Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cell Phones In The Classroom

This week I read the article 5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class via The Innovative Educator. The fifth reason was particularly interesting to me. I totally agree with the author about teaching students how to use technology in a responsible way by allowing them to use it in class. However, I think this would work better with high school students. I've seen schools allowing the use of cell phones only during non-instructional times, which makes students only use them to play games or access something totally unrelated to learning at times when they are probably unattended and can easily misuse and get in trouble.

When used right and with supervision, I think cellphones can be a great asset in the classroom. This article from Mind/Shift shows a successful use of mobile phones in a Chemistry class in San Francisco. Mr. Musallam uses cell phones for polling and instantaneous quizzing in the context of peer instruction and inquiry-based learning.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A great project anyone can do with their students!

10 Incredibly Powerful Teaching Tools of The Future

I've always been interested in teaching tools and resources to enrich the learning experience. This article on lists 10 powerful concepts that a 21st century classroom should have. Most of them involve technology and are student-centered approaches. I was glad to see Visual Learning on top of the list. Unfortunately to read the full article you must pay $1.99 and own an iPad. The article is on the June issue of Edudemic Magazine for iPad. 


This week I revisited and left a comment on the article "7 Ways to Keep Students Focused While Using Technology". Here it is:
"The 7 ways to keep students focused that you listed are great. I find it really hard to have students stick to their task online and not get distracted by their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Educators need to empower students to take ownership of their learning. One way of doing that is by letting students choose a topic of their interest to research, set specific goals and deadlines, and be there for additional support".

Monday, July 2, 2012

Advertising Detectives - a lesson plan review

Today I will review a digital literacy lesson called Advertising Detectives. This lesson is intended for 4th and 5th grade students. 

Its objective is to teach students how to recognize five different kinds of online ads prevalent on children's sites. Students learn how to distinguish advertising content from other content on a website.  

First students read a handout which explains the basics about identifying ads on a website. Teacher compares the web with a big shopping mall, showing students all the things businesses do to attract potential buyers. Students are led into wondering the reasons why store owners want costumers to feel good, hang in there and stay longer. Students are taught to be more savvy in recognizing websites that try to sell things to users in an indirect way. 

Seven key vocabulary words are taught either by being verbally introduced to students or by showing them on the websites explored during the lesson.  Most of their learning comes from exploring the websites.  

I think the real value of this lesson plan is to make children aware of the power of advertisement and to teach them how to distinguish between a noncommercial content from an ad. 

I also liked the extension activity where students have to create a poster explaining the purpose of advertising and identifying which type of ad it is.

"PowerPoint is Evil"

The article written by Edward Tufte criticizes PowerPoint presentations as negative to the audience and points out the emphasis given to format over content on the presentations. 

I agree with the author that some PPT presentations do seem to trivialize content, turning things into a sales pitch. I disagree when he said on the NPR interview that PPT presentations are useful only for the disorganized presenter because it forces them to have points, but not for the audience. I think the audience does benefit from the visuals as well! Concise and relevant information as bullets are important for the visual learner (and for that matter for second language learners too!!).  

This PPT mania hit me when my 12 year old son presented me with a "powerpoint card" for mother's day this year. There were a lot of pictures but unfortunately not the same amount of words accompanying them. It is important for children to learn how to make these presentations, and they sure are learning fast, but we should also consider the real purpose of a PPT stated by the author which is to supplement the presentation and not become a substitute for it. 

I think the presenter has to do a good job of elaborating on the bullets and moreover, making the audience motivated to go beyond the presentation arousing their imagination and curiosity! Teachers and presenters in general have to instigate students into "thinking beyond the bullet points"!!