5 Ways to Elevate Your Educational Setting and Prepare Students for the Real World
What comes to mind when you picture a classroom? Desks in rows? A teacher at the front of the room? If so, you might be surprised to discover that learning has shifted from a static, one-dimensional model to a more dynamic, openly collaborative setting. This new educational environment reflects current trends in technology and education, and it mirrors the workplace students will be entering. Many companies are adapting their physical working environment and collaborative strategies to make the most of the advances in technology and the generational shift of millennials entering the workforce.
The top five adaptations listed below are occurring in both schools and workplaces. They may seem small, but they have a tremendous impact on transforming the classroom and the modern workplace. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
1. Physical Environment - The skills we emphasize in K-12 should mirror the workplace students will be entering. For example, the idea that learning can only take place in a classroom while sitting at a desk is antiquated. Technology and teaching using a “flipped classroom” has transformed education. No longer is learning limited to the start and end of the school day. For example, students are reviewing teacher-made videos and online assignments in preparation for discussion and a hands-on learning experience in class. The idea that work can be done outside of the confines of a desk is reflected in the workforce as it is increasingly commonplace to telecommute. The idea that “work” takes place in a 9-5 environment at a desk is changing. In schools and in the workplace, it is the productive outcome that matters more than the physical location of “work” or designated time frame in which to complete it. When viewing the modern school and workplace, it is clearly evident that a variety of learning/working styles are considered. Couches, standing desks, and traditional desks are now viewed as not only acceptable but lauded as individuals consider the physical environment that is most productive for them.
2. Collaboration - While it used to be that in classroom groups and in work teams, the collaborative work took place around a table with all parties physically present. Now collaboration can take place on a global scale with colleagues/other students around the world. Google Docs, Hangouts, Skype, even LinkedIn is a tool to connect with others on a local and global scale. Even when colleagues get together to collaborate, a set location with everyone sitting around a table is quickly becoming out of fashion. Now, “walk and talks” are more common, and there is a school of thought that the great ideas aren’t necessarily generated from everyone sitting in a room together. While walking or playing a game, innovative ideas can emerge naturally.
3. Transparency/sharing. Schools used to emphasize that being a good digital citizen meant keeping everything one shares on social media private. Now, however, one’s online presence can be an asset when applying to college, looking for a job, or professionally connecting with others. Your digital footprint is like credit; having a bad credit history or no credit history does not bode well for your reputation. Having a transparent digital presence gives people a sense of who you are, what you are passionate about, and that you have nothing to hide. That’s not to say that every social networking account should be public, but a good rule of thumb for public posts is that if you are okay with it being on the front page of a newspaper or on a billboard, then it’s more likely to be fine. Another great rule of thumb is “When in doubt, don’t.” If you are wavering on a post or topic, it’s best to hold off until you are truly comfortable. Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that the positive connections that both students and employees can make by collaborating and sharing ideas in an open forum can be invaluable. Keeping everything private or not participating in social media at all denies you the opportunity to create these connections.
4. Innovation/entrepreneurship. Being an innovator, and even starting a business, can begin at any age. A perfect example is Vivian Herr, who founded Make a Stand at 12-years-old in an effort to abolish child slavery. Talk with students about a problem they want to solve in the world. No matter how big or small, there will be someone else out there who is looking to solve the same problem. This skill crosses over to the workplace as employers are increasingly looking for candidates who are assertive enough to identify problems in a company, have the ability to advocate change, and are passionate about following through. Schools can nurture these skills by hosting a standing speaker series, which can open up a world of possibilities to students about the width and breadth careers can take. If you can’t get people physically to your class consider showing TED talks. There are great talks geared specifically toward kids!
5. Have fun while living your passion. Rote memorization is not only antiquated but unnecessary as we have immediate access to information at our fingertips via smartphones. Schools are moving to more project-based learning, recognizing that if the learning is fun and meaningful, it is more salient. A deeper understanding of concepts has replaced memorization. Students are encouraged to explore why an answer is correct rather than simply being satisfied with getting an answer right. Employers are looking for these skills in candidates. A “book-smart” employee who lacks critical thinking skills won’t be able to take the company to the next level. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” The goal is not to memorize and regurgitate facts. When you love what you do then there are ways to teach that working can be enjoyable. Have whiteboards to (literally) draw inspiration. Host “fireside chats” with a picture of a fireplace with chairs set up around them. Keep common areas open and clean to encourage collaboration. Put questions on posters around the room to elicit thought, such as: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
What would you do if you were able to take your classroom to the next level? Take some time to think about this. Create a “hack week” project for yourself and/or even include your students! It can be fun: once they are invested, they will feel direct ownership into making their classroom a space to learn, collaborate, and work off of each others’ energy.
Angela Cleveland is a school counselor at Hillsborough Township Public Schools in Hillsborough, New Jersey. She is a Google Certified Educator who advocates for using technology to enhance students’ learning experiences, the teaching profession, and online professional collaboration opportunities. For more information, Angela Cleveland can be reached at email@example.com.
Saqi Mehta is a trained Career Counselor who is passionate about all aspects of career development, and has worked with college students @MIT & Harvard Business School. She is currently the University Recruiting Lead @Square. For more information, Saqi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you know anyone who has taken on a new position and has totally fallen off the face of the earth? You no longer see them at educational events or sharing in the social media world? It's quite understandable why educators get too caught up in their new environment and forget about what got them there in the first place. I often wonder though if this is a problem that effects the entire system of education. Why are these transitions so difficult to manage? Especially at the cost of keeping on top of innovations through a tool like Twitter or by attending a local EDCamp.
There must be an opportunity for educators who are new to a school or district to take care of themselves from a professional standpoint. Quite frankly, it doesn't help kids if educators are so caught up in adjusting to their new surroundings and responsibilities that they forget to stay current with best practices. Whether you are a new superintendent, principal, or teacher, status quo should never be an option. I completely understand the stress that goes along with acclimating to a new environment, but the fact remains that our students deserve better.
So the next time you see someone stuck in a rut or completely absent from the social media world, tap them on on the shoulder and let them know how much their contributions matter. More importantly help them understand how important it is to be committed to driving change rather than managing what is in front of them. Don't get me wrong, managing a classroom, school, or district is really important, but so is looking for ways to impact the success of students in ways once thought uninaginable.
Speaking of ways to stay on top of your professional game, consider attending the Tomorrow's Classrooms Today Conference on Friday, June 26 at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It's a great opportunity to connect with like-minded educators and takes place the day before #ISTE2015. Visit www.evolvingeducators.com for more information.
During a presentation or while conversing, people will often ask me how being on a tool like Twitter or LinkedIn can help educators improve their craft. Providing concrete examples to people will help them see the power of being a connected educator. I also emphasize the importance of differentiating the way people obtain and share best practice resources. In the end, the more educators share ideas and information, the more student success will be impacted. Here is an example of the sharing process....
I follow Derek McCoy, school leader from North Carolina, on LinkedIn. Early one morning before getting ready for work I scrolled through my LinkedIn feed and came across a great resource that Derek shared. It was a blog post written by John Spencer titled 8 Ways to Keep Informational Text Engaging. I was so impressed with its content that I decided to tweet it to my followers. I then proceeded to put it in my weekly email blast to staff called the Bulldog Bulletin that is chock full of best practice resources. The hope here is that my PLN and fellow colleagues will continue to share out this wonderful blog post by John Spencer. As I said earlier in this post, sharing is contagious and will ultimately impact the success of students.
Another example relates to our district's transition to Google Classroom. Alice Keeler, an adjunct, author, and edtech guru from California, consistently puts out great content related to GAFE on her blog titled Teacher Tech. I use a service called Feedly that stores all my blog subscriptions which can be accessed through an app I have on my iPhone. On a weekly basis I will got to Alice's blog through Feedly knowing that she will have timely and relevant content related to GAFE. I can then share her content on my various social media feeds and with my colleagues. In the long run it helps everyone stay current and helps integrate the various tools students use in the most efficient way possible.
So what do you say? Take a few moments each day to consume and share best practice resources. It will make all of us better educators in the long run and push our students to places once thought inimaginable. As the old adage says: Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.
Brad Currie is the author of All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities. He is one of the founding partners of Evolving Educators LLC. Brad is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and Google Certified Trainer. He currently serves as a K-8 Supervisor of Instruction and Dean of Students for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. Learn more about Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.bradcurrie.net.
How can GBL impact student success?
Game-Based Learning webinar with USAToday’s Greg Toppo: GAME ON
Game-based learning has been getting a lot of buzz lately, with teachers sharing stories of intriguing learning outcomes. But if I’m being honest, I’ve felt a little hesitant about this realm of blended learning. I have no doubt that games can engage students… but it has been hard for me to imagine authentic learning through digital play.
But a lot of things are starting to pique my interest about gamification. It’s hard to ignore the teacher passion about Minecraft. The recent Stanford Study showing significant math improvement from playing video games 10 minutes/day is powerful. And LightSail, a strong literacy solution designed around traditional approaches to reading instruction, still saw surprising gamification effects, which they describe in Oops, I gamified literacy - and it worked.
I want to learn more about gamified learning tools, so I’m pretty excited about an upcoming webinar on game-based learning in the classroom. Greg Toppo, USA Today’s K-12 education writer (and a former teacher), will present research from his recent book The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.
Greg actually set out to write a book about reading, yet once he was in schools, he found himself surprised by the teacher raves about digital play – and the clear learning outcomes from well-designed game-based learning.
In the webinar, Greg will discuss successful models for gamifying the learning experience, common concerns about digital play in classrooms, and products and strategies that worked to drive deeper learning.
GAME ON – USA Today & Distinguished Educators Share Gamification and Blended Learning Wins
Featuring Greg Toppo, and moderated by Apple Distinguished Educator Monica Burns
May 18th, 3pm and 7pm EST
This is the time of year when school districts all around the country are making difficult decisions. For one reason or the other, educators are not brought back and programs are cut for the next school year. It's quite amazing how change can whack people right across the face. Some say they never saw it coming or have a hard time understanding how certain decisions are made. The fact remains that people must stand tall and turn a negative into a positive. Here are some ways to cope with situations that come up this time of year......
Focus on the tremendous work you do each day.
Speak with those you can count on to listen.
Embrace the disbelief and anger that is currently consuming your life.
Reflect in a blog post to make sense of the situation.
Hang with your family or have a catch with your child.
Understand that you can not out-think people who are not thinking.
Have those tough conversations with the decision-makers in your life.
Know that better opportunities are just around the corner.
Participate in a Twitter chat to lift your spirits.
Enjoy your current surroundings knowing they will be different in the near future.
Listen to music that gets you pumped up.
Take your dog for a walk.
Figure out how to get better at what you do.
Mow the lawn and do a little landscaping.
Time heals most wounds.