Category Archives: Teaching Tips

Lecture as Scaffold for Inquiry

Lecture Rozhen
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We ran across this blog post yesterday, Teach Paperless: How to Lecture in a PBL Classroom, and connected it right away to our Inquiry training sessions. One of the topics we discuss in this module has to do with when to use Inquiry and when it is maybe not the best teaching approach to use.

The aforementioned blog post compliments that conversation so well and gives another example of how teacher-directed instruction (specifically lecture) might fit into Project-based/Inquiry-based learning. It seems PBL/IBL methods have been pigeon-holed as being only student-centered, devoid of any teacher-centered practices such as lecturing. However, as pointed out in the Teach Paperless post, problem- and inquiry-based learning can incorporate all kinds of teaching techniques.

In the PBL model described in the post, the teachers involved offered voluntary workshops as a way to inject lecture into their student projects. As struggles arose, the teachers offered these voluntary workshops to students in order to help them revise mistakes in their bibliographical work. The big idea here is to offer lectures that support the PBL/IBL process for students who are interested in the topic as opposed to forcing the lecture on a classroom full of disinterested students.

How might a “lecture workshop” fit into the IBL unit you are planning? How might one involve students in facilitating these lecture workshops in your classroom? What are some other ways to make room for lectures in an IBL unit? How does this approach make a lecture relevant to students and their learning over traditional lectures?

Brooke Higgins and Zac Early are instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center.

Meeting Inquiry Halfway

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Inquiry is a quarter of the eMINTS Instructional Model and it causes a lot of stress among our teachers. It”s a scary thing to give up so much control and move from a model of closed inquiry where the teacher makes all the decisions and asks all the questions to a model that is completely student-led. However, no one is asking anyone to make that leap just yet. Just try meeting inquiry halfway.

First of all, it is nearly impossible to expect students be able to guide learning by developing their own questions independently. There must be some guidance in developing a meaningful inquiry. This is where teachers come in as guides or facilitators. Teaching students how to ask the right questions and providing them the proper scaffolding can help insure that their inquiries are successful.

To do this, consider your next lesson and where it lies on a continuum of inquiry. Is it a closed inquiry lesson? Are you asking all the questions for students to answer? Do you provide the entire process? Answering “yes” to these questions would suggest that you are facilitating a closed inquiry lesson.

The next step is to give up some of that casino online control. Try to limit the questions you provide. Maybe an essential question and one or two guiding questions will help students get started. Spend class time developing other questions that will guide the investigation. When students get stuck, provide examples or questions stems to get them going. When they ask questions that might not achieve your expected outcomes, work with the students to evaluate and revise these questions.

The next step is to help students develop a process. How open or closed this part of an investigation is totally up to you, but it”s also important to figure out what you are willing to leave up to the students. Start by prioritizing what is most important for them to perform. Anything left should left up to student discretion. For example, how students present what they have learned is an easy place to start giving up control. Allow students to choose their final products or at least give them an array of options.

Other small areas where you can give up some control in the effort to make your inquiry lesson more open might include…

  • Give students the essential question and topic. Then, help to guide them in writing guiding and content questions.
  • After dividing students into groups, allow them to create member roles that will help them with their inquiry. You may have to support them by teaching ideas such as interdependence and simultaneous activity.
  • Give students a model of learning such as Bloom”s Taxonomy or Web”s Depth of Knowledge to develop their investigation.
  • With the problem to investigated laid out, help the students plan out a process to meet a set of learning outcomes you expect students to achieve.
  • If your inquiry project requires several processes or goals to be accomplished, allow the students to determine which order these tasks can be completed.
  • Maybe provide the steps that students must follow for an inquiry, but allow them to determine how each step will be completed.

There are many small things we can do in order to make inquiry part of our lessons and units of study without jumping into student-led inquiry headfirst. If you struggle seeing your students as able to complete an inquiry independently, but you want to make your lessons more open, meeting open inquiry halfway might be a suitable compromise.

How comfortable are you with inquiry? What ways have you incorporated inquiry in your lessons? How far are you willing to go toward fully open inquiry?

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

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 1

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Have you ever watched a movie like Wallace and Grommit  or The Nightmare Before Christmas or even films like Toy Story or Up and wished that you were good enough to do that? Have you ever marveled in amazement in what it takes to animate and the frames and frames of footage that have to be created and put in place to produce even one minute of video. The intricacies of this kind of project have to be mind-boggling, right?

Well, I’ve got good news! Animation and creating animated projects is easier that one might think. In fact, not only is it easy to do for one person….but better yet, it’s even easier if you use a team approach with interdependent roles! In fact, it is proving to be, in our district, one of the most engaging ways for students to create a culminating project. They can create movies fast and they love it so much they can’t STOP!!

Stop-motion animation is essentially collecting a series of photographs and rendering them together at a rate of anywhere from 8 frames a second to 30 frames a second. Thanks to some amazing web 2.0 tools, kids (even our youngest) can do this with ease.

At the most basic level, for stop-motion animation projects to be created, you need a storyboard/script, camera, some props, and software that “sticks” all the photographs together. If you are using a PC, a good option is Jellycam. Jellycam has a quick and simple tutorial that will walk a learner through the specifics of the software in just a couple of minutes. It allows the user to easily capture and manipulate the pictures taken with a web cam within the program. Users determine how many images per second and can play back the video as it is being created. It also allows for adding credits and music within the software. JellyCam is a completely free download.

Creating a stop-motion animation project can also be easily created on an iPad2. One favorite App for doing this is StoMo. In this App, you capture images directly into your iPad using the capture button. You can set the rate of pictures being seen per second, arrange and re-arrange the images captured, playback projects as you work on them and use either the front or rear camera. When you export the project to the library, the images are rendered together and the “film” is put in the iPhotos library to be viewed. StoMo does not allow users to add music, voice over, or text to the film but once a project is finished it can be exported to iMovie, Moviemaker, or some other movie editing software to add music, voice over, or text.

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Both of these applications have a key feature that is critical for stop motion creators – onion skinning. If you think about the skin of an onion, it is somewhat transparent. In stop-motion animation it is critical to be able to see the last image taken and be able to compare it to the one about to be taken. Onion skinning allows for the creator to move objects in the films as much or little as desired. Another classroom benefit of onion skinning allows for students, who’s “filming” schedule is often interrupted by the bell, to come back the next day and pick up where left off. They can see the last image captured and begin from there on a new day.

As a teacher, the best part of stop-motion animation projects is that the students REALLY need each other to complete a quality project quickly! In a group of four students each has a vital role. One person serves as the project manager, or director of the project. That person focuses on the vision and directs the project as it progresses. One person needs to focus completely on the software. That person knows exactly how the software works, captures images, and keeps the program running. The other two members of a group are moving manipulatives (characters and props) to create the animated sequences. It takes everyone in the group doing their parts to be successful.

Check out some examples of student stop-motion animation projects below and start planning a project for your students. Stay tuned for the next Stop Motion Animation installment sharing more classroom examples, how-to’s, tips, and resources for classroom stop motion projects.

How might your students express what they have learned with a stop motion animation project in your classroom?

Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Working in the Future

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One of the goals of K-12 education is to prepare our students to enter the workforce when their studies are done. However, in the 21st century, no one really knows what those jobs will look like. So, this preparation is a bit of a mystery.

It’s time we gear our instruction to match this uncertainty. The time to move from low-level content knowledge to complex processes and strategies that are applicable in many situations has arrived. No longer should we depend on 19th century teaching methods to prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century.

There are standards and guiding principles out there to help us accomplish this feat. One list to pay close attention to are the ISTE/NETS standards for students. This list of standards provides a blueprint for the kinds of skills students will need to develop for “an increasingly global and digital world.” For what it’s worth, eMINTS is one of only five programs to receive certification of alignment with these standards.

Another guiding framework is that provided by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Like the NETS standards, this framework lists skills that should be developed for students to be successful in future endeavors. Additionally, instead of listing teaching standards separately, the framework attempts to combine the two components to guide facilitation.

Together, these guiding materials should help teachers shape their lessons to prepare students for a future that’s hard to predict. Instead of focusing on content, these frameworks provide the tools students need to be able to apply to all content areas and, more importantly, careers that may not even exist yet.

Besides utilizing frameworks that address 21st century skills to shape one’s instruction, we can facilitate other activities that prepare students for their future careers. Wired posted a piece last week that suggests how to apply for jobs that don’t exist yet. Try having students create resumes and write cover letters for these jobs with an eye toward future studies and accomplishments that will allow them to reach their goals.

Planning for students’ future careers with an eye on 21st century skills is the best way to prepare students for working in the future. Sometimes, we have to take a step back from state standards and tests to make sure that we are helping students succeed beyond their time in school. Since we don’t really know what that future holds, we have to facilitate learning that is applicable in a variety of ways. Concentrating on 21st century skills and getting past the current limitations of career opportunities available better equips students for their futures.

How are you preparing students for careers that haven’t been created yet? How do you incorporate 21st century skills in your lessons? What are the best ways to include career education in your content area?

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

Is it About Presenting or the PowerPoint?

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Having students create presentations is a very popular learning activity in many classrooms especially classrooms loaded with technology like eMINTS classes. Teachers love to have students create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned about a topic. Students are often times responsible for teaching others about what they have learned. Asking learners to do this encourages them to take responsibility and internalize content while building the necessary life skill of presenting to an audience.

But here is what is often heard when teachers are giving the assignment….PowerPoint PowerPoint PowerPoint…Is making a presentation all about PowerPoint?

There are many ways that students can show what they have learned. While PowerPoint is a great presentation tool it isn’t the only one out there and it isn’t always the most appropriate tool for everyone and every project. Assigning an entire class to use PowerPoint can make the activity easier to manage and requires a teacher to know how to use only one tool. But giving students an option in what presentation tool has its benefits. Students sometimes get more engaged in a project when they have a say in how it will be completed. Giving students choice can also begin to teach them about the benefits of using one tool over another and how the features of one might be able to help them convey their message in a more effective and meaningful way.

The biggest issue I hear from teachers is they think they need to create a different rubric for each option they give students. My suggestion…How about creating one “Presentation” rubric that could be used for all the different types of presentations in many different units. By including things teachers value like quality and quantity of information, creativity and originality of the media, and presentation skills such as clarity, focus, and eye contact, teachers will ensure that students walk away with the necessary understandings and skills they need in the future. Also creating one rubric for all presentations can save teachers precious time in the future.

Another road block many teachers run in to is the feeling that they have know how to use every tool for each option they give students. While having a good understanding of the basics of how a presentation tool works is beneficial, giving students tutorials for tools a teacher is less familiar with is another option. Another option might be to develop student experts that learn about different tools and be a resource for those using that tool.

Be aware, just like with PowerPoint, students can waste time “exploring” all of the bells and whistles and might need to be reminded that content comes first then customizing. They can easily be reminded of this by using a checklist or rubric to keep them on track.

A few alternate presentation tools you may want to offer students in addition to PowerPoint in your next project could include:

  • SMART Notebook
  • Movie Maker/iMovie
  • Prezi – “The zooming editor” create a presentation on a flat canvas and customize it with panning and zooming, imported media, the ability to collaborate and so much more.
  • Google Presentation Tool – now with drawing tools, animations, and the ability to collaborate
  • Zoho Show – Create, Edit and Share Your Presentations Online
  • Empressr – Media presentation tool. “Tell your story anyway you like. Add photos, music, video, and audio, and share it publicly or privately in an instant.”
  • GlogsterEDU – “Make your interactive poster easily and share it with friends. Mix Images, Text, Music and Video.”
  • TimeToast – An interactive visual timeline builder. “Timetoast is a place to create timelines that you can add to your blog or website.”
  • Animoto – “Turn your photos, video clips, and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone. Fast, free, and shockingly easy!”
  • Extranormal – “Telling your story is easy… Choose from hundreds of actors. Type or record your dialogue. Select your background.” It’s that easy to get started.
  • Go!Animate – “Make a video online for free with GoAnimate!”

What might be some presentation tools you and your students like to use when creating presentations?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Three Ways to Share PowerPoint Presentations Online

PowerPoint has grown to be one of the most popular presentation tools inside and outside of the classroom. However, newer versions don’t always convert well on older editions of the software. It can also be easy to forget a copy of one’s presentation. So, having an online copy of a presentation can be valuable. Three online tools make it easy to share PowerPoint presentations anywhere there’s an internet connection.

Google Docs has its own presentation feature, but it also allows users to host and share PowerPoint presentations online. It’s an easy uploading process where users may choose to do additional editing using Google’s interface. Google Docs then allow multiple parties to contribute to the same presentation. Plus, Google Presentations are embeddable on almost any website or blog. The only drawback is that presentations will lose their animations, sounds, and transitions.

Another alternate way to share a PowerPoint is to upload it to YouTube. Unlike with Google Docs, this requires a simple process. When saving a PowerPoint, select a picture format such as PNG or JPEG. Then, load those files onto video editing software such as MovieMaker or iMovie. The slides work as images one can arrange in a project’s timeline. Then, go through the process to export the presentation to YouTube.

The third process for sharing PowerPoint presentations online will transform your presentations completely. The online presentation tool Prezi is something entirely different, but now it allows users to upload PowerPoint files and change them into an engaging format that breaks the traditionally linear nature of presentation software. Once the file is uploaded, users are faced with several options for making their presentations come alive. Just watch…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WZ5iWFYowI0&noredirect=1

No longer do we have to be limited by the traditional desktop presentation as monopolized by PowerPoint. The online tools mentioned above give users new options for presentation and sharing that were previously not possible with PowerPoint presentations.

What are some other ways you have found for sharing PowerPoint presentations? How will these tools inject your PowerPoint presentations with a dose of energy?

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

Collaborative Drawings with Google Docs

Nearly a year ago, Google Docs announced the launch of the stand-alone drawing tool. Instead of opening a normal Google Doc and inserting a drawing, Docs offers the option of opening a single drawing that contains all the sharing and collaborative capabilities of the typical Google Doc application.

To create a collaborative Google Drawing, simply click Create>Drawing. The interface for this drawing tool is nearly identical to that of the insert-able Docs interface. However, there are additional saving and sharing options. To share, users simply click on the appropriate button near the upper-right corner of the window. Options are available to share with others to view or edit. One may select collaborators from their email list or simply open the drawing up to those with the link or anyone.

Once a drawing is shared, users can alter and contribute their own ideas to the drawing. The chat feature that’s available for all Google Docs is also active here. So, collaborators can discuss changes and additions to their drawing. With text, shape, and insertion tools, users can create rich diagrams that go beyond simple drawings. These drawings can stand alone with a unique URL or be downloaded for use elsewhere.

Ideas that would make this collaborative tool useful include…

  • Students collaboratively create a timeline, including images with the dates on their graphic.
  • As a fun alternative, a chess or checkers board may be set up that players can easily manipulate play pieces. Almost any simple game board could be created using Google Drawings.
  • Seating charts or other organizational diagrams useful to classroom management can be created and shared.
  • For an interactive whiteboard that’s truly interactive, share a Google Drawing with students and allow them to contribute in real time, keeping them engaged throughout a class discussion.
  • Since these docs are embeddable, teachers could embed a drawing in a blog post or on their websites as a brainstorm activity or message board.
  • Save chart paper and dry-erase board space typically reserved for parking lots or other brainstorms by sharing a Google Drawing with students to edit.
  • If you have more ideas for Google Drawings, add them by editing here and see the results below:

 

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

Harnessing the Distractions: Multitasking and More

Here is my daily problem….I can be working away on something, like a blog post, then an email notification pops up and I think I have to reply. Then my phone beeps at me and it’s a colleague who wants me to look something up for her on the web cause she”s heading to a training session and needs the link for the session opener and can I please send her the link. When I finally put the phone down I get distracted by the website she wanted me to visit. Ten minutes later find myself lost on YouTube not knowing how I got there and completely forgetting my original task at hand so I do a quick check of my Gmail and maybe Facebook. By the time I remember, the blog post is supposed to be done, and then I have to rush to get something, anything written so I can post it on time. AHHHHHH, what a downward spiral I find myself in day after day.

Between work and my personal life I am online and connected what feels like every minute of every day. While being “plugged in” and available all the time is great it is not always helpful for my productivity and can be very distracting (see above).

Rasmussen College has compiled research from The National Academy of Science and Carnegie Mellon University and displayed it as an infographic. The research shows that the time using media and also trying to multitask has steadily gone up over the past 10 years and that while we might think it makes us more productive it actually leads to stress, inhibition of creativity, inability to solve problems, and slows thinking.

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Your Brain at Work, a book by David Rock, explains how the brain works and why doing things like I try to do only hurts my effectiveness in the end. He does this in easy to understand vignettes focused around examples very similar to those we all face. The sub-title Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long explains how it is helping me to understand how to work more effectively on a daily basis. And really…who doesn’t want to work smarter.

Rock explains that the brain is like a stage and how it takes a lot of energy to keep the show running on that stage. He equates a person’s mindfulness as the director and how much work it is to be the director having to stay highly conscious to what’s going on at all times. In my quest to become less distracted, more focused, and more productive I am learning some new strategies to learn to direct my brain and work smarter. Here are some things I am trying to stay mindful of.

  1. Prioritize the “To Do” List – As I mentioned, Rock suggests thinking of my brain as a stage and you want to get the most important actors (tasks) up first. He says that you need to work on the most important (not the easiest) tasks first since they need casino online the most energy and focus. He is also a big believer in writing things down so that your brain can let go of some information. I start my day now with creating my prioritized to-do list on paper. Then I move on to the task as they are “scheduled”.
  2. Turn off the Distractions – When working on a difficult task I remove distractions before they take over. This means that I may turn off my phone, close out of email, close my office door, and sometimes I even remove myself from my computer totally. I know that the brain gets distracted easily, so I consciously make the decision to remove the distractions that get my brain off task.
  3. Reduce Multitasking – When I find I’m trying to do two things at once I remind myself that my brain can only truly focus on one thing at a time well. To be most effective I need to slow down and continue both tasks knowing I will lose some accuracy and performance or I have to stop one task and focus on the other. Then finish the second task.
  4. Consider Multitasking – If I have to multitask I try to pair a thinking task with a task that is more automatic. Research has shown that the brain can do more than one thing at a time with precision if one of the tasks is embedded and doesn’t take thinking to complete.

With just these few strategies I have started to feel more effective in what I do and guess what…I am only 1/3 of the way through the book. I hope to learn more about my brain and how I can increase my mindfulness in my journey to working smarter and hopefully I can pass on some additional strategies to you.

Have you read Your Brain at Work or other books that have increased your effectiveness and helped you harness your distractions? What tips and strategies would you pass on to help others with these same challenges?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Thinking Inside Your Box: an iPad activity without an iPad

I ran across a blog post this morning from iPads at Burley called Photography with 5th Grade Students. The teachers shared an idea for using photos and their student iPad cameras as a learning tool during a short science lesson. At first I dismissed it thinking “eMINTS classrooms don’t have iPads or access to those kinds of Apps”. But then I started wondering how easy it might be to recreate this learning experience with the hardware and access to online software that eMINTS’ students do have.

The person writing the blog post has a classroom full of iPads with Apps that the students used to make this idea possible. But this can easily be done in an eMINTS classroom as well.

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All eMINTS classrooms have digital cameras and the i3 classrooms have student and teacher laptops with a webcam that is similar to the built in camera on the iPad. Students all also have access to websites, like iPiccy or PicMonkey, where they can upload their pictures, edit them, and then save them back to their computer just like the students did with the Snapseed App in about the same time. In fact iPiccy lets you take a picture directly from your web cam into their editing tool. Students can then share the images easily through email, a class blog or student blog (or classroom website), and even Edmodo just like the students in this blog post did using the Edmodo App.

It’s very easy to think something can’t be done just because you don’t have the exact same hardware or web access. But if you take the time to think about what you do have sometimes you can find a way.

What are some ways you have been using media literacy and technology tools to make engaging classroom lessons for your students?

By the way, I came across this and many other great ideas for using iPads in classrooms through the ScoopIt! iPads in Education curated by John Evans. On the same ScoopIt! I also found a PDF app that lets you make your own PDF file editable without converting it to other format and more.

Brooke Higgins is an aspiring photographer and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this post and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

The Power of Simple Ideas

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It is difficult to find ways to address higher level thinking while helping students understand difficult concepts. The complexity of some topics can be debilitating, so much so that teachers will cover them superficially or avoid these concepts altogether. However, this is not how our brightest minds see difficult content.

MythBusters” Adam Savage makes a living out of demystifying the great enigmas of our time. In the TED talk below, he attempts to demonstrate how we can understand complex scientific concepts by incorporating simplicity and a bit of online casino’s creativity…

Consider how the inertia example might play out in class. Without even defining inertia, students could try to explain what they think happens to cause the ball react as it does. Can they recreate the same phenomena using different materials? This builds a basic foundation for later understanding a concept as complex as inertia. Then, one might introduce the terminology to match whatever definition the students discover. The simplification of such a scientific concept allows students to grasp it on their level.

Even by simplifying scientific knowledge, we don”t dumb it down. The three simplified and creative scientific discoveries Savage describes in his talk require some higher-order, abstract thinking. Simplifying science really just makes it more accessible for our students.

What scientific concepts have you been able to break down into their simplest forms in order to help students understand better? How can simplifying science not benefit student understanding? How can you use this TED talk to help your students better understand difficult scientific ideas?

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