Monday, September 22, 2014

Using Video Messaging to Improve Student Engagement

From Edison's Telephonoscope to today's iPads. Source
Video Messaging: The secret to better student engagement?

Keeping on the theme of technology this past week, I was sent an interesting tweet yesterday from a fellow blogger who shared with me a post on a 2013 case study done in Dallas. In this particular study, teachers from the Dallas Independent School District tried to see if student engagement and performance could be improved through a more interactive learning environment with education technology.

Traditional classroom vs 'Hybrid' classroom

The principal test involved the comparison of two types of classrooms. In both cases, students had to fully attend class and had the same content and class instruction given to them. What separated the two classrooms was the fact that in the Hybrid classroom the instructions were given to the students using education tech and web tools - 80% of them.

The use of video messaging was specifically predominant, creating demonstrations and visual instructions for students to follow. The positive use of the interactive tools and mobile lectures allows "students to learn at their own pace and actively engage with their teacher and lessons." With a traditional lesson, students might miss certain ideas or concepts. Using video messaging and recorded lessons specifically, they could simply review any of the lessons at their own time after class when they might feel less rushed or under pressure - as many times as they want. Communication with teachers is also made better as a result, including giving students the opportunity to make up missed assignments and/or lectures - not encouraged to do so, of course.

In the end, the Hybrid classroom outperformed the traditional one by 19%.

This study and its effective use of technology particularly caught my attention since I have personally seen its similar use in the past. A former colleague of mine also used this idea to record his lessons or revision material with his iPad at home then make it available to his students via an app that he had them each install on their personal iPads.

The reality is that each student learns at a different pace and style. Some might like visual material to help stimulate their comprehension, whereas others prefer discussion. As always, teachers have to adapt to these different methods understanding how each of their students learns in the classroom.

I think this clever use of video messaging and recordings can benefit every student in any school system since it brings in an element of core material instruction, as well as revision, which students can use immediately and on a daily basis. It's just a matter of implementing it. Many teachers in the UK use a central hub for students to post discussions, comments, blog posts, etc. - as well as to upload their work. This is another step in that process. An even effective one that allows them to look at school material at their own pace and comfort level at home or anywhere else for that matter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ontario's $150 Million iPad Investment

Technology fused with education? Or a hub of distraction? Source
Investing $150 million for iPads in Ontario's classroom

Technology is slowly but surely becoming an integral part of our classrooms in Canada. I remember a time, not long ago (well, 12 or 13 years) when my classmates felt like students of the future. Scrambling to find the nearest Apple personal computer with the super futuristic aqua coloured frame so that we could browse on Netscape, while quietly chatting up the nearest downloads on Napster. ICQ reigned supreme and photoshop was uber cool to use, let alone have it installed on our desktops at home. Then came the famous "brick" Nokia cell phone. Ever reliable, you could play dodgeball with it and still be able to use it to call your Mom to pick you up after school.
Super futuristic Mac Source
All those advances in tech made our classrooms very much interesting. Graphics class was incredibly fun, but so was the ability to head to the library at lunch and check our lineups for the fantasy soccer league that afternoon. Students could express themselves better and even enjoy some of the fun aspects of web browsing. Yet, we continued to rely on pen and paper in the classroom, reading extensively from books and texts, our memorization skills tested to their conventional fullest. Call me old-fashioned. Still, there were some who thought: Could we do more with these gadgets?
Indestructible: The good old days of reliability mixed with weight Source
With the announcement of Ontario's Education Minister investing $150 million in funding for technology earlier this September, one can't help but think how iPads will directly contribute to increased grades in school. More importantly, as someone who has first hand experience using iPads extensively within a classroom, I find myself wondering if they will be more of a distraction in schools.

Having taught in England and in the Middle East, I have seen two different approaches when it comes to teaching. In London, the focus was very much on texts, handouts, and plenty of writing within workbooks. This is the very system I grew up in. Nevertheless, positive stimulation of a pupil's mind comes into play here, as does differentiated instruction. Yes, Powerpoint presentations by educators and different methods of teaching can improve the process of learning, however, technology offers a different level of learning altogether.

Having taught in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. as well - where iPads are fully integrated within the system of teaching in many schools within the capital - I saw the effects that too much technological freedom and innovation brought on a practical level each and every day in school. On the one hand, iPads gave students an incredible tool to create fantastic Powerpoint presentations and allowed them to use so many different apps to increase and improve their knowledge and skills in various subjects. However, it also hindered simple things, such as classroom management, as well as forcing teachers to constantly check that students were on task and not just playing or using one of a plethora of games and apps that the device provides.

Nevertheless, I also found that certain International schools within the city, particularly IB (International Baccalaureate) schools had the right idea and implemented iPads very wisely - using them in focused lessons and sparingly. This enhanced their lessons greatly.

We need to find a balance where using iPads or any other form of technology can help students "think differently" when tackling a math problem or geography question, while also making school fun for students again - keeping in mind that higher scores are also a priority. I truly hope that this infusion of money into a fascinating piece of technology will be successful and long lasting in Ontario.

In the end, in these early stages of this new global implementation of technology - such as iPads and cell phones - within schools, there are many instances of success as well as failure. It depends on so many factors. I hope to delve into these possibilities even further as time goes by and we see how teaching methodologies evolve.

The debate continues.

Vital Links: article on the $150 million investment

Monday, September 15, 2014

Classroom Canada on Twitter

Classroom Canada on Twitter: News, updates, educational discourse and insight @classroomcanada

I am very pleased to announce to our teachers in the UK, Canada and all educators around the world that Classroom Canada is finally on twitter! I have always enjoyed posting on my personal twitter account and it dawned on me during the summer that twitter was the exact central hub I wanted for all things Classroom Canada and education in general - sprinkled with a little tidbit or two on traveling around the UK and beyond!

The focus will be on education in the UK, through various fantastic twitter accounts that we follow ourselves. From UKedchat to UKEd Magazine, there is so much to see, read about and discover in the digital world. However, I will also delve into education systems, info and tips from around the world, from the extensive use of technology in the Middle East to the innovative teaching happening in Finland and Asia. There is so much to learn from our global colleagues.

My main goal is to provide all updates regarding Classroom Canada's blog and facebook posts, teaching opportunities, as well as teaching tips from some of the best sources of education around the world.

All are welcome!

I hope you enjoy reading the tweets, re-tweets, news and information on our Twitter account on a daily basis. Feel free to comment, re-tweet and have your say whenever you feel the need!

Enjoy the journey @classroomcanada

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September 2014: A Back to School Promise

Summer makes way for school halls and educating young minds

It's time. Time for another year of intellectual growth, epic battles of dialogue with students of all ages, paperwork, marking and even more marking! It's also the time when our teachers in London are officially back to work. Some long term teachers have already organized their classrooms and met their new students. While others - predominantly new cover teachers who have just arrived in London - are waiting anxiously for their first phone calls to begin their substitution duty and exploration of the UK school system. After almost two weeks, I can say that the hectic year has started already.

The weather is already cooling in London and autumn is just around the corner. Brisk morning walks to the tube, changing leaves, the toll of another church bell, peaceful strolls in parks after school. Shopping for last minute school supplies. Yes, it's a great time to be in London teaching.

As with any year, the challenges and workload pile up, yet we learn from each other as we go along. Whether it is from a fellow teacher at work, a caring sibling, or simply one of our students. Besides helping provide the best opportunities for Canadian teachers to find work and be successful in the UK, this blog is also a bountiful resource. This year, I promise to bring to all of our teachers in London, Canada, and from all over the world, even more insight into this teaching profession that we love and can sometimes hate. Further input on teaching methods and styles, classroom management, use of technology, interviews with teachers in London, and of course, travels in the UK and beyond.

The internet is our forum to share and I hope that we all have a busy, prosperous and fulfilling school year this 2014-2015 academic year!

Vital Links:

Classroom Canada website - to apply for new teaching jobs, ask us about teaching in London or just to get to know us better

Check out our new twitter account: @classroomcanada


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