Friday, December 18, 2015

How Tech Can Enrich Your Next Field Trip

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

Devices like tablets and wearables don’t just enhance classroom learning—they can also transform field trips, making educational outings more interactive and memorable than before.

Culturally stimulating field trips were found to improve critical life skills in children in a 2013 study from the University of Arkansas. And with tablets, smartwatches and virtual reality headsets in hand, a whole new avenue of learning opens up for our educators and students.

“Today—and tomorrow’s—mobile technology can enhance the actual educational impact of the field trip through all phases of the learning experience,” says Ellen Paxton, founder of the Professional Learning Board.

Getting students truly involved in their surroundings during a school outing by using technology to capture information, do research and visualize the unseen makes them more invested in the experience. It “provides a stronger personal connection to the learning objective of the field trip,” according to Paxton.

Here are a few ways to make it happen:

Scavenger Hunt
Build time into the trip for students to explore the destination freely. Send them on a technology-enhanced scavenger hunt where they use tablets or Samsung’s Gear smartwatches (which come with built-in cameras) to capture photos of certain objects, landmarks, details or personal discoveries. They can take notes on the go, and complete photo descriptions once back in the classroom. This article has a nice idea for doing a scavenger hunt on school grounds, too.

Data Collection
Science field trips can encourage students to explore an environment independently, conducting field research by capturing photos, video, measurements and other observations.

The Sequoia Park Zoo in Northern California did just that by partnering with Humboldt County Office of Education to create a technology-based experience for visiting students using Samsung School. Students go out to the Redwood Forest behind the zoo to collect data and beam it back to the zoo learning center, where teachers can monitor how their students use the technology. Learn more about the program here.

Virtual Field Trips
Virtual reality technology allows students to hear and see things that would be otherwise unavailable to them—places like outer space, ancient Rome, or the bottom of the ocean become accessible. These multisensory experiences enhance students’ conceptual understanding, and improve their ability to recall information. Samsung is partnering with Oculus Rift to build the Samsung Gear VR, which is a mobile VR headset.

High school guidance counselors can even use virtual reality experiences powered by YouVisit Colleges to help students explore university campuses around the world and find the right school

This is just the beginning. Who knows where technology will take us next?

Photo credit: GraysonHighlands-hiking via photopin (license) For more content like this, follow Samsung on Insights, EDU Twitter, EDU LinkedIn , YouTube and SlideShare

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bing In The Classroom

The folks over at Microsoft Bing in the Classroom Initiative hope to help students be better searchers of information and build a foundation of good digital literacy skills. It's definitely something worth a look.

It all starts with registering your district (or independent school) as a Bing In The Classroom partner. When your schools community members use Bing at home they can donate to your school to receive credits from their searches. Those credits add up to free Surface tablets for your school. Simply search and earn free tech. Neat!

What I think the most beneficial part of the Bing In The Classroom program are the free to use digital literacy lesson plans. They range in topics from traditional computer science lessons like programming and coding to more integrated content areas like math, chemistry, the arts, design and more. Lessons range from Kindergarten all the way through High School. Each is aligned to the Common Core and has additional resources to help extend the lesson.

Some of my favorites:

  • K-4: Query Formulation-Even our youngest students can learn the best terms and ways to find the information they need. 
  • All Grades: Texting-There are several lessons for all grade levels to help students (and adults) understand texting, how to do it appropriately and how to avoid the pitfalls as we grow older. 
  • K-8: Robotics-These lessons introduce students to the history of robotics but also the impacts robots have on our daily lives. 
  • HS: Hungry On Mars- Students are challenged to grow food in an environment hardly supports life. 

There are so many more! And many have a tie in to the Skype Education community so you can find a subject matter expert to help extend the lesson.

Take some time and check out the entire Bing in the Classroom initiative. There's lots to discover and learn!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Teaching Educator Digital Literacy With A Pinterest Party

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

I will freely admit that Pinterest is one of those services that I haven't been a big user of. When it first appeared my wife took to it instantly. Now, she is a teacher but she didn't go in the hunt of resources for the classroom. She was looking for recipes, design ideas and oddly enough, wedding dresses (we were already married so I'm still not really sure about that one).

During a multi-day workshop I was running in one of my schools a few years ago, we had teachers divide up in to curriculum teams to investigate and find resources for a unit of study they felt they were weak in. As soon as we turned them loose to get started, multiple hands went into the air.

"Why is Pinterest blocked?"

"I need to get to Pinterest to get started and I can't!"

I heard this over and over from across the room. The teachers, when setting out on a task to find resources for their classroom were not going to Google like they had done traditionally. They went to Pinterest to find what they needed. I had no idea it's popularity (nor did I know it was blocked in our schools). I had it unblocked and teachers went about their way.

But then we had a problem.

Most of the resources they were finding and wanting to use just weren't right. Some where not aligned to the correct content area. Others were just not pedagogically strong. And still others were copyrighted material that should have never been posted in the first place. The problems came when the teachers said the lessons looked great, or pretty, or fun. They weren't evaluating the resource, rather they were evaluating the look of the resource.

I am sure there are wonderful resources for the classroom and learning that are posted there. Many folks that you know through social media have boards there on a variety of subject areas. But Pinterest wasn't designed for sharing instructional resources. It's a visual medium for food and design and fashion. So if we are going to use it to share instructional resources, we have to take additional steps to ensure what we are finding is right for the classroom.

Traditional professional development in the realm of digital literacy can be quite boring. With all PD we have to rethink the way we do professional learning, especially when thinking about technology related PD. The learning needs of the educators has to be considered as well as the classroom environment.

This led me to an idea.

Curation and digital literacy are such necessary skills today. Understanding where to find the best information, how to vet that information, organize and share that information are crucial skills in this digital age. (Shameless plug-So important I wrote a book about it!) What if we combined the values of curation and resource sharing on Pinterest into an event.

A Pinterest Party!

The way it works.

Invite anyone, teachers, coaches, instructional staff to your Pinterest party. These could be teachers of the same subject or grade level or a mix of the two; however you want to do it. Then there are 2 rules. They must bring a board of resources they've collected that they are using in the classroom for an upcoming unit of study. And they must bring a dish that they found on Pinterest to share with everyone.

Who wouldn't want to come to a professional development with tons of food!

While we are trying out all these great dishes of food we can get down to business. Talking about digital literacy. For each resource participants need to answer 4 questions:
  • Where did the resource come from? Can you tell from the post who the original poster of the information was?
  • Based on where the information came from, is it copyrighted? Can you reproduce it, post it yourself, or even use it without proper license? 
  • Is the resource aligned? Look at your standards/units/instructional plans and decide, does this resource help you meet a teaching goal? 
  • Will this resource help students learn? The most important question to answer, we have to look past how fun or "cute" a resource looks and determine if it will really help students meet an instructional objective. 
The goal is less about the actual resource finding and more about teaching those necessary digital literacy skills to find the best information in the classroom.

While Pinterest can be great medium for finding resources we've got to ensure they are the best resources.

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Photo credit: balloons via photopin (license)