5 Ways To Introduce Technology To Your Classroom Without Enough Technology

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(Photo Credit: Blair Mishleau)

As the technology specialist at a school, I’m constantly running into issues (our computers haven’t arrived yet, the tech staff doesn’t have time to install them, my lab is being used for NWEA testing, etc.).

But, never fear. There are a lot of ways to get nerdy with kids without needing a laptop for everyone. Here are my tips – I’d love to hear some more, if you have them, in the comments!

1.)   Code.org. Live it. Love it. Code it.
This site is getting really well-known, but there’s a nice little niche that not everyone might know about. There are loads of “paper” activities that can teach little kiddos how to make a “program” and much more. It’s especially great as a primer before letting students use computers.

(Pro-tip: If you have even intermittent access to 3-10 computers, do stations. Have students who have mastered the paper activities move onto computers!)

2.)   Paper Keyboards.
This concept blew my mind. I thought kids would be like “Bro. Paper keyboards?” But they were more like, “Bro!! My own paper keyboard!!” The secret? Sell it like a used car salesman. My pitch: “Guys. Today you are getting your very own keyboard! You get to use it every week for the next few months. You need to make it your own. Spend the next 10 minutes decorating it!”

This is particularly awesome as you can have them draw on it and color specific keys. For example: we circle “home row” so they know where it is. We can practice it to death so they are ready when they get real computers (see #1!)

3.)   Get friendly with your co-workers.
I mean, this is generally good advice. But you most-likely have some computers in your building. They may be somewhat sad and decrepit, but I betchya you have some. Can you ask the teacher across the hall to borrow her two classroom computers for a week if, in exchange, she can borrow yours the next? Heck, bake some cookies. Do breakfast duty. You can work wonders with team work.

4.)   Videos.
If you have a projector, you can educate kids a whole lot on technology with simple videos. Start with the very term technology. Do you even know what it means, really? There are loads and loads of videos that can build kids’ wonder and excitement about tech, and built up their technical vocabulary. All of this matters, and is so often overlooked by “Oooooh, Shiny iPad!”

5.)  Donors. Choose.
See back to tip #1. You really only need 3-10 comptuers to get started with station work. Get 5 super-cheap ChromeBooks (or netbooks, if you must) through DonorsChoose. Yes, they have limited functionality. But they can word process, run lots of apps, and easily run typing programs and other such awesome stuff.

League of Lessons: Why Gaming Matters

African-american Male Playing Video Games

(Photo credit: Bigstock)

I was in the middle of a presentation to three hundred middle schoolers when a boy’s arm shot straight up so desperately that I thought it would separate from his body. I stopped, midsentence. Clearly this child had something incredibly important to ask and I just couldn’t ignore him.

Me: What’s your question?

Boy: Are you Xbox or Playstation? (I froze, realizing the magnitude of the question. Three hundred boys looked at me with bated breath.)

Me: I refuse to answer that.

Boy: Why?

Me: If I tell you, you’ll make an assessment of my character and intelligence.

Boy (mulling over my response): Fair enough.

Looking back on that moment, I don’t know how I knew that this was one of the better responses I could have given. But immediately after the presentation, I had three realizations: 1) I was very grateful to the teaching gods that somehow I answered that question correctly; 2) acknowledging the importance of his question was meaningful to the other students; and 3) I’d better educate myself much more about gaming as soon as possible.

But why was the question and my answer so important? 

Motivation Monday: Work and Love

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Motivation Monday: Mistakes

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Seven Tips to Ace Any Sample Lesson

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It may come after a phone screening, or it may be part of a third interview—either way, eventually you’ll have to do a sample lesson. Teaching a lesson to a group of students you’ve never seen before, with the principal taking notes in the background, can be daunting. Check out our tips to help you ace it. The good news: with so many additional adults in the room, most students who pose a challenge are on their best behavior.

BEFORE THE LESSON:

Do Your Homework 
Ask for information—the number of students, the technology you’ll have available, the room set-up (is there a rug? Are students in desks or tables?)—ahead of time.

Over-Plan
You may be provided with a lesson template, or you may have to use your own. Either way, use the lesson plan as an opportunity to let the principal in on your thinking. Scripting out the introduction, directions, and content explanations will ensure that you’re confident, and (in case time runs out) will help the principal “see” the entire lesson.

The Power of Real Apologies in a Fake-Apology World

You might not need to go to these lengths to apologize. (Photo credit: butupa)

You might not need to go to these lengths to apologize. (Photo credit: butupa)

Apologies require the highest level of human capacity: mindful self-reflection and the ability to acknowledge another person’s experience. If that isn’t hard enough, it often requires putting ourselves in a position of vulnerability—often to the person to whom we are apologizing.

That’s why no one has ever woken up in the morning excited because they have to apologize to someone. Of course, it feels better in the long run, and yes, it’s the “right” thing to do, but usually we dread these moments. It’s why we so often come up with reasons not to apologize, like refusing to believe we’re wrong, excusing our behavior, blaming the other person, or thinking nothing we say will make a difference.

Adults often have the best of intentions; however, the way we teach children to apologize is often counterproductive. We often force them to apologize when they don’t mean it or we don’t understand what’s really going on. We demand they apologize, get angry with them when they refuse, and then don’t think to revisit what happened later when they’ve been given a chance to self-reflect. Or, we make them apologize but don’t realize or know what to do when they only apologize to get themselves out of trouble.

But there is a lot on the line: how you as a teacher model and teach giving and accepting apologies matters. If you handle these moments well, you are giving young people a foundation for their ethical development. If you don’t, you miss a critical opportunity to demonstrate your values in action and it decreases your credibility as an ethical authority figure.

Meeting New Coworkers During the Summer

 

(Photo credit: Matt Anderson)

(Photo credit: Matt Anderson)

In teaching, as in any job, workplace friendships can make the workday fly by, while a lack of connection at work can make the year drag on. Starting at a new school, you’ll be bombarded with new names and faces during staff orientation, but you don’t have to wait until August to start making friends. Here are four questions you can ask during your interview or after you’ve been hired that will help connect you with your new team.

Can I have your email? 
If any teachers are on your interview panel, ask for their emails on-site. Then, reach out with an email thanking them for their time, asking any lingering questions, and (if you’re offered the position) suggesting a meet-up for coffee.

Who can I connect with before the school year begins? 
Once you’ve been hired, reach out to your principal and ask which teachers are best to reach out to. These may be department heads, grade-level team leaders, or simply teachers who are good ambassadors for the school. Either way, you’ll get connected with people who check their email during summer and are eager to meet the incoming staff.

A Shout-Out to My Teachers Who Are Also Parents

(Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim)

(Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim)

I’m back from a week-long family vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (gorgeous, by the way, for those of you in the Mid-Atlantic United States!). Anyway, as the mom of two little people, who’s married to a teacher-husband, I spent some time on vacation thinking about how teachers—those who give their time to other children—juggle the tension between their teacher lives and their parent lives. In many cases, I hear teachers, particularly moms, lament that they simply cannot make it work. I want to believe it can be different, so I went in search of some teacher-parents who are pulling it off and feeling happy about it!

I recently spoke to Laura and Lauren—both teacher-mothers in the DC area—about how they make it work. Laura and Lauren have two kids each.

Here are some tips I gathered from my conversations with them:

  1. Find a workplace that fits your needs. Laura mentioned that during her interview process, she noticed small signals that the middle school would match her needs as a working parent. For example, the principal (also a mom) acknowledged there would be days when people’s kids got sick and they had to stay home. I know many schools, particularly charter schools, with very strict attendance policies for teachers. As the mom of a 4-year old with a broken arm and a million orthopedist appointments to juggle, I think a zero absence policy is unrealistic. Figure out your school’s policies—both spoken and unspoken.