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6 Simple Ways to Connect to College Students Online

But in this new world of social distancing, we have an opportunity to give real, human-centered online learning a try. Of course, we are still in a traumatic and stressful time, so new online courses aren’t going to be perfectly designed. But we CAN implement a few simple practices to allow for community building in online classes during a time of chaos.

Listening to Learn: Equity and Education

I’m blown away by the variety and depth of the podcasts available that examine critical issues related to equity and education.  These podcasts address history, current events, policy, personal stories, and best practices.  If you haven’t checked them out, give them a listen!  Here is a curated playlist of individual episodes.

Teaching About Charlottesville

If you are teaching your students about Charlottesville, and want to function as an anti-racist educator for your students, please see the following brilliant resource compiled by @JulieBoulton12.  This document lists a variety of sources that may be of use.  If you have additional sources, please comment.  Please also share so that teachers have access toContinue reading “Teaching About Charlottesville”

Where do we go from here? A guide for teachers in the Trump administration

As someone who works with preservice teachers daily, I’ve gotten lots of questions from my current and former students about the future of public education. Some are worried about whether their jobs will exist, and others are worried about what those jobs will look like. Some worry about k-12 students being deported, or about studentsContinue reading “Where do we go from here? A guide for teachers in the Trump administration”

Betsy DeVos is Right about the Bears: One Educator’s Harrowing Experience

A few years ago, I was teaching a class, and my students were broken up into small groups. They were collaborating on a response to a case study, and I was virtually jumping from room to room to observe and provide feedback. Things were going relatively smoothly until I heard one student yell “A bear!” My ears perked up at this, of course, which is not something normally yelled during my class sessions.

Making Change Happen: 21st Century Skills and Meaningful Integration into the Classroom

Technology keeps advancing, students keep changing, and the world we live in is vastly different than the one in which most of us seasoned educators completed our student teaching experiences. Yet in many ways, teacher preparation hasn’t reflected these changes. However, there are myriad excellent examples of students, teachers, and teacher educators engaging in truly 21st century teaching and learning. The challenge we face as a community of educators is being able to bring these innovative practices to all students, teachers, and teacher educators. It isn’t enough to simply tweet about technology-enhanced education to other educational technology converts. How do we engage in a broad, open, inclusive, and effective push for cutting edge yet sustainable and teaching and learning at both the k-12 and the postsecondary level?

Talking EdTech

Technology isn’t going to become any less omnipresent in our lives; with the rate at which technology advances, we actually have no idea what type of world our current students will enter when they are ready to pursue careers and make big decisions. So how on earth do we prepare them for that? How can we even begin to teach students about technology or prepare teachers to teach technology when we don’t know what technology will look like even a few years from now?

Pinterest for Educators

Published today on the Getting Smart! website, my new article: How To Effectively Integrate Pinterest Into Your Classroom Check it out for useful information on how to actively use educational technology in your classroom!  In it, I give some tips for using Pinterest in your classroom, as well as a link to the USC Rossier SchoolContinue reading “Pinterest for Educators”

Innovation in EdTech: Getting it Done!

I recently had the privilege of spending a day just outside of DC, working with incredible educators from around the country, ASCD, and the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. Professors, teachers, administrators, deans, organizations, and policymakers came together for a summit on innovation in teacher preparation, with a focus on preparing preservice teachers to effectively use technology in their classrooms.

Heading into the day, I wasn’t sure what to expect; I feared a day of arguing about ideology, or coming up with pie in the sky ideas with no follow through.

The Quandary of the Female Professor

It’s that time again for a new term to begin. I’m meeting all of my master’s and doctoral students in these first couple of weeks, and I’m faced with the same dilemma I’ve faced since I began as a professor 6.5 years ago. Do I change my teaching style to deal with the inherent sexism and internalized oppression of my students?

This might seem like a dramatic claim. Most of my students are women, after all, so how can sexism be impacting my teaching? Unfortunately, it’s the sad truth. I’m a teaching professor, so the vast majority of my performance evaluation is based on student course evaluations. Those little bubbles that students fill in at the end of the course are significant…

Coding Instead of Cursive

There’s a great deal of debate in the education world about the death of cursive writing instruction. Cursive lovers bemoan the excision of cursive from the curriculum, and are horrified at the thought that someday, these children will grow up and not be able to read their grandparents’ letters (nevermind that their grandparents are now Tweeting, Instagramming, and Snapchatting).

But what do they really need cursive for? Important documents are no longer written in cursive. When applying for most jobs, no one will ever see your handwriting until you’re hired, and even then they may never see it. Signatures are generally written in cursive, but it’s generally a stylized, bastardized version of cursive. So why are we clawing at cursive in a vain attempt to keep it in the curriculum?

We need to talk about online learning…

Inside Higher Ed published the results of their Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology today – a collaboration with Gallup. It details faculty opinions on many areas of technology, including online learning. Of course, as a distance professor, I was eager to see the results. And of course, they reflect the same old, tired attitudes about online learning.

So let me tell you a little story…

3 Ways to Support Student-Parents Online

I teach in a Master of Arts in Teaching program, using an online platform (a Moodle-based LMS developed for us by the fabulous 2U, and Adobe Connect). In this program, many of my students are also parents. Since they’re also attending live classes over a webcam from home, this means that often their children are in the house with them. Many professors in this setting take the approach of banning children, or in fact any potential distractions at all, from the classroom. My approach is a bit different. See, I’m a parent myself, and I believe that one of the big problems in our society is the disconnect between work life and family life; the idea that once you get to work you’re supposed to stop being a parent, but when you’re home with your family you should still be answering work email. I think this is a damaging and stressful thing for parents, whether they’re at work or in an academic program, or as often happens, both. So, instead, I choose to support my student parents in ways that not only improve their educational experience, but improve learning for other students and improve my experience as the instructor. It’s my small act of rebellion against the societal encroachment of work and academia on family life.

Dear failing student,

Dear failing student,
I’ve just discovered that you’re past the tipping point, and won’t pass my course. I will spend all day thinking about you. I’m so sad that your outcome in this course wasn’t positive. I take it personally when even one of my students doesn’t succeed, even though I probably shouldn’t. I know this is a big obstacle, because my course is required. I’m a gatekeeper for the degree and the credential, which you have your sights set upon.

Teaching Tech to Preservice Teachers

I recently ran across this brilliant blog posting as I was browsing Reddit, and I knew I needed to share it. The author shares a mock test as a way of illustrating the major gaps in how we teach preservice teachers about technology. The sins he describes are not at all exclusive to McGill University; all too often, education schools resist change, or misplace their focus when it comes to teaching about technology. He offers a set of recommendations for universities that I couldn’t agree with more, that includes things like teaching about net neutrality, basic hardware usage (I am REALLY tired of seeing professors at conferences who can’t hook up a projector), closed vs. open source software, and the cloud. The only thing I would add to this list is

“I’m not racist; I just hate black people.”

No this isn’t about education. Bear with me.

I went to a protest this weekend here in Baton Rouge in response to the Eric Garner decision and other instances of police brutality. A couple of hundred people were there: students, ministers, various other members of the community, of all races. We heard the account (from his father) of Victor White III, who supposedly shot himself in the chest, while in police custody, with his hands cuffed behind his back. We heard the account of another unnamed man who, after being sent to prison in Angola, was killed 4 days later in an altercation with prison guards. His family doubted the story they were told of the altercation, and his body was not allowed to be released to the family; he was buried in Angola. We heard a mother talking about how she returned to her car from a convenience store, to find a cop physically roughing up her children in the back seat, because one of them was playing with a laser pointer. We heard from a 12 year old black girl who was terrified that her 10 year old brother would be killed by police. We heard from a man who was beaten by police because he said to the officer “Why did you stop me?” These stories are, sadly, not unique.

A Cheat Sheet for Looking Professional Online

Normally I post about much more serious things, but today I’m going to post about the fine art of being as comfortable as possible while still looking professional when you work online (aka: How to wear sweatpants and tshirts every day, but still look like you are fully dressed for battle at the drop of a hat.)

I may be shattering some illusions here, but here goes. I work exclusively from home, and I teach and have meetings from a webcam. I also have a toddler. So that means I’m not getting dressed in silk blouses, wool suits, and heels every day. I need to be applesauce and finger paint ready, and also meeting with the Dean ready at any moment. So, what’s a hardworking professor-mom to do?

Academic writing “rules” you should break

As a teaching professor, I read a lot of papers. In those papers, I see a lot of wonderful writing, and a small amount of terrible writing. I spent a fair amount of my time while reading these papers correcting grammatical errors. Some of these errors are things that absolutely must be fixed. You do need to have complete sentences. You also need to have subjects that agree with verbs. In academic writing, the rules are rigid for a reason. However, there are a couple of rules that I would love to see fall by the wayside. Students, if you’re reading this, the answer is yes. This is your permission to ignore these rules when writing papers for me.

Teachers instead of Tests

It is no secret that I am no fan of standardized tests. I strongly believe that they are killing public education, and I am terrified at what our educational system will look like in 20 years. We desperately want to be the best, and so we devise test after test to hold students and teachers accountable.

Who is it that we think we need to hold accountable? We have these mythical “bad teachers” who just aren’t doing their jobs. Those teachers do exist, but they are a small percentage. The vast majority of teachers out there are good teachers. Because, you see, teachers don’t become teachers for the money (or even for the summer breaks). They become teachers because they have a passion for inspiring and educating young minds.

Voting for School Board

I live in a somewhat rural Parish in Louisiana. We’re mostly oil refineries and plants, with a few towns thrown in. Now, in my district, we’ve got a contentious school board election happening. What that means is that every intersection is peppered with campaign signs, including a sign campaigning for someone with the nickname “Worm.” It’s Louisiana – what can I say? I’ve had numerous pamphlets dropped off at the door, quite a few robocalls, and several candidates knocking on my door. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for them) they all knocked at inopportune times so I wasn’t able to talk to them.

If I had been able to talk to them I might have asked them simple questions like:

Web 2.0 Tool Review: PowToon

I love to use little video clips or images to supplement my online class sessions; today’s class was on social constructivism and connectivism. I had no problem finding a video summarizing connectivism, but one that focused solely on social constructivism was, surprisingly, more difficult to find. Thankfully, the one I found on connectivism was really cool. The creator, Mike Penella (@MikePenella), had used something called PowToon, which I, of course, had to investigate (LOVE the bee analogy, by the way, Mike!).

How to be Successful in Grad School

I spent a lot of time in grad school (with the loans to prove it), and I’ve been teaching exclusively grad students for the last 5 years. So, I fancy myself somewhat of an expert on how to be successful in grad school. Now that the new academic year is almost upon us, here are some tips for getting the most out of your grad school experience:

Why I don’t lecture

As a professor in the MAT@USC program, I occasionally get a question from a student that goes something like this:

“I enrolled in this program so that I could learn from the top-notch USC faculty. So why am I spending most of my time talking to my classmates instead of listening to YOU tell us what is important for us to learn?”
I appreciate it when a student asks this question, because I think it takes guts to speak up when you think a learning experience isn’t working for you, or isn’t being productive. I think it is an important question to ask. WHY, when I have a very expensive and hard-earned set of letters after my name, would I sit back and let my students teach each other? Why am I not bestowing this wisdom upon them? How are they getting their money’s worth out of a prestigious program from USC, when the professor isn’t the center of attention? Shouldn’t I be lecturing about Bandura and Piaget as so many of my academic predecessors have done? Lecturing is a time-honored tradition in academia, so why am I not honoring it?

Thank You to My Students

As professors, how often do we thank our students? No, really. I tend to thank them at the end of the term (and I genuinely mean it), but I don’t tend to thank them when they’re actually in the trenches. So, to my students who are currently halfway through a term:

What Teachers Really Want for Teacher Appreciation Day

Today, as you are probably aware, is Teacher Appreciation Day. The desks of teachers across the country are filled today with trinkets that represent their students’ affection, parents’ gratefulness, and no small measure of sucking up. Most of this stuff will be trashed later on, because the sheer amount of CRAP that you collect as a teacher is immense; I always ended up bringing huge boxes of gifts home at the end of the year to quietly be disposed of in thrift stores or the dumpster, so my students wouldn’t see. One giant stuffed Betty Boop became a dog toy…

Why You Shouldn’t Become A Teacher

As a former classroom teacher, and a current professor of education, I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of current and future teachers. As in any profession, the people in it run the gamut from outstanding to how-on-earth-did-someone-award-you-a-degree. It benefits us all when we have strong educators in classrooms, because education improves society, not just the individual. I’m happy to say that in my time as a professor, I’ve run across very few students who shouldn’t be in the classroom. However, as a classroom teacher, I ran across quite a few more. In service of making sure that people who end up in classrooms actually should be there, here are a few reasons why you SHOULDN’T become a teacher.

5 Things I Wish People Knew About Online Learning

I’ve been teaching in a fully online setting through the MAT@USC for just about 5 years now. It’s been an amazing experience, but I still encounter the same pervasive incorrect ideas over and over from people who haven’t experienced what online learning in the 21st century looks like (or should look like). I’ve often wished that I could include on my business cards as a tagline “Online learning really isn’t what you think it is.” So, here is my list of things I wish people knew about online learning:

This pill could give your brain the learning powers of a 7-year-old – The Week

  This pill could give your brain the learning powers of a 7-year-old – The Week. Please, please let\’s not go down this road.  If this proves to be even marginally safe, we\’re going to have Tiger Moms and overworked teens scamming prescriptions for this stuff just to keep up with the Joneses.  We don\’tContinue reading “This pill could give your brain the learning powers of a 7-year-old – The Week”

7 Tips for New Teachers

It’s that time of year again! Time when the backpacks are full of fresh school supplies, the desks are clean, and the bulletin boards eagerly awaiting student work.

More importantly, a newly minted group of teachers is welcoming their students, ready to change the world. With all of my recent graduates in mind, I share these words of wisdom for the new teachers out there: {…}

Whole Food, Whole Student

When I was a student teacher, the school I was assigned to had received a large chunk of cash as the result of scoring in the top ranks on a state assessment. There was quite a bit of controversy happening in the school over which employees should receive bonuses as a result of this influx of cash. The teachers, by and large, felt that they should be the sole recipients of the merit pay; after all, their jobs were the “front lines” positions, involving working directly with students on a variety of academic skills.

There was, however, a vocal opposition from the custodians, the lunchroom workers, and other support staff. They argued that their roles in the school were contributing to a healthy school environment, which also had an impact on students’ success. I’m inclined to agree with them, with one exception; the lunches. Oh, how horrible these lunches were. Without exception, every single school where I have worked, volunteered, collected data, or observed has served its students food that I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. {…}

Beautiful Moments in the Extended Classroom

There’s a unique aspect, however, to this type of classroom. In a brick and mortar classroom, my room extends to the walls, and whatever the students can see or hear outside. In the virtual, video based classroom, though, my classroom now extends into each of their homes. Their sofas, desks, posters, cats, and children all become part of the classroom. Some professors fight this tooth and nail. They inform students that pets and children need to remain off camera, and they warn against eating or smoking (yes, smoking!) in class.

I take a different perspective. I think that, as educators, we need to embrace the elements of this extended classroom. We need to balance professionalism and comfort. Acceptance and distraction.
So how do I do this? I let students know that I have a few guidelines for online behavior: {…}

Unprocessed Education

In San Francisco at the end of April, I had the opportunity to hear James Paul Gee speak a couple of times about learning and new media literacy. Gee has done a lot of great work in the field of video games and learning and new media literacies, but what struck me the most was a topic that he kept coming back to; the problems with processed food. He drew parallels more than once between the nation’s consumption of processed foods leading to illness and death and the nation’s educational problems. My ears perked up as soon as he began talking about the dangers of processed foods, since with the last year I’ve read a couple of Michael Pollan’s books, and subsequently purged almost all of the processed foods from my fridge and pantry. Gee’s words really stuck with me over the last couple of weeks, and I finally realized why. What we have right now in the United States is Processed Education, and it’s killing learning. {…}

Reflections on AERA: Where Do I Fit?

I’m in the air right now on my way from San Francisco, to Dallas, and then home to Louisiana, after 4 days at the American Educational Research Association conference, and my brain is full. I experienced (and live tweeted!) many great sessions, spoke with a number of very interesting people researching important questions, presented my own research findings with a colleague, and did a little sightseeing. However, throughout my trip, I kept returning to one thought over and over. What is my role in all of this educational chaos? {…}

5 Tech Tools for the Newly Connected Educator

This one is for the teaching with technology newbies. I know there are lots of you out there; I find myself teaching you quite often. Sometimes those of us whose lives are threaded through with technology in every possible way forget that somewhere out there, there is a teacher who doesn’t understand the difference between a tweet and a status update. If the extent of your online activity is looking at pictures of your grandkids on Facebook, this post is for you! As you go through this post, you’ll see words and phrases that are underlined. Click on those for more resources related to that word or phrase. {…}

Teaching New Media Literacy Skills without Technology

Let me start this post by saying, “I LOVE TECHNOLOGY!” I do; I love how it makes the world smaller and larger simultaneously. I love that I have all of human knowledge at my fingertips, available within an instant. I love that, when someone says, “Hey, that’s that guy from that movie! You know, the one where Keanu Reeves pretends he can act!” I can have an answer for them in 10 seconds (the answer is Gary Oldman, by the way).

However, as much as those of us with ready access might feel that smartphones, laptops, and tablets are ubiquitous, the fact is that they’re not. Just a few short years ago, before I made the transition to my new life as a professor, I was a classroom teacher. {…}

2 Problems with Flipping the Classroom

There has been a lot of talk lately about this idea of “flipping the classroom”. For those of you not familiar with this concept, it most often involves putting teacher lectures and explanations on video, and hosting those videos online so that students can watch them outside of school; teachers can then spend more time working one on one or with small groups of students during class time. It can also encompass any kind of plan where technology accessed outside the classroom replaces the traditional lecture format. {…}

Talking to Kids about the Boston Marathon Bombings

Oh, how I wish this wasn’t something that needed to be posted. Unfortunately, we’ve seen yet another violent attack take innocent lives and injure countless others. Right now, if you’re a caregiver or teacher, you have a couple of choices. You can drown in the social media and television coverage of the events, or you can carefully curate what your children have access to, and mediate the exposure you can’t control (for older kids). {…}

Google Glass and the Future of Education

“When you grow up, you won’t be walking around everywhere with a calculator in your pocket, so you’d better learn this!” How many of us heard some version of that statement as justification for the rote memorization of times tables, or the endless repetition of problem sets? I know I did. But we ARE carrying calculators in our pockets now, aren’t we? My iPhone is never more than 5 feet away, and it’s not only a calculator, but a portal to access the collective knowledge of the entire human race for all of history. Take that, 3rd grade teacher! {…}

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