Project Based Learning
In the first two videos that Dr. Strange provided for us to watch this week, Anthony Capps, a former EDM 310 student and lab professional, talks about his experiences with Project Based Learning in his 3rd grade classroom at Gulf Shores Elementary. Project Based Learning is all about getting away from the typical belief that projects can only be done as a way to show what students have already achieved, and starting to realize that they can also be used as a method by which we learn! It is inspiring what Anthony's 3rd grade students are doing, and how involved they are with their own learning. His students were given the opportunity to pick their top favorite letters that they wanted to send to the congressmen, and they showed great pride in their work as a whole! When students have some sort of choice, decision, or when they feel involved in the learning process, it will make them more interested in everything, and make them care more about what they are doing! Anthony's students were really proud to share what they were working on with others, and I think that says a lot. Anthony says teachers should have the attitude that if you "create an opportunity for students to do more than what you want them to do, they will!"
Through one of the videos that Dr. Strange assigned for us to watch this week, Anthony Capps introduced me to a website called iCurio, which allows students to safely search the internet for curated websites, audio & video resources, and even images. This is a valuable tool in itself for teachers to use with their students because it keeps students away from all of the bad stuff that is out there on the internet, and keeps them focused on internet sources that are handpicked, and that can be trusted as actual reputable resources. Not only does iCurio provide that, but it also has a feature that allows teachers and students to create accounts where they can save, and organize the resources that they find! This can be used to teach students about virtual organization, a skill that they can use later in life, and it comes in handy when students need to save the sources that they find for a research project or any other activity that they might need to access those sources later! Teachers can also handpick sources that they want their students to look at, and then share them and make them available to the class, which can then be accessed anytime, anywhere! Dr. Strange also mentioned a bookmarking website called Delicious, which allows you to save and organize links that you find to be interesting or helpful, and don't want to lose track of! iCurio definitely seems like a top pick for teachers to use with their students though because of the curated material.
In this video, Anthony Capps talks about Discovery Ed, something that is used in Baldwin County, which brings experts into the classroom via video! For example, when his students did a project about plants, they were able to find videos about different types of plants, and information from experts on the topic. This brings the different subjects that students have to learn about to life when they actually get to see it for themselves! When students are able to see an example of something they are learning through video or other media, they will be able to remember it better. It will stick with them! Dr. Strange talks about how in this day and age students usually listen and watch more than they read and write. If we can find a way to use this to our advantage, then our students can take all of this information that they are able to so easily access, and use it to create things, think outside of the box, learn useful skills, and to help them learn how to become "doers". We need to teach our students how to use these skills, and put them to action!
Strange Tips for Teachers
In this video, Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps take turns sharing some of their most valuable tips for teachers, and I've created an outline below which covers some of the main points!
- You must enjoy learning yourself! - At the end of the day, teachers must enjoy learning themselves because we are in a career where we will need to become lifelong learners to be truly successful, and we need to know how to encourage our students to become lifelong learners also.
- Teaching is hard work! - Teaching goes far outside your 8 hour work schedule because at the end of the day, you have to come home and reflect on what worked and what didn't, and then you have to make adjustments from there.
- Always remember to be flexible! - This is an important one because there will times when a particular method just isn't working or you'll run into technical troubles. Teachers have to be comfortable with being flexible, and need to remember that they shouldn't get discouraged when something needs to be done differently!
- Start with an end in mind. - Teachers should always have an end goal in mind with whatever we are doing with our students! This helps us to stay on track, and helps us make sure that what we are doing is actually effective.
- Keep kids engaged! - Students are able to learn better when they are engaged so we need to remember to plan on how we will actually achieve this when we teach them!
- Reflection - Not only do teachers need to reflect on how they are doing at the end of the day, but it's awesome when students have an audience for the work they are doing so that audience can reflect on how much the students have achieved, and also give any advice to the teacher about how something could work better the next time around. When students have other people judging their work, it usually makes them take more pride in it! This also might encourage students to start reflecting on their own work, which is an important thing to be able to do in life!
In this video, Anthony Capps brings up a valid point that technology is an important part of the world we live in and our everyday lives so it's a little crazy that there is still controversy about whether or not students need to be learning how to use it! Dr. Strange and Anthony take the intimidating factor away from how we are going to achieve this when they suggest that instead of taking time out of our schedules to teach technology, we should just design projects where technology can be used as a tool. Focus on using one type of technology at a time, start with something simple, and then build from there. Whenever you start the next project, you can incorporate the last thing you learned so that students will get a chance to review, and see that the skill they learned can be useful in more ways than one. It's amazing to see kids starting to build these skills so early in life because they will definitely need these skills later in life! No, the technology will not be the same, but it builds the skills that students will need to use whatever technology is available at their fingertips 20 or 30 years from now. Teachers don't have to be intimidated because this can be taken as a slow process.
It doesn't have to be perfect the first time around! Teachers
can do it first, experiment to see any problems or questions that might arise, and then they can work with their students to solve the problems together. As you gain more experience, and build up useful resources and tools, it will become faster and easier to plan ways to use technology in the classroom over and over again. You have to start from somewhere!
Additional Thoughts About Lessons
In this video, Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps talk about the 4 layers of lesson planning, and how you need to approach this process in order for it to be effective. I've broken it down into an outline, and discussed what is involved in each process below.
- Year - Are you going to be able to cover all of your content standards? Have you written a curriculum map that ensures that all of those standards get covered?
- Unit - Have you devised unit projects or another method that you are going to use to be able to teach the material in a meaningful way that will be connected to the bigger picture or the end goal in sight?
- Week - How are you breaking down it down by week so that you can get everything in the unit done?
- Daily - What am I going to do in class everyday to be able to meet the goals for the week?