Renewed Excitement

When you first get into the classroom fresh out of University, there is a sense of excitement about what lies ahead and the impact you can make. Somewhere along the way in the last 10 years the flame has died down. It might be that the busyness of work has meant little time to explore all the things I started out doing, or it may be just a normal process that happens.

However, recently, something’s got me excited again. And it’s not a sporting event, or a trip away with the students or anything like that, it’s the thought of what can be done using technology in the classroom. What can be used to engage the students in learning. It started last holidays, reading some ‘tweets’ from a friend at an IT conference. Being on holidays, I had more time than usual to check out one of the presentations that was being broadcast on the net. Before I knew it I was reading article after article on random blogs and a new world had opened up.

Many things struck me as I went from blog page to blog page, but none stood out as much as the concept that the use of PowerPoint should be avoided because teachers ‘often lean on the slide-display program as a crutch rather than using it as a creative tool (http://chronicle.com/article/Teach-Naked-Effort-Strips/47398/). So, if I am to stop using PowerPoint in my teaching, how do students get the information they need?

Well, when you consider that almost any information the students need can be found using Google or any other search engine, or we could email or print out for them any other information they need then surely we need to consider how we teach and the types of ‘work’ we get them to do.

What’s excited me about these thoughts, is that all of a sudden I’ve started thinking of ways to get my students engaged using higher order thinking, reading information and starting to analyse it, working out what the main points are, challenging them to ask questions of the information they are reading, debating what it means. Not spending so much time copying out notes that already in books they can read, or search for on the internet is opening up time to spend doing other things.

There are so many ways that technology can help. So far I’ve only tried a few things and a steady as she goes approach is probably not a bad idea as I’m still only a ‘noob’ with most types of technology but a few things are better than nothing. Here’s what the last 5 weeks has introduced:

1) I’ve started a faculty blog site to ‘publish’ students work and present it to a worldwide audience. Hopefully, knowing their work will be visible, will mean they will put more effort into raising the standard of what they are writing but will also give a purpose to what they do. Rather than having their work sitting in their exercise book, now it’s out there for everyone to make use of!

2) Flip Cameras – we’ve used these little beauties in PE lessons as a means of providing almost instantaneous feedback to students on their performance technique. They are more effective than a normal video camera as they don’t require rewinding to preview the action you just required. I’ve also used them in theory lessons to video students explaining diagrams/models and then put them on our school Moodle so that students can put them on their MP3 players. (The use of MP3’s and podcasting is, I think, an area of much potential in our teaching.

3) Last week we had a guest speaker in my Year 8PDH class to talk about Depression. The great thing about this was that our guest speaker came to us via Skype from his office almost 7 hours drive away. I’d never used skype before but it took literally 2-3 minutes to download the free program, another 1-2 minutes to set up an account. Using my connections, we lined up our speaker, tested the connection before the lesson began. After an introductory activity with the class, our guest speaker ‘called’ in to tell us about his experiences with depression. It didn’t all go smoothly, but after 1-2 initial dropouts we were able to establish a connection for another 25 minute discussion. Imagine the possibilities for getting ‘experts’ into our classrooms from all over the world! And, the call won’t cost a thing.

There are so many other ideas running through my head – some significant but some only small, but I’ll leave them for another time.

The term is almost over and another holiday period will hopefully give me time to consider how I can use technology to engage the students and help them teach themselves!

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