Technological Challenges

Unrestricted use of IPads and IPhones in the classroom offers challenges for teachers.

  • Chat functions, games and texting offer chances to collaborate, opportunities, often very tempting ones, to “”digress” from the area being studied, and they offer chances to take learnings to higher, or broader, or, simply, different, levels.
  • Connectivity is an issue with IPads and IPhones, and the uncertainty of continuous server connections makes it desirable to make backup lesson plans using other media.
  • On-line learning platforms that are used in correctional settings must have the capability of disabling chat and texting functions, for the safety and security of inmates and the public.

Common Core Standards

In June of 2010, the National Governors Association and State Education chiefs launched Common State Academic Standards which have come to be known as Common Core State Standards.  As of May of this year, 46 states have adopted these standards.

These standards were developed by teachers, experts, and administrators.   Their purpose is to provide a consistent framework which will prepare American students for college and the workforce.

Each state will follow its own path from adopting to implementing these standards.  Byron Garrett, CEO of the National PTA , believes that:

 The K-12 standards for math and English Language Arts are challenging and clear, and states that adopt them will be on their way to graduating more of their high school students ready for college and career.

Bill Gates thinks:

 The more states that adopt these college and career based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innovation across state borders and becoming more competitive as a country.”

In Lima, Ohio, the public city schools will take a proactive approach.  Their lesson plans will echo CCSS beginning next year, 2012-2013.   Their students will be assessed using CCSS based instruments beginning in 2013-2014, just like the students in 22 other states (51% of American public school students).   By starting to use common core standards in lesson planning next year, Lima students will be better prepared for the new generation of standardized tests which begin the following year.

Learning Management Systems

What is an LMS?   It’s a software application that administers, records, delivers, reports and tracks a program of E-learning.   It is used for classroom events, on-line teaching, and  training programs.

  • Blackboard Learning System is an example of a Learning Management System.  It has open architecture, course management, and a scalable design.    Blackboard includes Content, Calendars, Assignments, a Grade Book, Learning Modules, a Media Library, Chat, Mail, and Discussions.
  • A free software platform for e-learning is Moodle.   It has 72,000 sites, 57,000,000 users, and it offers 5,000,,000 courses.  Some of Moodle’s features include discussion forums, file downloading, on-line news, on-line quizzes, grading and instant messaging.
  • John Baker developed Desire2Learn in 1999.It includes an e-learning enterprise suite which serves as a Learning Management System for schools in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  The extensive services offered by Desire2Learn include hosting, courseware development, web design, and training.
  • Edmodo is a social utility for students, their parents, and teachers.   It was started by Nicolas Borg and Jeff O’Hara in 2008 in Chicago.   Teachers can post assignments on Edmodo, and students can post their work and view their grades and participate in discussions.

There are benefits to using Learning Management Systems in the classroom.

  • Some of them, such as Sakai, can be deployed relatively easily by novice technology users, and they can also be updated fairly easily, to reflect changes in the material being taught, newer approaches to learning.   If students are being taught how to operate a machine, and a newer version of that machine is introduced, lessons can be altered to reflect these changes.
  • Another benefit of an LMS is frequency of evaluation and feedback can both increase.    Being tested more often, the student can redirect his efforts when he gets off track, and the presence of constant one-on-one feedback  can sometimes motivate the student to move along a bit faster, having to redo only the steps or elements that he does not learn the first time, rather than having to wait while his entire class learns a new concept.
  • Open source Learning Management Systems, such as Moodle and Sakai, have definite cost advantages to budget challenged school districts.

5 Apps for Education that Anne likes and how she uses them

  1. I like the HMH Fuse Geometry, Common Core Edition app to teach basic geometry concepts.  Houghton Mifflin’s Algebra app had success in raising student proficiency in pilot programs in California.   I would use it as a supplement, when a student needs help with a concept that he cannot grasp.   I would also use it when a student is learning more advanced concepts and shows that he has some learning gaps in the area of basic skills, such as constructing proofs.
  2. For Biology instruction, I would supplement in class work with Virtual Cell Animation, by VCell Productions.  Seeing the creation of proteins actively occurring within the cell gives the student a much clearer conception of the elements of a cell by showing them in action.  The student gains a completely different view of a cell by seeing it work than by cataloging its parts.
  3. For Social Studies, I like the  iAmerica app from USAInteractive because it is comprehensive and interactive.
  4. Andrew Garrison’s SimplePhysics has a nice design feature which includes an element of Project Learning to it.
  5. For Geography instruction, QR-GPS Plugin, an Android app that works with QR Droid, can be combined with GPS Essentials and Google Earth, to plot geographical locations and trails, and to create scavenger hunts.  It could also be used to create puzzles.

More about “Flow” in Your Classroom

Flow Theory has lots of information which can be helpful when we begin to design an optimal classroom.   We know that the classroom of tomorrow will be project-based.  A student who goes through his school-years rote-learning skills, not generalizing his learnings,  and failing to make connections between his new ideas and his real-life experience, will not make it in the job markets of tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s jobs will require 3 things:  the ability to collaborate, the ability to innovate and add value, and the ability to communicate.   The student-becoming-employee or student dreaming of entrepreneurship will have to have gained supreme Problem-Solving skills during his years of education in order to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.  He will have to have been taught to solve real-life problems.

What about the skills that the student must learn in order to pass the required tests of his high school and the entrance tests of his desired college or vocational school?  All these testable skills will still be a necessary part of each student’s dossier, but the way they are presented will change.  The skills that the student is learning will be like the tools that the carpenters need to use to build a house.  The students will have a reason to gain the skill, because  he will need to use the skill to “build” the project, which he will have helped to select.  So, if his project is to create a solar automobile and test it against other solar autos, he will need to understand and have in his toolbelt, concepts of weight, speed, and energy conversions.

The new skills will be gained because the chosen project cannot go forward without them.  The urgency of the project creates a heightened readiness to gain the new strategies that the student needs, again, so that the project can go forward.

If the student is excited to think that he may be able to communicate freely with his grandmother who lives in London, England, he is eager and quick to learn the e-ssentials of using e-mail.    Learning how to negotiate the ins and outs of e-mail is a means to connecting with his grandmother, not an end in itself.  He has a greater urgency to pick up and digest this new method of communicating.

Will your Students experience Flow in your classroom?


Tomorrow’s Classroom Flows!

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (pronounced, chick sent me high ee), a Hungarian-American psychologist, has a new idea that is changing the way we think about many fields of human endeavor, and, especially, Education.  After years of studying Happiness, and why some war survivors could move beyond their experiences when others could not, he found that the happiness of life came about from the experience of a “State of Flow”.

Flow, he came to believe, is related to the exhiliration of achievement.  It is experienced by people from all walks of life and comes about when one is totally involved in a challenging task for which immediate feedback is forthcoming.    One is completely involved in an activity for its own sake and in this experience time falls away.

Historical sources hint that Michelangelo may have painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel while in a flow state. It is reported that he painted for days at a time, and he was so absorbed in his work that he did not stop for food or sleep until he reached the point of passing out. He would wake up refreshed and, upon starting to paint again, re-entered a state of complete absorption. [from Wikipedia, “flow (psychology)”]

One of the first impacts that Csikszentmihalyi’s discoveries produce in the classroom have to do with the teacher, not the student.  In the classroom of tomorrow, influenced by the idea of flow, the teacher will continually refresh his interest and passion for his field of teaching, and he will pass on his enthusiasm to his students.  The atmosphere in the classroom will minimize the impact of rules, testing and procedures, and learning challenges will closely fit the abilities of the student.