Thursday, February 26, 2015

What comes first, the technology or the curriculum

Things have come a long way since my 3rd grade teacher had to thread a film into a movie projector.
Using technology is not a cheap parlor trick where the technology is the trick and the students are amused. Almost all (good) technology measures student progress and some of it happens right in the middle of a lesson with instant feedback. In an article by Elise Ecoff, she talks about this and how technology must enhance the curriculum and not entertain your students with suggestions on how you can make technology work for students at home and in the classroom.

Image result for students using technology in the classroomIt’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when handing a student a calculator to work through algebraic equations caused many teachers and parents great consternation. It makes you wonder what type of pushback the creators of the abacus faced! In both cases, while the tools students were using may have been more advanced than previous generations’, the goal remained the same – to enhance classroom learning.
But before moving forward with technology integration, every school must first have a great, robust and adaptable academic curriculum. Only then can you begin to find ways in which technology can help to elevate it. It’s important to never force fit technology – if it’s not supplementing what’s already happening in the classroom or a teacher’s goals for the school year, the addition will become more of a barrier to learning than a catalyst.

A Few Questions to Consider

Image result for students using technology in the classroom
  • Regardless of the technology, what’s the most important lesson for students to learn?
  • Why do I need to use technology in my daily curriculum?
  • How are these tech tools enhancing what we’re doing?
  • What will the students do with these tools – during and after class?

Think Curriculum Enhancements, Not Technology Implementations

Even if you feel ready to utilize tech in your classroom, you need to be confident that the implementation will enhance your curriculum, not hinder it.  Here are five ways to ensure you’re putting the curriculum before the technology:

Image result for students using technology in the classroom1) Learn How Students Are Using Technology at Home

It’s important to understand what kind of technology students are already familiar with outside of the classroom.  Ask them what they’re currently using, what they’re interested in learning more about, and how much screen time they’re allowed at home. These conversations will help you determine the opportunities and challenges you’ll face when implementing tech into the classroom. It can also spark inspiration for your in-school tech solutions.  For example, if all your students are familiar with tablets and how they work, you can tweak your lessons plans to more heavily rely on tablet utilization.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

26 Teacher Tools To Create Online Assessments

26 Teacher Tools To Create Online Assessments

     It is incredible how much educators have on their plates today. While we could all tell war stories about all of the initiatives given out by districts, they all give you less quality time to plan and help your students and your planning time is rarely your own. Has anyone had you find out in the middle of the school year that your school has volunteered to be a part of a pilot program for something you did not know about and you are already overwhelmed? Well you get the idea. I like using assessments that not only give me data that I can use to assess and share with students that is meaningful. In teachthought, they have listed resources that do varying degrees of this. I use Kahoot and our district has purchased Study Island (not quite operational) and Nearpod which we are getting up to speed on. I think we can all agree that sitting down with a calculator burning the midnight oil is not what anyone wants when we can basically work smart and help our students without being burned out.

You teach, which means you need to know what students do and don’t understand.
Which means you need to assess.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

10 Educational Games That Teach Kids About Social Issues

     The following list is really incredible. there are so many great implications from issues in the US to international ones. This would be a great way to differentiate instruction in your classroom using a jigsaw, different levels and students can create their own enduring understandings.  A credit to Matt  Farmer who compiled this list. He is a teacher at Valleyview Middle School, in Denville, New Jersey.
10 Educational Games That Teach Kids About Social Issues

Incorporating games into the classroom is a great way to engage students and increase motivation.

But how can social studies and history teachers use games to help students better understand social issues? Our guest contributor and expert on gamification, Matthew Farber, shares his favorite tools:
Social impact games are a genre that seek to effect positive changes in society through play. Often, players are put in roles (known as “player agency”) and must make decisions that have impactful consequences. These games are not necessarily designed for teaching; rather, the goal is to enable players to have empathy about a social issues.
As a social studies teacher, I have found that they are effective in putting students in authentic situations in which difficult problems get engaged.
Here are some of my favorite social impact games that I use with students (listed alphabetically; not ranked). Be sure to assess learning by asking your students about the decisions they made, as well as the reasons behind it!


Ayiti: The Cost of Life (free; PC/Mac)
A human rights game in which the player is a young, poverty-stricken child in Haiti.

Darfur Is Dying (free; PC/Mac)
One of the first social impact titles, its message still resonates today. Missions task players with foraging for water while outrunning the militia, as well as experiences daily life in a refugee camp.

Gone Home (paid, inquire via email about educational bundles; PC/Mac)
An award-winning first-person exploration game set in the 1990s. The narrative is pieced together as players find objects in the empty house in which family problems unfold.

The Migrant Trail (free; PC/Mac)
Tied to a documentary about undocumented immigrants, players assume two roles: a migrant and a patrol agent. It teaches themes of empathy through simple role-play.

Mission US games (free; PC/Mac)
There are currently four missions to play: For Crown or Country, set in the pre-Revolutionary Boston; Flight to Freedom, told from the point-of-view of an slave; the award-winning A Cheyenne Odyssey, about the plight of the Cheyenne people; and the newly released City of Immigrants, about life in the tenements of New York City.

Never Alone (paid; PC, Xbox, PlayStation)
Never Alone is from E-Line Media and Upper One Games. It is the first game adapted from an Iñupiat folk story.

Papers, Please (paid; iPad and PC/Mac)
Papers, Please won multiple awards in 2014. It is an ethical decision-making game set in a fictional communist country during the Cold War. The objective is to checks immigrant papers. The penalty is delayed, such as a reduction in income that can affect the health of your family. (It is recommended for older students; Preview first. suggestive content can be toggled off in “Settings”).

Nightmare: Malaria (free; iPad/Android)
Nightmare: Malaria is a social awareness game about malaria. The narrator is voiced by actress Susan Sarandon. The game features facts about malaria and how simple solutions, like nets, can save lives.

Third World Farmer (free; PC/Mac)
Third World Farmer is a simulation game about the difficulties of farming in a developing country. Familyeconomicsare among the issues to resolve.

Quandary (free; PC/Mac)
An award-winning game about ethical dilemmas, or quandaries. In it, players must assemble a team to colonize a new planet.

Aside from this list, I recommend reviewing the games curated on the Games for Change website.
Similar to independent films, social impact gaming has a community of enthusiasts who recognize achievements with awards and recognition. The idea is that games, as “new media”—compared to “traditional media,” like books, theater, and film—can influence people in a positive direction. For example, in 2014, the Games for Change Festival joined forces with the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City.

What are your favorite games that you use to teach specific subjects? Tell us in the comments!

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reading this on a computer? Then you (probably) don't live in Africa as 1b working cell phones by 2016

Some people in Africa have skipped the computer and have moved right to their phones to transmit and receive data across the world. If you think having the laptop I prefer to type on (including right now) is cutting edge, you might want to go back to 2006 to find it being cutting edge.

Each week, Africa View explores the trends, figures and initiatives shaping Africa. From education and energy to technology and innovation, it showcases topics and influential sectors driving countries on the continent.
(CNN)If when you say internet, you think of a computer, then you probably don't live in an African country.
The continent has some of the lowest fixed-broadband subscription rates in the world, with most people's first encounter with the world wide web coming via their mobile phones.
Around 70% of mobile users browse the internet on their devices, and Africa's mobile broadband growth is increasing at a rate of more than 40% -- twice the global average.
This is largely due to the weak land-line infrastructure on the continent, which makes connecting through a desktop computer difficult. Low-cost or second-hand feature phones are also much cheaper to buy, which has made them ubiquitous across the continent, and it is estimated that by 2016 Africa will have a billion mobile phones. Feature devices also stay charged for longer -- a crucial requirement in a part of the world where the supply of power is irregular and unreliable.

"More people in Africa have a mobile phone than access to electricity," according to Toby Shapshak, editor and publisher of Stuff Magazine. "That means, for a phone to be functional, it needs decent battery life. These feature phones have anywhere up to a week."
This has created a unique environment where mobile technology have been adapted for a wide range of usages, from lowering information barriers and improving access to financial and health services to boosting commerce and bringing people together.
Mobile money transfer systems such as M-Pesa, which launched in Nairobi in 2007, allow customers to send cash to remote areas with the touch of a button. The service has nearly 17 million active customers who make more than US$1.1 billion worth of transactions per month.
Africa's mobile broadband boomAnd if you're worried that the medicines you bought might be counterfeit, you can check their authenticity through mPedigree, a mobile application which gives you a "genuine" or "fake" answer after you text the drug's serial number.
Mobile phone technology has also moved into sectors outside the traditional tech remit. Farmers can access information about the weather, real-time market prices, and new farming tips though mobile apps like Farmerline and Esoko.

Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers

Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers

Vickie Davis @coolcatteacher writes for Edutopia Magazine and recently wrote about how students and schools can partner to help empower them to change their local communities through Project Service Learning. (PSL) This is a great idea to have students make a difference and bridge the gap to helping understand global problems or participate in working just around the corner. Recently, I participated in a district chat with Coweta County Schools    (Sunday's at 8pm EST) where students led the very discussion mentored by administrators in the district.

Its a win-win for everyone when students can carry the knowledge of a local project and use it to inform their own learning and asking questions they and their teachers would never have thought of before. When students help senior citizens, clean up flower beds or volunteer for a variety of topics, their vested interest changes lives and the perspectives of everyone in the community.

Vickie writes:

Tired of disheartened girls thinking they didn't match up to the divas on teen beauty magazines, Grace Miner started Real Girls Matter. The group has a state-wide conference in Rhode Island next year.
When six-year-old Joshua Williams wanted to give ten dollars to a homeless man, his young eyes opened to the plight of the hungry. Joshua, now 13, runs Joshua's Heart to feed the hungry in Miami. On his website, Joshua says: "Whenever I work, I will give some of my money to help."

1. Encourage Each Student to Map Their Heartbreak

Each child has a strength and talent -- a "genius," if you will -- that he or she can add to make the world a better place. Empower social entrepreneurs by sharing stories of students taking action, and then encourage students to find their own passion. Angela Maiers, educator and founder of the burgeoning Choose2Matter movement says:
DO NOT follow your heart to find your passion and purpose. Instead follow your heartbreak . . . Finding your passion; surrendering to your heartbreak is really about finding what really moves you.
Ask students to share what upsets them and makes them angry. Draw it. Write it. Speak it. But by all means share it! Aaron Maurer‘s students created heartbreak maps.
Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Ask students to create a heartbreak map.


To see the entire article and the You Tube resources from a middle school project, click the link below.

Friday, February 20, 2015

20 Things New Teachers Really, Really Need to Know- Did you learn this in preplanning? Do you know it now

     This is a list compiled from We are Teachers and got me thinking. Did anyone tell you this during education classes, during preplanning or by a mentor? See how many that people are missing out on that you should really know. Some may be common sense but everyone is missing 2-3 for sure or do not practice them. Now is your chance to finish the year strong.


20 Things New Teachers Really, Really Need to Know (According to The Vets)

Blog Author1. The 3 Cs: “Be CLEAR on your expectations for behavior and performance. Be CONSISTENT—follow through so students know what to expect from you as a teacher. Be COMPASSIONATE—show your students that you really care about them and want them to succeed.” —Oktobriana Idol

2. Management Matters: “Strong classroom management is the key to teaching. No matter how well you know the content, students can't learn in a chaotic environment. The simplest way to achieve this is through routines and overplanning. Also, model the respect you want to receive.” —Janet Jennings Maxwell

3. Routines Are Your Friends: “They should be the first things that you teach!” —Mollie Ann Lucot

4. Flexibility Rules: “Relax. Be in control. Be prepared to be flexible!” —Emily Fern Barron

5. Wear Comfy Shoes: “Number 1: It's all about relationships. If you make the students feel that you genuinely care about them, they'll do what you ask and then some.

Number 2: The decorations on your walls don't need to come from Teachers Supply stores, because the ones from Dollar Tree will do the job.

Number 3: Invest in a good pair of shoes that fit you well, because you'll be on your feet all day.” —Mari Lyn Stangland

 6. What Your Dad Says Is True: “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!” —April Brown

7. Your New Favorite Book: “Go out and purchase The First Days of School, by Harry Wong. You may not have the money to do it, but it'll be the best life-saving purchase you'll ever make in your teaching profession. Read it cover to cover and then implement!” —Amy Galloway
 8. Don’t Forget to Leave: “Go home at the end of the day! Your work will still be there tomorrow.” —Kody Grisham Shepherd

9. Never Break a Promise: “Don't promise a child something you're not 100% sure you can come through on—they need to know you are trustworthy and that you mean what you say.” —Vivienne Thomson

10. You’re a Student Too: “You will learn twice as much as your kids do EVERY single day until the day you retire!” —Diann Strader

11. Learn From Everyone Around You: “Be kind and courteous to everyone who works at or visits your school. The support staff is essential to your job—and those older teachers down the hall might just be your closest allies in a pinch. Don't dismiss their pearls of wisdom just because YOU haven't been taught that way. Remember, they're the ones who have been at this all this time. Be a sponge.” —Nadine Mendez Heifert

12. Try to Grow Every Day: “Remember that this is one of the only professions that expects us to be perfect with little to no on-the-job training. You can eventually change lives, but your first year is growth. Find a few strong, positive teachers on your campus and observe, observe, observe. Treat every kid like your own—because someone loves him or her more than anything, no matter how they push your buttons. There’s probably a reason why they push buttons in the first place that has nothing to do with you. Don't take unruly behavior personally. Like Covey says, ‘seek first to understand...’“ —Carissa Hairrell

 13. Leader of the Pack: “You are the lead dog and your students are your team waiting to run the big race.” —Susan A. Smith

 14. It’s Okay to Have Fun: “Don't be afraid to laugh. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a teacher and she said (in April) that is was the first time she actually laughed in her class. If you aren't having fun, neither are the students. But also classroom management is key. Be tough in the beginning because you can always get softer. It is hard to go the other way around.” —April Nelson

15. This Isn’t Practice Anymore: “What they taught you in college does not prepare you for the real classroom. Be prepared for anything to happen and be flexible and understanding when it does!”—Teresa Taylor

 16. Help Is Always Available: “Don't be afraid to ask for it.” —Beth Fitts Stone

17. School Is Just a Part: “You are only a one part of their lives and they won't know how important a part for many, many years.” —Lynda Ballam

18. Let Students Have a Voice: “Invite them to help in goal setting. Don't be afraid to let them have choices. Have thick skin.” —Dan Heding

19. Have Faith in Yourself: “You can handle this.” —Dedee Cline

20. You’re Guarding Treasure: “Remember that parents are sending their most prized possessions. They are not hiding any others at home. They are sending their best. Respect that.” —Lyn Atkins

Secret Teacher: I feel like more of a social worker than a teacher

Secret Teacher: I feel like more of a social worker than a teacher-

"I have three roles in my classroom: teacher, parent and social worker. Sometimes the actual teaching part is the least important."

I cannot argue with the statement made above. All teachers have felt this. Being that by state law teachers are mandated reporters, we have to report what we see and hear and many students will confide in us. When we have the empathy of a human being and the responsibilites of a social worker, the stories told below are typical and can shake you to the core. Often, we have to tell the principal/counselor/social workers what we hear but do not hear back any details, ways to help or are given peace of mind. That is a reality most teachers must share. Read on.

A child entered the classroom in floods of tears. His mother had lost her baby days before she was due to give birth. Nothing can prepare a nine-year-old for such a sense of loss, and his pain was clear for the whole class to see. I put my arm around him, ushered him away from the watchful gaze of his concerned peers and tried to find some words that might bring a shred of comfort to his broken heart. Then I had to gather my thoughts; as a parent, I couldn’t help but think how I would ever get over something like that.
That was tough to deal with, but another girl’s summer was just as traumatic for much darker reasons. She’d spent much of the holidays (and several years before), being sexually abused by a family member. I’d shared my concerns because I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Indeed, it wasn’t. I was horrified and angry when I learned what this shy little girl had been through.
The two situations above are thankfully rare, and perhaps it was just an unhappy coincidence that I had to deal with them at the same time. Other situations are more commonplace, though. Another child’s mum and dad are separated but living together for financial reasons. The atmosphere at home is tense, and the girl in question recently burst into tears recalling an argument between her parents. All that mattered to her was falling apart and I had no words to help. So I did what a parent would do, I gave her a hug.
While the teaching standards are great at telling us how to teach good lessons, make accurate assessments and differentiate effectively, when it comes to addressing the emotional needs of children, they’re no help whatsoever. I have three roles in my classroom: teacher, parent and social worker. Sometimes, the actual teaching part is the least important of all. Part two of the teacher standards states that teachers must “at all times observe boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s profession”. This is suitably vague to ensure that many teachers live in fear of overstepping these boundaries. Why would you even go close when it could finish your career?
But the biggest obstacle to learning is not what’s going on in the classroom, but what’s going on outside it. Teachers across the nation face the baggage that children bring to lessons every single day and unless they feel supported to really become in loco parentis, effective teaching and learning is compromised.
We are a “good” school, but allegedly not yet outstanding because not enough pupils are making expected progress. Ofsted is not interested in the story behind her lack of progress. In the inspectorate’s eyes, that child is holding our school back and that’s a black mark against my name as their teacher.

To read the rest, please click the link below.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Confessions of a Secret Teacher- I didn’t enter teaching to improve students’ lives

     No, the teacher described above is no one I know. To admit to this would never get you a teaching job. I think the teacher in the headline if this is not a spoof from the Onion Newspaper, is really someone that is collecting realizing teaching is much more than collecting a paycheck. You need to have a cause and a purpose to be an effective teacher and even though he/she might have the skill to be a writer or editor as this language arts teacher is, the teacher described would be spotted a mile away by colleagues and administration that would expect more. Saying that, the Secret Teacher does make valid points on testing, dealing with career expectations and burnout.

Secret Teacher: I didn’t enter teaching to improve students’ lives. Not wanting to put students’ life chances before my sanity doesn’t make me a bad teacher. I never wanted to be a social activist, I just wanted to teach English. Now read the rest of the story.
‘Two years in, and I’m throwing in the towel to become part of the growing statistic of dropouts. You see, I never wanted to be a social activist. I just wanted to teach English.’
It may sound callous, but I did not enter the teaching profession to improve the lives of children. That’s not to say I don’t want to or think that teaching can, but my daily slog of teaching, planning, marking, monitoring and emailing, is not motivated by a burning desire for social change. This is despite the constant pressure from above to care more for the job and the lives of my students than my own sanity.
I came into teaching for three reasons: to do something related to my degree (I studied literature at university, so becoming an English teacher seemed like a logical career decision); to avoid becoming another jobless graduate statistic; and to do something challenging and not office based. A couple of years into the job, I can already spot my own naiveties with regards to my decision, but nevertheless, I stand by the fact that my decision was not motivated by the desire to “improve the chances of young people” or “foster a love of learning” in the pimply, pubescent, moody creatures we call teenagers.

However, the crux of the issue is this: teachers are working more hours than ever before, dealing with more difficult students and parents than ever before, and are under more stress than ever before – all under the guise that we don’t mind because we’ll do anything to improve the life chances of our students. But that’s a fallacy for me – and I am sure others too. I’m not a superhero, I just want to make a living doing something I like, with enough time and money left over to enjoy myself at the end of it.
Earlier this year, I was faced with a nightmare student, the sort who makes your heart race at 100 miles per hour as they enter the room and you realise that, to your utter dismay, they aren’t absent after all. After declaring that my lesson and decision to punish his poor behaviour was a “piss take”, he proceeded to throw things across the room and disrupt the entire lesson until he was eventually removed by senior management.
To read the rest of the article, click the link below.
to follow the website, click the link (s) below.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Social Media in the classroom:16 best resources for 2015

Many educators are hesitant to use social media in the classroom. The thought of using Facebook, Kik or Twitter could have amazing results but also go sideways if students go off task and use the media for inappropriate or personal resources. In the article written by Joy Nelson earlier this month, she gives practical guides and resources to help teachers navigate what's best for their classrooms. Here is a sample: "Social media is a powerful tool for keeping in touch with friends, getting coupons and deals from your favorite businesses, and seeing what your favorite celebrities are up to. It is also Social Media in the Classroom: 16 Best Resources for 2015
Is Social Media Right for Your Classroom?
Just because your fellow educators are using social media doesn’t mean you should jump blindly on the bandwagon. What do you need to consider when deciding if — and how much — you should incorporate social media into your teaching?
  • A piece from Edutopia explains that social media is a unique form of communication that can accomplish multiple goals. It also addresses the myth that using social media in the classroom will lead to students who are always online when they ought to be focusing on other things. The links on the page can give you a feel for how other teachers are using social media.
  • While the above article claims that social media is becoming a standard in education, this post from an eighth-grade teacher takes a different approach. Gail Leicht explores the debate over whether teachers should use social media to connect with students, and her conclusion is that she does not currently want to use social media for that purpose. As such, it’s a great counterpoint to consider.
  • Tung Tung Chan, an experienced teacher, shares with Social Media Week why she believes that social media has a place in formal education. In her discussion, she tackles the issue that makes some schools hold back from using social media — that is, the lack of established standards to regulate student-teacher interaction.
  • SmartBlog on Education summarizes the results of a poll that asked participants about their views on the risks and rewards of social media. The statistics can give you an idea about the general feelings that surround the continuing growth of social media as an educational tool.

Striking a Balance: Guidelines for Using Social Media

Safely and Effectively

How can you maintain appropriate student-teacher relationships on social media? How can you coach your students on how to use social media safely? How can you take a balanced approach to social media? The following resources dive into these questions.
  • Back in November of 2014, Edudemic published an article about digital distractions and how to deal with them. It goes into strategies you can use to make sure that technology does not take over. Tips include things like creating opportunities for curiosity outside the digital realm and helping students focus on one thing at a time.
  • This post at explores the boundaries and rules that schools should establish when they embrace social media. For example, the article recommends that teachers not “like” personal photos of students and that in any online classroom space, teachers should make sure that students conduct themselves by the same code of conduct that they do at school.
  • If your school does not block social media access on its computers, students become vulnerable to the dangers of cyberspace. This four-minute whiteboard animation video gives succinct advice about how to stay safe on social media. The video’s sense of humor should appeal to kids of all ages. Although it is on a religious website, the thrust of the video is not preachy.
  • Education Technology Solutions goes into how you can use Twitter as a teaching tool without seeming unprofessional. The principles in the article can be applied to other social media networks as well.
  • A post from the University of Phoenix outlines six points for using social media in classrooms. It encourages educators to set a good example, establish online guidelines, and glean ideas from peers. It also delves into how a class Facebook page or Twitter account can be beneficial.

Make the Most of Social Media

Image via Flickr by MsC’sClassroom
Social media can serve as a fun way to establish relationships with students and help them learn. These resources give specific ideas on how you can make social media work for you.
    Image via Flickr by MsC'sClassroom
  • A brief post from offers eight ideas that you can use as a launching point for integrating social media into your teaching strategy. The links in the bulleted points lead to sources that provide more details.
  • A professor of biology discusses his experiences using Twitter as an educational tool. He wanted to extend the conversations beyond what happened in the physical classroom, and that is what he accomplished. Even people not enrolled in his class gave comments on topics the class was discussing.
  • There are some outside-the-box ways that you can use Twitter and other social media platforms in your teaching. This post suggests things like letting your students design your Twitter page, live-tweeting field trips, and inviting guest tweeters to enrich class discussions.
  • Podcasting as a social media tool often sits in the shadow of mammoths like Facebook and Instagram, but these podcasting ideas are fresh enough to merit your attention. You could have your students record current events broadcasts or use podcasting to encourage an interest in music or journalism.
  • You can use a class blog to help your students hone their writing skills, to keep everyone updated on homework assignments, or for a host of other purposes. Gain inspiration from this list of class blogs that is arranged by grade level and subject. An awesome idea!
  • The popular photo-sharing platform Instagram can help you engage with your students in new ways. This list detailing surprising ways to use Instagram in the classroom suggests that you use the platform to showcase students’ accomplishments and organize scavenger hunts
  • YouTube is a handy tool for flipped classrooms, but its usefulness extends to more traditional setups as well. Classroom in the Future shares some intriguing ideas about how to use YouTube to your advantage.

In Short

Social media is more than a way to find cute cat videos and read the gossip about upcoming movies; it is a powerful entity that can impact how you teach and how you relate to your students. The above resources can help you refine your teaching skills related to social media.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

50+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media

These days, differentiating instruction can be done through coachbooks, teacher creativity and many ways that are cutting edge or outdated teaching practices. What if we could use social media to help students and ourselves drive toward a 21st Century classroom where students are using their phones in the classroom to ask their own questions? What if a student could use their own interests to help make connections through using social media? Consider this...
According to an article by John McCarthy, a great observation is "Differentiating with social media is most effective when we plan learning experiences based on content, process, and product (our lesson structure) and incorporate readiness, interests, and learning profiles (student voice). The following guidelines can help any classroom teacher ensure that the tool used will address students' needs." Read on in this short article.

50+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media

     Imagine a world where resources were limited to what was found in the classroom or the school closet known as the "Curriculum Materials Room." Picture a world where students wrote letters with pen and paper to communicate with other students and adults outside of the building. Due to postage costs, the teacher either sent the letters in bulk or paid for stamps out of his or her own pocket. Can you recall a time when student interests like skateboarding or video were never used as part of learning curriculum because the tools needed were either too expensive or not yet conceptualized? Do you remember a time when non-traditional learners struggled, and absenteeism meant a high likelihood of students doing poorly in school, and possibly having to retake the course?
If you experienced none of these scenarios, then you live in a world of possibility because you grew up with the many social media tools available to support all learners. If any of these scenarios bring back memories as a teacher or student, then you understand that we have many more tools today to ensure that learners succeed despite struggles, because students and teachers have so much more available to meet every learner's needs.

Selecting the Right Tool

For educators differentiating instruction, social media tools embrace collaboration and global access to people and other resources. We give students a variety of learning experiences that incorporate the capability to:
  • Exchange ideas
  • Provide positive, constructive, and kind feedback
  • Provide avenues to connect content with our learners' many different interests.
Differentiating with social media is most effective when we plan learning experiences based on content, process, and product (our lesson structure) and incorporate readiness, interests, and learning profiles (student voice). The following guidelines can help any classroom teacher ensure that the tool used will address students' needs:
  1. Be clear about the academic learning outcomes.
  2. Assess what students know and don't know.
  3. Identify related student background connections.
  4. Utilize social networks that can:
    • Address needs for struggling learners
    • Ensure that advanced learners are growing.
  5. Use fog-free assessments that track learner progress.
While the collaboration capabilities of many social media tools can overlap, some may be more effective than others depending on how they're customized for student voice.


Readiness focuses on a student's current academic skill level. Work is structured to help them address any gaps or needs for enrichment. Students work in like-skill groups for specific, targeted support to address a common need, such as guided reading or tiered (leveled) activities. They also collaborate in mixed-skill groups to support struggling students with needed skill development. Additionally, experiences can stretch the advanced students in a mixed-skill group -- they may have the core skills, yet the critical thinking challenges them and their teammates.
Consider these tools to assist with readiness:
  • Kaizena provides a space where students get feedback for revising their work.
  • Weebly is a blog tool that can create "center" activities for students based on their skill support needs.
  • Survey Monkey is one of many online survey tools for capturing pre- and formative assessment of students' progress. This one is also a good tool for student feedback on the helpfulness of the intervention used.


Allowing students to tackle work based on the option that makes the most sense to them is crucial for cognitive connections. Seeing a concept in context of a topic in which the learner has great interest -- and possibly expertise -- can help him or her turn abstract ideas into concrete purpose. Here are some tools to help focus on student interests:
  • Youtube Playlists: There are many videos that address content from different perspectives, including the one way that a particular student or teacher needs to see it. Create playlists (like this one) to provide that variety.
  • Screencastify is a Google Chrome app that enables students to capture video of their screen. Have a history tour on Minecraft? This tool will showcase it (as in this example by Steamer).
  • Zoom, a video conferencing tool that includes recording, enables students to connect with field experts on relating content to the world outside of school.

Learning Profiles

When students address concepts from diverse perspectives, especially in collaborative groups, it can lead to in-depth understanding. Learning profiles are about providing each student with experiences that incorporate a variety of learning style elements, not just one. Such activities help students find deeper connections, especially if they share points of view via peer reflection and dialog.
Try these tools:
Here are an additional 50+ tools for exploration. Consider which will best fit the "current" needs of your diverse learners. More will be added on a regular basis. What tools do you use? Please share in the comments section below, and I'll keep the 50+ list growing.

Endless Possibilities

We truly are in a brave new world -- the good kind -- where differentiation opportunities evolve due to the variety of social media tools available. No longer are students and teachers limited to resources purchased for the classroom. For example, 1:1 computing grows as schools understand the value of student contact with outside resources. As more schools review their cell phone policy and allow students to use their "internet devices," learning options increase with access to social media apps and other online tools such as those mentioned above.
In the past, limited access placed a hardship on teachers to meet the diverse needs of their students, especially when school resources are limited. In this brave new world, we are fortunate to live and work in an environment where the possibilities are endless for getting students what they need when they need it, and in a format that works best for them. How are you tapping possibilities to meet learner needs?