Technology to Improve Student Engagement

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There are so many tools that are available to educators that can really help improve student engagement in their classes. As a school administrator, I have to wear many hats with one of them conducting frequent classroom observations. Although other job requirements can sometimes reduce the amount of time I spend in classes, watching fun and engaging lessons is my favorite part of my day. Observing well-prepared lessons that meet student learning needs and improves student achievement is paramount for school administrators. We are supposed to be instructional leaders within our buildings. To fully understand what a well-prepared and engaging lesson looks like, we first need to understand what engagement really means. George Couros discusses some areas to look for during observations in this article: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3586

Technology is a great tool that helps make learning fun, helps differentiate and personalize learning, creates more student centered instruction, helps students communicate more, improves collaboration, and helps connect them to other students in other towns, cities, states, and countries. Technology plays an important role in accelerating pedagogy which will help transform education. Teachers can try incorporating a flipped model: 

School administrators need to model various technologies to teachers so they understand the relevance and use it as an important tool to improve teaching and learning. I am enclosing a Video Scribe and PowerPoint presentation on how school administrators can help model the use of technology to improve student engagement. This was presented to other school administrators at the MSSAA Summer Institute in Hyannis Massachusetts on July 30, 2015. I hope it is helpful to both teachers and administrators. I want to recognize and thank my principal Tara Bennett for introducing me to Kahoot and its excellent and fun formative assessment capabilities. There are several administrators I have learned from, but I really want to recognize and thank principal Bill Bulkhead for showing me how to create a blog and modeling the use of technology. One year later, I feel much more connected. To learn more about Video Scribe, please click the link above or email me at tambres@comcast.net.

MSSAASI Presentation 2015

Personalized Learning – Bring Out The Genius In Kids

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So what is Personalized Learning and how does it differ from Individualized Learning and Differentiated Learning? http://education.ky.gov/school/innov/Documents/BB-KM-Personalizedlearningchart-2012.pdf Differentiated instruction is adapting to the various learning styles of students, but the learning goal usually remains the same. Individualized instruction is explicitly designed to accommodate individual learning needs, but students are dependent on teachers to support their learning. Personalized learning allows the student to choose what they want to learn and the method in which they want to learn it. There can be some 1:1 help by the instructor if the student needs it but it is not required. These students learn according to their preferred method which helps improve engagement. All three instructional strategies have their place.

It’s no secret that engaged students tend to do better in school and have less attendance and discipline issues. Students that are not engaged tend to loath school and are more likely to become a drop out. This can significantly reduce their chance for success. This is a segue from my last article on blended learning which tends to be more student centered and thus more engaging. Teachers need to use multiple modalities including using technologies, PBL, flipped classrooms, and collaborative problem solving to reach a wide audience of students.

Google was one of the pioneers in creative thinking by creating a Genius Hour for its employees. Google dedicated 20% of the work time so employees could brainstorm, be curious, and develop new ideas which helped improve Google’s status as a technological giant. So what is a Genius Hour? This is an hour set aside during a class once a week where students can work on anything they are interested in. A couple of questions teachers have regarding using this strategy are; what about all the content I have to squeeze in, and how do I get ready for those standardized tests if I allow students to choose what they want to learn? Genius Hour can be used many different ways by teachers and students. The big question is “how do you engage more learners and make their education more authentic?” By using a Genius Hour, students can become experts in anything they want or are interested in. It allows them to explore their passions and helps them realize that failure is a part of learning. This helps develop true growth. Several schools have already implemented a Genius Hour into their curriculum. http://www.greenwichschools.org/page.cfm?p=11586 By no means am I suggesting this is the only relevant activity, but it definitely helps engage students and gives them a deeper connection to their learning. I believe balance, creativity, fun and defined expectations helps students stay engaged. Here are some excellent links if you want to learn more about implementing a Genius Hour.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/09/living/genius-hour-education-schools/

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/genius-hour-essentials-personalized-education-nichole-carter

http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/2013/10/20time-makes-difference-edchat.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMFQUtHsWhc

http://cybraryman.com/geniushour.html

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Assistant Principal’s Corner #6

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Using QR Codes to improve student learning and improve engagement.

By now, most people have heard of blended learning in education. If you are not quite sure what this means, here is a link that will help http://www.teachthought.com/blended-learning-2/the-definition-of-blended-learning/  As an assistant principal, we wear many hats. One of our responsibilities is to evaluate teachers but also provide them with ideas and feedback on how to improve student learning and engagemnet. I think most people would agree that engaged students tend to be more invested in their education and have less disciplinary and attendance related issues. By using more technology in the classrooms,  most students view the educational content as being more fun, interactive, and relevant to their everyday life. Show an interesting video from You Tube in class and watch how engaged and quiet the students are. By no means am I implying that technology is the answer to all educational growth but it certainly has its place and can pay huge dividends. Many European countries use a well balanced approach by using technology while still requiring students to use good old fashioned pen/pencil and paper to develop well rounded students. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/finland-school-system-107137.html

So what about QR Codes? After attending an Edscape Conference in New Jersey, I learned how to use these in classes and took it one step further by researching it on You Tube and Twitter. This seemed so cool to me and putting my old teaching cap back on, I thought how can I introduce this to my staff to see if they might like to use it in their classes? After speaking with my administrative team, we thought it would be beneficial to try it in a faculty meeting. I designed a lesson that would infuse a flipped model (blended learning) by sending an email with all the directions, and a PowerPoint that included videos and web links to some excellent resources to make QRCodes, download a QR Reader, and links on how to creatively use them in classes. After presenting the lesson to my faculty, I received some positive feedback which made me decide to share out the entire presentation on my blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I truly hope it is helpful to teachers and administrators trying to use various technologies to improve student engagement. Please feel free to email me at tbresnahan@millburyschools.org or tweet me @tbresnahan1

Please see link below for adjusted presentation for this blog. I added the agenda and modified the trivia quiz to fit one powerpoint which condensed materials for this link. Please send me some feedback.

QR Codes