Posts in Category: Blog

Ways to Help Students Succeed

High school is one of the most challenging stages for a student. He or she goes from being a child enjoying life to a student being prepared for the SAT, the ACT, and all the various application process of each college and university of his or her choice. The culture shock may be enough to surprise a well-doing student into paranoia, and paranoia is never good for sustainable grades. Even worse, it can get in the way of healthy living and the development of healthy relationships. What are the ways to help students succeed, for us parents?

Ways to Help Students Succeed

Invest in Tutoring

According to a survey by ACT, Inc., over 50% of students who enter college are not ready for the classes offered. In the 2012 ACT exam, over 25% did not reach the “college readiness benchmarks” for the four core subjects: English, science, reading, and math. Overall, 60% only reached the benchmarks for two out of the four subjects. Tutoring, tailor-fit to your child’s needs and targeted universities, can eliminate the worries and struggles in college preparation he or she might be dealing with. It can also give your child someone to discuss fears and hopes in college with, reducing stress.

Invest in Brain Training

If your child is active in sports, you might be worrying about how to make sure he or she can be more actively engaged in a cognitive, or thinking, way. After all, one of the challenges is time that is spent in practice, in games, in traveling. In that case, find a center where your child can receive brain training. Cognitive training comes in the form of exercises designed to help a student retain information and process it no matter where they are–showering after practice, on the road, or whizzing through their homework. It eliminates the need to be glued to a desk in the middle of the night, catching up on all the lessons to study.

Invest in Homework Space

If this was important before, it is three times as important in this stage of your student’s life. Create a place somewhere the student enjoys being, dedicated to a certain level of isolation and quiet that will help him or her achieve complete focus. First, make sure there’s a place with enough surface space for your student to spread out as many notes and papers as he or she wants. Portable folding tables are magic for this purpose. Allow your student to decorate or set up the space according to their taste, and even provide them with a desk lamp for a feeling of ownership.

Ways to Help Students Succeed: Invest in Them

High school is one of the most exciting and thrilling times in a student’s life. He or she is learning more about the environment, the future, his or her hopes and dreams. As parents, when we invest in helping our students sustain a healthy life with beneficial relationships by giving them an academic boost, we make it possible for them to have the best high school life they can possibly have.

Why Getting a Masters in History is Important

Stepping up after your bachelor’s degree is like being in a crossroads – you need time to figure out which way to go. Many people take up their Master’s degree to give them more aptitude and edge once they muster the guts to go out and start applying for a job. In the same way, this also provides them a time to space out and prepare for the next steps after graduation. More often than not, some do opt for a Master’s degree to get into an extra ride to the university way of life.

A Masters in History

While dwelling in the past could be a negative thing for relationships gone sour, historians believe that the past can definitely teach us a thing or two of how to shift gears and do better at present and in the future. Taking up Masters in History are for people who are precise and detailed in terms of memorizing and understanding chronological events. This also needs a lot of research and analytical skills to be able to understand and

True enough, taking up online Masters in History or any other specialization doesn’t promise an easy ride. One must be prepared to take on a daunting challenge to prove it can be done – despite odds. One of the reasons why people pursue a Master’s degree is because majority of employers now prefer people who have taken up a Masters or higher education. Not to burst that bubble, but education certainly is a big business nowadays; but the real question is – is it worth it?

Here are some of the reasons why getting a Masters in History is important:

  1. Adds up Credibility. A Masters in History is important as it does not just beef up your CV but also adds more credibility to your skills. If you are considering taking up Masters and pushing yourself a notch higher, then you must consider the financial responsibility associated with pursuing higher studies. Yes, it’s not cheap to get a Masters but it’s achievable.
  2. Competitive edge. If you want to stand out amongst the competition, then you might need a Master’s degree. Practically everyone has a bachelor’s degree; but not everyone has a Masters. This will definitely give you that corporate edge in any industry because you will be classified as an expert. While a Masters is important, so is a comprehensive working experience. While the academia could be proud of a Masters graduate, the real-life corporate jungle needs people who are trained and experienced in the skills and attitude they need for the job.
  3. Higher pay and incentives. According to the Bureau of Labor Studies conducted in 2012, people who take up Masters in History get a median weekly salary that range from $1,300 while those who attained bachelor’s degree earn an approximate of $1,066 per week. Also, opportunities for promotions are stronger with a Master’s degree.
  4. Job Security. Earning yourself a Masters badge means that you will have a security of tenure as related studies also show that unemployment rate is relatively low for a person with a Masters in History at only 3.5%. This means you get to land a dream job and keep it for the long run.
  5. Robust marketplace demand. There is indeed a strong demand for employees with a Master’s degree. Having earned a reputation of an expert, more companies are looking to hire you at a higher rate than usual. More companies now are looking for competent individuals with higher studies on specific fields.

Having a Masters in History certainly gives you an added layer of credibility. Companies and educational institutions are looking to hire people who know a little bit of everything, and a master of one niche which is why a Masters will certainly attract more employers into offering you a stable lucrative position. This gives you more options in the professional stable because companies will look to tap into your expert channels rather than you looking for a job as most undergraduates do.

A Masters in History will certainly give you the leverage to get into the job you want. Most people who take up Masters in History become teachers or professors in prestigious universities while others become researchers, historians, and even journalists or writers of their own books. The diversity of professional choices is only available to those who have earned their stripes in the industry they serve. You become relevant and a scarce industry expert worth keeping.

Top 10 Apps in an Established 1:1 iPad School

The Stephen Perse Foundation has had a 1:1 iPad programme running for two years now. Whilst there are many subject specific apps utilised for learning, it is interesting to note how the top 10 apps are all multipurpose. The list below also includes an indication of how workflow is developing for the school and how an app is chosen when and where it is appropriate. For more information about how we are using the iPads as a tool for learning please visitSPFlearning.com

Explain Everything

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Simply the most versatile education app available. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard and screen casting tool that suits the needs of teachers and students alike. The app allows you to animate, annotate and narrate presentations and explanations to your audience. It is widely used across the foundation to record plenaries and provide audio feedback. It is also the app of choice for students when they are required to provide more than written material. The key to its success can found in its intuitive interface and export options. A must have app in education.

Socrative 1.0 and 2.0

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Socrative is a very simple and effective assessment tool that can be used during any part of the learning process. A teacher can pose questions to a group which they answer on their device with the information directly relayed back to host. It is available as long as there is an internet connection. The most common use for Socrative is as an ‘exit’ ticket. Students answer four or five questions at the end of a lesson so the teacher has feedback to base the next lesson on. All data is sent directly to the teacher’s email account as soon as they end the quiz. Very useful for planning. Socrative 2.0 is currently in beta and has added functionality and analytics that makes the franchise a simple yet import part of the digital toolkit.

iMovie

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iMovie has always been a favourite with students, but it is interesting to see how it has developed as an educational tool. As well as an obvious movie creation and editing app, iMovie provides a platform to express learning. The ‘trailer’ option guides students to capture snapshots to show learning as well as input text to frame their ideas. These ‘trailers’ are then interesting starter videos or revision tools. iMovie projects take over where a student or teacher may want to add greater depth. Only today a reception class were using iMovie to show their understanding of joining words when describing a recent trip.

iTunes U

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iTunes U is often referred to as our learning platform. The iTunes U courses provide the framework and resources so the teachers can get on with what they do best. Removing the need for photocopying, internet searching and distribution, iTunes U supports a culture of creation and collaboration. Having access to everything required on one device can’t be underestimated and its popularity is growing by the day. Add to this the ability to update any resource and make it available to all at the tap of a screen and you have a very powerful learning platform.

Showbie

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Showbie allows you to assign, collect and review student work. As a tool it meets a demand that used to be supplied by a school VLE. The difference here is the ability to ‘open in’ a multitude of apps to create content or provide feedback. A couple of taps sees a student assignment opened and annotated with audio feedback or viewed in the teachers app of choice. It is then just as simple to return the assignment to the student for immediate viewing. Showbie works very well with larger classes where the transfer of information is common and often.

Edmodo

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Edmodo fulfils the need of a collaboration and communication tool within the school environment. The secure site is suitable as nobody can gain access to a group without the unique code. Many students use Edmodo to question their peers over challenging questions and as a platform to collaborate on projects. It is interesting to see how groups communicate under the tutelage of a teacher. Edmodo is also used as a tool to model good practice on the internet. For many students it is their first interaction with social media in a controlled environment and Edmodo has proved a very useful component of our esafety programme.

Notability

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As a note taking app, Notability stands out from the crowd. With all the tools available to record information, Notability is a real favourite with our students. The most common use can be seen as students take a picture of a resource or experiment and then jot down information to highlight key terms. Whilst we encourage handwritten notes as well, it is interesting to see how Notability folders are an important part of the learning process. The export functions within Notability also make it suitable for the students as they develop their digital portfolios.

Keynote

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Keynote is the presentation tool of choice for students particularly when faced with a class or school presentation. The students are very positive about the ease with which they can convey a message using multimedia. There is distinct attention paid to the use of transitons to emphasise a point and interestingly an engagement with the requirements of the future world they will work in. Students often equate job applications and progress with presentations so using Keynote to express learning is very desirable. Ask a student to convey their learning and it is likely to be Keynote they turn to.

Book Creator

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From simple projects to a school terms worth of learning, Book Creator has become a handy vessel for curation and creation. With the ability to add video to explanations as well as ‘widget’ type effects, students of all ages enjoy using Book Creator. It deserves its inclusion due to the ease with which all tools can be used and the export functions available. Stand alone projects are ably supported by Book Creator as it acts as a working portfolio to document the process. A favourite of the Visual Arts department.

Pages

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Pages is simply the ‘go to’ app of choice when Stephen Perse Foundation students are asked to produce a piece of written work. Functionality and ease of use again mean that this app is a favourite amongst students. There are further layers to the app though that enhance the learning process. Firstly, the templates remove the need to spend time over layout and formatting. When the task requires a student to convey their learning, time no longer wasted on making the document look good. Secondly, the multimedia aspect of Pages elevates it as a document creator. As well as the written word, our students submit photos and video to support their views, all professionally laid out. If Stephen Perse Foundation students are submitting a formal piece of work, then Pages is the app they’ll chose.

It is worth noting that our iPad 1:1 programme is underpinned by GAFE with Google Drive as our cloud based storage solution.

Why Innovate?

A quick glimpse into the arena of education debate highlights just how disrupted children’s learning is in 2014. From changing curriculums, inspection madness and the implementation of new technology, this is a period of instability and concern. As a profession, teaching is driven by so many outside influences that it is easy to see why teachers often take to forums to voice their displeasure with this or that. We all know the only thing that matters is learning, yet I wonder how much precious time is wasted on the distractions?

Right now I could make a case for or against innovation in education. The need to consolidate, meet standards and react to government pressure, points to innovation being yet another distraction. Yet, in my opinion, this is the wrong way to look at our situation. I grow weary of the debate over pedagogy and teaching methods.  A teacher will look to provide as rounded an experience as possible for their students, given their context. Of course, the number of students seen per week will have an effect. Naturally there isn’t enough time to see every student on a 1:1 basis. So we all strive to teach to the best of our abilities. We are all learning every step of the way and we will make mistakes. So why do some educators worry about innovation?

To put my own situation in context, I currently work at the Stephen Perse Foundation, a school with exceptional results. It would be easy for the school to rest on its laurels and continue to do things as it always has. Yet it doesn’t. Led by its principal, Tricia Kelleher, the foundation seeks to innovate in order to enhance the learning process for all its children. An environment where 1:1 iPads are the norm and conversation is driven by  ‘the best possible conditions for learning’ the school will strive to innovate where appropriate.

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Take the current learning space development as one example. The library has been converted into the ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’. A place where the physical, digital and print worlds are brought together. Concerned about the instant connection to digital platforms, the school took the decision to create an innovative new space. Physical artefacts lead the individual to a digital resource that includes an iBook and video content about the display, adding layers of information. In turn this leads the learner to the books that are available from the shelves. The school seeks to engage the learner with an understanding that not everything should be viewed on a screen. Of course this also leads to an ever changing environment that is much more flexible than the library of old. Our next two exhibitions point towards the thinking behind the project:

Sherlock’s Clues: the physical exhibition will contain no text at all, consisting only of 6 object-clues  from the original stories and TV series (walking stick, fob-watch, top-hat, iphone etc), raised on plinths. An Aurasma-linked iBook will take students to the crime that the clue helped to solve. It will also encourage them to explore more complex topics such as deductive reasoning, media representations of Holmes and forensic science. One of the clues will be a written code that can be solved inside the book.’

World War I: A larger-scale exhibition that will spill out into the garden outside the cabinets. Again, the iBook will allow us to connect the two areas, and free us up from using too much textual interpretation in the space itself. This approach also encourages students to focus on the historical peculiarity, and material texture and detail, of the artefacts in front of them, before they are confronted with reams of explanation.’ (Digital curator – Ms K Joice)

The iPads and ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’ are an indication of what is available to us because of technological developments. The cabinets are a vision that has been realised by the iPad acting as a portal into a world that was much more difficult to access before. It would be wrong not to take advantage of these innovations.

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At this point it is worth mentioning that the debate around iPads in the classroom will continue for many years to come. I’m not here to extol the virtues of the device, suffice to say it was the right tool for the Stephen Perse Foundation two years ago and it doesn’t appear to affect grades, if that is your metric.  However, I would debate the argument that students are better off without some form of personalised technology in the classroom. Of course they are only a tool and the teacher is still the most important resource in a child’s education. But, denying individual access to resources and tailored content alongside video/audio feedback? I’m not sure anyone could defend the teacher/textbook model in that context.

Which brings me to the next stage of innovation. The development of a space twice the size of a ‘normal’ classroom that is informed by mobile technology. Flexible furniture, airplay enabled projection and collaborative areas allow teachers and students to adapt the learning environment. Coupled with our digital platforms, iTunes U, Google Drive and Edmodo this will allow teachers to mould the learning process with the typical barriers removed (photocopying, set classroom layouts etc). Take a look at Don Orth’s iLab as an example of the type of learning environment we are trying to provide:

This Is A Great Time To Be A Teacher

Choice. A frequently used word when talking about pedagogy in 2013. The options available to teachers and their learners are countless. The variation in a child’s school day should be applauded and the engagement with learningis an obvious consequence. This is a great time to be a teacher.

I’m convinced that the way I was taught in the 80’s and 90’s didn’t prepare me particularly well for 21st Century employment. This is not to lay blame at the door of my teachers. They were well equipped with the ‘tools of the trade’ at the time but lesson after lesson was largely filled with note taking. I do remember facts from my schooldays and I was well prepared for the exams. However, few aspects of my classroom learning helped with my post school days. I had very engaging teachers from a presentation point of view, but, on reflection, I don’t remember being challenged frequently. If I’m honest I learnt more from the non-examined areas of school life that allowed me to understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and collaboration.

The last three months of my own teaching career have cemented the opinion that pedagogy is shifting for the better. A change of schools has introduced me to the International Baccalaureate that is streets ahead of its A level counterpart. As well as its breadth and depth the Theory of Knowledge component challenges learners and teachers to think twice about the process in which they are involved. It is so important to our Foundation that every student takes the ToK course in the sixth form even if A levels are their chosen certificate. Indeed upon visiting a 2013 school leaver at Utrecht University it was interesting to note that she believed the ToK course was the most useful aspect of her sixth form learning.

At this point I should state I have moved past the debate of whether tablets or smartphones should be used in the classroom. A tool is just a tool. If you want students to write notes in lesson time and listen to the ‘story’ then a tablet isn’t necessarily worth considering. This is an excellent option for learning in some circumstances and should not be challenged for the sake of argument. However, because of the availability of tablets, we can now change the learning process and vary its components. Five years ago it was virtually impossible to expose learners to the wealth of resources we can now at the touch of a screen. Tablets allow the learner to record video evidence of their science experiment and more importantly their explanation. Tablets provide a platform for real time feedback from every learner. Tablets allow the learner to access multiple resources at their desk in the classroom where appropriate. Tablets allow the learner to collaborate with peers in the classroom, down the hall, across the country and the other side of the world…. you get the idea.

These options are available, where appropriate, in the learning process and are made possible by the technology. As a teacher it is my job to select the right time to use a tool and guide the learner. It has never been easier to challenge a group of students with various stimuli. I am grateful that the technology exists to remove the barriers to the lessons I have always wanted to teach but found impossible to put together. Even a simple back channel (usingTwitter or Edmodo) allows students to have a voice where they otherwise might be shy or fearful of asking a simple question. A challenge that every teacher faces. (As an aside it is interesting that the technology that exists to connect our students is having a dramatic effect on teachers. The power of social media to engage, provoke debate and challenge opinion has led to a platform that can only benefit the profession.)

It is a great time to be a teacher because we have the tools available to us that provide increased scope for engagement, stimulation and creativity. It is a great time to be a teacher because there are qualifications available that challenge the exam factory ideal. It is a great time to be a teacher because we are so connected with information and each other that opportunity is presented daily.

It is a great time to be a teacher because we need to learn with our students.

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THE STARTING POINT?

It is interesting to reflect how this simplification of iPad key tools has changed in a relatively short space of time. iWorksuite aside, you could purchase the above apps for less than the cost of a textbook and have a model that could enhance learning with the right application.

For those educators who are using iPads in the classroom, the suggestions above will be nothing new. The hope is that other educators will not feel overwhelmed by the diagram and actually view a number of core apps as manageable for their own learning curve.

It must be said that there are a number of applications that I could happily add to the diagram that would be useful for the toolkit. For example, Showbie (a way of collecting, assessing and handing back student work) would certainly meet the requirements of many iPad learning environments. The point is that less than 15 apps can be a starting point for learning, with the substitution of applications based on the learner’s needs and educator’s requirements. I have had many conversations with educators who feel that the pedagogical shift and adaptation to the new technology can be intimidating. The diagram above serves to reduce that feeling and start a conversation moving forward with increased technology use in the classroom.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

You will notice that Google Drive and Explain Everything are an integral part of the learning process. A centralised store with the ability to share folders and information is crucial for educators and students alike. Google Drive has been chosen as it allows 30GB of free storage for every user. You must be registered as a Google Apps For Education institution.

Explain Everything serves as a platform to enhance and demonstrate learning. It has been written about many timesas the go-to app for education. However, it is only as good as the user. The educator can record screencasts, transform feedback and personalise learning with it. Students can demonstrate learning, collaborate, create and feedback as well as export their work to their required destination.

The rest of the tools have creation and collaboration at their core alongside the assessment for learning with feedback mechanisms. It is my intention to blog about these processes, as their use develops in our own 1:1 iPad environment and I welcome any input. Any of the apps recommended above are well worth looking into and are suggested after much discussion and debate.

(Incidentally, I am a firm believer that Augmented Reality will play a significant role in education. Consequently I am using Aurasma to enhance learning in the classroom. I would have included it in this toolkit but feel I need to explore its potential a little further. Needless to say, it is well worth looking into if you are fortunate enough to have the technology available).

Google Drive for Teachers with ‘How-to’ video links

Google has tripled free storage space, across Gmail, Google+ and Drive, bringing the total to 15GB. This is a serious move by Google as it places the company at the forefront of cloud based solutions with institutions working to tight financial constraints. Having turned to Google Drive as my main storage facility, I thought I would highlight some advantages of using the platform. (Please click on the links for further explanation.)

Advantages

  • Access files anytime on any device with an internet connection.
  • Work offline with documents.
  • Share files/documents with others and collaborate in real time.
  • Share folders with students and receive and feedback on assignments.
  • Allow read only access on documents and share with students as resource with no photocopying.
  • Save a document in a variety of formats.
  • Works with other Google Apps to provide platform for forms, surveys, projects.
  • Save to GoogleDrive with two taps of an icon or clicks of a mouse.
  • Search files in Drive for name or keyword.

(courtesy of Anson Alexander)

Google Drive provides a platform to organise and enhance workflow for teachers. The most obvious example is how quickly resources can be shared, annotated and collaborated upon. A shared folder with a student could contain assignments, screencasts and resources that could serve to form a digital portfolio and a reference point for teacher and parents. In my opinion, the fact that we can now share more storage space for free, places Google Drive firmly ahead of Dropbox. This is supported by the recent announcement that you can also save web resources at the click of a button, bringing Google Drive into line with the functionality of Dropbox.

As with other cloud based solutions, there are a number of disadvantages to using Google Drive. Not least the requirement to sign up students via a Gmail account and the testing question of the whole school solution. However, as we make our way with cloud based storage, I can recommend giving Google Drive a try. With 15GB for free what have you got to lose?

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Flipping Your Classroom #edchat

DO

  1. Produce material for YOUR students to engage them outside the classroom. Generic content works as a starting point but students have greater faith in their own teacher’s input.
  2. Decide on a workflow solution and stick to it. I use Edmodo to set assignments and annotate responses. Students are happy with this solution as it is cross platform and supports learning with library and backpack resources.
  3. Set specific deadlines for your students. If they are given a date then unfortunately that can be construed as midnight!! The old hand-in mantra of next lesson doesn’t fit the ‘flipped‘ class idea and as such can present a problem.
  4. Provide access for students who aren’t connected to the internet at home. Whether it be provision after school or via downloaded material, there will still be issues for home learning.
  5. Write to parents to explain the new style of learning and be prepared for questions. The concept doesn’t sit well with many parents who believe the teacher’s job is to deliver content in the lesson. In a time where our profession is questioned daily a reliance on home support is crucial to your success.

DON’T

  1. Expect students to watch/read your material just because you tell them to. A task set in conjunction with the content can be submitted to Edmodo and assessed before the lesson. Simple AFL starters can also help at the beginning of each lesson.
  2. Assume that because content has been delivered at home that classroom tasks will run smoothly. Even though the 1:1 time has increased the need for differentiation tasks actually widens. Extended activities are often required very early in the lesson by some students and never reached by others.
  3. Expect other staff members to agree with the concept and support the workflow. Real consideration has to be given to the way assessment is made and how it fits with school requirements. Grading points are often out of sync with ‘flipped’ class progression.
  4. Expect your teacher observation templates to fit with the ‘flipped’ lesson format. Ensure any observer is sent the content delivery method before they enter the classroom. There is no doubt that teacher input decreases for some classroom time and this can be unnerving when being evaluated.
  5. Believe your content, once created, will last for many years. The ‘flipped’ classroom is successful when resources are updated with the needs of students in mind. Fortunately, with the iPad and other technologies, resources can be enhanced very easily year to year.

This post is in response to the success we have had with workflow and assessment for learning this academic year. For example, recently, students were given a specific time to ‘hand-in’ their assignments based on video content and research. Their work was then annotated at a time convenient to me and ‘handed back’ to the students online. The students could then read the comments and come prepared to ask questions, all before the next lesson. Content had been encountered for the first time at home and meant that the first contact time for the module could begin from a more advanced stage. It sure beats the old regime of – set work, hand in next lesson, mark, give back the following lesson. The ‘flipped class’ now ensures home learning is more effective and informs the teacher where and how to pitch the next lesson.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss the ‘flipped’ class as I am very keen to hear any new ideas.