All about teaching with technology for teachers and teacher educators to share, comment, repost and view.

My Boys Can't Sit Still on The Carpet: Does Gender Really Matter?

My Boys Can't Sit Still on the Carpet!

Most kinder and first grade teachers will agree a class group where the majority of students are boys will call for a much different approach to instruction, management and student outcomes.  But when it comes to what states and districts require for boys and girls to do by the end of the school year, no such differences exist.  

As a mama bear of two boys and a little girl the developmental differences and readiness of my own children seemed apparent at a very young age.  I was extremely concerned that my oldest son, the one who would only take naps when I would go for a run with him in the jogger and the kid who could throw a baseball perfectly before the age of two would struggle in school, and struggle he did.  

Could it be Attention Deficit Disorder? 
Most traditional kindergarten schools, emphasize less play and more seat work.  My son had difficulty sitting in his seat and staying focused with teacher-directed instruction (despite the years of preschool and library story time).  This was not a surprise to me, but what did surprised me was his inability to focus during class time did not transfer to his ability to focus at home (this is one of the criteria for ADD diagnosis).  He was playing chess at age 5 and had mastered the game of Risk and Monopoly by first grade.  His inability to focus was not apparent when he was fully engaged and interested in what he was learning about.  So although he might appear to the classroom teacher as "Attention Deficit Disorder" this was not true when he came home.  

The idea that traditional schooling methods fail to support boys developmental needs and interests is highlighted in the book Boys Adrift by Dr. Leondard Sax.  Any teachers or parents looking for factors and solutions as to why boys fail should certainly consider his work which is grounded in a solid research-based explanation.  Dr. Sax identifies 5 factors that is driving the decline of boys: 

  1. Video Games: excessive play promotes boys escaping to a world that just does not exist and can lead to violent behavior, aggression and depression.
  2. Teaching Methods: academic demands must be developmentally appropriate and inclusive of gender differences. Dr. Sax recommends a sitting is optional approach and supports single-sex schools for boys who do not do well in a co-ed classroom..
  3. Prescription Drugs: the effect of stimulant drugs such as Adderral and Ritalin can be a rewiring of brain chemistry with an end effect of damage to motivational centers in boy's brain.  
  4. Endocrine Disruptors: Certain food and plastics are loading our boys up with estrogen and chemicals that can have a damaging effect on boy's endocrine systems.  
  5. Devaluation of Masculinity: there is a lack of positive male role models in our culture that support traditional masculine strengths.  For example Bart Simpson vs. Ward Cleaver.  

The long term effect of these factors can result in boys being turned off from schooling, obsession with video gaming and a "failure to launch" result when it comes to boys transition to an adult life.  As noted in the Washington Post "According to the Census Bureau, fully one-third of young men ages 22 to 34 are still living at home with their parents -- a roughly 100 percent increase in the past 20 years. No such change has occurred with regard to young women. Why?" (Sax, 2006).

As mother, educator, and citizen of the United States, what is happening to our boys is a concern that is not only professional but personal.  Dr. Sax's work has given us much to consider when it comes to the decline in boy's performance and what are the driving factors.  

As a teacher educator and mother here are my recommendations for teachers and parents when it comes to boys,  
  1. Provide a space in both the schooling of boys and their activities to promote competition and experiential learning in which students learn through inquiry and self-directed activities.  This will promote motivation in boys.
  2. Limit video game use to no more than use to no more than 40 minutes a day and no more than one hour on the weekends.  Game play should only take place in a public space and restrict use of excessively violent games.
  3. Consider delaying boys entry into traditional school if your child is only 5 by the the beginning of the school year.  Developmental differences are apparent and young boys need more play-based activities.  You should visit the kindergarten to determine if the school is a good fit for your child.
  4. Be aware of the criteria for ADD/ADHD and avoid using stimulant drugs as a first response to medication (as recommended by Dr. Sax)
  5. Ensure that boys have access to positive male role models that are in your community. 

As for me a few things I have done as a parent/teacher with my boys is be patient with their learning process.  My kindergarten son who was not reading fluently by the end of the second grade is now reading above grade level.  I have limited video game use at our home and we have "electronic free days" every week which includes NO MEDIA and there is no devices at all allowed in their rooms.  I also have enrolled both my boys in private music lessons with male teachers.  I think this is especially important as their is only ONE male teacher at their elementary school. And I have made participation in sports activity a rule and not a choice.  Each season the boys must select a sports activity.  
Please share your best practice for supporting boys as a parent or teacher.  Join our conversation on Facebook or consider writing for us and share your expertise with future teachers.  

Create and Simulate with Digital Stories: 10 Engaging Topics to Get Your Kids Hooked on Writing

By Guest Blogger: Carrie Sebora

Have you ever wanted to send your students on an adventure to Ancient Rome or to wander the streets of London during the time of Shakespeare? 

Perhaps your students will have a blast when they discover for themselves what would happen if leaders chose another option to start or end a conflict? You might also be challenged by getting your students to realize how they make an impact on the environment? Students learn by doing, and there is no better way for them to show what they understand than with a digital story.

Digital Storytelling is a relatively new term which describes the new practice of everyday people who use digital tools to tell their 'story'. Digital stories often present in compelling and emotionally engaging formats, and can be interactive.

When I was a kid in the 1980s I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure books.  It was so much fun making a decision and finding out where the adventure led you and when it finished knowing you could go back and start over with new options!!! Why can't students have this same feeling today, digitally?  

Here are a few topics to get you started on Digital Storytelling and they can be adapted to any level:
  1. Create a virtual tour of a country or historical place 
  2. Create a public service announcement on an important local or world issue. 
  3. Simulate an interview of a historical character. 
  4. Simulate a debate on an historical topic, such as the Bill of Rights. 
  5. Create a presentation based on images of local artifacts and architecture. 
  6. Cell growth and division 
  7. Ways to conserve water 
  8. Habitat and diet of a certain animal species or species family
  9. Skeletal system growth, wear, strengthening, and deterioration
  10. A day without math
Anything that has a process is a good topic for a digital storytelling assignment, as is anything that needs description, such as a certain animal’s habitat to support its diet.

You might be thinking, where do I begin?  All good teaching starts with an idea/activity you want to do with your students to meet an objective/goal/standard/skill. Start where you normally do and build it from there. There are a lot of great templates out in the internet-verse that will help you start a digital storytelling project.  Here are a few that I have created to support my students in writing digital stories. These are great examples for middle school students but can also be used with upper elementary and high school students as well. I have added a few below for your use on Google Slides:

You can still provide your students with information while they are creating their digital story. For example, I created a Water Conservation one for a presentation that I did recently. I added a slide where the learners needed to click on the ways they could help conserve water and it would take them to a fact page about the use of water. Click Here !!

Check out the full presentation about Digital Storytelling.

About the Author:

Carrie Sebora moved to California over 16 years ago to teach middle school history. She is now an EdTech Tosa who supports teachers in integrating technology at her school district. In addition to her role as a Tosa, Carrie is also a board member of MBCUE and a Google Certified Trainer.

You can tweet out to Carrie on twitter: @carriesebora


5 Meaningful Ways to Manage Conflict in the Classroom

Mike Myatt (2012) warns managers "Don't Fear Conflict--Embrace it-it's your job".  Teachers must adopt the mindset that conflict is natural and healthy part of your job. Rather than perceive conflict as a impediment for teaching it should be viewed as an opportunity to develop your practice and for all to grow.  Perhaps then conflict would be confronted in a much more productive way and become in itself a teachable moment where all stakeholders can benefit.  

Myatt (2012) also shared with managers 5 keys of dealing with workplace conflict which I will restate with a teaching lens

1). Define Acceptable Behavior:  Teachers need to make PUBLICLY clear what their expectations are and what is acceptable behavior.  Myatt notes that manager can not assume that people understand what is acceptable and should establish a framework.  Teachers likewise will also benefit from having clearly posted guidelines and expectations defined and simplified.  Expectations can be sent home and signed by parents and students.

2)  Hit Conflict Head On: Teachers just like managers need to seek out areas of potential conflict and devise strategies to intervene and circumvent disruptive behavior.  An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of cure. Remember the younger the student the less likely they are to have strategies to resolve conflict appropriately.  Take a copy of my Sentence Starters for helping students articulate their ideas.  

3). Understanding the WIIF Factor: The WIIF factor is "Whats in it for me" is important for teachers to consider when managing disruptive classroom behavior.  Rather than approach a situation from the lens of I can't do my job because you are being disruptive,  approach the student from the stance of what the benefit is for the student.  If students see the value in what they are doing and how it will help them then they will be motivated to do the task.

4). The Importance Factor: Timing is everything and when we respond to conflicts in the moment this may cause us to act out of character or out of emotion.  Determining when to pull a student aside to discuss an issue is critical, but also teachers need to think critically about whether a potential conflict can be ignored. If students are constantly being redirected for behavior they can not control this can cause an uncomfortable dynamic in your personal relationships. Having ten minutes set aside for students to work independently and for you to speak to students individually is critical.  

5) View Conflict as Opportunity: This is especially true for teachers as conflict in the classroom reveal areas for growth and ways we can support our students in being successful not only in the classroom but throughout their life.

Preservice teachers can certainly benefit from addressing potential conflicts they will face as new teachers in the classroom.  

In this Voicethread post I challenge my students to respond to these 3 situations in a way that is proactive and seeks solutions that develop students' capacity to manage their own behavior.


Top 5 Tips to Use Technology for Self-Directed Learning

"Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don't know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it."
-- Sir William Haley 

Promoting "Life Long Learning" is what most new teachers express as their goal for shaping young learners. Learning how to do this is a process that begins in your teacher education programs and continues throughout your career.  

Technology is just one tool in your tool-belt when harnessed correctly can create a space and place for students to become self-directed learners.  Students who are "self-directed" are capable of taking the initiative and responsibility to select and manage their learning activities.

Walk into any Montessori schools and you will see children as young a three  (and possibly younger) working independently on tasks that are developmentally appropriate and foster independence.  The question of whether or not school-age children are capable of being self-directed should not hold you back, the challenge is creating tasks and activities that can support a classroom of 30+ student with different needs and funds of knowledge that will foster independence.

Teacher can create self-directed activities with technology in a few easy steps.  Here are my top 5 ways to "just do it" and create independent tasks that will support students as they each move on their own them towards independence:

1. Gamify learning with tools that promote self-assessment and discussion about class topics.  Teachers can create an online game based on course content with tools such as Kahoot and Quizlet..

2. Create tasks that allow students to respond digitally to a prompt (on their own time) such as using apps like Recap and Shadow Puppet in which students have to recite or share a strategy.  Students can take a picture of their work and provide a verbal response.  If you are just starting out and want to "keep it simple" create a blog on Blogger and have your students respond to a blog post.   

3.  Ditch the boring Powerpoint with interactive lectures.  Use a tool like Flipgrid or Formative where students can respond to a video or slide with a verbal or written response.  If you are giving a lecture in "real-time" use Google Slides and share the URL with your students so they can add comments, and give feedback, or create their own slide in response to a question.  

4.  Have students capture their learning and present to their peers with digital stories using apps where students can use a tablet or smartphone to record their ideas.  Check out my recommendations for digital story tools here.     

5. Create a course management system to organize and manage online learning including assigning tasks, uploading work, gradebook, and online discussion boards.  If you like the functionality and all in one features of a tool like Facebook consider Edmodo, or  SeeSaw.  If you have high school students that are able to work on their own and move through content independently check out Moodle.  If your school is already "onboard" with Google tools such as Google Drive, and Google Classroom consider a tool like Hapara to manage student learning and track progress.

Share your ideas for how you use technology in your class to create self-directed activities.  Join our Facebook group to see more ideas and join a group of colleagues sharing best practice for tech integration.    


Digital Stories Across the Curriculum

Every picture that we take has a story to tell.  The enthusiasm and passion we have in telling our story relates to the personal connection we have during an event.  The art of storytelling is a skill that is passed down from one generation to the next. Moreover it is a social and cultural activity that can be used to entertain, inform and pass on traditions.  In the schoolyard stories are shared between peers and can often act as a way to build friendships and make connections across cultures and boundaries.  

So why not use storytelling to shape students' learning experience, create connections across content areas, and capture their growth and progress in mastering learning objectives.   Digital storytelling has the power to capture students' experiences and ideas using photos, video and their stories. If we look at storytelling as a discrete skill there is much our students can acquire in this craft: critical thinking (what is the significance of the event), retelling, reflecting (why does it matter), speaking, listening, synthesizing information, making connections, and much more.  

Check out this digital story in the WriteReader app made by a first grader who was able to use the pictures from an experiment to retell his story of what they did to make a chemical reaction: 

Many of these skills have much value when it comes to student learning.  In fact brain research suggests when students have an opportunity to retrieve information, rehearse, interleave concepts,  and make connections, this promotes memory making and forgetting is less likely to occur. 

Digital Stories are published artifacts students create and share using audio, video and pictures to support their thinking.  Using digital tools such as: imovie, adobe spark, chatterpix, writereader and shadowpuppet can extend the art of storytelling beyond the playground, a field trip or science experiment and capture students' thinking, imagination, beliefs and values.  

Here are three ways you can use digital storytelling in the classroom (please click on the link for examples): 

  1. As a final product students can use digital stories to retell what they did, what they learned and why it matters.
  2. As a beginning activity students can share digital stories as way to record what they already know about a concept, skill or phenomenon and extend their thinking with an essential question.
  3. Throughout the learning process use photos to capture students engaged in inquiry or an investigation.  Use the photos as a tool for students' to reflect on their learning progress.  

This week I had the opportunity to present on how to use "Digital Stories in Science to Plan and Conduct Investigations" we were fortunate enough to be at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for this conference so participants were asked to go to an exhibition and capture some photos that could be used to spark an investigation with students in their class.  

One of the participants used a digital storyboard to make a KWL chart about seahorses.  Click on the picture to see her story.

So why not use storytelling to shape students' learning experience, create connections across content areas, and capture their growth and progress in mastering learning objectives.   I guarantee they will love it and probably you will too.  From Kindergarten to twelfth grade every kid has a story to tell. 

Want to learn more about how you can use digital storytelling in your class? Click through my presentation, ask a question in the comments below or share an idea! 

Got a digital story to share? Come join our Facebook Group: Teaching with Technology
and share your digital story.


How to Make New Tech Work for your Classroom

By Guest Blogger Deborah Morgan

This post is a continuation from yesterday's post Bridging the Skills to School Gap. Click here to get up to speed.

No one says technology integration in the classroom is easy, but it is definitely worth it! Technology should work for you, not the other way around.  Here are a few tips on how to select technology that will work best for you and your classroom.

  1. Familiarize yourself with different types of technology.
    1. Ask to compare notes with a teacher using a specific technology you’re interested in.
    2. Ask Google, talk to Siri, YouTube it, email your school site or district technology specialist about it, and visit a local retailer to try it out for yourself.
    3. Some districts may feel they cannot offer the technological support for different platforms, so do your research and be prepared to problem-solve!

  1. Acquaint yourself with your school or district’s technology plan.
    1. Communicate with your administration or technology department about your needs and interests.
    2. Discuss the benefits and hurdles that will need to be overcome in order to implement or diversify the technology in your classroom.
    3. What kinds of technology will the school or district support? What is an absolute no-go? How are devices managed and updated?

  1. Regarding the new technology you are trying to integrate, ask yourself:
    1. Is it a passing trend or has it been around for a few years with newer models and upgrades that other teachers recommend?
    2. Is it user friendly and student durable?
    3. Is there ongoing, online support available if your school site or district technology specialist can’t or won’t support it?
    4. Is it cost effective and within reason for your budget?
    5. Do you have several specific learning activities in mind that this technology will redefine or modify, not merely serve as substitution for? (Refer to the SAMR model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura if you have more questions about this one.)

  1. Create a timeline and a game plan.
    1. Organize a device replacement schedule for how you replace that technology when it breaks or ages out of updates.
    2. Research grant writing possibilities and necessary technology fund allocation needs. What does your district or school provide, what do you need to supplement this?

  1. Make time to find a mentor, technology group, and/or sign up for professional development.
    1. A lot of technology goes unused in today’s classrooms because teachers aren’t prepared with the skills necessary for successful implementation. When you lesson plan, give students time to explore the new technology and give yourself  time to problem solve any issues.
    2. Create a network of help. Having resources to turn to when you’re stuck with a problem or out of ideas can make all the difference between students working hard or technology hardly working in your classroom.

    How do you make technology work for your classroom? Share your ideas with us, or write for us and share your ideas with our broader community of preservice and inservice teachers.
    About the Author
    Deborah Morgan has been sparking curiosity in the minds of secondary science students since 2002. Besides teaching full-time, she is also a technology coach for her school district. She currently serves as a Utah Teacher Fellow, a fellowship sponsored by Hope Street Group and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in order to form bridges with state policy makers to promote positive, evidence based change in Utah’s classrooms. Follow her on twitter @DebbieSciTech

Bridging the Skills Gap in Your Class

By Guest Blogger: Deborah Morgan

Did you know the technology skills gap between what employers need and what employees have is a real issue in today’s workforce. In 2014, Harvard Business Review reported that the majority of 1000 Americans, randomly surveyed, said they felt there was a technology skills gap and that they were missing key skills to help them be more successful in their current position. One third of
respondents said they didn’t have enough technology skills to get the job or promotion they were seeking (Bessen, 2014).

More recently, in March of this year, USA Today published an article about the continued technology “perception gap” between higher education and employers. According to one survey, 62% of students hired were reported as being unprepared by 501 different organizations and companies (Swartz, 2017). It makes sense then that we, as educators, step back and look at an uncommon approach to solving a common problem.

My journey into the world of technology diversification actually began by accident and, as is most common in public education, lack of funding. Similar to many teachers beginning their careers at a time when schools shifted from scheduling time in a shared computer lab to one-on-one devices in each classroom, navigating the muddy waters of technology integration has had its ups and downs over the years. 

Sometimes, more downs-- down computers, down networks, down access points, and more importantly, teacher melt-downs- -then ups.

Nevertheless, we’ve come a long way from those days-- speaking from the perspective of a student that once looked forward to that special one-hour- a-week “computer time” spent playing Oregon Trail on a black screen with green writing-- but have we really left the “You have died of dysentery” habits created in education so many years ago? The current lack of technology diversity in the classroom lends evidence to the contrary.

How many districts, schools, or classrooms limit the type of technology they incorporate to one brand, one specific device, or one type of technology? Perhaps you’re a “Mac district” or a “PC
school”? Maybe all students have their own i-Pads or each classroom has a set of chromebooks? 

Will students really be limited to such specifications in their future jobs since the average Millennial will have an expected 15-20 jobs in the course of their careers (Meister, 2012)? 

Does the limitation of the types of devices available for student and educator use lend itself to problem solving and well-rounded technology skill development? How cost effective is it for a district, school, or classroom to purchase all new computers or tablets every few years as those devices age out of updates and technical support? 

One truth rings eternal: public education will never be able to keep up with the costs and demands of new technology. Instead, there are three things we can do to stop “technology dysentery” and start preparing our students with technological skills for the future.

  • It’s much easier to ask for smaller chunks of funding, and find matching funds, to purchase lesser quantities of updated devices than a costly overhaul of a full classroom or one-per- student set of devices to keep up with current technology demands.
  • Grant requests are much more likely to be fulfilled when the number is attainable not astronomical.
  •  Rotating the purchase of small sets of devices. This ensures that some of your devices will always be on the cutting-edge of technology instead of limping to catch up. (How many of you are stuck with a lackluster classroom set of mini-tablets or iPods because they were “teacher trendy” and “cheaper” at the time, but have little value now?)
  • Improvements in a particular technology can change prices from out-of- this-world unaffordable to I-can- do-that affordable within a year. There’s no need to strain an already strained budget by trying to purchase a classroom set to keep up. Use newer devices in pair or group activities where more up-to- date technology is necessary and then incorporate old devices for simple uses like word processing or using the internet for research.
  • A variety of devices allows for a variety of methods, uses, and skill sets. Students will have greater abilities to connect with projects, ideas, and people depending on the device they use.
  • No device is supremely best and having choice gives students options to problem solve according to their needs.
  • Most educational application platforms are device agnostic to keep up with demand. Hundreds, if not thousands, of quality, effective, and dynamic educational applications offer multi platform options.

As educators in the 21st century, we can help our students better adapt to the ever changing technological world, where the skills they need for future technology will always carry a questionable amount of the unknown, while still finding ways to overcome the barriers of funding. In our classrooms, we have diverse learners, diverse backgrounds, and diverse teaching abilities. Our students will face diverse problems and use diverse answers, including diverse forms of technology, to solve those problems. Why do we feel the need to limit the type of technology our students have access to? Perhaps it’s time to diversify!

In what ways are you diversifying technology use in your classroom? Share your thoughts with us.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of this guest blog series as Deborah shares her best practices for making tech work in your classroom.

About the Author
Deborah Morgan has been sparking curiosity in the minds of secondary science students since 2002. Besides teaching full-time, she is also a technology coach for her school district. She currently serves as a Utah Teacher Fellow, a fellowship sponsored by Hope Street Group and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in order to form bridges with state policy makers to promote positive, evidence based change in Utah’s classrooms. Follow her on twitter @DebbieSciTech


About Me

About Me
Dr. Patricia Dickenson has taught grades K-9 she currently works with pre-service teacher candidates. She has three school aged children and loves to create curriculum.

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