November 17 , 2016

4 Classroom Management Tips For Teachers Using Tech

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Note: This is a guest blog post by John R. Sowash, author of the new book, The Chromebook Classroom featuring Reflector 2! Read through to the bottom for more information on John’s book and a chance to win a free copy!

"With great power comes great responsibility." That's what Uncle Ben Parker said. The same is true in a technology-filled classroom. Student technology provides access to the world's information, but it also provides access to ALL of the world's information.

How can you encourage your students to remain focused on the tasks at hand and not wander aimlessly around the internet. Here are four ideas to help.

1. Be engaged!
The best way to ensure your students are using their time and technology wisely is to be engaged with them throughout the class period. You must be on your feet (not behind your desk) actively participating in the class (not grading papers) working directly with individuals and small groups of students.

Many teachers ask me if there is "lab monitoring" software that will allow them to see every student's screen at once. While such software does exist, it is not a replacement for active classroom management. Technology is not a babysitter.

2. Re-arrange your room!
The physical layout of your classroom will have a significant impact on your ability to engage with and monitor student activity. Make sure you have ample room to move between student desks. I also recommend that you configure your room so that approximately 25 percent of your students screens are visible no matter where you stand in the room. It is NOT advisable to have all of the screens facing the same direction.

I taught high school science and my room layout could not be adjusted  because there were too many gas and water lines. I would frequently teach from the BACK of the room so that I was able to keep an eye on what students were doing.

Using a tool like Reflector can make you, the teacher, more mobile and able to move around the room rather than be tied to your computer.

Download Reflector software on the computer that is connected to your projector. This will allow you to wirelessly mirror your phone or tablet to the computer, giving you the freedom to walk around the room as needed.

Reflector2Chromebook

 

3. Don't be boring!
The #1 reason that students get off task is that they are bored! It's hard to blame a student for wandering the internet if there isn't anything interesting going on in class!

One way to increase the amount of student engagement is to use an interactive presentation tool like Pear Deck or Nearpod. These two tools mix direct instruction with formative assessment. It's easy to ask a multiple choice, short-answer or interactive question during your instruction time.

Kahoot, ClassKick and EdPuzzle are three more tools that require active engagement from each of your students. The more engaged they are, the fewer issues you will have.

4. Don't freak out!
While it is important that we help our students focus on learning, we don't have to freak out about every little thing that they do. Is it okay for a student to check up on the playoff scores? To play music while working? To watch a quick video?

I learned this lesson when I was a student teacher in a school that had a strict "no phones in class" policy. One student was particularly distracted during any individual work time. The smallest noise would catch his attention. One day he asked if he could listen to music on his phone because it helped him focus. I said sure. He was much more productive from that point forward.

It all comes down to classroom culture. The ultimate goal for every teacher is to create a classroom culture that silently communicates the expectation that each student will get their assigned work done on time. As long as students follow this guideline, the teacher does not need to micromanage student activity.

Have faith that your students will rise to meet your expectations. Those who do not will quickly face additional scrutiny and evaluation to ensure that learning goals are accomplished.

Challenge
Managing a classroom full of devices isn't easy. What are your tips for helping students stay focused and on task? Share with the #chromebookEDU community!

If you enjoyed this blog post you will love John’s new book, The Chromebook Classroom, which contains over 30 lesson ideas for using Chromebooks at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Enter your email below for a free copy of chapter one of The Chromebook Classroom. You will also be entered to win one of two free copies being given away!

August 23 , 2016

Evolution of Education Technology

This is a guest post by educational technology consultant Janet Corder. She is an organizer for EdcampIT, one of the many Edcamps we sponsored throughout the year. Janet has witnessed the evolution of education technology through her 30+ years of experience as a classroom teacher and instructional technology coordinator in Texas public schools and as adjunct education professor at a local university.

Janet specializes in technology integration, BYOD implementations, interactive whiteboard technologies and mobile learning devices. Her passion for helping educators successfully integrate technology into their curriculum has provided her with many opportunities to present at national, state and local conferences, and in school districts throughout the United States.
Janet

The beginning of a new school year always brings mixed emotions for students as well as educators. For me, the start of a new year was my favorite time of the year. Even though I am no longer in the classroom, I still get excited to see the school supply sales and observe parents and students frantically searching for just the right binder and backpack. The beginning of the year also brings back a flood of memories as I reminisce about the technological advances that have occurred since the first computers made their way into my classroom.

As I reflect on where technology has evolved during my years as an educator, I am constantly amazed at what I have seen since I first taught middle school Computer Literacy in 1984. In fact, I actually taught the course for two years without a computer or a textbook! When a few Apple IIe computers were finally delivered to my classroom, the students and I could make those “For…Next loops” and “Goto statements” actually create something on the computer screen. We could even print out the program on our dot-matrix printer and save the file to a floppy diskette!

Just a few years later, my classes were introduced to the amazing World Wide Web. We could communicate with students from around the world and find out where the latest earthquake was located. The only problem was that the school had one Internet connection and it was in the small conference room located in the library. I couldn't even fit an entire class in the room at one time. Oh, and don’t forget that it was a dial-up connection that took forever to actually work!

Those were exciting times, but I don’t believe that anything can compare to the enthusiasm and engagement students experience with technology in 2016. The looks on their faces when I take them on a virtual field trip to explore a coral reef or facilitate an online game that allows them to review their curriculum in a collaborative environment says it all.

I’ve seen the transformation of classrooms as schools have installed interactive whiteboards, purchased carts of laptops and mobile devices and allowed students to use their smartphones or other devices to enhance their learning experience. We live in an unbelievable time of transformation in our classrooms, and I believe that technology is the key to making our classrooms an exciting, engaging place to prepare our students to be successful.

If you are hosting your own Edcamp and are interested in a Squirrels sponsorship, fill out our Edcamp Sign Up Form. Sponsorship may include monetary or swag donations, discounts on our products and more!

April 12 , 2016

Six Secrets to Becoming a Master Presenter by EdTech Guru David Lockhart

This article is a guest post by EdTech guru David Lockhart. He tells the story of his journey from novice to master presenter at education conferences all across the United States. 

David is a member of our inaugural class of Alpha Squirrels EdTech experts. Alpha Squirrels are a major part of the Squirrels family. While they don’t work directly with us every day, we encourage advancement in their careers and enjoy hearing about their successes. Alpha Squirrels are deeply involved in educational technology. They provide feedback to us directly from the classroom and help us make decisions that impact student learning all over the globe.

David Lockhart Alpha Squirrel

“How do you do it?”

I get that question a bunch when I present multiple sessions in a row at a conference, and hopefully I can let you in on a few secrets with this post. I recently had the opportunity (thanks to my friends at Squirrels) to present eight sessions at the KYSTE conference in Louisville, Kentucky. KYSTE is Kentucky’s state conference and an ISTE affiliate that is attended by about 2,000 people annually. I have been to many of the state conferences across the Southeast, and it definitely ranks up there among my favorites. I like the venue for the conference (the Galt House Hotel) and the city of Louisville. The conference itself has some great local presenters and the organizers usually bring in one great national presenter. This year it was Steven Anderson, a prominent educator, speaker and blogger.

  1. Apply Everywhere

I guess the question to start with is, “How did you get to do eight presentations at a single conference?” My first conference was the Georgia Education Technology Conference in 2012. At that conference, I presented my “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” presentation and I realized I had a real knack for presenting. From there, I actually asked conference presenter extraordinaire Leslie Fisher how to get in the presentation game.

Her advice to me was incredibly simple: “Present everywhere you can.”

I thought, “Well if Georgia has a state conference, I’m sure other states do as well.” So I started applying other places. My first conference outside of Georgia was in Alabama, and I continued to expand from there.

  1. Diversify your presentations

I was applying to these other state conferences with my “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” presentation, but it was only getting me into a few places. I realized I needed to diversify. Much like a reporter would, I started asking myself what new angle I could take to present relevant and timely content to my audience.

I started by expanding my 60-in-60 presentation to do separate presentations—one that was all Apple, one that was apps you would not know and one that was gadgets. I didn’t want to stop there though, so I also added topic- and tool-based presentations as well as just expanding into the world of posters and workshops. Find something you are passionate about and then diversify from there. Finding new angles will intrigue your audience and conference organizers.

  1. Add some flare to the application

Step three actually gets down to the application process. First, apply wherever you can. State conferences are usually much easier to get into the national conferences like ISTE, FETC and iNACOL.

Once you have really figured out where you want to go, the application process is usually very similar with few exceptions. Most conferences will want a title and a description. The key to this is making it catchy. Takes off of song titles usually work well. In the description, I start many of them with a question because that’s what attendees look at when they are deciding which sessions to attend. If you pose it as a question, it can be read as you personally asking them. It gives them something to ponder.

Many conferences ask for an outline. To get this, just think through how you are going to organize your presentation into sessions. Some also ask for a biography and previous experience, and really with those you just have to put your best foot forward. Now, the key to quickly applying to multiple presentations is to save all of the standard conference info in a Google Doc. This allows you to just copy and paste as new conferences come up! I would show you mine, but I don’t want to give away my secret sauce.

  1. Wait — Patience is key

Now it’s time to wait on what’s accepted. In reality, your first year will probably only get you one or two. I actually presented at KYSTE in 2015, and I only got one session in. I then stepped up in place of other presenters as needed in order to fill in for people who had to cancel because of a snowstorm. I think doing that helped push me to eight sessions this year. Conference organizers need time to build that trust, so if you find one you like, keep going to it!

  1. Make it compelling

Once you get to the conference, it’s all uphill from there. The key to doing so many sessions is not to take yourself too seriously. Have Fun! We have all been in PD’s where the presenter was so serious and it was just boring. Joke around, but also provide good content. Attendees love that. I think it’s also great to pepper videos into your presentations in order to give yourself a tiny break as you are going. This breaks up the presentation a bit, and it gives you a chance for a drink to help keep your voice going.

  1. Assess

How do you tell if things went well? I think the easiest way is to see familiar faces. If you have folks coming back to hear you again, it means they liked you! Thankfully, that was the case in Kentucky. I actually had one individual who I think spent most of her conference with me!

To close, I’d like to say thanks to that nutty Squirrels team for helping me get there. They make a great product that allows educators to be mobile in their classroom, and that’s the key to behavior management!

David Lockhart Presenting

If you would like to apply to become an Alpha Squirrel, visit http://alpha.airsquirrels.com. Or, learn more about Squirrels’ classroom screen-mirroring app, Reflector 2.

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Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. Our excitement and passion lies in creating high-qualty, budget-friendly software that can be used to enhance the devices already found in today's home and work environments. Follow our blog for all the latest product releases, #TeamSquirrels news and industry insight!