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Features For New Teachers
Volume 6, Issue 11
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I recently received a letter about student reflection at the end of the school year.
Dr. Manute's response:
Reflection is important for the students as well as the teachers. As a thoughtful educator, you know how vital it is for you to reflect back on your practice - what worked, what didn't; the successes and failures; approaches you'd try again and those you want to lock away in the closet. This is so important to your students too. They need that time, the meta-cognitive processing that occurs when they reflect back on their own learning, their successes and failures, etc., the same as you would.
I would suggest a writing prompt (or several prompts over several days) to get your students thinking. You will undoubtedly want to engage them ahead of time with discussion. Not too many students are expected (or taught) to reflect on their experiences. You will hopefully also garner true statements from the students. They need to be honest with themselves and with you. But be prepared - sometimes they may say things you don't like or want to hear! However, if you want them to really express themselves, they'll have to know they can trust you to tell you the truth in how they feel and how they see their part in the educational world.
You've chosen a truly great road as a teacher, and the path to self-reflection is one that not every educator travels. If you can take that path, and lead your students up it as well, you will be certainly headed for a lifetime of great teaching.
Yours in teaching,
You might think that since Apple sells video cables and iPad VGA adapters that these would be good solutions for enlarging an Apple device's screen. Unfortunately, these adapters do not project everything you see on the screen--they are designed to only show photos and movies. In the case of iPad, apps must be programmed to output to the VGA adapter (and almost all are not), and the VGA adapter won't show the Home screen.
If you've got a document camera in your classroom, you're pretty good to go. Cameras from AVerMedia, Elmo, and Epson are popular, and they connect directly to a projector to show live video of what's under the lens. Unfortunately, document cameras can also be pricey. Some teachers have found less expensive USB web cams that do an acceptable job of showing a device's screen.
I've been on the hunt for a good portable USB camera. That's because I need it to travel with me, and the video needs to be directed through my computer so I don't have to switch video connections when toggling between my slideshow and the camera. In the past I've used an iSight Camera mounted on a flexible stand. Today the iSight is no longer available. I've recently been using using a Hue HD Webcam. I got it on sale for $30, but the problem is that the stand falls over when pointed down like a document camera.
Thanks to a suggestion I heard on the Bit by Bit podcast, I am now using the IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera. It's $69 and gives a better picture than my cheaper Hue HD Webcam. Point 2 View is designed to be used like a document camera, so the base is weighted down. Point 2 View adjusts height and position using a multi-jointed stand instead of a flexible stand so it doesn't wobble.
Point 2 View comes with P2V software for Macintosh and Windows. This software lets you view the camera's feed in a window or you can go full screen. It also has a variety of adjustments if you want to try to improve the picture.
The camera has a one-touch focus button. I really like that it has two auto-focus modes. There's Continuous and Single. I keep mine on Single so that I can set it to focus on my iPod touch, and it doesn't change--even when my hand is in front of the iPod. Speaking of focus, this camera does a great job. Below is a screen capture to show you how clear the image is. Video from Point 2 View is better than other USB camera I've used.
When using a camera to show an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, I've found it looks best to turn the brightness setting on the device to about 20%. Be sure to turn off Auto-Brightness (in Settings app > Brightness) and adjust Auto-Lock (in Settings app > General) to 5 minutes or higher so the device doesn't keep dimming and turning off.
Of course, there are others uses in education for a USB camera like the IPEVO's Point 2 View. Check out IPEVO's Bring Your Curriculum to Life one-page PDF. Other resources for using document cameras include Teaching Tips from eMINTS and the Document Cameras in the Classroom handout.
Working closely with a mentor or collaborating teacher can be both rewarding and challenging. The rewards include developing a positive relationship with a professional educator and gleaning tremendous amounts of insight and effective teaching tips and techniques. The mentor has been working effectively for a considerable number of years and has perfected both the art and craft of teaching. In the ideal situation the mentor guides and provides feedback while allowing the intern to develop style and work through different situations and challenges. The intern has the opportunity to make mistakes and develop strategies for improvement all under the guidance of a thoughtful and caring mentor.
Sometimes an intern is placed with a mentor who finds it very difficult to let go of his/her classroom. This teacher remains in the room all day and really doesn’t allow the intern the flexibility and creativity to develop and refine an individual style. The intern loses the opportunity to be on his or her own, a very valuable experience. Another challenging situation is the mentor who for some unknown reason decides to try to clone themselves. This mentor actually creates a situation that is counter-productive to a positive student teaching experience. This mentor really inhibits the growth and development of the intern through constant manipulating and overbearing direction.
There have been some mentors who view the interns almost as personal servants making them run errands and do menial tasks not really aligned with the internship. This situation needs to be reported to the university supervisor as soon as possible.
How does an intern deal effectively with these challenges? That is not an easy answer. Ideally, interns are not placed in these situations; however, we all know ours is not a perfect world. One suggestion would be to schedule a meeting as soon as possible with the mentor. Be prepared with questions that might provide some insight and if there appears to be a problem, contact your university immediately, maybe a change could be arranged. Sometimes true motives don’t surface until well into the internship, that can create difficulty and put the intern in a tough spot.
The interns must always realize that the internship is a tremendous amount of work that requires vast amounts of time and energy and they are guests in a classroom; however, they also have many responsibilities in the learning of the skill and craft of teaching. In most cases, the intern will create a strong relationship with the mentor. The personal skills learned and practiced during the student-teaching experience will be invaluable as the intern moves into his/her own classroom.
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This is part three of a three part look at what teaching is all about.
In this third part I will be focusing on formative
and summative assessment and some of the tools available to help you get
to know where each of your students is at any given time. Quoting from
the first article: "What is this formative and summative assessment
about? Giving final tests have been around forever (summative
assessment). Asking questions of the students isn’t new either
(formative assessment). But what have you done with the answers the
students gave? Did they help in guiding where you were going with the
material? Did it help you assess the success of your teaching
Let's first start with questioning strategies. When
a teacher asks a class a question, does it engage everyone? I would say
it engages only those who know the answer or are interested in the
question. What about the rest of the class? What about the shy ones, or
those who don't or aren't sure of the answer? Our job is to engage all
the students, or at least most of them. During most question and answer
sessions you'll find many students checking out. Also, in asking the
question, you ask one student for their answer. This only tells you that
one student understands. What do you know about the rest of the class?
Formative assessment is a very important tool for
the teacher. It should be done frequently (meaning daily) to help you
assess where the students are in their learning and whether you, as a
teacher, needs to make an adjustment in your approach. But it is very
important that formative assessment is done correctly. All students
should be engaged in the assessment. The assessment should be designed
to give you instant feedback as to where each individual is. Realize
right away that this is not for a grade. It's to give you feedback to
where everyone is so that you can respond to it..
One easy way to do this is to use small white
boards. When you ask a question each student writes down their answer on
the board, and when given a cue, they show their boards to you. The
reason for the cue is so the students don't just copy someone else's
answer because that person had gotten it done early. If you don't have
boards, or can't afford them, use blank white paper. This works great in
giving you instant feedback and the students enjoy it because they find
out right away whether they are understanding
it and everyone is involved. The drawback to this method is that you
don't have a good record of what each individual student understands.
You could keep a tally with a class list to highlight students that need
extra help as you scan their answers.
You may be thinking: Why go through all this
hassle? Let me ask you this: Are we there for the learning, or just to
present the curriculum? That is what all teachers need to decide.
Another way to assess students in a formative way is by using a Student Response System. There are several systems available. The system I use is available through einstruction. They are located at. Quoting from their website:
"You can engage every child in class material
by creating an interactive learning environment in your classroom.
Students who normally remain silent in class can now answer every
question without fear of embarrassment. And since you see instant
feedback from the entire class, you know whether to move on or continue
teaching a concept. CPS
also streamlines administrative tasks. Now you can spend less time
grading and more time teaching."
This also gives the students immediate feedback on whether they are understanding the lesson and engages every student. It also allows you, due to the instant feedback, to adjust your teaching to help them achieve greater understanding immediately.
Hopefully, I've peaked your interest. What you'll
begin to see is better understanding and higher results in your
summative tests. You'll also see more students engaged and becoming a
part of their learning. I've had students say to me, "I'd take a
test any day if I could use these", referring to the response
systems. Have I seen an improvement? Yes, because I have a much better
idea of where my students are at and can make the immediate adjustments
to help those who are struggling.
All teachers will surely agree on the reality of dealing with diverse learners ( who have different intelligence levels) in their day- to- day teaching: no doubt, it some times helps the facilitator to bring varieties in class to respond to various needs; on the other hand, it sometimes diverts the focus of the class as well.
Educationists firmly believe when students don’t get interaction and an environment of learning with fun, they usually get depressed and begin ill-behavior. A conscious teacher always keeps in mind the effective use of teaching which could be done through different teaching methods including a variety of teaching strategies. However these approaches bring out the learning environment as C.R.Christian and D.A Garvin mentioned, “To teach is to engage students in learning.” Although the active engagement of learners is possible through various ways, all the suggested strategies have meaningful effects that facilitate students to take part in such activities and enjoy learning.
Morally, teachers are responsible to engage their pupils in the learning experience, particularly in relation to the quality of the instructions and activities. No doubt, the ultimate purpose of any activity is learning, which can be obtained through doing. Hence it may be either ‘Minds-on’ or ‘Hands-on’. “Hands-on” learning by doing is a powerful idea, and we know that engaging students actively and thoughtfully in their studies pays off in better learning”. (Rutherford, 1993:5) Hand-on activities include arts & crafts, creative writing, role play, drama, problem solving. “Minds-on” activities usually have students engaged in imagination, mind mapping, concept mapping, reflective thinking, brainstorming, higher order questioning, discussion, Think-Pair–Share, interviews, PMI, and analytical thinking. A qualified teacher may link these activities with proper lesson management and organization where learning takes place during the lesson to maintain pupil attention, interest and involvement.
Having said that, the function of classroom activities is to maintain misbehavior at minimum level and sustain their interest. It also provides opportunities for children to explore & engage with the content in a creative and dynamic way. Furthermore, it encourages learners to express their thoughts, feelings, and responses. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) believed learning occurs by an active construction of meaning, rather than by receiving it passively. He states “when we, as learners, encounter an experience or situation that conflicts with our current way of thinking, a state of imbalance is created”. When a teacher allows learners to construct their own knowledge, it automatically enhances their critical thinking which further leads him or her to take decisions for their self- development.
No doubt this whole process makes learners motivated and active and takes them toward the constructivism where learners themselves partake in learning and make meaning.
This approach fosters in them the use of critical thinking; enabling students to learn through constructing their own understandings that make them active and motivated learners.
Also, the constructivism theory suggests a simple and effective sequence called “the 5 E Model” where participants initiate their learning through personal Engagement, and Explore new knowledge through inquiry and experiences and connect their knowledge by Explanation. Moreover they practice and apply new context thorough Elaboration. Thus their understanding could be assessed through Evaluation even during the process or while getting the end result.
Here the most important question arises: ‘Why do we need to do all such things in our classes?' The most suitable response is that our teaching should move around the holistic development of the child or learner who is the center of attraction and if in case, as teachers, we couldn’t attract these children towards learning, then surely we ruin their natural instinct to learn and discover life.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no single magical formula to motivate learners or students towards learning. Many external and internal actors affected student's motivation and they were willing to work and to learn (Bligh, 1971; Sass, 1989); their interest in the subject matter, perception of its usefulness, their desire for greater achievement, self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as patience and persistence. Moreover, not all students are motivated by the same values, needs, desires, or wants; some students will be motivated by trial and error, other influenced by case studies, etc.
Researchers have begun to identify those aspects of the teaching situation that enhance students' self-motivation (Lowman, 1984; Lucas, 1990; Weinert and Kluwe, 1987; Bligh, 1971). To encourage students to become self-motivated independent learners, instructors can do the following:
Keeping in mind the milestones of every physical and cognitive age, it is also important how learners participate in learning within and outside classroom. Also important are the types of tasks assigned to make their learning more meaningful. Vygotsky has discussed two types of student’s development in his thesis, "Zone of Proximal Development” as cited by Crowl, Kaminsky & Poldell (1997:71), “The level of actual development is the level at which an individual can function independently, whereas the level of potential development is the level at which the person can perform when working with a teacher or a group of students”
As a teacher and learner myself, it is my conviction and experience that when we perform teaching as a conscious act, we not only enjoy but also become satisfied. It all depends upon the teacher who could be motivated intrinsically and/or extrinsically and can MAKE A DIFFERENCE in students' lives and their own lives as well.
Bias in education can refer to real or perceived bias in the educational system.
Many recent allegations against the United States have surfaced about them hiding many historical facts from the public through public education and thus luring the public to believing that the actions taken by the U.S. government are justified and provide a global benefit.
Gender bias in education occurs in many cultures. Often educators are not aware of Gender bias.
Religious bias in textbooks is often observed in countries where religion plays a dominant role.
Many countries and states have guidelines against bias in education, but they are not always implemented. The guidelines of the California Department of Education (Code 60044) state the following: "No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior." "Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be present in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief."
On the basis of these guidelines, the Board of Education of California corrected in 2005 misrepresentations of Judaism, Islam and Hinduism in schoolbooks. Many of these misrepresentations were described as biased, erroneous or culturally derogatory. All 500 changes proposed by Jews and about 100 changes proposed by Muslims were accepted, but many of the proposed changes related to Hinduism were opposed by a group led by Professor Witzel, although this group also admitted that they were unaware of the nature of the proposed changes when they wrote their protest letter on November 7, 2005.
One change that was opposed by the Witzel group was to use the word “deity” instead of statue for murthis (carved images of a God), another change that was opposed was to use upper-case “G” for God, because for Hindus there are many forms of the one god. The correction of an incorrect statement about the Hindu epics was rejected by the Witzel group with the comment: "Who in Sixth Grade cares which epic was 'written' first?"
The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, as their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Holocaust (or Holocaust denial) and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist or patriotic view. Also, Christians and other religionists have at times attempted to block the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools, as evolutionary theory appears to contradict their religious beliefs. In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One legitimate argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it can be used to enforce wider and more politically motivated censorship
The business world tells us that they want people who are good at collaboration. Being that our job is to prepare the students for the future, this skill should become part of what we teach in the classroom.
Planning and preparation are key to getting your groups underway. The first thing to do as you prepare to use group work as part of the learning process is to setup your groups. Never allow the students to set up the groups; you are only inviting disaster. There are many ways to set up groups. I like to spread the abilities out among the groups. The smartest student isn’t always the one who can lead the group through to a conclusion. I also like to mix boys and girls up in the groups. They tackle problems from different ways, so it enhances the learning taking place. Also, change the groups after every section, so they learn to work with different people. This makes it a more real world experience.
going to have it go longer, the group should be at least three to four students. The reason for this is the fact that what is the group going to do if the next day one of the students isn’t there? With three or four students you will at least have a group of two or three to continue on if someone is missing.
As you begin the groups, realize the students may not know how to work in a group. This is something that we as teachers shouldn’t take for granted. Talk about using listening skills, the fact that only one person is speaking at a time. Explain that arguing doesn’t solve anything. They must learn, when there are differences of opinion, to share why they feel the way they do and support it with reasons. We also talk about the importance that everyone be a participant in the group process. Another thing I tell the groups is that they are not to ask me, the teacher, a question until they’ve talked about it in the group. If the group can’t answer the question, then I will gladly help them out as a group. This fosters dependence on their group.
I like to call this the “Driving Question”. This is what they are to be focusing on as they work together. Decide what you want them to learn, set the goals, and then communicate to the students your expectations.
In conclusion, from observation and research that collaboration (group work) when used properly can be an excellent learning tool. I hope you will find using this learning tool as stimulating and rewarding as I have, both for the students and yourself.
The second part of this article will detail more of the 'nuts & bolts' of getting your groups underway, and describe a few example projects you can use in class.
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