Sunday, November 17, 2013

Edubloggers: College Admissions and Math Apps

This week I decided to follow the education section of the New York Times and I came across some fascinating articles.  The first blogger I chose to investigate writes articles about how technology and social media are affecting the lives of high school seniors applying to college.  In one article, she writes about the story of a prospective freshman at Bowdoin who tweeted some inappropriate comments while attending one of the school's tour days.  The admissions team came across these comments and, as a result, the student was not admitted.  In a subsequent article, the blogger writes about how she was surprised by the fact that it was news to parents that admissions teams have the ability to check out prospective students' social media lives.  This made me think about where students receive their social media etiquette, if not at home.  In this sense, I believe it is part of our jobs as teachers to bring proper social media skills to the classroom.  How can we expect teenagers to understand how their virtual world will affect their real world if we don't explicitly tell them?

Secondly, I chose to look into another edublogger who wrote about educational apps.  The article pertained to math, but I think this sentiment can be applied to any subject area: "The idea is that by keeping the entire app lighthearted and full of amusing sounds and images, children do not notice that they’re being tested on their arithmetic skills." (Eaton, 2013).  The beauty of the apps is that they trick kids into learning because it's FUN!  So why can't we make learning just as fun in the classroom and disguise traditional tests with more informative/fun assessments?  For example, have a student design his or her own math game to demonstrate his or her arithmetic skills, or have a student research the science behind video games to demonstrate his or her mastery of cognitive functions?  I believe that teachers can make school more fun, but can we possess all that an app has to offer?  Perhaps we should be investigating more academic apps to try and emulate pieces of them in the classroom.  You could certainly bring the apps into your classroom through technology, but this is not possible everywhere.  I also think some teachers may be hesitant to bring in technology that may threaten the job of the teacher.  Personally, I think it would be great to disguise testing and learning with games and I intend on researching apps for my science classroom.  I don't know if I will ever teach in a place with a one-to-one policy, but I do not think that should determine how "fun" your assessments are or how much students are engaged in the learning process.  Like I said, I think it's up to me to research these apps and bring aspects of them into the classroom.  What this looks like, we'll have to wait and see.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cellphones in the Classroom

Yesterday I took away my first cell phone.  I told a student to put it away and that if I saw it one more time I was going to give it to my mentor teacher for the rest of the school day.  I walked away and two minutes later I saw it out again, so I took it away.   Cell phones are a constant issue in my mentor’s classroom and this was the first time I really took action.  I feel like I’m constantly telling kids to put their phones away, which I hate doing, so this made me think about how I could make cellphones part of learning. 

This reminds me of something Rory brought up earlier in the year.  We are living in an age where whatever we as teachers do in the classroom has to be so engaging that students won’t want to have their phones out in the first place.  While I agree with this, it sounds like such a daunting task.  I’d like to think that I’m an engaging educator, but this seems tiring.  One solution would be to use apps in the classroom and integrate cellphones into instruction. Then again, I toy with the issue of equity in my classroom.  From a survey I administered early in the semester, I know that all students do not own smartphones. 

I also think students need to learn how to be respectful with technology.  When you hang out with friends or family, it is not very polite to be glued to your cellphone.  Is this how kids are when they’re out of school also?  I also think about what is going to happen when students apply for jobs or for college.  Will they still be distracted by their cellphones and how will this impact their job or future academic performance? 

While I don’t have the answer now, I think there needs to be a balance between using cellphones for instruction and putting them away when it is not appropriate.  Just as we need to teach students how to manage their online life, we need to teach students how to manage their real life with ubiquitous tech use.