Tag Archives: 21 century classroom

A Roadmap for Technology in Education?

13 Jun

I’ve just finished reading the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Reports for both Higher Education and K-12. For those unfamiliar with the NMC Horizon reports, they are the predicting voice on educational technology trends and cover not only global higher education and K-12 schools, but also libraries and museums. These reports are the product of a collaborative research project between NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Their aim is to identify and describe technologies that are likely to impact teaching and learning. These reports have been around for 13 years, have been translated (to date) into 50 foreign languages, and have readership in more than 160 countries according to the NMC Horizon website.

The reports cover the challenges that impede technology adoption, the key trends that can accelerate educational technology adoption, and the important developments that are likely to affect education spanning over the next 1 to 2 years, 3-4 years from now, and 5 and more years. Their potential to be valuable guides for technology planning in educational establishments is without doubt; however, after asking about 20 faculty members and a number of principals and technology coordinators, I question how many education professionals actually refer to the reports to guide their curriculum planning!

As a doctoral student and teacher, I appreciated the scope of the reports, the detailed insights into how trends and challenges affect teaching and learning, and the implications that the reports’ findings can potentially have on policy, leadership, and practice.K12Trends

The outlined trends presented in the Horizon Reports are such that schools would have to flexible and allow for creativity and entrepreneurial thinking. This, sadly to say, is a far cry from the reality of our standardized test driven K-12 environments and our budget conscious Higher Ed institutions. In addition, to successfully adopt these trends, the full commitment and involvement of all education stakeholders, from parents to policymakers, is vital.  I saw no mention of preceding years’ trends and challenges in the reports, which is a shame, as a few remarks on the past years’ trends and challenges and extrapolations as to the reasons why the trends took place or not would have been valuable.

Culturally Relevant Teaching

6 Jun

Today I witnessed something that brought home to me the importance that culturally relevant teaching has on students’ level of interest, motivation, and comprehension.

roar1A poem by Jack Prelutsky was read during a discussion on the use of imagery to portray feelings in poetry to a Second Grade Class made up of Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and a few American students. The poet’s intention was to illustrate the loathing of liver that a child felt, however, because 13 out of the 17 children in that classroom ate and loved liver, and had never heard of anyone not liking liver, the whole meaning of the poem was lost on them. Not being able to personally identify with the feelings of the boy not only hindered their comprehension, leading the teacher to think they did not understand the use of imagery in the poem, but went so far as to result in some kids thinking that the animal cries were symbols of the joy that the boy felt about eating liver. Following that lesson, I asked some of the children I work with, to illustrate the poem as they understand it. Included in this post are some of the drawings!

This brought back memories of similar situations I’ve experienced in my 10 years of teaching abroad. One that stands out in particular took place when I was teaching a Third Grade class in Dubai. roar2It was a lesson on measurements. I asked the students to measure things and places in and around their homes. The next day, two of the girls listed 1 kilometer and 1.5 kilometers as the size of their backyards. I confidently corrected their answers explaining that backyards would never measure a kilometer in length – it was far too big! – only to discover later that year that the girls’ backyards were in fact a few kilometers in length as were the backyards of many of the Emirati People!

The other situation I was reminded of was when I volunteered with Asia Child Fund. My work consisted in introducing and training Nepalese teachers in western teaching methodologies. Prior to going, the organizers chose to base the workshops on the children’s tale Jack and the Beanstalk. Volunteer teachers had to prepare activities in math, art, science, and English around this book. When the book was read to the pupils, there was an outburst of surprise, as they could not understand how Jack could exchange a cow for a few beans – even magical beans – since cows are sacred in the Hindu culture and no one would dare trade a cow – for anything!roar3

Making one’s teaching pedagogy relevant to one’s students is of the utmost importance. Taking the time to tweak one’s lessons and examples to make them meaningful and culturally relevant is a must if one’s aim is to have a student-centered classroom where students are motivated, interested and involved.

Time and time again, I witness teaching that is completely foreign to students and not as a result of language barriers. The students may understand the meaning of the words but because they cannot relate to the story, the examples, or the cultural meaning of a passage, they cannot relate to what is being taught and remain disengaged and removed from the learning.

Educate not one or two of your students but educate all who sit in your room today. Begin by becoming aware and familiar with the diverse cultures in your classroom and let that be the guide to your pedagogy!

Teaching for Today

13 Mar

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.
~ John Dewey

To teach and to educate are words that are often used interchangeably in the English language but if we were to look at the origin of these words we would see that while to teach has its roots in the Germanic language meaning “to show, present, point out”, to educate is made up of two Latin words: educare and educere and means “to lead out and led out.”

educateTo educate assumes that a learner already possesses the knowledge and only requires a guide or a mentor to lead that knowledge out whereas to teach implies that knowledge has to be imparted on to a learner through the presentation of facts and the showing of skills.teach

To Teach or To Educate

In today’s technology driven world, students have access to an abundance of information anywhere and at any time, giving them ample opportunities for learning. As a consequence of this, teaching cannot be about the presentation and imparting of information but rather the assimilation and assessing of that information.


With this in mind, teachers’ roles are no longer about lecturing nor the teaching of rules. Teachers have to be flexible, and willing to learn, relearn, and unlearn, to remain abreast of their students’ needs.  They have the opportunity to design, create, and collaborate in a learning environment of their own making. Planning, organizing, engaging, and connecting learners of all ages and at all levels in learning activities and project based-learning are the aims of education today. Providing students with opportunities to develop their communication, collaboration, creative problem solving, and critical thinking skills are the goals of schooling.

Teachers monitor and guide learners so they can find their own path to knowledge, and lead them to their inner wisdom thus applying the true meaning of the word educate!

Google Apps for Language Teaching

14 Sep

workshopphoto Below are the slides from my presentation at the Google in Education Vietnam Summit. It is always a great opportunity to gather as a group of educators, to reflect on the latest technological tools and to share ideas and strategies of effective technology integration in the classroom.

Google Apps offer teachers the necessary tools to give learnerGoogle Apps in Language Teachings opportunities for critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration – essential skills needed for every learner in today’s digital age.

To learn more about Google Apps in Education, check out Google in Education.

Google in Education Summit is coming to Vietnam

25 Aug

My school has been using Google Apps for its administrative and educational needs since it started out two years ago. This year it is hosting the Google in Education Summit on September 14 and 15, 2013. This will be the first time that a Google Apps event comes to Vietnam.

Teachers, IT specialists, administrators and anyone who is interested in teaching and learning at any level and to any age group would benefit from attending the Google in Education Summit in Hanoi. For more information on the sessions and presenters and to register for this event, go to: http://vietnam.appsevents.com/

Vietnam Google SummitGoogle in Education Summits are held all over the world and usually include Google certified engineers, teachers and trainers. In addition, teachers who use Google Apps in their classroom will also be presenting. I will be one of the presenters at the Vietnam Summit.

I have been using Google Apps in teaching and for collaborative projects with English language learners of every age and level. This has enhanced my teaching and communication with students, families and colleagues. It has also resulted in an instruction that goes beyond the classroom.

Google Apps in Action

In a Flipped Classroom environment, learners do the learning at their own pace, from anywhere, and do the practice and application of the learning with their teacher and classroom peers. Using Google Apps, this is how a Flipped Classroom learning experience would look like:

  • The learner watches a video or listens to a lesson on YouTube or reads an article shared on Google Docs.
  • The student then answers some questions and records them in either Google Docs or Forms. He/she can also work collaboratively with another student on a shared document to prepare an in-depth response.
  • In class, the teacher responds to inquiries. As such, the time spent in the classroom is more about interaction with the teacher who can then address personal learning needs and styles by giving students one on one time and by providing them with different methods of showing their learning.
  • The student has an opportunity to reflect on his/her learning through sharing and collaboration with other classmates. He/she may also ask classmates to edit their written work. This collaboration can take place with classmates not only from their classroom but also with students from anywhere in the globe.
  • The final learning product is then published in an e-portfolio in the form of a blog, a drawing or a recording.

It is easy to see why a Flipped Classroom environment is sweeping the education community worldwide. It is a versatile, engaging manner of teaching that gives students control of their learning and uses teacher contact time more efficiently. Plus, it is inexpensive for schools to implement especially when schools adopt Google Apps.

In my next post, I will share some of the highlights from the summit. In the meantime, you can read more about the summit by visiting the event’s website.

ACAMIS EAL Spring Conference

24 Apr

I have just attended the ACAMIS EAL Spring Conference held at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is a modern vibrant city located in the southern part of China, about an hour away by ferry from Hong Kong.  Shekou, where the school is located, is a green expatriate residential area in Shenzhen known for Sea World – a large French cruise liner cemented into the ground and around which one can find many ethnic restaurants and a lovely open area to hang out. As this was my second year attending a conference there, I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones.

ACAMIS EAL conference attracts teachers from all over China who are either classroom or English as an Additional Language specialists as well as administrators at different levels.  This year, there were also a good number of technology experts to share in their knowledge and expertise on successfully integrating technology into teaching and learning.

From the onset, this conference proved itself to be one that utilizes social media and technological tools for communication, collaboration and co-creation.  From the moment I stepped into the school, evidence of the latter was to be found everywhere. It began at the social hour with a glass of wine and the bar coding of each other’s nametags with the use of a QR (Quick Response) reader and scanner application, to the very last instant, while sipping champagne and waving goodbye, as pictures of that day were brought to life with the help of Aurasma, and through it all with tweeters keeping us all informed and connected.  Each participant was led to take one step further on their journey of truly integrating technology in their teaching and in their daily living.

The conference theme was around literacy and more specifically on elements of literacy to support English language learners.

Participants were introduced to numerous IPad applications to support teaching, learning, creating and collaborating. In addition, components of the Reading and Writing Workshop were examined and the use of World-class Instructional Design and Assessment  (WIDA) for the assessment of English Language Learners was discussed in grade level focus groups.

In its endeavor to ‘go green’ the conference was a BYOD (bring your own device) event where if you did not have a tablet to use, one was signed out to you, fully charged and with tech support for the whole duration of the conference. In addition, a designated hash tag (#SISeal) was created for speakers and attendees to communicate, collaborate and create.  All handouts and material used at the conference were shared on Dropbox and a designated padlet wall to post questions was available.

The keynote speaker was Jill Bromenschenkel. Jill introduced us to many applications that can change the way we teach and learn as well as the way we, as professionals, communicate and collaborate. She reminded us to think about whether we are digitizing our teaching with a purpose and asked us to rethink the way we learn and teach and communicate.  She went on to say that simply introducing the tool does not create the interaction. She urged us as educators to reflect on what tools we choose to use and to ponder the so what of it all. Jill introduced us to some applications that can transform the learning and aid students to move from being consumers to becoming creators in the world of technology.  Using some very memorable images and short clips, Jill made an impact on the way we view technology in education and left us with worthy thoughts to ponder.

Two of the workshops I attended were on the Writing Workshop model and English Language Learners. Suggestions on using the Workshop model for vocabulary teaching were shared and ideas for implementation were presented.

Another workshop which also dealt with writing and which was filled with ideas that can easily be implemented and used with students at every level of proficiency presented the Gretchen Bernabei philosophy on teaching writing and suggestions from Barry Lane, an author who has some very interesting videos on YouTube that discuss different aspects of writing. The ideas were practical and can easily be incorporated into the Reading Writing Workshop model. I personally cannot wait to put some of these suggestions into practice.

The workshop Making Thinking Visible with Digital Resources showcased some of the ways that we can give English Language Learners opportunities to demonstrate their learning and where teachers can assess the students’ abilities. Skitch, Educreations, Socrative, Popplet were some of the suggested applications. Using TitanPad to share comments, teachers were given opportunities to share ideas and classroom usage for these applications. The presenter used SurveyMonkey to receive feedback on the workshops.

Of the many things I heard and saw, one video in particular summed up the lessons that this workshop left me with!

All in all, after all that was said and done, what I was left with is a reminder that I do not have to be stuck on an escalator. I can use the necessary tools to move forward in my own learning and in so doing, I impart on my students strategies and opportunities for them to get unstuck and move forward in their learning.  So the next time you are about to use that application or that tool, ask yourself these questions:

Is this the best tool for this task?

Is this beneficial for my students?

Am I teaching my students to be creators instead of merely consumers?

Have I simply digitized the same teaching I’ve been doing all along or am I utilizing technology to improve collaboration, delivery and instruction?

Ask yourself the so what question. You will be amazed at where your thinking will take you!

To read some of the social media comments made by conference attendees, check out my Storify post.