Monthly Archives: September 2016

I Don’t Know How To Do It…But I’m Going To Do It Anyway

I thought about starting a Maker Club in my school last year. I figured it would be interesting to get a group of kids together to make stuff.

So, like a good student, I did some research about how to start a club. What I found was a wide variety of different resources, most of which completely overwhelmed me. Every website had some kind of material I didn’t have or some technology tool I couldn’t access. Many of them had entire rooms called Maker Spaces, while my school has portable classrooms parked behind our school to help with overcrowding.

Learning more about Maker Clubs made me not want to start one. I was completely swamped with information. I gave up.

This year, however, I’m going for it. I don’t have any idea what this club is going to be. It might be amazing, the beginnings of an annual enjoyment. It might be a complete flop; my twenty brave volunteers might show up for the first meeting…and then never come again. But I’m going to find out.

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I’ve decided that during each meeting, we’re going to explore something new. There aren’t going to be many directions, mainly because I don’t know what I would say. Instead, I’m going to give the kids the freedom to explore, many mistakes, and try new things. In effect, they’re going to do the same thing I’m doing with the club — try it out and see what works.

Maybe we should be doing this more with kids every day during the school year. Struggling and then finding ways to overcome the struggle will be something they do for the rest of their lives. Most tasks they face in a real job will be ones they’ve never seen before.

After all, that’s the process I’m going through right now. Tomorrow is our first meeting; wish me luck!

 

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Four Reasons to Use a New Technology Tool…And One Reason Not To

New technology tools flood my inbox and Twitter feed daily. I could probably spend a full day each week exploring new tools with students and still not cover half of them. So, how do you decide whether or not to use a new technology tool with your students? What is worth their time?

Here are four reasons to use a new technology…and one reason not to:

1. It makes learning more authentic. – Some technology tools help you find an audience for student work. Whether it’s writing, reading, or an online project, a technology tool that helps students reach a real audience will increase their effort. Students working with a purpose create higher quality work because they know others will see it. Student blogs are a great example of this.

2. It increases student engagement. – Some technology tools are simply a substitution for a piece of paper and a pencil. It’s the lowest level of technology integration, but it’s not always bad! Taking a boring worksheet and turning it into a boring pdf doesn’t help, but if students will be more highly motivated to practice their multiplication facts with an online game, go for it! It’s not higher-level thinking, but it’s a skill they must have to succeed in the future.

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3. It makes the impossible possible. – If a technology tool allows your students to do something they could not otherwise do, it’s probably a winner. Having a video chat with a scientist across the country, typing on the same document with a partner at the same time, and writing code are all examples of things that couldn’t happen without technology. My district recently purchased a Learning Management System (LMS). I learned all about it but did not have a reason to use it with my students. However, when a teacher in another building and I realized we could create a discussion forum accessible to students at both schools, I got onboard.

4. It’s fun to try new things. – If something looks cool, find a few moments to try it. Sometimes it’s hard to see a tool’s potential without seeing it in action. You might end up seeing applications for the tool you had never considered. You also might end up seeing that the tool is a waste of time. Now you know.

But never, never, ever, never use a technology tool…

…to justify the money spent on it. – Comments like, “We paid for this, so we should use it,” are giant red flags! As a teacher, the budget is not your concern; students are. If someone spent money on something you know is a waste, it is not your duty to go down with the ship. Consider trying it once, but abandon anything you know is not benefitting kids.

Good luck with all your technology explorations!

Six Classroom Jobs You Haven’t Assigned to Students Yet…But Should

You have your paper-passers and a student who takes the attendance to the office. You have your lunch count helper and your class librarian. You even have someone assigned to hold the door on the way out to recess. They make life easier.

But why stop there? Here are six jobs you can assign to students to help your classroom run smoothly.

Game Caretaker – Do your students bring you wayward checkers, mancala pieces, and playing cards at the end of inside recess? Is your game cabinet a disaster? No longer! The Game Caretaker solves all these problems. When lost pieces are turned in, I just redirect them to the Game Caretaker who knows exactly where they all go.

The Caboose – The caboose is always at the end of the line. I don’t use this job every year, but some years it is very valuable. This job can go to a student who needs more personal space. It’s also ideal for a student who has trouble remembering to face forward in line since there’s nobody behind them to look at. The Caboose can also take care of closing the door if needed on the way into the classroom.

Math Materials Keeper – You probably have all sorts of math materials you use throughout the year. Base ten blocks, fraction circles, protractors, and all the others can be a headache. Instead, at the beginning of the year, show a student where these are kept. This student then becomes the distributor and collector of all these materials, saving you time and hassle.

Computer Plugger – This is one I made up, and it is my favorite to recommend. If your students have any access to portable devices, they must be plugged in after use or at the end of the day. Having students line up to plug in their device can create a huge, noisy logjam as each student tries to find the right cord. Instead, teach all the students to just slide their device in the correct slot and move out of the way. At the end, send the Computer Plugger to plug in all the devices. This student can also let you know if any devices are missing. You’ll love this one!

The Sub – The sub’s job is to know how to do every job in the classroom. When a student is absent, the sub does that job. This way, students won’t be clamoring about who gets to do that job.

Oddjob – Yes, you can call this job Oddjob…the kids won’t catch on to the James Bond reference. This student, who should be one of your most organized, diligent students, takes care of any small jobs you need. You might need a set of papers checked off or something carefully filed. Oddjob loves to work, and you will have more time.

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Hopefully you can use one or more of these ideas to help your classroom run like a well-oiled machine. Have a great school year!