Hook ME or Lose ME

Attention span is defined as the “the amount of time that a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted.” Many studies have shown that people will only be able to maintain concentration for no longer that 8 seconds. This is known as focused attention.”Focused attention is a short term response to stimuli that attracts attention.” To simply explain this definition, think about all the different stimuli that people experience every day, every hour, every minute. It can be overwhelming and impossible to think about all the little details/ stimuli that people experience with their senses throughout the day. Thankfully, the human brain is able to sustain knowledge and information that we receive by processing it into short or long-term memory. A lot of research has shown that adult’s attention span is no more than 20 minutes on average, while infants at the age of 2 have an attention span of 5 minutes. Why is this information so important to educators around the world? As we continue to advance in the technological 21st century; if educators can not hook a child or teen into learning, than attention will be lost!

A recent blog post has suggested the importance of making sure students are engaged with their work. No matter the topic, if the students were not invested in their project, they were not invested in their learning. Simply put, they didn’t care about it. Apathy can be a daily struggle for many teachers. Investments for students are short term.(sometimes only 8 seconds) Therefore, this knowledge is a powerful tool for teachers to more effectively engage their students? I was inspired to write about this topic because my personal experience of losing interest in my learning when I didn’t understand or as a youth into the lesson. I truly believe using this knowledge is crucial to ensure students are engaged in their learning. To read more about engaging students in the classroom, read the following article that inspired me to respond to this topic.


20 Ways to Adapt the Science Lab

This article, posted by Leah Andrews, really resonated with me because it directly relates to my daily teaching. The post is entitled “20 Ways to Adapt the Science Lab” and can be found at the following link: http://www.paulakluth.com/readings/differentiating-instruction/20-ways-to-adapt-the-science-lab/. The article focuses on students with more severe disabilities, but can also apply to those students who are more reluctant to participate in a science lab because they do not understand the concepts or how to use the equipment, or often I find, they have lower comprehension, and therefore have trouble reading and understanding the procedure for a lab.

Many of the suggestions listed focus on adapting the labs so that each student can complete an aspect of the lab that aligns with their strengths. For example, students who are stronger with calculations will be responsible for that role. Others focus on adapting the labs themselves or the materials used in the labs.

I found this to be a great article/post because it simplifies a topic that seems very daunting when you try to do come up with ideas by yourself. The article also gives many ideas that allow to adapt a lab for a large portion of your class at one time by doing one simple thing, such as idea 6 which states giving students roles based on their strengths. Some of these ideas I have thought of before, but many of them are new to me and should help my students that tend to struggle, succeed.

The goal of every teacher is to ensure success for all students and I encourage all teachers, science teachers especially, to read this post.

Social media a modern day tool

I’ve always been intrigue with the debate of whether social media is a distractions and waste of time or a way for people (in particular students and teachers)  to collaborate effectively and productively with each other. Recently I  came across a blog post by Lisa Nielsen titled “Newsflash: Social media is real life.” In her post Lisa argues that social media is not a distraction, but a modern day tool  that can be used to foster, grow and transform learning. That adults and teachers have to compete with mobile devices for attention and the best way to win their attention is to become a partner with them. I especially like this last statement of becoming a partner; often I hear of the battle that teachers are having for attention versus student mobile devices. If students are using social media to engage with one another then teachers should be actively seeking ways to engage with students this way also. Students are more inclined to give you attention if you can relate to them in ways that they find interesting. Instead of battling the social media movement, how about learning something new and adding social media as a tool to your teaching tool kit. As Lisa Nielsen puts it adults need to put aside their misconceptions about social media before they are left behind.


Spreading the Word

On April 19th my class of forty-five grade five and six students along with myself, my teaching partner and our educational assistant went silent for 24 hours. We joined thousands of other people across the globe to raise money and draw awareness to children without a voice through Free the Children’s “We Are Silent” campaign. Using technology and social media we were able to be silent yet loud about this cause. Our students facebooked, tweeted and blogged about the event. It was fantastic to be able to show our students the positive and powerful side of social media. I strongly believe in the power of positive modeling in teaching yet I find we spend a lot of time and energy telling our students how not to use social media. It was refreshing to me to be able to show them how great it can be. I was also impressed with some of the self-reflection that happened as the students were blogging.

“It has been really fun so far and the biggest challenge so far is trying not to talk. I feel like no one is listing when I try to talk to them on a whiteboard or stickies. I feel bad for the kids without a voice since no one is listing to them and there just screaming to say something but no one’s listing.” Tyler P

“I feel really really bad for those kids that don’t have a voice. It would be terrible not being able to say something.” Dennis H

“We are now silent for 24 hrs. for those who don’t have a voice. It has been pretty nice and quiet around here with no one talking. The biggest challenge is not being able to talk to your friends and family for 24 hrs. I find it really unfair that kids around the world are being held against their will. It is not fair that they don’t get to live a happy life like us.” Caleb H

Student Blogging

I was scrolling through my twitter feed when I noticed a blog post by George Couros entitled 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog.  It is a very important part off learning to have students partake in reflecting on their own learning.  Students can learn so much about how they learn, what they learn, and can even encourage the learning of others through the use of blogging.  My 2/3 classroom has a classroom blog to share what they have learned with each other and parents have the ability to subscribe to this blog and to take part in the conversations.  As my students are young and always very excited to use technology, the classroom blog was thrilling for them.  They are helping to write the posts and everyone puts their ideas in.  The problem we as a class are having right now is with parents.  It is very difficult to educate parents on the value of this activity, that it is safe, that a positive digital footprint is being created, and that it gives them the opportunity to interact with their child through a different venue.  I am struggling that most of my parents do not subscribe to this blog nor take part in the conversation despite a great deal of information going home and how positive it can be.  The love of this activity is dwindling because younger students want their parents to take part in their activity and want them to be involved.  I would love to hear how others get parents to buy in and to participate in blogging.


Show Me

As a teacher I am continually searching and finding new material, lessons and experiments for my students, reading posts and pages, watch video and listen to audio. After all the time spent searching I usually conclude with a really good video. I know I learn much of my new material with videos. It seems that I benefit from watching videos and I know my students benefit and enjoy learning from videos, it seems logical that I would create videos for my students. Instead of taking notes, which does have it place, I think I would be more beneficial to watch a movie of a math problem being solved in live time with audio to review concepts and lessons. Although this seems difficult and time consuming it is actually quiet simple using the ShowMe App. The nicest part of this program is that it can be uploaded to our students Facebook page, and takes the stress out of being sick and missing class. Even better some of the best teachers are students. I think this would be a great way for my students to show their learning and share it with others. I am excited to start using it.

Trying New Things

This past week my class took on writing for the 184 project. Students were given the simple question, “What did you learn today?” They were then given laptops and set loose. I was impressed with the variety of programs that the students chose to utilize to tell about what they had learned. Programs like voice thread, storybird, glogster, bitstrip, among others were all popular choices. What surprised me most was the engagement from some students who often do not buy in to these kinds of projects. One area I struggled with is having to know these programs myself to keep up with the students learning. There are so many choices and it can take a lot of time sort through and figure out which programs work best for different desired outcomes. To solve this, both my students and I are learning that we don’t always rely on finished products to gauge learning. Some of the best work I witnessed in my room was never submitted to the 184 project because of technical difficulties or because we couldn’t figure out how to share projects but that doesn’t mean that great self-reflection wasn’t achieved. We also use a lot of peer teaching in my room. I watch and learn as my students show each other how they navigate through different programs. I would love to hear what kind of programs you are using in your classroom as well as any helpful tips on using these programs more effectively.

Show Me

“What we see travels to the brain 60X faster than what we hear” – Wes Fryer

“Show me, please!” How many times have I said that in my life? How many times have my students asked the same of me?  How does digital media and cloud learning enter the picture?

Graphic is the property of showme.com http://www.showme.com/pics/what-is-showme.png

As a visual learner, I learn best when I can see what is happening. Brain research supports this for all learners, especially if we combine multiple learning styles to access various parts of the brain.

 The best learning “involve(s) receiving information through auditory, visual or kinesthetic means (Clemons, 2004). Ninety percent of learning is visual with eighty-five percent of the brain wired for visual processing.” in Clemens

I often grab a piece of paper and sketch a map or a relationship drawing when explaining something to someone else. I love maps, videos, photos, live presentations and picture puzzles. I read instruction manuals from my new car and places like Ikea that show pictures of step by step directions. I love PD sessions where someone actually guides me through the steps on how to do something and then gives me some time to do it for myself. And, I’m not alone … good learning often involves “show me” activities.

Being able to “show me” is a key to why digital learning is better. Multimedia at the tip of my fingers has changed the way I teach  and how students demonstrate what they have learned. For example, Smart Notebook allows me to create learning situations that involve manipulating text, graphics, sound and video in an interactive way.  YouTube and Teacher Tube afford me the opportunity to show my students many concepts and ideas through ready-made videos. Digital cameras and smart phones have made movie making instantaneous.  I’ve discovered Infographics and follow them on Twitter.  My Twitter account is my portal to a PLN where other teachers show me what they’ve learned, often linking me to a site that shows me the value in the classroom.  When I download new apps on my iPad the first thing I look for is the tutorial on how it works – it is better if it combines text, voice, graphics and interactivity so I can progress at the speed of my thoughts and learning.  Is it all about me? No, it is all about the students and what they can show me.

I’ve come to love this new cloud learning tool because it is a way for me to show my students and a way for my students to show me what they’ve learned. During this last quarter of the school year, I’m challenging myself  my students use “Show Me”. The task will be to show me what they’ve learned.  It is online, easy to use and includes access to useful graphics at the click of a button.  You can make the work private and/or download the MP4 files, or you can add it to their database.

Since Bryn Spence introduced me to “Show Me”, I have been playing around with it.  I haven’t posted much, but I’ve created many Show Me presentations, yet I’ve only made one public. (It is not polished, and needs to be shortened, so be gentle with me.) and watched many, many more.  I created it on my IPad in less than 1/2 hour.
It is going to be so cool to have the students create the visuals that we will use and replace as the students demonstrate their visual side. With their permission, I’ll show them to you.
(technical note: since this online community is for everyone – you will need to preview all material.  I have found some use of profanities.  When signing up, Young students will need to send an email requesting parental permission before being granted access.)