Lessons from Many Revolutions : The Changing Landscape of Education

Teachers, who educate children, deserve more honor than parents, who merely gave them birth; for the latter provided mere life, while the former ensured a good life.

― Aristotle

element5-digital-352043-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

It is unlikely that a teacher wouldn’t tell you a story of their own teacher who served as a role model; for choosing this line of virtuous service, for understanding the principles of this profession and for becoming a source of many experiential anecdotes. Rivaling, in numbers, the many stories of role model teachers are the stories of the desire to make a difference in the world by molding future generations.

Teaching has always been counted in the ranks of meaningful professions- no matter the changing socio-political and economic landscape. This can be attributed to the need to give back to one’s community, the need to improve the present quality of education, and the need for actively answering a call for civic engagement. Teaching professions remain relevant, also, due to the respect that society bestows upon the educating community.

Back in Those Days

Hailing from the days of school restructuring, I have experienced education going through many structural and administrative changes in my time. Science and mathematics subjects became compulsory in the 1990s and teachers were given a larger role in the administrative process. Along with the freedom to make one’s own syllabi came competency tests that measured their skill level and knowledge proficiency. These changes were met with a general positive favor. However, the standards that test teaching licensure have come under many revisions and debates since the preceding decades.

These steps ensured that an ethical lens was placed on the teaching profession. The individuals opting to teach were not automatically seen as those with virtuous disposition but as service providers. Teaching profession was undergoing a revolution.  

The EdTech Era Now

Education, in today’s classrooms, comprises of more tools than teachers’ anecdotal stories and knowledge-giving modules. Education has become a field that embraces technological advances. This is the case so much so that memes, video games, visual resources and other digital means are potent supportive infrastructure. A teacher can opt to use any or all of them. This is especially the case for teaching STEM subjects.

However, in recent decades, EdTech for teaching English is also gaining popularity. EdTech is hailed as a disruptive technology that is the present and future of classroom teaching. Age-appropriate digital sources and web-based tools are used as knowledge enhancers. One of the biggest tools for the same is digital storytelling (a mighty new companion of our teachers’ tales and anecdotes).

Teachers’ Appreciation Month

Even a short survey, as the one above, leads us through the phenomenal changes in the classroom that teachers are grappling with. EdTech, a field of processes, tools, and resources that is irreversibly changing the landscape of education, is a part of the digital revolution (that has swept away at all other aspects of our lives too). The aim of EdTech, as was with school restructuring of the 1980s and 1990s, remains to provide relevant education and increase the efficiency and performance of learning systems.

In this reality of changing educational processes and lack of fair remuneration, individuals who opt for this noble field remain steadfastly convinced of their roles as future-makers. In this month of appreciating one’s teachers, these pointers make the praise and gratitude, befalling our teachers, more deserving.

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ClassroomScreen: All-in-One Classroom Management Tools

Classroom management can be difficult in the digital age. There are so many tools and resources to keep your students on task, manage student behavior, and keep yourself organized. It can be frustrating to keep it all straight. What if there was a tool to keep everything organized and together?

via ClassroomScreen: All-in-One Classroom Management Tools – Matt Bergman | Learn Lead Grow

What Being an Editor Taught Me About Writing — via Literary Hub

Regular readers of my blog know that I’m an aspiring writer, and I’ve been working on my book for a couple of years now between teaching and learning more about edtech.

Here’s a great blog post I came across that’s written by an editor-turned-writer. It presents some unique tips for writers, and I found it quite valuable. Here’s an interesting snippet:

Writing is Revision
This won’t come as news to anyone, but I can’t stress it enough. The first draft is important, because you are working out the ideas and the plot on the page, and getting that first draft finished is an accomplishment, but what really matters is how many times you are willing to revise that draft. In my mind, this is where the role of hard work—as opposed to God-given talent—comes in. Some people are preternaturally gifted and can dash off a beautiful paragraph with no effort, but they aren’t necessarily the ones who are willing to revise, and revise again, and revise again, until their computer desktop is so cluttered with different drafts that the background is no longer visible.

For more, read the complete article here at Literary Hub.

Encourage Out-of-the-Box Thinking: #MyStudentMotivation Part 4

creativity

Teaching in a classroom often comes from prescribed curricula and textbook material. We teachers rely on lesson plans that help us ensure that all the required material is covered within the semester. Thankfully, we also are encouraged to tinker with our lesson plans to incorporate fun activities so that students really engage with the subject.

There is always scope for tweaking the assignments we give our students or even our in-class exercises to help them relate better to out-of-the-classroom subjects that they deal with in everyday life. The opportunities for these kinds of activities occur more so in language classes, especially ESL courses, where we are required to incorporate the teaching of culture along with the structure and vocabulary of a language.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to make use of these opportunities to get our students invest more of themselves in each class project so that their learning becomes more personal, and thus, more memorable to them. More importantly, this helps students think outside the box.

Here are a few methods that worked wonders with my students.

Beginning the class with a short activity

I often start my classes with a short activity that connects with the topic I am going to teach. This activity helps immensely in triggering students’ knowledge about the subject and also prepping them for the topic at hand. I try to make these activities especially fun and engaging so that my students are focused. Playing a song that is closely related to the story/novel we’re discussing in class and asking students to interpret an abstract image have worked wonders for me.

Challenge students’ accepted notions

The great thing about English classes is that they encourage student expression if done right. I try to coax my more rebellious students into contributing more meaningfully by sharing a bit of themselves. One of my most successful argumentative essay assignments was about the validity of hip-hop as poetry. I had the pleasure of reading and grading many passionate papers arguing both for and against this claim, and I got to learn more about hip-hop than I could ever imagine. The most rewarding result was that some of my struggling students participated actively and made sure their arguments were heard.

Give and set clear examples

As teachers, when we clearly let students know that we are open to new ideas in class, we automatically signal to them that they are encouraged, nay, expected to get creative as well. To give them an additional boost, I also set group projects whenever possible in which I give free rein to students to represent their topic/theme in a manner they see fit. The emphasis here is on creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. I also list some of the projects students from previous years have done to give my class clear, illustrative examples of what they can do. I also set ground rules and hand them detailed rubrics well in advance so that they don’t let their creativity get out of hand. One of the most memorable such projects in my class was an amusement park designed in depict Dante’s 9 circles of hell.

These are just some ideas but there are lots more. With the help of the internet and the expertise of other teachers, we can always do more to encourage out-of-the-box thinking from out students and help them relate their lessons more to their everyday life. What methods have worked best for you? Share them in the comments below.

Get creative #mystudentmotivation

Get Creative: #MyStudentMotivation Part 3

Monotony is one of the biggest reasons why students feel bored or demotivated in the class. Why? Imagine the daily routine of average grown-ups. We cringe and whine about our jobs throughout the week starting from Monday, all the way till Friday evening. That weekend feeling keeps us motivated. The different things that we plan to do during those 2 days with our loved ones motivate till the clock strikes 6 on a Sunday evening.

(P.S. I’m that grown-up who loves Mondays. Because I love my job and the different teaching methods that I apply with my students)

It’s the same with children. But unlike the grown-ups, children can have an option to change this situation. It’s the school’s responsibility to take out the monotony from the classrooms and make the lessons interesting for students.

What can teachers do?

We teachers can do a lot to change the way the lessons are taught in the classroom. It’s up to us and a little interest from our side to make learning interesting.

Incorporate technology

Children spend most of their time browsing the internet and with their smartphones. So the best way to appeal to them is to do things their way. The source of entertainment is unlimited and that’s what appeals to them. So Use mobile apps and games that they can enjoy using in the classroom.

For example, I use word games to engage my students. There are apps like Cram that let you create flashcards and your own version of their inbuilt word games.

Make the lessons visual

As I said before, things that stick to your mind firmly are the ones that appeal to you visually. Start using visual aids effectively in the classroom. Diagrams, videos, colorful charts, or even movies that explain the topics well. They all help solidify the understanding of the concepts whilst making them interesting.

Create a stimulating environment

Children spend more time in the classroom than they do at home (not literally). If you want them to love coming in every day, make their space attractive. use posters, models, student projects and seasonal themes to decorate your classroom, and create a warm, stimulating environment.

I agree that you can’t always be exciting but maybe you can do it once a week. We as teachers are responsible not only for completing the syllabus but also to understand our students, nurture their minds and keep them motivated throughout the lessons.

It’s a challenge that in turn, motivates me to up my game and keep learning.

realistic-goals My Student Motivation

Set Realistic Goals #MyStudentMotivation Part 2

Setting goals or rather setting realistic goals contributes a major part in motivating students to do more. They begin to show interest in what they do and start to believe that things can be done if only you focus and work on it.

How I set realistic goals?

Realistic goals can be anything. It can be solving a simple question paper, reading an online blog and writing their interpretation, making a PPT, or even just coming up with an idea for a fun classroom quiz.

Setting timelines:

As a teacher, you must know and understand your class and your students’ abilities. Accordingly, you must set timelines to complete each task that you give them.

Pairing and teaming

Every class has a set of students who are academically brilliant and another set who are not so brilliant and take time to understand the lessons. We have to make pairs and teams of students who can help each other complete the task.

This gives a chance for the brilliant kids to teach and the not so brilliant kids to learn their ways of studying.

Benchmarking

There’s ought to be a best project or task. Use it as a benchmark for the rest of the class without belittling other students. A simple “Good job Bryan” should do it.

SMART Goals for classroom

The Goals which you set should be SMART. That a marketing abbreviation for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

SMART goals can be something Specific to train a particular skill, Measurable where you can see and rate the performance and improvement. Attainable as the task be something that the students can finish with simple guidance, Relevant meaning the task should be Relevant to your class and subject, and Timely for the tasks to finish within a particular time limit.

The results…

By practicing this method, we can see that the students slowly get independent, efficient, focused, and motivated. Once you notice the students performing well, you can gradually raise the level of difficulty for each task.

So start simple, notice the change, and gradually, raise the bar.

Student blog MyStudentMotivation

The Classroom Blog: #MyStudentMotivation Part1

AS an ESL tutor, my very first suggestion (that greatly worked for me) would be to set up a personal classroom blog for your students.

How does it motivate students? I’ll get to that in a minute. But before that, let’s get over the technical part. Setting up a blog.

Today, that’s nothing easier than setting up your own blog. There are so, so many platforms where you can get your own little place on the web. WordPress, Tumblr, Edublogs, etc. give you options to host and personalize your blog for free without having to write a single line of code.

Once you’re done setting up the blog, you’re good to go.

How does it motivate the students?

Students spend between 8-10 hours on the internet every day. Why? Because there’s so much entertainment on the internet. They watch videos, play games, chat, share and like pictures, etc.

So it’s obvious that the best way to reach your students will be when they are online. People love being a part of a community. They want to be seen, want to be heard, and want to voice their thoughts.

A classroom blog does just that. But for your blog to be effective, you must make it engaging with content that would bring your students to the blog, contribute and share their thoughts.

Post your class discussions on the blog, invite students to share their learnings, what they understood, what they didn’t what they’d like to be changed, etc.

How I did it

I set up a students blog on Edublogs 5 days into my teaching career. I invited my students to subscribe to the blog for updates. They hesitated initially but did it just to play along. I was happy to get them aboard and it was now up to me to make them come in and stay.

I started posting the lessons with some humor and youtube videos. I opened the comments section for the students to engage and sat back with my fingers crossed. To my surprise, students did exactly what I planned. They were motivated to share. They were motivated to speak up, ask questions, answers other students, and post suggestions.

The next morning, I woke up and was thrilled by their interaction. I got some useful insights that I then incorporated in my future lessons.

This slowly became our routine and I’d hang out with my students almost every day even after going home.

This is the power of the internet. #MyStudentMotivation

My Student Motivation

The Student Motivation Series #MyStudentMotivation

We, teachers, love teaching. We really do. Teaching is what gets us to wake up motivated and go to bed satisfied. The best part about teaching is that you keep learning and the fun of working with the young minds gives us the much-needed rush.

But it’s not always fun when your students are not as involved in learning as you are in teaching. It’s definitely not motivating to look at students scattered around in the class with equally scattered thoughts, staring back at the board wishing they were somewhere else. It breaks you as a teacher.

When you’re done picking up your broken pieces, the first thought that plays inside your head is “Am I a bad teacher?” Nope. Not even going there. I tell myself that I’m a great teacher. With that note, I sit down to analyze the real problem.

Lack of motivation and how to fix it?
Students are not always motivated to study. There are very few who enjoy learning something new. Most of the kids perceive learning as a task that they have to do or are forced to do. We can totally relate to that right? We too were students at one point and wished for studying to be interesting.

Now as the tables have turned and since we are officially responsible for teaching the students, why not make our classes more interesting? Why don’t we get the students motivated and excited about learning?

After a lot of research, reading through blogs, talking to my students, ex-students, the parents, I’ve built some strategies to make learning fun for my students. I’ve tried them in my class and seen positive results.

I’m starting a weekly series of articles where I will share my methods of motivating students in the classroom. I’m positive that it will be helpful for teachers who want to make their classes interactive, and exciting for students.

Follow #MyStudentMotivation

Teachers “Without a Life” Trying to Teach About Life — Addie Williams

A friend and I met up to eat Mexican food the other day, because who doesn’t like stuffing fried tortilla chips topped with cheese dip in their mouth? She also is a teacher. She is on year seven of her teaching career, and I am on year two. She said something to me that has […]

via Teachers “Without a Life” Trying to Teach About Life — Addie Williams