Together While Apart: Classroom Communication

By their very nature, pandemics shake the systems of society, and that is certainly true for the global educational system right now. Institutions have had to adjust their entire structures, and for many educators, that has meant being thrust into remote learning environments, often without time to study or plan for the change. Until now, many educators have rightfully spent the bulk of their energies on meeting students’ most urgent needs, checking on physical and mental well-being first. Now, though, we find ourselves beginning to plan and conduct actual instruction, and the realities of remote learning bring new challenges. However, it may also bring opportunities to innovate, and, in the way of teachers across time, chances to flex our problem-solving muscles.

Our hope is that the Turnitin team can support you in ensuring student needs are met. This post, the first of three in our Together While Apart series, is part of our effort to help, but that’s not all that we’re doing. We have officially launched Turnitin’s Remote Learning Resources page and populated it with all the best materials, including past publications and a stockpile of brand new content specifically designed to meet the challenges of remote learning.

Remote learning is a broad term encompassing many different approaches. Often, these approaches fall into two brackets – synchronous or asynchronous. When classes meet at specific times in much the same way that they would in person, except that some form of technology is connecting everyone, that is known as synchronous learning. Because of the emergency nature of COVID-19, many institutions are finding themselves more likely to pursue asynchronous learning. In asynchronous learning, collective meetings are not always happening in real-time, and students often independently access content, assignments, and assessments virtually (or even through paper formats, in some places) on widely varying schedules.

Of the many shifts in instructional delivery, one of the most dramatic will be the methods by which educators communicate with their students. The challenges there will impact nearly every aspect of asynchronous instruction, so let’s begin there.

Instructor Challenge: How will I help my students combat a feeling of having limited live access to personalized support?

Strategies:

  1. Set up specific shared times for discussions, question and answer, etc. so that students CAN schedule around the time and check-in if they need to. Make sure to set these times up in advance to increase the possibility that students will be able to participate. For students who can’t join in real-time, record those sessions and post them so that students won’t be isolated or miss out on critical conversations. Additionally, this will build in opportunities for peer interaction and support, which can be critical to the learning process and may help feelings of isolation, loneliness, and even depression that can occur when working remotely. This is a common phenomenon for people working remotely and is likely to present a similar problem for some students.
  2. Offer 1:1 time slots on the calendar for students in the event that they need more support. In addition to the shared times for interaction, many students will want or need some individual interaction with instructors. It’s important to give them time and space to ask questions, seek out individualized clarification and support, and to simply connect.

Instructor Challenge: How will I ensure that my students always know WHEN learning activities are occurring and WHERE to find the information they need?

Strategies:

  1. Set up a centralized communication hub with ALL relevant information. Students can link out to the various tools and materials you’ll use, but they will have this as a home base of sorts.
  2. Establish a calendar! Set up a shared calendar where you list all relevant dates and can allow students to use it to schedule their own learning activities and time with you. Pro Tip: Feedback Studio users can use the Class Calendar tool to do this inside the system for ease of access to the information. 
  3. Consistent communication methods – pick the right tool for a task and then stick to it. Try making a list of all the different kinds of communication tasks involved in your instruction, and then match each to a communication TOOL that will best fit the purpose. For example, giving an overview of an assignment is different than providing ongoing feedback throughout an assignment. Which is the best tool for each? You need something that is well suited to longer, more comprehensive sets of information for the overview, but you need something fast and tied to specific student work for the second. Be thoughtful about the tools you select. Once you match each task with a particular tool, make sure you document that and share it with your students. Keep it in a location where students can easily access it over time too.

Once you select a tool, use it consistently! For example, try to avoid announcing some assignments through email and then some on a discussion board and still others on Twitter. Using other communication methods as back-ups are fine, but always utilize the one established upfront so there isn’t any confusion about where to access information.

Instructor Challenge: Since I am not communicating in person with my students, how will I avoid misalignment or misunderstandings about expectations, processes, or products?

Strategies:

  1. Anticipate questions or misunderstandings and address them upfront. It might help to picture a particular student and ask what questions they might have. By answering them in advance, you are more likely to head off any confusion and save both yourself and your students wasted time and effort. Additionally, you will ensure that every student has the right information whether they ask for it or not.
  2. Over-communicate – If you think your students already know your expectations, spell them out anyway. Sometimes, we make assumptions about how students think, but students surprise us. Losing physical proximity can complicate this even more. Outside the physical environment of a classroom, students sometimes fall back into the patterns of their new space. “I’m learning from my kitchen table, where I feel relaxed and easy-going.” Sometimes, those changes infect their thinking about work and expectations in unproductive ways. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to reassert those expectations and processes so that they carry over into students’ work.
  3. Document – To the greatest extent possible, write down and/or record–audio or video, and with captions, if available–all information so that students can access it repeatedly. This might seem incredibly time-consuming, but the upfront investment will save time later as you’ll be able to refer students back to it anytime you need to, and you’ll find that you are able to re-use it. Since students won’t be accessing instructions or content at the same time, recording it in writing or through another medium means that they can read or hear it from anywhere, any time, and as MANY times as they need to. Just think… this might actually mean that you don’t have to answer the same question 10 times! Additionally, it means that students can repeat information without any fear of judgment from their teacher or their peers, and you will have done so in a way that encourages them to seek out critical information they need rather than passively waiting.
  4. Provide feedback about expectations and processes, not only products. Students will make mistakes. In many cases, asynchronous learning is new to them too. Include opportunities to practice new skills within the tools they use and the processes involved, and make sure you give them feedback. Doing so has the added bonus of building their sense of agency and taking ownership of their own learning. Pro Tip: Be honest about your mistakes and what you have learned from this process so that students understand that learning is messy and requires us all to be reflective.

Students and teachers alike are overwhelmed by all that has changed in such a short time. That means that the “soft skills” that go into effective educational practices are perhaps more essential than ever. At its most fundamental level, education is built on relationships and communication.

 

At Least 6 U.S. Teachers Have Died From Covid-19 Since Schools Reopened

At least six educators in five states have died after contracting the coronavirus since schools began reopening in early August. Here’s a list, which Forbes will regularly update, of all the teacher Covid-19 fatalities to date.Demetria “Demi” Bannister, 28, a third-grade teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, died this week from Covid-19 complications after returning to school on August 28 for a week of teacher workdays (she only interacted with students remotely).

AshLee DeMarinis, 34, who taught special education at a middle school in Potosi, Missouri, died Sunday after three weeks on a ventilator; she had expressed fear about in-person teaching amid the pandemic, according to her sister, and contracted Covid-19 after returning to John Evans Middle School to begin preparing for the fall semester (she had not begun teaching students in-person).

Tom Slade, 53, a history teacher at a high school in Vancleave, Mississippi, also died on Sunday due to complications from the virus, which he tested positive for on August 24 after attending a gathering outside of class hours, according to the Biloxi Sun Herald; teachers at Vancleave High School had returned to the classroom August 3, with students following closely after.

An unnamed long-time special education teacher with Des Moines Public Schools died last week from coronavirus complications after an out-of-state trip, the school district announced September 2. 

Teresa Horn, 62, a special education teacher in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, died on August 28 from a heart attack after testing positive for the virus, prompting Tahlequah Public Schools to send their students home for virtual classes (the district has since reported at least eight infections). 

Nacoma James, 42, a football coach in Oxford, Mississippi, died during the first week of August as students and teachers returned to Lafayette Middle School; James, who had been coaching students “all summer,” did not join the first week back at school, instead self-quarantining with Covid-19 symptoms before passing away.  

Americans have been divided on sending students and teachers back to school as the virus continues to spread and the death toll nears 200,000 nationwide. Many school districts have opted for a “hybrid” mix of online and in-person learning, with heightened precautions in the classroom (plexiglass barriers, mandated mask usage, strict capacity limits). Each of New York City’s 1,606 public schools are offering a “blended learning” mix of online and offline teaching, with students returning from September 21. The majority of the nation’s other largest school districts have opted to begin the academic year online only. 

Further Reading

“‘Reckless’ And ‘Reprehensible’ Frat Party Linked To Coronavirus Outbreak At UNH: Here Are The Latest College Coronavirus Updates” (Forbes)

“U.S. Needs 193 Million Tests Per Month In Schools And Nursing Homes To Contain Covid-19, Report Finds” (Forbes)

“New York State Launches Covid-19 Report Card For Schools” (Forbes)

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Jemima McEvoy

Jemima McEvoy

I’m a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes.

Everything You Need to Know Before Applying for Your First TEFL Job

The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) market is quickly evolving and expanding. Recent TEFL graduates have a lot to look forward to in their future careers or first TEFL job due to the worldwide demand for English teachers creating fantastic and diverse opportunities.

Beginning a career in an ever-growing, the fast-developing market is definitely appealing, especially when you’re fed up with the routine of your current job and are looking to launch yourself into something new. TEFL is one of the few careers allowing you to travel the world right away.

The current climate makes it difficult to attend courses however, with TEFL you can cover everything you need online. There are many benefits of completing a course online beyond the ability to qualify without leaving your home.

You can take your time with the course, factoring in your studies when it suits you. The likelihood is that you’ve decided to take a TEFL course alongside your current job or studies, so knowing that there’s no pressure to complete the course within a set period of time is very reassuring.

Below are a few important points to help you navigate entering the world of teaching English as a foreign language. Having an awareness of these before both purchasing a course and beginning applications will be invaluable. As always, it’s important that you’re well researched before you commit to any course or job. 

TEFL Certification – What to Prioritize 

The quality of your TEFL certification will impact your job search. The endless pages of results following a quick Google search for ‘TEFL’ are evidence enough of its growing popularity and relevance.

This increase in demand for English teachers has not gone unnoticed by ambitious business opportunists catching on to the current learning trends. As a result, there are many course providers offering a range of courses but this also means there are plenty on the market that simply won’t be enough for employers. 

Prioritizing a highly-accredited TEFL provider couldn’t be more important. The accreditation of your provider is everything when it comes to getting TEFL certified. Why? Because it verifies that you’ve completed a high-quality course upholding academic integrity and respect in the world of teaching English.

There is no overarching regulating body for these courses, so at least with accreditation, you can be confident that your provider has been approved by authorities that count.

Some TEFL providers will stretch the term ‘accredited’, so it’s seriously important that you know what to look out for and prioritize when searching for the right provider.

You should be able to do a quick investigation on their site as to where they’ve received their accreditation. Ideally, they are from the government or established education bodies. If this information is difficult to find, you’re perhaps best shopping elsewhere. 

Surprisingly low-cost TEFL courses should also raise some red flags. The cost of a quality course should be reflected in the price, and if it’s very low how can you expect it to cover everything you need to know?

120-hour TEFL courses are standard procedure for most employers and consequently should be the minimum amount of time you commit to your studies. Any less doesn’t uphold much credit with employers and will severely impact your job search.

English Teacher - Career Paths of English Teaching

TEFL Career Options Are Available to Anyone Proficient in English

Newly qualified TEFL teachers aren’t necessarily individuals with extensive experience in the education sector. While experience is a bonus, anyone proficient in English can get TEFL certified.

You could be right out of university, middle-aged and looking to take your career in a new direction, or just looking to find part-time work alongside your current job or studies. There are multiple ways to TEFL, each bringing their own advantages and flexibilities to the table.

You could also use your time living abroad to learn another language. Making the effort in your free time to pick up some of the languages will be greatly appreciated and help boost your confidence. It’ll significantly help you settle in and meet new people, too. Plus, another language always looks great on your CV. 

There are plenty of ways you can make language learning fun and part of your daily routine.  Studying a language will make you a better teacher as you’ll be able to relate to the learning process. Check out this article for some tips on learning a language while you travel.

What Kind of TEFL Teaching Suits You?                            

Beginning your TEFL course with a clear objective of how and where you want to teach will help motivate you along the way, but there is no definitive way to TEFL so if you’re unsure what the best option for you is, you can take your time making a decision. After you qualify to teach English a lot of paths will be an option for you, dependent of course on certain visa and employer requirements. 

1. Teach in a School or Language Centre

Teaching abroad isn’t limited to teaching a certain curriculum to school students. You could also teach in a language center, outside of the typical working day to suit students of all ages looking to expand their learning before or after school or work. 

2. Business English

There’s also a demand for Business English teachers as a decent grasp of English increasingly becomes a standard requirement to navigate international markets. Those best suited to this style of teaching either have a background in business or previous experience teaching adult learners.

Although it’s not a realistic first-time teaching job, with a bit of experience you can work towards it and potentially have a higher income as a result. You’ll find many free educational resources online to help you to plan and conduct the most effective business English lessons.

3. Teach Online and Travel as a Digital Nomad

Most people associate teaching English as a foreign language with relocating to pursue a career teaching abroad, which is also one of the most popular options but not the only one.

Online teaching is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to teach English and it can all be done without even having to leave your home. Many benefits are associated with home working making it easy to understand why.

Including fewer expenses (no more commuting is one example!), choosing when and how often you work, and being your own boss which comes with its own perks, too.

That being said, you don’t have to stay home to teach English online. Those eager to use their TEFL certification as a worldwide travel ticket is in a great position to pursue the digital nomad lifestyle.

As a digital nomad, you can use your earnings from your online career to fund your travels as you go from one location to the next. You just need an internet connection, a quiet workspace, and a laptop! 

Visa and Work Requirements: What Might They Include?

An awareness of the varying visa requirements across different countries is essential. You want to be sure that you’re eligible to teach in your desired destination before you start planning the logistics of moving there. 

Employers will often have specific requirements too. It’s important that you can evidence that you meet all the correct criteria.

1. A Degree in Any Discipline

Some countries will require you to have a degree in any discipline to meet their working visa requirements. While some employers may also require you to have a Master’s degree, although this is less common. You’d be more likely to see this requirement for jobs at universities or in the Middle East.

Asia is where you will be most limited without a degree, with the exception of Cambodia. However, it’s not a requirement across South America and Europe – so there are still plenty of opportunities. Read more about TEFL opportunities open to you without a degree.

2. Previous Teaching Experience

Some employers will list previous teaching experience as a requirement. For example, to teach in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which offers some of the highest-paid TEFL positions, you’ll need at least two years of teaching experience before you can apply. Regardless of where you apply, teaching experience will benefit your application.

However, don’t worry if you don’t have previous experience as that’s very common for newly qualified EFL teachers. There are still plenty of options out there– everyone has to start somewhere!

Once you’ve gained some teaching experience with your TEFL qualification you’ll find that many more options will open up to you. Don’t be discouraged if you miss out on your first choice as you may well be in a better position to get it further down the line.

3. Non-Native English Speakers May Experience Bias but Don’t Let That Stop Your Job Search!

If you’re a non-native English speaker, you unfortunately may experience some bias when applying for jobs. However, don’t let this stop you following your aspirations as there are still many countries and employers who do not prioritize this. Again, it’s all about the research you put in before applying as this will spare you from wasted time and disappointment. 

You might be asked to have a passport or degree from an English-speaking country. Or you might have to provide evidence of your fluency with the likes of the IELTS certificate. China, for example, will employ non-native EFL teachers but will also require you to have received your degree from a university in an English-speaking country.

Wherever you’re aiming to go, look into individual countries and employer-specific criteria to get a better idea of your options.

4. Legalized Documents

Making sure you have the documentation to evidence any of the above criteria, plus a criminal background check will likely be required for your visa and/or employer. For example, as mentioned, certification showing your English proficiency could be one of these. 

Collating all the necessary documents is one thing, but you might have to have them legalized so that employers can trust their validity. This will be an extra cost but could potentially be covered for you.

Be Aware of the Job Market in Different Countries

Securing a TEFL position in some countries can be more difficult than others. This can be down to a number of reasons beyond specific visa requirements. The level of demand for teachers, investment in English language education from governments, and employee package benefits are all factors that can influence the competition for positions.

However, don’t let competition put you off finding the perfect job! Your TEFL qualification is designed to prepare you for whatever TEFL role you take on. Be reassured that you have a marketable skill set and have confidence in your ability to communicate this to employers.

A Teacher Infront of a Classroom

Where You Should Look to Find Positions

Once your CV is ready to go, you’ll be keen to start applying for jobs. If you’re aiming to secure a job before you go, your best option is to search and apply online. There are lots of reputable platforms for regularly advertising positions. 

In some countries, it can be easier to find work once you arrive, rather than before you go. It mostly depends on whether it’s possible to secure a working visa while in the country, rather than beforehand. 

Watch Out for Online Scams 

While most of the teaching positions you’ll come across online will be genuine, it’s important that you know how to recognize those that aren’t. 

Do thorough research about employers, search them on the web, check out their reviews, contact details, and general online presence. Ask to be put in contact with a current employee. Compare what is being advertised to other posts for the same company. If it looks too good to be true, that’s most likely because it is.

Plan Your Finances Carefully

You’ll be grateful to yourself for calculating your initial expenses and planning your finances before you arrive. This will definitely help ease the stress of settling in. 

Dependent on your destination and your employer, some of your expenses may be covered or reimbursed. Whether you’re offered any financial support/incentives or not, you’ll still need to make sure you have enough money to tide you over until your first paycheque. 

Costs to consider year-round include accommodation, bills, food, transport, leisure, and health insurance if not already covered by your employer. If you decide to find work once-in country, planning expenses for at least a month is strongly recommended should the search take longer than anticipated.

Your working visa and other legal documents are usually dealt with before you make the move abroad and it’s important to know that it can be costly – potentially more so if done away from home. You then have to think about flights, which are naturally more expensive when flying further afield. Some employers will reimburse your flights but this won’t be done until later on, or at the end of your contract. 

Be Persistent

Finding your first TEFL job will require time and effort on your part. Be prepared to apply for multiple positions and also be prepared to be unsuccessful. It can be a challenge getting started, especially if your country of choice is a competitive TEFL destination. But don’t be disheartened, the demand for English language teachers worldwide is high and the right job for you is out there.

Be willing to adapt and be flexible. You may not find your first TEFL job in your first-choice location, but this doesn’t mean you have to settle. Once you have more experience teaching, you’ll stand a better chance of being recruited for more competitive positions.

Picking up your life to move abroad and start a new job is an overwhelming idea for most. There’s a lot to consider before you start planning your first TEFL job. Hopefully, this article helps to clarify some of your queries. And remember, the more planning and preparation you do, the easier the application process will be – and the sooner you can get started teaching!

By: Naomi

Naomi works as a Digital Marketing Assistant for The TEFL Org. She is also in her final year of studies at the University of Glasgow. She previously taught English in France as an English Language Assistant and loves to travel at any given opportunity.

How This Millennial Came To Realize The Value Of Old-School Management – Chris Myers

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Youth is a funny thing. No matter how many mentors you have, classes you take, or books you read, you always think you know better. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about business or simply life in general, the young are genetically programmed to reject the wisdom of their elders. It’s only when you accumulate enough life experience and begin to become an elder yourself that you begin to realize that much……

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrismyers/2018/10/17/how-this-millennial-came-to-realize-the-value-of-old-school-management-techniques/#23d85b7627cd

 

 

 

 

 

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The 50 Best Ways to Start Improving Education Immediately – Lee Watanabe-Crockett

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Consistently revising and improving education for everyone is a journey, not just a goal. With things as vital as great teaching and effective learning, teachers and students can benefit from a positive mindset of constant growth and development. According to Folwell Dunbar, the founder of Fire Up Learning, there’s a whole list of things we can start doing anytime to see immediate results in improving education.

In the Edutopia article 50 Little Things Teachers, Parents, and Others Can Do to Improve Education, Folwell lists 50 things we can practice to begin improving education right now. It’s the little things, he says, that make all the difference.

“While big, bold initiatives sound good, look pretty (cost a lot), and usually grab all the press, it’s the unheralded acts that, in the end, deliver results …”

It’s true; the little things make a big difference over time. The small steps we take today can have a huge impact tomorrow. Learn more about the small things (and some bigger things) Folwell suggests for improving education in his full article on Edutopia.

Which things from Folwell’s list are you using in your practices? Which ones would you like to try? What do you think might be missing from the list? Share it with us below.

50 Little Things for Improving Education

  1. Serve kids a good, healthy breakfast. 
  2. Find out what your kids like and incorporate them into your instruction.
  3. Allow kids to explore topics that really matter to them.
  4. Use big words and encourage kids to do the same.
  5. Ask questions that involve thoughtful answers.
  6. Give kids time to answer those hard questions.
  7. Discuss paintings, films, books, plays, etc.
  8. In your discussions, expect more than “It was awesome!” or “That sucked.”
  9. Model the use of proper English (or Spanish, German, Chinese, etc.).
  10. Adopt efficient routines and procedures.
  11. Remove erasers: time spent erasing is time lost exploring creative ideas.
  12. When watching television, turn on the closed captioning.
  13. Make TV interactive by discussing the shows you watch.
  14. Post the name of the book(s) you’re reading on the door to your classroom or at home. Enthusiasm is infectious.
  15. Post things that inspire and ignite the imagination.
  16. Celebrate learning frequently.
  17. Create quiet and comfortable learning sanctuaries in school and at home.
  18. Provide feedback that’s constructive and actionable.
  19. Assign homework that is meaningful and engaging.
  20. Encourage kids to keep journals they write in every day.
  21. Tell and listen to stories.
  22. Be consistent with rules. Children flourish when they know their boundaries.
  23. Listen to and discuss all kinds of music
  24. Display student work, along with the criteria used to evaluate it.
  25. Use mnemonic devices and other learning “tricks.”
  26. Read with your child for at least 15 minutes every night, if not longer.
  27. Discuss, question, and debate what you read.
  28. Read and write just for fun.
  29. Keep pets and plants at home and in the classroom.
  30. Eliminate unnecessary distractions during the school day.
  31. Constantly relate what is being taught to the real world.
  32. Listen to audio books whenever and wherever possible.
  33. Allow kids time to reflect on what they’ve learned.
  34. Provide positive reinforcement whenever possible.
  35. Call on students in an equitable manner (popsicle sticks, playing cards, etc.).
  36. Find, bookmark, and visit great educational websites.
  37. Explore interesting areas in your community.
  38. Play intellectually challenging games like Scrabble, chess, and Sudoku.
  39. Take an interest in what children are learning.
  40. Eat well-rounded, healthy snacks.
  41. Have real conversations while dining. (Foreign Language tables can be fun!)
  42. Don’t stress out.
  43. Exercise regularly, and make it fun.
  44. Play sports of every kind.
  45. Don’t complain – it rarely does any good.
  46. Set high standards for yourself and your kids, and expect success.
  47. Travel as much as possible.
  48. Make sure your kids (and you) get a good night’s sleep.
  49. Practice what you teach.
  50. Smile a lot!

The Best Tool to Use

There’s nothing like a terrific platform for improving education in practice, and that’s what Wabisabi is all about. We’ve built an app and accompanying resources designed to make any teacher and student fall in love with learning again and again.

Wabisabi’s prime features include real-time reporting against standards, media-rich learner portfolios, a vibrant collaborative experience, quality lesson plans from teachers all over the world, and much more. Get started with it below and see the possibilities for yourself.

 

 

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7 Ways to Achieve High Levels of Classroom Productivity – Lee Watanabe-Crockett

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When it comes to classroom productivity, the ideal classroom is a happy one. It means students are creating solutions and projects that have meaning and purpose. They gladly take initiatives and assume responsible ownership of class time. Above all, it means students are loving their learning.

Achieving high levels of classroom productivity means making sure students are interested and invested in tasks that develop higher-order thinking and problem-solving abilities. Not only are they involved in constructive pursuits and being given mindful assessments, they are learning independence and accountability and having a blast doing it. Now that’s learning with a purpose.

The joy a teacher gets from knowing students look forward to coming to class is indescribable. It’s one of those things you have to experience to understand. The good news is every teacher can have that feeling. These classroom productivity tips are applicable to many classroom environments. Hopefully, they help you in yours.

7 Pathways to Better Classroom Productivity

It’s easy to confuse productivity with speed of output. That’s not the essence of being productive. We can complete 100 trivial tasks in a day and say we were productive, but is that really true? What do we have to show at the end of the day? What have we done besides waste time on unimportant matters? Can we say “I really accomplished something today” and mean it?

Productivity isn’t about “getting stuff done.” It’s about getting stuff done with purpose.

You can always tell the level of interest students have. It can be used to help you measure productivity levels:

  • Are students focused and engaged?
  • Are they happy and attentive?
  • Are they asking deep, meaningful questions?
  • Are they excited about showing the results of their work?
  • Are they talking about their work with peers and parents?
  • Are they challenging themselves and each other to improve?

These are all traits of a productive classroom. Granted, there’s no specific formula for higher productivity. You can, however, use critical observation to decide what approach you could use

1. Build a Safe Space

Everyone deserves the chance to learn in a supportive environment. This applies to both intellectual and emotional classroom elements. Any classroom should make every student feel welcome. Maybe this means a time for peer-to-peer orientation. You can give students time to get to know each other and connect personally.

It could also mean creating a class mission statement of some kind. The focus of this would be things like:

  • We always support each other in and out of class
  • We always encourage each other and remain kind
  • We are a judgement-free classroom where all are welcome
  • We show we care by setting an example for the whole school

Begin learning adventures with the notion that learning is meant to be enjoyable. Part of this is creating a comfortable and supportive classroom. Anything that impacts a student positively in your classroom will help boost their productivity. Take some pointers from Brian Van Dyck, a middle school teacher in Santa Cruz.

2. Give Students a Say

Students are no different from anyone else. They like to know their opinions count for something. Letting students weigh in on how to use their class time can be valuable to fostering a productivity mindset. Don’t worry, this approach doesn’t mean they’ll waste time without supervision. You can do this while still keeping the structured direction central to any classroom. Open with questions geared toward productivity with breathing room:

Open with questions geared toward productivity with breathing room:

  • How do you feel your time would best be spent on today’s work/assignment?
  • What’s the one part of (insert project here) that you feel you need to focus on?
  • If you’re ahead, how can you help someone else with today’s work?
  • What do you think should be done first, and last?

Obviously, you as the teacher have the final say. That said, some heartfelt answers from students can help you choose how best to spend the class time.

3. Focus on Guiding Questions

As the work begins or continues, keep them thinking. Our modern students love to be challenged. Keep them guessing and thinking by asking about their projects. Show an interest in what they’re doing.

  • Why did they choose to approach the project this way?
  • What speaks to them about it?
  • If they’re stuck, how can they switch direction?
  • Do they feel there is any way they can make it even better?

4. Always Be Available

From time to time, students will struggle and this will happen on many different levels. When it does, they’ll need support and encouragement. They’ll get stuck, and that will give rise to technical questions, concerns, and doubts. They’ll feel pressure to keep up with their classmates. They’ll feel inadequacy, confusion, and frustration. They’ll feel like what they’ve done has been a waste. They’ll feel these things and a lot more.

Students are no different from anyone else. They like to know their opinions count for something.

Sometimes they’ll look for every reason to quit when they know they should go on. It will feel to them like the world is ending. It can happen with schoolwork and with personal matters. Eventually, it will likely all find its way into the classroom environment. Fortunately, that’s the heart of change.

With an open mind and the right words, you can turn that all around. Never be far away, because you’re still the best guide students have in their school experiences.

5. Encourage Collaboration

This is a hallmark of the modern student. They are natural-born collaborators and love working in groups. The secret to successful collaboration is when students are drawing on their individual strengths. They then find ways to harmonize those strengths in a group setting. A group work aspect to any classroom almost always means good things in terms of classroom productivity.

6. Offer Good Distractions

Every teacher knows that too many distractions in class can be harmful. Distractions, however, can be beneficial depending on the type. If they’re scheduled in the process, it’s even better. In this sense, they become more like rejuvenators and focus-sharpeners.

Here are some examples of beneficial distractions in class:

  • getting up to stretch, move around, and focus on nothing for a moment
  • eye/stretch/exercise breaks if working on computers
  • have students quickly check in with where they’re at on projects
  • story/joke breaks for some quick comic relief
  • schedule an assignment-related Q+A with a surprise class visitor

Here are some more great “distraction” ideas from Dr. Lori Desautels.

7. Let Students Self- and Peer-Assess

Self- and peer-assessment support comes from both students and teachers. Encouraging reflection and self-assessment adds a powerful dimension to learning. It reduces a teacher’s workload and lets students effectively demonstrate understanding. Students are honest in their assessment of their performance and that of their peers.

With this kind of assessment, students’ insights and observations are valued. It helps them understand the process of their own learning. It also reinforces the importance of collaboration.

Reflective practice is something both students and teachers should engage in. It lets you consider your actions and reflect on decisions. It solidifies learning concepts. It also helps you consider and plan future processes and actions.

 

 

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See How Many Times Your School District Has Been Investigated for Civil Rights Violations – Beth Skwarecki

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If you believe your school district or college is discriminating against students on the basis of sex, race, or disability, you’re entitled to file a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Sexual harassment and assault are also grounds for complaints. The office is supposed to investigate fully and, if necessary, recommend corrective action to right any wrongs.

But ProPublica reports that the Department of Education is now dismissing far more cases without taking action under Betsy DeVos than it did under her predecessors. To go along with their report, they have published a tool that lets you look up your school district or college to see how many investigations have been opened in the last few years, and how they were resolved.

The data doesn’t break out individual schools, so New York City’s entire school district shows up as one entry with hundreds of cases. But if you look up a smaller district, or a college, the data becomes more meaningful—two cases at in one Pennsylvania district I checked. Six at the University of Pittsburgh, but 15 at that same university’s medical school, which is listed separately.

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For the full details on what the cases are about, you’ll have to check local news or other sources; ProPublica only provides dates and some very basic information on the type of complaint and the nature of the resolution. But it’s worth checking to see what’s happening at your district that you might not have known about.

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Helping Students, Teachers, and Parents Make Sense of the Screen Time Debate – Ian O’Byrne

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Nearly a cliché after two decades of development, it is clear that the internet has profoundly changed the ways in which we read, write, communicate, and learn. Given these sweeping changes, one significant conversation centers on the use of internet-enabled devices as they relate to school policy, teaching practices, and the well-being of children.

Current conversations about screen time often reduce the discussion to a simplistic debate: How much time should youth spend on devices? Although many scholars argue that web-based inquiry, multimodal creation, and communication of ideas in web-based environments support the development of fundamental skills of digital literacy, conversations about screen time in education, medicine, and mass media focus predominantly on the time youth spend on devices. These discussions overlook fundamentally important questions about what youth are learning by using digital devices, with whom, and for what purposes.

Although research over the last two decades has shown that reading and writing in digital spaces requires complex skills, literacy development is often not addressed in conversations about screen time. Instead, articles focus on the damage that screens may cause to developing brains.

For example, in a Psychology Today article, Victoria Dunckley opens with the claim, “Addiction aside, a much broader concern that begs awareness is the risk that screen time is creating subtle damage even in children with ‘regular’ exposure, considering that the average child clocks in more than seven hours a day.” This article cites information from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2010 report.

Although all the data she presents are from studies of internet- and video game-addicted youth, she encourages parents to “arm yourself with the truth about the potential damage screen time is capable of imparting—particularly in a young, still-developing brain.”

Making sense of the debate

To address these concerns, a nonprofit organization, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development helped prepare a special report for the Pediatrics journal. The supplement is the result of a collaboration of more than 130 recognized experts in the field from a diverse background of disciplines, institutions and perspectives organized into 22 workgroups. Research spanning the fields of psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, pediatrics, sociology, anthropology, communications, education, law, public health, and public policy informed this work. You can read more about the key findings and takeaways, as well as frequently asked questions here.

As part of this supplement, I worked with Kristen Turner, Tessa Jolls, Michelle Hagerman, Troy Hicks, Bobbie Eisenstock, and Kristine Pytash on a piece titled “Developing Digital and Media Literacies in Children and Adolescents.” In our article, we talk about the tension that exists as digital and media literacy are essential to participation in society. We make recommendations for research and policy priorities as we ask questions about the ability of individuals to have access to information at their fingertips at all times.

Specifically, we ask, What specific competencies must young citizens acquirein this global culture and economy? We examine how these competencies might influence pedagogy. Additionally, we consider how student knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors may have changed. Finally, we present guidance on the best ways to assess students’ digital and media literacy.

We believe these questions underscore what parents, educators, health professionals, and community leaders need to know to ensure that youth become digitally and media literate. Experimental and pilot programs in the digital and media literacy fields are yielding insights, but gaps in understanding and lack of support for research and development continue to impede growth in these areas.

Learning environments no longer depend on seat time in factory-like school settings. Learning happens anywhere, anytime, and productivity in the workplace depends on digital and media literacy. To create the human capital necessary for success and sustainability in a technology-driven world, we must invest in the literacy practices of our youth.

Problematizing our own practices

Soon after our article was released in the Pediatrics supplement, many of the authors began to examine our own relationships and practices as they relate to the topic of screen time. We examined this from our roles as educator, as researcher, as parent, as friend, and as neighbor. Those who are parents considered the role of screen time in our relationships with our children.

We considered the times we were asked by family members questions about how much screen time is safe for children. We considered the times we questioned whether or not time spent coding online counted as screen time, and whether it more “valuable” than simply watching YouTube videos. We considered the times we were asked by family and friends about the appropriate age for children to own their first mobile device. Across all the questions, in all of these contexts, we were left dumbfounded. As the “experts” in these spaces, we knew what the research suggested, but many times it looked different in our own practices and relationships.

These questions and inconsistencies led a group of scholars to begin reaching out to other educators, researchers, developers, and parents to see if they also had many of the same questions and concerns that we did. They promptly indicated that they too had the same struggles and recognized that there was little to no comprehensive research on the topic.

There seemed to be a lot of hysteria from various news and media sources as parents and educators were left afraid about the overall impact of screens on youth. Finally, there was little to no discussion happening across different spaces to allow people to ask questions, have discussions with experts in the field, and inform their practices.

Make your voice heard

Together with Kristin Turner, I have started a research project, titled “Beyond the ‘Screentime’ Debate: Developing Digital and Media Literacies with Youth and Teens,” This project builds on work done by the Digital and Media Literacies workgroup of the Children and Screens Institute to address these challenges and create a discussion space to unite the varied perspectives that are impacted by these questions.

This research project seeks to explore and redefine the definition of screen time, to connect it with digital literacy skills and dispositions, and to explore complex, dynamic, creative digital learning as antidote to the atrophy we all fear.

Our main focus in this research project is to create dialogue across spaces to help examine and unpack the questions in this debate. We want to know you define screen time and what it looks like in your lives. We want to know more about some of the challenges and opportunities you face with the use of screens.

Finally, we would like to know about any tips, tricks, or habits you utilize in relation to screens in your role as an educator, parent, employee, or human being. This research project refocuses the screen time debate by asking: What digital and media competencies must young citizens acquire? How do these competencies affect school policy and pedagogy? How are students’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors transformed by engaging with various forms of media?

Anyone can get involved in this research project by joining the open public forums on our website. We’re using FlipGrid for this open research project, and you can go directly to the topics at flipgrid.com/screentime. The password to get in and get involved is “Screentime.” The topics and questions on FlipGrid are the same ones that are on our website. Our goal is to provide a space for all individuals to discuss the future of our youth, and the role of screen time in those futures. We look forward to having you join this screen time discussion.

 

 

 

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Reclaiming a Sense of Joy – Quick Strategies for Easing the Stress of Teaching by Shane Safir

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It’s the end of the school year and I’m sitting with a young principal I coach who has deep expertise, heart, and know-how. Suddenly, she breaks down sobbing. “I’m miserable in this job,” she says. “I want to stay the course, but I don’t know how to get my head above water. I just don’t feel any joy in this work.”

When we live in constant stress, our brains start to downshift. According to scholars Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine, downshifting is a psychophysiological response to threat that results in a sense of helplessness or fatigue. A downshifted person has a nagging sense of fear or anxiety and begins to lose the ability to feel excitement or pleasure.

The good news is that we can upshift our brains by actively infusing joy into our work life. Joyful experiences—even brief ones—flood the brain with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that overwhelm our primitive stress responses. So how can we find more joy?

8 Ways to Reclaim Joy

Since my conversation with the principal, I’ve been practicing and modeling the reclamation of joy. Here are eight ways you can join me.

1. Get outside during the school day. Hold a collaboration meeting, coaching session, or class outdoors to shift the group energy. So many of us spend our days locked inside the school building—stepping outside for a five-minute walk or simply to feel the breeze or sun on our face can change our perception and our brain chemistry. Even a small dose of movement can release endorphins and provide a much-needed brain break.

Recently, I met an Oakland principal and her leadership team at a nearby lake to open their back-to-school meeting. The principal led three rounds of a community circle: “Share your favorite summer moment,” “share something we don’t know about you,” and “share an artifact that tells a story about your journey as a leader.” Afterward she randomly assigned partners for a lakeside walk and talk, inviting everyone to reflect on the legacy they want to leave behind. It was simple, mobile, and powerful.

2. Bring music. If your classroom or staff room feels solemn, enliven it with your favorite music. Better yet, invite students or colleagues to share their favorite song or artist on a rotating basis. Music releases positive neurotransmitters, calms the brain’s high-alert settings, and can build cultural proficiency as community members share their musical interests.

3. Model micro-affirmations. Researcher Mary Rowe defines micro‐affirmations as “tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening.” Micro‐affirmations can take many forms, such as offering a hug to someone experiencing a setback, giving a colleague some positive feedback, or facilitating an appreciations ritual that invites people to publicly celebrate one another.

4. Start class or professional development with a guided visualization. If people seem stuck in a downshifted state, help them access joy by leading a guided visualization. Ask participants to close their eyes or focus on a soft gazing point—not letting their eyes wander—and settle comfortably in their chairs. Then lead them to slow their breathing down and imagine a moment or place that brought them joy. Invite them to explore the colors, thoughts, and feelings that come up when they think of this place. Afterward, ask people to share how the experience felt and how they can bring those feelings into the school day.

5. Cancel a staff meeting. This might be my favorite joy hack, and it was my first piece of advice to that sobbing principal. Everyone’s feeling burned out? Don’t let your task list trump the reclamation of joy. Cancel a staff meeting and give the time back to teachers.

You might plan an alternative, just-for-fun activity like a hike or happy hour, but make it optional for folks who really just need a break.

6. Write a card to someone who’s had your back. It feels great to appreciate others. Think about a colleague in any capacity at your school who holds you up in ways big or small. This could be another teacher, the custodian who cleans your room, or the person who ensures that you’re paid each month. Write that person a card and tell them what you appreciate about them.

7. Practice three to five minutes of mindfulness. Consider starting your day with a few minutes of mindfulness. Just close your eyes, slow down your breathing, and notice the rise and fall of your chest, the sounds that typically act as background noise, the sensation of your heartbeat, your meandering thoughts.

8. Keep a joy journal. I often ask my own children, who are 9 and 12, “What brought you joy today?” Ask yourself that question at the end of each day, taking time to jot down your reflections in a journal. Writing is a form of story editing, as explained in the wonderful book Redirect by psychologist Timothy Wilson. When we take time to write or rewrite the stories we carry about our work life, we can change negative narratives into hopeful ones, and reconnect with our sources of joy and energy.

As you prepare to go back to school, remember that learning should be a joyful enterprise. Look for opportunities to laugh, breathe, and smile as an educator, and you’ll find your energy is contagious.

 

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5 Ways To Engage Reluctant Learners – by Kristina J. Doubet | Online Marketing Tools

5 Ways To Engage Reluctant Learners contributed by Kristina J. Doubet, Ph.D and Jessica A. Hockett, Ph.D. We’ve all been there. Slumped bodies, rolled eyes, defiant words, and off-task behaviors announce (not-so-subtly) that instruction isn’t “working.” So what can teachers do to encourage participation and task completion when students are reluctant to participate or complete..Read more…

Source: 5 Ways To Engage Reluctant Learners – by Kristina J. Doubet | Online Marketing Tools

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