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Education

Teaching Critical Thinking with Education Technology

Image Source: Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Advanced technology is now available to students at a moment’s notice. From smartphones to augmented reality, education is embracing the use of technology at all levels. Though its initial applications were used to reduce pressure on teachers, it has now spread into lesson plans and student activities.

The educational applications of artificial intelligence and advanced technology initially focused on alleviating repetitive tasks for teachers. Computer programs are increasingly used to grade increasingly complex tests and soon entire papers will be graded this way. Technology has learned to react to student input and learning styles, creating new classroom opportunities and challenges.

Teachers have been talking for years about how to teach certain skills by utilizing technology that is available to us. Critical analysis of supposedly valid information is necessary now more than ever. To create the next generation of users and employees that thinks critically about what they consume, what are some ways that teachers can teach critical thinking skills to their students?

Increase Collaboration and Engagement

The development of critical thinking skills is one of the most important skills for students at all levels. Analyzing and synthesizing a variety of critical thinking in adults. One way to foster this in your classroom is to use free collaborative resources through websites like google and Strawpoll.

Assignments to poll classmates, analyze the results, and draw conclusions engage students in data collection. This can be used for many subjects and can help students connect with the people and communities that contribute to data collection. Use it in English classes, for example, to analyze how different groups respond to themes in a book. In an environmental sciences class, show how different groups interact with their ecosystems.

Gamified learning is another opportunity for teachers to create fun, effective activities. While technology is not a prerequisite for gamifying your classroom, it greatly assists the process. Many tutoring programs work on these principles, and critical thinking skills are built by the puzzle and reward aspect of games. Gamification reinforces the information learned on a psychological level through repeated reward systems. Students learn that independent acquisition of information and its application are their own rewards.

Take Your Students Out of the Classroom

Similarly, you can capitalize on the technology that students carry with them as a matter of routine. Geocaching can increase teamwork and develop critical thinking skills. By engaging students outside the walls of the classroom, you can teach them to find their own resources and draw their own conclusions.

Virtual reality systems can help teachers expand their curriculums. They can take class field trips without ever having to leave their seats, and engage students more actively in their learning by utilizing technology that makes knowledge centers more accessible and allows students to gather first-hand information. You can use this technology to take a class on a field trip, and have them gather information from the exhibits. Blend technology with traditional fact-finding games to engage them even further.

 

Applications of virtual and augmented reality in education gained notoriety early on. Virtual reality requires specialized equipment to create a 360-degree interactive environment for students, while augmented reality (AR) utilizes much simpler technology. Students use their phone and an app to interact with information, games, and data that is projected into their physical environment in real-time. This can help students learn about data collection, and to gamify their learning.

Direct Resources

A key opportunity that technology affords us is connection. Bring experts into your classroom and teach students the value of learning directly from a source. Build your students’ confidence in interacting with and questioning how experts present information by encouraging your students to ask questions. This can also lead to extensive research seeking out differing opinions and methods of research or process.

 

Classroom technology can also let you display many approaches to the same problems through the use of smart boards and interactive activities. This fosters greater engagement by helping students find methodologies that work best for them, while actively analyzing processes. You can instill critical thinking when it comes to data analysis and gathering, as well as the statements that are drawn from it.

 

Another critical way that you can get students engaged is by soliciting their feedback. Use surveys and polls to gather information from your students, giving them a direct impact on their education. You can also illustrate the differences in how data is interpreted, and teach students about the manipulation of data. Teach students how to accurately represent their data, and how others may manipulate it, to teach them to be critical of supposedly well-researched claims.

The use of technology is a growing topic as the resources available to us continue to expand. By using these tools to engage your students, you can help them find their way of learning and can instill life-long critical thinking skills. Using team and community-oriented tactics, you can teach your students the proper way to present information. You can also teach them that information can be manipulated, and to be critical of both how information has been gathered and the conclusions that are drawn from it. With these tools, you can help create future adults who can critically evaluate anything that crosses their path.

 

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Education

3D Printing Gains Momentum in the Online Classroom

The year 2020 has been synonymous with the word change. We’ve had so many pivotal moments in 2020, including an abrupt and revolutionary change in our corporate and educational landscapes. The institutions that we had come to think of as unchanging, the classroom, the corporate headquarters, in an instant, were changed, possibly forever.  This year, so many of us have had to adjust to working from home and what’s been extremely challenging is educating our children from home. The change has been sudden, and even with the summer that has passed, there has been little time to prepare longitudinal lesson plans covering a topic thoroughly. In this article, we take a look at how 3D printing supports remote teaching and learning.

A new normal

As a result of the pandemic, educators across the globe have taken on the mantel of teaching a remote classroom. It didn’t come with an instruction manual, and it hasn’t been easy. The traditional classroom is in flux, and as some students went back to school this fall, hybrid classroom and online classroom models are the expected offering, unthinkable this time a year ago. The constant in all of this learning has been a sharp increase in the use of technology to support remote teaching models. If the steep learning curve of mastering technology has not been enough, educators are forced with the added challenge of creating engaging lesson plans for their remote students, ensuring that they are as supported and learning as much as possible.

3D online learning online

On the same timeline, 3D printing has gained momentum in the new online classroom. 3D printing as a delivery method for teaching critical STEAM subjects is hands-on and encourages learning. Using a 3D printer is a great way to inspire the inventors and creative thinkers of tomorrow by bringing complex subjects to life. 3D printing assists in the development of critical skills, such as problem-solving, communication, and having the ability to research. The Y Soft BE3D eDee 3D printing solution was designed specifically for use in education, created to encourage self-motivation in learning. It is safe and easy to use and perfect for the classroom.

The quandary is – with 3D printers located inside schools with students learning from home- how do teachers bring the benefit of 3D printing to their students?

Easy and Fun

3D printing lessons and plans can sometimes be complicated to execute in the classroom and especially with students online. Creating engaging 3D printing materials can be difficult and time-consuming, and educators have lived through the hardship of what to do and how to do it over this past year. Schools worldwide have said that as they developed lessons that could be delivered online, 3D lessons gained in popularity and importance. 3D printing with accompanying lesson plans quickly became a resource for teachers in many different subject areas.

3D lesson plans designed especially for educators bring all sorts of subject matter, including STEAM subject matters to life through various teaching aids, such as 3D model files, videos, student worksheets, and presentations to introduce projects to students. 3D printing options are entirely available online to both teachers and students.

The various resources available in 3D printing offerings help teachers build lesson plans to be delivered remotely. At the same time, students can develop their own 3D skills from home by taking advantage of the easy-to-use, free resources, and platforms. These lessons and materials keep the educational experience flowing and enable teaching STEAM classes using 3D from home. Premium lessons are available, as well.

When the pandemic first hit, 3D printing and attached lesson plans were available to help plug the gaps in resources that were identified by teachers looking for alternative solutions. Even those who have never before used a 3D printer were able to run remote 3D lessons and learned how to be adept at it quite quickly. Students can send their completed model files to be printed on 3D printers in the classroom by the teacher, and teachers can allow students to pick up the files later or send them to their student’s homes.

The future is now

Investing in 3D printing not only prepares your school for today’s changed and future learning paradigms, but it also provides an additional resource from which to provide inspiration and support in teaching. The shift in education that has taken place in 2020, from the traditional classroom to online to hybrid to whatever the future holds, should not mean degradation in the amount and level of learning for a student.  Instead, it should mean we have ushered in a new era of creativity and growth for the student learning experience. Teaching remotely with 3D printing is investing not only in your students’ future, but the future of education, as we embark on new, hybrid classroom models.

 

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Education

Building Respectful Relationships by Knowing Your Students More

I am proud of maintaining my enthusiasm to teach and inspire students even after 25 years of teaching. In fact, I am comfortable writing that I am enthusiastic to promote a love for learning more than ever. 

The majority of my teaching career has centered around teaching Mathematics, Science, Health and Physical Education. I am currently a Year 7 homeroom teacher at Saint Ignatius College Geelong, a co-educational Catholic School in the Ignatian tradition, with over 1300 wonderful students. I am also the College’s Director of Sport. A position I have held at Saint Ignatius for the past ten years.

I have witnessed and worked alongside many successful teachers in my 25 years. All of them have one thing in common. They have the ability to maximise the learning potential of their students in their class by developing positive relationships. Developing positive relationships between a teacher and student is a fundamental aspect of quality teaching and student learning. Positive teacher-student relationships promote a sense of school belonging and encourage students to participate cooperatively. Students develop confidence to experiment and succeed in an environment where they are not restricted by fear of failure. Teachers are able to assist students with motivation and goal setting, and students can turn to them for advice and guidance.

In 2015, probably the most well-known educational researcher in Australia, John Hattie, identified a number of influences relating to effective learning and achievement. Some of these influences included teaching strategies, classroom discussion, classroom cohesion, teacher expectation, teacher credibility and effective classroom behavior. Establishing a positive and supportive classroom environment, combined with productive relationships between teachers and their students, will provide a platform in which students are encouraged and motivated to grow both academically and personally.

Hattie noted in his study that a harmonious classroom can assist with the development of creativity as well as reduce anxiety levels amongst students.

Loop has helped create a more harmonious classroom

It was a random app search on the internet that had me land on the Loop website. It was two weeks out from the start of a new year as a Year Seven homeroom teacher. Experience had taught me that establishing positive relationships with students very early in the year is the key to a harmonious beginning, especially when these students are beginning their first year of secondary schooling.

I needed an all-in-one place to collect information about what these students need easily, via a range of flexible response types. Using Loop in those first few weeks of the school year enabled me to:

  1. Provide a safe place for students to tell me very early in the year how best they learn.
  2. Provide a safe place for students to tell me what classroom environment suits them to learn to their best potential.
  3. Provide a safe place for students to share with me the challenges they have faced in the past so I can quickly adapt my teaching approach so that their learning experiences from day one are valued and appreciated.

As those vital connections are made with students and they begin to think ‘Hey this teacher really values me as a student because the changes he is making are from what we have shared with him.’

The problem solving ability of Loop means that teachers have direction from students with regard to decisions that are made about the day-to-day running of a classroom. This important process helps to develop cohesion, and a sense of harmony. For example, see below a result from students where the following question was asked:

How would you like Mr Philp to organize who sits where?

Note: A Random Wheel requires the teacher to spin a wheel with everyone’s name on it. Whose ever name comes up sits in the allocated seat.

This quick and easy survey certainly altered my thinking when organizing my seating chart. Without Loop I would have normally just thought to myself ‘this is what I think is best and this will be my decision.’ This gave the students a safe opportunity to voice their preference without drawing attention to themselves. This is vital. I know only too well that many students’ choices are made because they feel uneasy making a choice that may not be what other students have chosen.

Probably one of the most powerful pieces of feedback I received from a Loop question was regarding student wellbeing. For the past two years, on a daily basis, I ask students to write down in a journal four things:

  1. What went well for you today? (To practice Gratitude)
  2. What kind act will you do for somebody today? (To practice Empathy)
  3. What are you most looking forward to about tomorrow? (To give hope and practice gratitude)
  4. How are you feeling ‘right’ now and why? (To practice Mindfulness – living in the now)

Loop gave me incredible insight to whether this GEM Project (practicing Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness) was improving the wellbeing of my students. I knew in my heart that my students are genuinely happy, always smiling and calm, but I wanted evidence. The results were:

In my 25 years of teaching there have been a great many changes. Whilst my belief in the importance of understanding student wellbeing hasn’t changed, using Loop has certainly made it easier. I have issued hundreds of Loop questions to students to gauge what they learned at the end of every lesson. These ‘exit tickets’ take less than a minute to set up and organize and the student’s individual answer is recorded immediately. My high response rate shows me that my students feel safe using Loop, and gives me incredible insight to build teacher and student relationships and then improve the learning outcomes of my students.

Asking daily wellbeing questions on Loop has helped me create positive relationships with students early in the year and to empower students to have a voice in their education. Support tools such as Loop help make it quicker and easier than ever to connect with and engage students to strengthen those relationships.

 

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Education

Genially: A Fun New Tool For Distance Learning Projects

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

As distance learning becomes part of our “new normal”, teachers are working harder than ever to implement effective online teaching methods and to make good use of tools for online learning. It can be hard to decide which new tools, if any, are worth investing time in, and time is of the essence.

Today, I’ll be sharing my favorite tried and true distance learning projects with Genially, an all-in-one tool for creating interactive and animated presentations, quizzes, interactive images, escape games, infographics and more. The major advantages of this freemium tool are that it allows students and teachers to make an unlimited number of creations and the same tool can be used to make almost anything, allowing you to save on time. 

Plus, external content such as Youtube videos, audios, Google documents, maps, images, widgets, social media posts, gifs, etc. can be painlessly inserted into anything you make. The ability to insert just about anything allows students to quickly embellish creations. 

Three types of projects my students make with Genially

As promised, here are my big 3 for student projects:

1. Class Newspaper: I’ve tried every version of this project, and my students always love it. I’ve had each student focus on a certain month of WWII, an animal, stage in photosynthesis and events revolving around a specific character from a book we’ve read. Here’s a short example of a newspaper with three events from the beginning of June 1944 of WWII: https://view.genial.ly/5f587ce6fb459312f090388c.

You can find the newspaper template in Genially’s Presentation category.

2. Interactive Research Poster: My students jump at the chance to use Genially for their presentations and posters. They get a kick out of animating elements and adding in videos to show me and their classmates. Again, I’ve had students make interactive posters when studying different countries, species, places, books, landforms… you name it. Check out these examples:

While you can use tons of templates for these, many of my students choose the Interactive Image format where they choose a single background image which they add buttons to.

3. Review Zoo: I always reserve some class time for students to add to the “Review Zoo”, which is a Google doc where students can paste links to resources that have helped them review class topics. By the second half of the year, I ask them to make their own creations to help classmates review a section of what we’ve learned that they’ve chosen to be Experts in. I’ve been blown away by what they’ve made: everything from escape games to infographics to video presentations. For example: https://view.genial.ly/5f50db6145f5d40d66ce5b1d.

Taking Your First Steps with Genially

In order to introduce Genially to the classroom, I suggest learning how to create an interactive image yourself and then walking students through the process and asking them to create one on the topic of their choice. This can be a fun activity for the start of the school year and gives students a chance to share a bit of who they are. They pick things up quickly from there. 

For your own first steps, here’s a full tutorial on making interactive images. You can consult the Help Center as needed. If you’re looking to learn more, check out the Genially Academy, a platform filled with free online courses on topics ranging from the Genially basics to more advanced topics like learning landscapes and visual storytelling.

When I’m learning to use new tools in the classroom, I remind myself to start small and build from there, and I’d encourage you to do the same by investing a little bit of time in the tools you think are most likely to add value to your lessons. As always, I hope these ideas help you in your teaching.