Forget Marble Notebooks: High Tech Is Coming To A K-12 Classroom Near You

Written by Dawn Papandrea , a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

All across the country, K-12 students are settling into the school year, which more than ever probably includes the sort of technology you’d expect to see in a corporate office or college classroom. From video and web conferencing to handheld devices for all students to online testing, the days of number two pencils and teachers writing notes on the blackboard could soon be a thing of the past.

Take a look at some technologies coming to (or already at!) a K-12 classroom near you…

Incorporating Technology Into Every Lesson

Remember when the big excitement at school was getting to watch a video, or if you’re really old, those slideshows that had accompanying records that beeped to prompt you to the next slide? We’ve come a long way when one considers that 52 percent of teachers say they use interactive whiteboards in their classes, and 40 percent have a class wiki or website, according to the Pew Report “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.”

Even when it comes to test preparation for the SAT, the days of flipping flashcards are over. One company, Benchprep, for example, uses an interactive gaming approach to appeal to high schoolers who are prepping for the college admissions exam.

Testing Online

Unless you’re living under a rock or in one of only 5 states that hasn’t adopted the Commor Core, you’re probably aware that by spring 2015, states must administer a mandatory online assessment to test student proficiency in math and English. Online testing means more students sitting at computers during the school day. As such, public schools are beefing up their IT offerings. In fact, says a CDW-G survey, 83 percent of public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities.

Paper and Pencil Is So Retro

Just as many have gotten used to using e-readers instead of hard copy books, the same may happen with school textbooks. In fact, 37 percent of teachers in a “Styles of Learning” survey by Enterasys Secure Networks said they planned to transition to digital textbooks within the next one to five years. At home, students are already getting used to making the switch to digital, as 31% of middle school students say they use tablets to complete homework assignments, according to a Verizon Foundation study.

The World Is Their Classroom

Thanks to video and web conferencing, some lucky students are able to watch presentations, experiments, and other learning events in real time from anywhere in the world. Think of it as the modern day field trip. For instance, some zoos, museums, ­libraries and other organizations have distance learning ­programs specifically designed for schools.

This technology is especially helpful for rural areas that are too far from cultural centers for students to frequent. One such school district in Oklahoma has been using mobile video conferencing with great success, according to an article in EdTech Magazine.

It’s just a matter of bringing video conferencing equipment into schools as companies like InterCall do to facilitate educator’s needs.

Online Courses

Beyond technology in the classroom, many K-12 students are taking courses right from their own homes via online learning. For example, Iowa Learning Online is currently serving 800 students, and has plans to expand and grow the program. Teachers broadcast to students via webcams or use technologies like Skype or Adobe Connect.

Technology in learning has come a long way in a short time, and will likely continue improving as it becomes more accessible and user friendly. Just imagine what the classroom will look like five years from now!

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

Special Ed Goes High Tech

This infographic was supplied by Wendy Turner, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Students with special needs face challenges that may not be apparent to the rest of the world. They work hard to improve certain skills so that they can act as members of society, and it is important to give them the tools that they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the federal government only provides a total of 15 percent of the cost associated with caring for a child with special needs. Parents are left trying to cover the expensive costs of tutoring services or technology programs that can assist in the educational development of a special needs child.  Students can have a wide range of special needs for which they require supportive educational services and technology programs. Some students suffer from speech impediments, while other students may suffer from emotional disorders. Some students may have hearing or visual impairment. A student may be mentally retarded or have learning disabilities that make it difficult for him or her to adapt to a school environment. Those who have had a traumatic brain injury may also be considered special needs children.  It is important for school communities to embrace those who have disabilities. Students should feel like they are members of the community and should feel accepted. They should feel a sense of joy in attending school and not view their specific classes as punishments for a disability. Students who have disabilities have certain rights that are codified into law, and it is vital that school systems recognize these rights. Even if a school budget must expand to meet the costs of schooling special needs children, this should not be a major concern of school boards. School boards should be ready and willing to meet the expenses that are associated with educating a child who has special needs.  Students who have special needs should also have access to the latest technology in the classroom. They should have access to laptops and net-books that can enhance their educational experience. Digital textbooks can also make learning more enjoyable and fun for those who have disabilities. School districts should seriously consider making these investments in technology to meet the needs of disabled children.  Source: http://www.special-education-degree.net/technology

spec-ed-goes-high-tech_650

Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

Written by Gael Luzet, a Clonlara School guest blogger and author of the Collaborative Learning Pocketbook (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Much has been said recently about the power of learning with others, but how can collaborative learning make a significant difference in the classroom?

Collaborative learning is a planned opportunity for two or more people to work together in an educational context. It is not just about putting pupils in groups, it is about facilitating their team work and providing great outcomes. Historically, collaborative learning has always been at the forefront of effective teaching and learning. Plato in Ancient Greece used to give his students philosophical dilemmas to solve through a dialogical process. Students who collaborate effectively have developed important lifelong learning skills such as:

•    The ability to express their thoughts with clarity
•    The ability to listen to and understand others
•    Awareness  and management of their own emotions and feelings

Collaborative learning tasks tend to be open-ended and require high levels of thinking. They demand a wide range of skills that younger learners may not have acquired yet. It is important to assist them in improving their cooperative skillset. Students learn that the answer does not always have to come from the teacher. In fact, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator, a guide on the side who paves the way for learners to acquire knowledge.

Thorough planning is crucial for the teacher-facilitator who ventures into the collaborative learning world. Set the ground rules for group work, which can be discussed with your class in advance (pupils should take it in turn to speak, make eye contact and encourage everyone to participate, be silent during instructions, etc…). It is useful for the teacher to have a zero noise signal. A whistle, a bell or a hand clap could do the trick. Consider the composition of your groups: should pupils sit in friendship, mixed gender or mixed ability groups? How many pupils should there be per group? How about the roles within each team (a leader, a scribe, a researcher, etc…)?

And last but not least, give careful consideration to unwilling learners, the ones who sit with their arms crossed or a giant bubble gum in their mouth when you speak to the class. Regardless of their reluctance to participate, they have to be included in the task. They need to be placed with the right peers and the teacher has to boost their motivation before group work starts. By and large, children crave acceptance from their peers. Reluctance generally comes from a lack of confidence buried behind a confrontational or indifferent front. When handled properly, collaborative learning helps the unwilling learner to become a more active (and happier) classroom participant.

Strategies for collaborative learning range from the simplest technique to the more complex one; from the small scale paired activity to the full blown group project which stretches over several lessons. Here are four simple strategies to facilitate group learning:

1.    To create mixed groups of pupils, give each member in the class a number from one to four. Ask all the ones, the twos, the threes and the fours to sit together. You now have four heterogeneous groups of learners ready to tackle the collaborative task ahead.
2.    To encourage students to talk to each other, sit them opposite each other in a long line and ask the students on one side to move down a seat every 3 to 5 minutes. This speed dating-style activity works well when the task involves peer questioning or data gathering.
3.    Mind maps and graphic organizers are the perfect partners to classroom collaboration. Enthusiastic pupils sitting together around a large mind map are more likely to discuss, negotiate, evaluate and compromise.
4.    Group activities such as the card game ‘Higher or Lower?’ provide a great opportunity to develop ordering and sequencing skills. Create a set of cards with ideas to rank in order of importance, value, chronology, etc… Ask pupils in pairs (or threes) to reveal each card in turn, and place it higher or lower than the other visible cards on the table.

It is generally accepted that once children understand the value of working together in unity, performance, motivation and outcomes improve.  Of course, children should also be given time to think for themselves and work on their own, but collaborative learning adds another string to their skills bow. A string which is invaluable as it gives them the confidence to interact effectively with the world around them.

Author Bio:  Gael Luzet, Advanced Skills Teacher, teacher trainer and author of the Collaborative Learning Pocketbook

Top Ten Tips for Going Back to School

Written by a representative from Tutor House, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

The end of the summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year is an equally stressful and exciting time for many parents and students alike.

London-based private tutoring agency Tutor House has come up with its top ten tips for going back to school, aimed to help students and parents prepare for the new school term.

1.    Morning Organization – Get Back into the Routine

Create a routine for the mornings to ensure that everyone is out of the house at the right time.

Ensure that everything needed for school is prepared the night before the first day back to avoid the unwanted stressful manic rush in the morning.

2.    Prepare the Calendar – Highlight Key Dates

Having a family calendar is a great idea and solution for effectively preparing for key term dates, as the whole house can always be kept up to date with what everyone has planned.

Mark key term dates and the days kids are doing after school activities.

3.    Lunch and Breakfast Supplies

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s worth having the fridge and cupboards filled up with a range of healthy breakfast items.

If lunch boxes are required then ensure that you have plenty of lunch box fillers available so in the morning it is quick and easy to rustle something up.

4.    Reading List – Get Ahead of the Class

If the school has issued a reading list for a particular subject before the term starts, get these books as soon as possible.

Summer holiday reading or a 20-minute session before bed is the ideal solution to avoid last minute cramming as students will learn more effectively.

5.    Holiday Work – Slow and Steady

A continuing theme here is to ensure that nothing is left to the last minute. Holiday work is often left to the eleventh hour, causing stress and ineffective learning.

By steadily completing holiday work earlier on in the holidays ensures that students will keep their minds energised, avoiding that horrendous last minute dash to finish off 10 pieces of homework the night before the first day of school.

6.    Labelling – Get the Sewing Kit out, Mum!

Labelling all the uniform and sports kit is a sensible idea as it helps avoid having to keep buying new uniform to replace potential items of lost property throughout the school year.

An arduous task for many, but dedicate an evening or two to spend with the sewing kit – it’ll be worth evading the potentially expensive mid-term uniform replacements!

7.    Regulate Sleeping Habits – No More Late Nights

Traditionally the summer holidays can bring change to a child’s sleeping habits, especially teenagers.

Try to regulate sleeping patterns a week or so before term starts to avoid a shock to the system on the first day back at school.

8.    Brush up in Key Areas – Private Tuition?

Make a flying start to the new term by brushing up in a few key areas. Whether it’s an important exam year or a new start, hiring a private tutor for a few hours before term starts can really make a difference.

9.    RELAX!

Putting all the excitement and stress of starting a new term aside for a second, it’s actually correspondingly important to keep calm and have a positive attitude.

These schooling years are so precious, and won’t last forever so enjoy them as much as benefitting from them.

10. Avoid the Uniform Rush – don’t leave it all last minute

By shopping for school uniform well before the end of summer rush parents can benefit from avoiding manic shopping trips and can often pick up very good deals.

Currently Debenhams are offering 70% off Kids school uniform and other retailers are offering deals such as; 2 for 1 and 3 for 3 on school uniforms.

Author Bio – Tutor House is a private tutoring agency based in Fulham, London and offers private tuition for children aged 11 – 18 years old in Common Entrance, GCSEs and A-Levels. Tutor House also offers special education support, careers advice, gap year advice and University guidance.

For more information on private tutors in London and Fulham contact Tutor House on 020 7381 6253 or visit http://www.tutorhouse.co.uk

Advanced Techniques for Teaching Gifted Children

Written by Tony Buchanan, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Teaching gifted children could be the most challenging aspect of anyone’s teaching career. Unlike regular classroom-based teaching methodologies that have general theories and practices, having gifted children in class go beyond age and lesson criteria. Many families who have gifted children opt to have them go through private tutoring instead of regular schooling.

Young Einstein.

Because of this, many private tutors also have adapted their own teaching practices and lesson plans to adjust to teaching gifted children in a one-on-one environment. With this, here are a few teaching techniques that could help tutors utilize the learning capabilities of their gifted children.

Familiarize differences among gifted children

Applying knowledge and practices in multiple intelligence learning is a great start to tutoring gifted children. Much like other students, not all gifted children have the same learning curves and absorption to different subjects. This is more apparent in almost savant level children who are inclined to excel in one or two aspects and seem to fail in the others. It is best to have an assessment test done with your student to see where they could perform best. This will help you assist your student further with his strengths while adjusting to his weaknesses.

Hardest to easiest questions

Probably the most anti-norm of regular teaching methods, allow your student to work on the most difficult questions in your homework and have him be challenged by answering them. A majority of gifted children tend to get bored with random type questionnaire for quizzes, homework and projects because they are generally more advanced than their peers. Let them enjoy what they do best through challenging questions and tasks that would not normally be done in a regular classroom.

Give them choices

Gifted children will always have an “expertise”. If you let them identify their interests, you will also find a better way on how to teach them. The best part about private tutoring is that you are not restricted by schedules or set of classes. Let your student make choices on what to do from beginning to end and you will see a difference in their eagerness to learn even on things that they are least interested in. Do not be afraid to also offer higher levels of thinking and allow him to see other options outside of his age and grade group.

Instil some humor

A lot of gifted students have experienced some ridicule or misunderstanding about their level of intelligence especially if they started in a regular classroom setup. This results in a low self-esteem and a sense of banishment from his peers. Change his emotional outlook by encouraging that learning can still have a sense of humor. Do not let make them take lessons too seriously and let them explore creative and fun ways to deliver outputs. Let them take a breather now and then. Ask them what they find fun and amusing or what makes them happy. Let them find out how they can be themselves with you and ultimately around other people so that his mind and talent will not be a burden to himself but a gift for others to enjoy.

About the Author:  Tony Buchanan is a passionate blogger, freelance writer and a regular contributor to several blogs.
He loves reading news and sharing unique articles through his contents.  When Tony is not working, he enjoys music, camping and spending time with his family.

Back to School Resources and Activities

Written by Ellen Mady, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***) and has been reposted with permission and can be found on E for Educate.

Many students and teachers I know, including myself, face the first day of school with mixed feelings – partly excited for a new year with new experiences and accomplishments, and partly bummed that summer vacation is over and all the work and exhaustion associated with the school year is back. An exciting and engaging first day can go far in helping students begin the school year on the right foot.

These are some ideas I have used in the past, to help students get to know each other and get excited for the new year on their first day back to school.

1.Goal setting. On the first day of school, give all your students a slip of paper and a few minutes to think of one or two goals they want to accomplish during the coming school year. After students have written their goals down, collect them and either display them on a classroom bulletin board where the students can regularly see them, or store them somewhere easily accessible to the students during the year. At the end of the year, give students time to revisit those goals to see if they have accomplished them.

2.Student survey. I had a lot of fun with this a few years ago with an 8th grade and 11th grade class. Make a survey of random questions – eye color, height, birthday, number of siblings, favorite color, favorite movie/book, etc. Tell students to fill out the survey anonymously, without putting their name anywhere on the sheet of paper. Collect all the surveys shuffle them, and then begin reading the answers written on the first survey. The students need to guess which classmate completed the survey based on the answers given. Once the class has correctly guessed the student that completed the survey, move on the next, and so forth. This helps both old and new students get to know more about each other.

3.Summer Memories. Encourage students to share fun and meaningful experiences from their summer vacation. This helps them bond as a class and enables them to learn from each other’s experiences. You could have students write a brief paper about their summer and share their writing, or have each student give a 1 minute oral presentation.

*When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve also given the students a specific focus, such as sharing summer experiences that taught them about friendship, responsibility, or other values that will be beneficial for the school year as well…

4.Skittle Activity. This is another simple game that helps students share about each other and bond as a class. In advance, the teacher needs to create questions to correspond to the different Skittle colors. Then, in class, pass a bag of Skittles around. When a student receives the bag, he has to pick a Skittle without looking and answer the question that corresponds with the color he picked.  SAMPLE QUESTIONS: Red = What are you most looking forward to this school year? Green = What is one thing you want to contribute to your class community and one thing you want to receive from your community. Yellow = If you could pick one country in the world to visit, where would you go and why? Purple = Tell us about your favorite book. Orange = What is something you want to learn this year?

5.Welcome gift. Make your students feel welcome with a surprise gift on the first day. Something simple waiting on their desks – maybe a pencil with a special eraser, or a cupcake, or a notebook, or a bag with a few pieces of wrapped candy…

Links to other resources and activities:
1.Here is a set of free printables for a “teacher binder”. It includes calendar pages for 2013-2014, as well as other dividers pertinent to organizing a class…
2. Scholastic provides a free printable called “First Day Challenge”. Students need to come up with objects or names that fit different categories given on the sheet and begin with the letters of “First Day”.
3.Click here for more “get to know you” activities, also from Scholastic.
4.Click here for Back to School bulletin board ideas.
5.Free printable back to school cupcake toppers – click here for pink and here for blue.

About the Author:  Ellen Mady is a wife, mother and educator currently living and working in Northern Iraq. Ellen began teaching fulltime in the United States six years ago. Since then, she has taught or participated in school leadership teams in a variety of schools inside and outside the United States. Ellen’s experienced has centered around Middle School and High School education, using the International Baccalaureate Programme. Ellen currently works as Head of Curriculum Development and Authorization at Mar Qardakh School in Iraq.

Project-Based Learning In Today’s Classroom

Written by a guest blogger from Launch Education Group (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

“When are we ever going to use this?”- Many teachers have been stopped mid-lecture by a student asking this simple question.  And you probably have experienced days in the classroom where you have wondered the same thing: How will memorizing the phases of mitosis benefit my life, especially when I will forget everything right after I finish the test?

Successful school drop-outs like Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook; Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple; and Alex Banyan, the world’s youngest venture capitalist, are making the world rethink how education should be done. These men succeeded not because of the information they crammed for a test but rather because they were able to critically think, problem solve, and collaborate with others. As schools begin to recognize the importance of these skills, the lecture-and-test style that bored so many of us is being replaced with a new style called Project-Based Learning.

Not the Projects of Old:
Before you start thinking “I did projects in school and they were useless,” you should know that Project-Based Learning (PBL) is not the same as the family tree you had to create. Where projects are done after the learning is finished and by following the teacher’s instructions, PBL is done as a way of learning the information by using investigation, problem solving, and collaboration. In an article on PBL, Launch Education describes Project-Based Learning as a way of establishing skills that will continue to benefit them as they grow older.

Project Based Learning begins when the teacher and students contemplate a question like “Should our school cafeteria use a compost system?” After discussing the question as a class and identifying many areas that need to be considered, students work as teams to provide an answer. In order to find the answer, students will need to research many areas like how is composting done, what are its benefits, how costly is it to implement, and how would our school use it. Through PBL, students not only learn about the process of compost; they also see the relevancy of the information. Additionally, the process demands the skills employers are looking for: critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration as the students work together as a team. Launch Education explains that it is a method that “allows children to explore their own talents and ways of thinking.”

No More Daydreaming at your Desk
Students complain frequently that school is so boring, and frequently, they are right. Sitting at a desk and listening as a teacher drones on is not something that many of us enjoyed. This is one more traditional classroom set-up that PBL is changing. Project Based Learning rejects the concept of a passive learner. Students are not vessels for stuffing information. Instead, PBL makes students active learners, placing them at the central role of the process where they are directly engaging in the concepts and their implications. By getting students active in their learning, PBL takes the focus of the classroom off the teachers and places it on the students. Teachers become guides who assist students in their learning process.

This departure from traditional education is becoming especially popular in the political world. With the falling test scores, increasing drop-outs, and failing schools, the educational world is becoming an increasingly heated issue, and education reform is on every politician’s radar.  Politicians like mayoral candidate for NYC Jack Hidary are using Project Based Learning as one of their methods for reforming the school. He suggests that PBL will be more effective for, “… Preparing students for the kinds of jobs we have now in our economy.”  As more politicians adopt PBL as part of their educational platform, this style of learning may gain more ground in the classroom.

One Method Among Many
While PBL is beginning to gain popularity, it is important to remember that it is not meant to be the only method of learning used in the classroom. The National Academy Foundation recommends using Project Based Learning for learning goals that include “applied learning and demonstration of deep core understanding,” but not for things like spelling or addition.  With effective preparation and placement, PBL is an effective strategy for preparing our students with relevant skills; without preparation and proper usage, it can be just as ineffective as a lecture.

Doing What’s Best for Our Students
In the end, Project-Based Learning is all about engaging students in real-world scenarios and forcing them to use real-life skills to solve them. When we consider that school is a method of preparing students to be successful, thoughtful members of our society, we see that PBL is a very beneficial tool. By starting students young and engaging them in this kind of thinking and learning, we are creating the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders for our world.