accomplishments are you most proud of? And if you haven’t had the opportunity yet to become part of our eMINTS “family”, what might be the most appealing part to you?

The eMINTS National Center is a non-for profit organization that has provided comprehensive research-based professional development services to educators since 1999.

eMINTS Hangout Recap #1

A few eMINTS instructional specialists were able to test out Google’s new “Hangout” feature in Google+ yesterday. The primary intent was to share some facilitation ideas and resources while exploring the possibilities Hangouts offer. Eventually, we would like to invite anyone connected to eMINTS to join us, but yesterday was just a trial run.

What we found is that Google Hangout is an ideal platform for conversation and collaboration. The interface made it easy for our small group of three to speak “face-to-face”, chat, and contribute to a shared Google Document. We also could have recorded the meeting using the broadcast feature but opted not to this time around.

In the future, there is a plan to focus each Google Hangout on a particular topic. Additionally, expect a recording of the meeting to be posted here just in case you can’t make it. Also be on the lookout for the shared document sure to hold many useful ideas and resources. This week’s document will be displayed below.

Next week’s Hangout will focus on how eMINTS facilitators will apply lessons learned from the Center for Adaptive Schools to our professional development program. There will also be time for participants in the Hangout to share online tools they have recently discovered. A video and Hangouts notes will be shared here on either Thursday or Friday.

Would  you be interested in joining our Google Hangouts in the future? Add me to your circles on G+ and I’ll add you to the “eMINTS” circle. The tentative plan is to meet every Wednesday at noon, but we are open to suggestions. If there is enough interest beyond the nine-person limit Google offers, we’ll expand to multiple Hangouts.

Again, let me know that you’re interested and we’ll Hangout!


Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

Participating in the eMINTS Conversation

Maybe the biggest benefit of the Web is the fact that conversations are happening everywhere about almost any topic. The eMINTS community is no different. We have many opportunities for conversation within our many web-based outlets.

This blog is one of those outlets. Commenting or submitting your own blog posts makes Networked Teaching & Learning a perfect location for finding new ideas and resources as well as interacting with others in the eMINTS community. Even if you don’t submit a post or comment, NT&L offers teachers a variety of teaching ideas, online resources, and updates from the eMINTS National Center.

Like many of you, eMINTS has a presence on Facebook. Facebook has made it easier and easier to connect personally and professionally with various networks of people. eMINTS meets you there with a Facebook Page and Group. Both spaces keep you updated as well as allow you to connect to other educators in the eMINTS network.

For those who prefer the professional connections of LinkedIn, eMINTS has you covered there as well. Join the eMINTS Group at LinkedIn as a way to make connections with like-minded educators in a completely professional network.

Two other places to follow eMINTS-related discussions are on Twitter and Tumblr. My Twitter account mostly shares links from this blog, but I will occasionally engage conversations under #edtech and #edchat hashtags. If you’re a Tumblr user, be sure to follow the posts at the eMINTS Tumblr, primarily set up to share resources.

Finally, I will beginning to host Google Hangouts in an attempt to find new and exciting web applications for classroom use. If you are interested in participating in these Hangouts,  add me to your G+ circle and message me about inclusion in the Hangout. Even if the Hangout fills up (there’s a limit of nine participants), it’s an opportunity to chat with other eMINTS educators, possibly setting up your own Hangouts.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Challenging Perceptions in Education

Click for source.

There are entire libraries and databases filled with research in education. However, educators often ignore research in favor of experience and a “feel” for teaching. We teachers have a sixth sense that we know what our students need even if it doesn’t jive with the research.

These perceptions are valid, though. After years of experience and tradition, many times how we facilitate learning doesn’t require researched methodology. We know our students and what they need. We know what to expect and how to respond in the classroom.

However, perceptions can be wrong.

Take same-sex classrooms. It’s a relatively popular trend in public education. Classrooms are populated by either boys or girls in order to eliminate deficiencies caused by gender constructs. Girls are more willing to take leadership roles and boys are more able feed off of the competition they generate among themselves, or so the thinking goes. Most of this thinking is based on psychology and a sense among educators that “this just makes sense.”

However, the research on classrooms segregated by gender suggests otherwise. Research is showing that single-sex segregation increases stereotyping and prejudice among students. Also, single-sex classrooms narrow students’ skill sets and interests.

Not only is the research calling single-sex classrooms ineffective and even detrimental, some are looking into whether this approach is even lawful. The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting single-sex classrooms all across the nation. It is the ACLU’s contention that single-sex education perpetuates stereotypes in much the same way that race-based segregated schools once did in this country.

Still, some educators just feel like this approach will work, ignoring the research.

Another example of how our perceptions of students and how they learn happens in the area of technological proficiency. It is perceived that the millennials (those born and raised around the turn of the century) are well-prepared for the technological requirements of the modern workforce. However, just because they are completely surrounded by technology does not mean that they are adept at using it productively.

These perceptions can be quite damaging. The assumption that students know how to best use productivity software and even code leads to a lack of instruction and guidance in these areas, failing to properly prepare them for college or the workforce. It’s akin to assuming every student can read at the same level when they enter a particular grade.

Although we as teachers have experience and instinct on our side, it just isn’t enough in every instance. Turning to data gleaned from formative assessments and academic research to make instructional decisions will only enhance our perception. Expertise can help us sort through this data and make the research work for us.

Take eMINTS for instance. The eMINTS Instructional Model and curriculum is not a collection of arbitrary methodology based on perception. We spend a lot of time researching tools, pedagogy, and methods to bring to teachers. The research on our program has shown mostly success. Even when implementation hasn’t been overwhelmingly successful, the eMINTS model has never been found to be a detriment to student achievement.

Our perception of eMINTS is based on fact, not just a feel.

As you reflect on your year and begin to plan for a new year, challenge your perceptions. Is there research that backs up your gut feeling? What does student data tell you about your classroom approach? Challenge long-held perceptions with research. In the end, your time will spent much more effectively and efficiently.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

 

If Something Bores You, Dig Deeper

I caught a bit of inspiration at the tail end of the following TEDEd video, “The Wacky History of Cell Theory.”

The video conclude with the following quote:

If something bores you, dig deeper. It’s probably got a really weird story behind it somewhere.

Of course, as professionals who have chosen to teach our favorite subject(s), little about these subjects bore us. However, that doesn’t often apply to our students. Many topics bore them. While the message in the video could apply to students taking some initiative to dig deeper for those “weird” stories behind “boring” content, the responsibility also lies with teachers to find and share these stories.

Storytelling is vastly overlooked in a standards-driven educational environment. However, just because standards and curriculum direct what we should teach it doesn’t mean that we can’t find new and interesting ways to deliver said content. Imagine how much more engaged students would be if there were stories like the one above for every content strand and state standard.

Maybe some of our work or even casual reading choices this summer could be re-purposed for digging up these stories. Let’s find ways to tell the stories behind the topics that bore our students most. Better yet, let’s have our students dig up these stories and tell each other.

The key is to remember that all the content we cover in school has an interesting story or collection of stories behind it. This is what connects this content to the real world. Knowing that an idea learned in school has a story involving real people with common obstacles makes that content even more authentic in its origins. Plus, a really engaging story can be something to which students can connect.

How have you used storytelling to further your students’ understanding of a topic? Which topics lend themselves best to storytelling? In what ways could you imagine storytelling helping your students understand various concepts?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

Constructivism on YouTube

Constructivism is a key component of the eMINTS model. Basically, the belief is that students learn better when they build their own knowledge from observation and inquiry. However, the challenge is providing adequate experiences that allow for this knowledge construction.

One solution for providing these experiences is YouTube. On a daily basis, users are uploading phenomena that need to be seen in order to understand.

For example, watch the video below…

What do you see?

The video shows a 747 sitting idle on the runway. However, strong winds literally lift the giant plane off the ground. The wind flowing over the wings are enough to slightly lift the plane without any assistance from the plane’s engines.

This is the point where students consider the reasons why this might happen. Ideas about the air flow over the wings would eventually arise. At some point, students would consider the shape of the wings as being a contributing factor. Further discussion may even make connections between the wind and how air moves over the wings when the engines are running.

Student observations (along with some supplemental information about the shape of the wings) would lead to Bernoulli’s Principle. This principle explains how a wing’s shape contributes to lift. Air flows more quickly over the top of the wing thanks to its downward curve. Quicker moving air means lower air pressure. If the pressure on top is less than the pressure below, the plane moves upward. The only difference in the video and a plane actually taking off is that the air is moving due to wind instead jet engines moving the plane through the air.

A video like the one above can demonstrate a complex idea like Bernoulli’s and give students something to which they can connect. This is not the only example found on YouTube. There are countless natural phenomena all over YouTube. It just takes a little searching.

How have you used YouTube to expand your students’ experiences? How have you used YouTube to help students construct knowledge? What other kinds of phenomena could you find on YouTube for this sort of activity?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Looking Toward the Future

xkcd

Last week, I read an interesting post on David Warlick’s 2¢ Worth blog. In “Becoming Future-Ready“, Warlick points out the trouble with predicting the future based on current knowledge through film interpretations of the future. Depictions of mobile computers space travel in 1984′s 2010 (sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey) were fairly inaccurate, almost laughable.

This happens often in film, literature, even in governmental and institutional policy-making. We make predictions based on what we already know. It is impossible to foresee every development or discovery that will change the direction of society and culture in the coming decades.

A good representation of the limitations of a particular time period looking toward future innovation comes in the satirical videos portraying current social media tools in the context of past decades. For example, here’s a look at Google had it been invented in the 1980′s:

Granted, this video is made with hindsight being as perfect as it is, but it is not beyond possibility that such predictions would have occurred 30 years ago. Based on the technology of that time period, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to have predicted what Google (among many other websites) would look like or function in the future. These predictions would have been limited by the constraints of the times.

Still, as Warlick points out, we insist on predicting what this future will look like for our students. This persistence to predict what students will need after they graduate and enter the workforce is even “arrogant.” How can we accurately predict what students will need to know 10, 15, 20 years from now with only the knowledge we currently possess?

Warlick summarizes what needs to happen perfectly:

How our children learn is critical today, not so much as a point of pedagogy, but for the development of a distinct and most important skill – learning.

Basing what and how we teach on the past is limiting for our students. What needs to be fostered is a love of learning that goes beyond rote memorization. After all, we are preparing them for a future we cannot comprehend. So why not prepare them for something bigger than a standardized test? Why not prepare them for life?

What skills and/or knowledge do you see as necessary for our students’ future? What do you do to prepare students for a future we can’t predict?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.