Monday, September 28, 2015

Making The Most Of Social Media In The Classroom

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Social media often gets a bad wrap when spoken in the same breath as education and learning. Ask around and many folks might consider it to be a time suck or a place where very little learning happens and therefore has no place in the classroom. 

The reality is social media (and digital learning in general) have a place in the classroom And whether we choose to embrace it, or don't, students still will leave our buildings and use it. So what if we embraced it as a medium that is here to stay and leverage it for learning? All the while we could have deep and serious conversations about digital literacy and the ways to use it appropriately.

Social media can provide many benefits to student learning and understanding.  Whether you are an expert yourself, or wanting to learn more, there are some simple ways to introduce social media to the classroom.

It's All About The Hashtag-As I've said many times before, hashtags can be great ways for educators to jump into the world of social media and connecting with other professionals. But they can be very useful in the classroom as well. A class hashtag can serve as a platform for students to share conversations (backchanneling), the teacher to post simple reminders or as a way to gather data. I once had a kindergarten teacher gather weather reports from across the globe to share with her students using a simple hashtag. The hashtag can extend far beyond our own networks into the networks of others, amplifying voices. 

Hashtags are also a great way to track conversations around world events or events that are unfolding in realtime. Conflicts, elections, sports, everything it seems these days has a hashtag and students at all grade levels can review these tweets (all without accounts mind you) to look at trends, propaganda, or investigate the stories behind the headlines. 

"Instagraming" Learning-The fastest growing social media network in 2015 is Instagram, which when you think about it makes sense. Facebook is huge and touches large populations already. Many others either have limited appeal to wide audiences (Snapchat) or have a learning curve that can push people away (Twitter). But Instgram is easy. Snap a picture, add a snazzy filter and share it with the world. 

Besides the way it could be used by leaders or teachers to share images of learning with the community, Instagram could be used in a variety of lessons. Imagine a person from history. What would they take pictures of? How could they tell their story in images? In younger grades, what about a scavenger hunt for geometric shapes or letters? (My first grader did this. She learned lots!) There are lots of simple ideas here and here

Pin A Rose On Your...Pinterest Page-I freely admin I don't understand the appeal of Pinterest. While I've eaten some great things from there and even built a few projects found there, in the classroom I really didn't see a use. Until I started to think about all these educators finding and curating content there around their classroom. Sure I can find all sorts of cute bulletin boards or methods for improving classroom management. But what about taking a step further and using it as a psudo-learning management system for your class. 

Create a board for each unit/topic/standard you teach. Gather up resources and share them with students on your website, Edmodo page or where ever you share stuff like that. Invite students to post what they find as well to help curate the boards further. Or better yet, turn everything over to students. Give them some blank boards and let the students fill them up. These could be shared resources with parents too, providing a valuable set of resources to help them understand the learning that is happening in your classroom and provide a means of help when working with their student at home.

Pinterest not your thing? Not to worry. My friend Adam Bellow has you covered with eduClipper. Similar in thought but educational in delivery, eduClipper is very teacher and student friendly and easy to use! 

Those are just 3 simple ways to think about when wanting to use social media in the classroom. What others do you have? What have you found works well? Leave your thoughts below. 

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photo credit: Collage of Digital (Social) Networks via photopin (license)

Friday, September 18, 2015

4 Inexpensive (or Free) Google Apps That Help Students Collaborate

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Bringing technology into the classroom can feel like an uphill battle. But as we know, engaging with students on devices and platforms that they are already comfortable with creates a better, more natural learning environment. 

In addition to helping teachers modify curricula for different learning styles, classroom technology also primes students for research and collaboration in higher education and beyond. In fact, 83% of organizations support tablets in the workplace, according to a 2015 Spiceworks survey. That number is only growing.

Here are four Android™ apps—available through Google Play for Education—that enhance collaboration and make the most of limited school budgets. All are supported on smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks.

A free thought-mapping tool that helps students organize their ideas by creating visual diagrams with little assistance from their teacher. Students can share their mind maps in small groups. Grades: 3 to 12. Subjects: All.

This $0.99 app teaches algebraic concepts using virtual manipulation. Students explore concepts and solve problems in small groups, then present their findings to the class. Grades: 5 to 8. Subjects: Algebra.

A free app that lets students browse primary documents about UNESCO World Heritage Sites, visit them virtually and learn about them in a geographic and historic context. Good for presentations and small group work; students can present what they learn to the class. Grades: 8 to 12. Subjects: Geography/History.

4. Trello 
This free project management app allows a group of students to access the same educational materials and track their progress on a given task. It supports both graphics and text, and keeps small groups engaged both in and out of class. It’s also great prep for life after school. Grades: 9 to college. Subjects: All.

What other apps do you use on your Google devices that help students collaborate?

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photo credit: Deep at Work via photopin (license)

Heading Back To School With @appoLearning

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to check out and learn more about appoLearning. You might remember I wrote about my experience in finding and curating content there. And then how easy it was to create a collection of high quality resources to share. The site really does make it easy to find resources like websites, apps, and videos that have been curated by other educators and create collections that can be private, shared with a small group or made completely public.

As we head back to school there are 3 things about appoLearning you should remember.

To prepare for units, appoLearning is incredible tool that makes it easy to find groups of free digital resources (by searching previously contributed  collections and resources)-Take a look at my Professional Learning Collection. I get asked all the time about the best resources to for educators to drive and direct their personal professional learning. I have a ton of them. And normally I have to hand out long lists of websites sometimes with little explanation about what makes them great or what are the best aspects of the resources. By putting them into an appoLearning collection I can share a much larger list easily, with comments and explanations in additions to tags so that others can find the resources easily too.

You can also use appoLearning to collaborate with fellow teachers - both in and out of your school - to prepare these units. This is incredibly important as many teachers are isolated and don’t have a true collaborative partner in their own school. With the new collaboration features on collections, now I can create a collection and invite colleagues to work on it with me. Take my good friend Erin Klein. We spent the last several days working on 2 collections. In mine, resources for Connected Educator Month we were able to add several items and post comments back and forth to each other, in real-time. And its that real-time aspect that is incredibly helpful as we are several states away. This new collaboration feature is great for providing depth to the resources in a collection.

appoLearning has tons of FREE content and is all DIGITAL tools-Lest we not forget, appoLearning is more than the collections and collaboration. At it’s core it is a huge repository of high-quality, free content to browse and use in the classroom. With the ever increasing number of digital devices teachers need good places to go to find resources to teach with and supplement into learning. appoLearning should definitely be in your top places to find those resources.

So as you head back to school and get back into the swing of things add appoLearning to your list of must visit (over and over) sites for high-quality digital resources for your classroom.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Which Device Can Support Different Learning Styles?

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One of the strongest arguments for classroom technology is the ability it gives teachers to easily adapt curricula for different abilities and learning styles. Give students a choice in how they receive information—and how they interact with it—and their ability to absorb and recall educational material improves immensely.

Neil Fleming’s VARK model groups student learning into four styles:
1. Visual
2. Auditory
3. Read/write
4. Kinesthetic

Just how important is modifying curricula for different styles? Really important.

87% of students fall into multiple categories, while only 13% prefer only one learning style, according to a 2014 study from the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine.

So, which device makes differentiated instruction easiest on teachers and schools?

While there are many choices, tablets can provide the mobility and flexibility that teachers want and students need.

Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education allow students to choose how they learn through stylus-enabled drawing programs, audio and recording tools, speech-to-text and onscreen keyboard abilities and touch controls. These capabilities make differentiating instruction easier than ever, so teachers can focus on educating and inspiring their students.

Tablet technology goes beyond learning styles—it also helps special education students immensely. Special education technology includes built-in tools that help educators adjust material to individual education plans. This allows special needs students to communicate in their own way, and in many cases it fully integrates them into the classroom. Learn more and hear Lilly’s story here.

Students today are digital natives. They’re most comfortable using electronic devices with touch-screen abilities that give them immediate feedback—and when they’re comfortable, their ability to learn expands tenfold. With educational technologies and apps at their fingertips, our next generation of thinkers are primed for big things.

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photo credit: Padcamp 2012 via photopin (license)