March 1, 2018

#SquirrelsChat Recap: Student Engagement

Student engagement is the name of the game in education. Every educator wants students to be invested in their learning and take the necessary steps to achieve their goals.

Consider the following actions.

  • Turning in work on time
  • Participating in a class discussion
  • Attending class
  • Raising a hand to answer a question
  • Listening to instructions

All can be regarded as student engagement depending on the educator’s views. Broad topics like student engagement require a framework to base ideas off of in order to bring clarity to the topic as a whole. While the concept seems straightforward, it can take on many different meanings in education.

February’s second #SquirrelsChat focused on the work of Phillip Schlechty to guide our discussion about student engagement. This recap covers strategies to de-escalate a rebellious situation, encourage active participation, avoid minimum engagement, empower student voice and choice and more!

Join #SquirrelsChat the third Thursday of the month for the best education tips, strategies and ideas at 8 p.m. ET. You can stay up to date on chat topics and moderators by following us on Twitter (@Squirrels). 

De-escalating a rebellious situation

Let’s face it. Sometimes rebellious situations are unavoidable. But by working to understand the situation, keeping your cool, being present and even rehearsing responses, you can ease the problem effectively. 

Encouraging active participation

From talking tokens, to synchronous text for collaboration, to formative assessment, there are many ways in which educators can encourage active participation. Remember to always let students know you are invested in their education and want them to be successful.

Avoiding minimum engagement through meaningful & varied assessments

Understanding how a student learns (audio, visual, tactile) can make all the difference when it comes to student engagement. Avoid the “one size fits all” approach and give students a chance to choose based on their learning preferences.

Going beyond the “game of school”

According to Schlechty, strategic compliance can often trick the observer into thinking the student is engaged, but upon further review, they aren’t at all. To avoid this, keep students involved and celebrate their successes no matter how big or small.

Entry points to empower students to have voice and choice

Allowing students voice and choice in the classroom creates more engagement in their learning and empowers them to become self-directed learners.

Using Schlechty’s framework to enhance conversations with colleagues

Use the framework discussed in this chat to educate a colleague and help them take measures to enhance their own students’ engagement. Take a minute to re-familiarize yourself with the levels of engagement.

Don’t miss the next #SquirrelsChat on March 15 at 8 p.m. ET!

February 9, 2018

#SquirrelsChat Recap: Creating Startup Culture in the Classroom

Ping pong tables in the lounge. Free sushi and Red Bull in the fridge. The latest toys and gadgets littering the office.

You’ve likely heard these nauseating clichés about tech startups more times than you can count.

While those amenities may appear in startup culture, it’s critical to understand that the success of your team, colleagues or students does not derive from pool tables and free snacks. A true startup culture embodies growth, innovation, openness, experimentation, positivity and most of all, collaboration.

The February #SquirrelsChat laid the groundwork for developing a startup culture. Participants brainstormed ways to apply that cultural framework to educational environments.

What elements of startup culture can be found in education?

Start by looking at the physical attributes of modern classrooms. You’ll notice the parallels between innovation and education. Teachers and schools are becoming more intentional about creating environments that are conducive to collaboration and creativity.

What does a people-first mentality look like in classrooms & schools?

Simply put: a people-first mentality is looking at people beyond data, requirements and to-do lists. Focus on building relationships with your colleagues, students, admins, parents, etc. because ultimately, people are the foundation of any organization or culture.

What are ways to encourage collaboration in your environment

When we place value on collaboration, we need to find a way to cultivate it and make it part of the active culture.  

What impact does a culture of innovation have on student learning & achievement?

The term “future-ready skills” can be found across education today. It is difficult, if not impossible, for students to acquire future-ready skills with an educational mindset stuck in the 20th century.

What can you do to shift towards a culture of innovation?

In the words of Sir Ken Robinson, change happens from the ground up. Movements do not occur because someone in charge says it should happen. We should all feel empowered to make change happen, regardless of where we are.

Join #SquirrelsChat for the best education tips, strategies and ideas
Join #SquirrelsChat every first and third Thursday of the month at 8 p.m ET. You can stay up to date on chat topics and moderators by following us on Twitter (@Squirrels). 

Don’t miss the next #SquirrelsChat on February 15: Student Engagement with host Billy Spicer.

December 20, 2017

#SquirrelsChat Recap: Computer Science + Coding in the Classroom

Students need certain skills to survive and thrive in our digital world.

Problem solving. Critical thinking. Designing. Creating. 

These are the skills that worksheets and busy work simply cannot provide.

But coding can.

The December #SquirrelsChat took a dive into the topic of coding as innovative educators shared strategy, real-world examples, advice, resources and more for teaching computer science. This chat focused on the first three practices of the K-12 Computer Science Framework.

Building an inclusive computing culture

Considering the needs of all students is essential to producing an inclusive computing culture. Start by involving all students and make coding part of everything they do. Build it into the curriculum, form computer science teams, create after-school clubs, etc. This allows all students to experience coding, incorporate it into what interests them and increase their enthusiasm about the topic.

Collaboration in the classroom

Effective collaboration can lead to better computing outcomes in the classroom. Give students opportunities to work together, talk, build and create. Encourage leadership and team building by allowing students that have more experience to help and teach others.

Applying computational skills

Being able to recognize opportunities to apply computational thinking is a skill that is central to coding. Let’s take a look at a few real life applications from educators using this approach in the classroom.

Hour of Code

This year, 153,941 events registered for the Hour of Code. This global movement is a way of bringing awareness to coding and an introduction to computer science. Anyone can participate in and organize an Hour of Code event. Here are some first-hand experiences.

Coding and computer science resources

There are many computer science resources, programs and applications that help educators jump into coding – Kodable, Minecraft and to name a few. Take some time to research the tools that make it easy to introduce concepts to students. Remember, start small!

Related reading: Are We Too Late for Computer Science?

How to bring computer science into the classroom

Implementing computer science into the classroom is daunting. Many educators don’t know where to start. A good place to begin is to connect with others, do research, don’t be afraid to ask students for help and jump in. Coding is fun, it’s everywhere and anyone can do it!

Want more great insight into the world of education?

Join #SquirrelsChat every first and third Thursday of the month starting in January 2018. You can stay up-to-date on topics, moderators and any time/date changes by following us on Twitter (@Squirrels). 

Coming up on January 4: Tasks Before Apps with host Monica Burns.


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Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. We create high-quality, budget-friendly screen mirroring and device management software that’s compatible with today’s most popular devices. To date, our software can be found in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, businesses and homes. Follow our blog for all the latest product updates, Squirrels news and technology insight!