Dear Future Teachers…Simple Tools to Get Started

 

I’ve been reading up on the Enhanced Teacher Education Program
that began here this school year and I would like to share some
highlights as these changes will be incredibly beneficial for both
future teachers as well as future students. Later in the post I’ll share
some simple ways to incorporate technology into existing lessons.

From the website:

The enhanced teacher education program started September 2015. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Four semesters of Teacher’s College (up from two)
  • More time for practice teaching (80 days minimum, up from 40)
  • Greater
    focus on students’ mental health and well-being, parent engagement and
    communication, and special education among other core elements
  • Greater
    attention to diversity in Ontario classrooms and knowledge of the
    Ontario context a greater understanding about how to teach with
    technology

Why it’s needed

Based on research of newly certified teachers over the past 10 years, and an extensive review of teacher qualifications, the Ontario College of Teachers
rec­ommended significant changes to initial teacher education programs
in Ontario. As part of that comprehensive review of teacher
qualifications, the College recommended a longer initial teacher
education program.

Consequently, Ontario’s Ministry of
Education, working in partnership with the Col­lege, announced plans to
lengthen the duration of the program to give future teachers more
practical experience and greater exposure to teaching methods that will
help teachers support diverse student needs.

Prospective teachers will spend more
time working with the Ontario curriculum, studying classroom management
and learning how to use research data and new technology. They will also
benefit from an increased emphasis on supporting students with special
learning needs and those from diverse communities.

I am incredibly thrilled to see a
focus on curriculum, management and technology. I think we can wrap
these terms into the “pedagogy” category and I wonder how classrooms
management strategies will change at faculties. I am especially curious
as to what new strategies might be used regarding devices in kids hands.

Classroom management has changed
significantly for me personally over the years. I’ve had to adjust from
“off and away” to “technology centres” to “BYOD” (bring your own device)
 and finally now 1:1 tablets and laptops. What I have noticed is how well engaged students act versus disengaged students.
I’ve come to learn that program determines behaviour and I now question
compliance and defiance versus engagement and content creation.

I also wonder if there will be a
struggle for prospective teachers in the short term. These folks are
coming out of more traditional settings and being placed in digital
assignments and expected to teach engaging lessons. As time progresses
this will diminish but the next few years of student teachers certainly
have their work cut out for them. I suppose that isn’t a bad thing.
After all, we are lifelong learners. Either way, it is an exciting time
to be a teacher and an even more exciting time to be a student!

Here are a few simple ways I have incorporated technology into existing lessons. I hope you find them useful.

  1. Kahoot
    – Kahoot takes what we often call as “traditional / rote and
    repetitive” and turns it into a game of practice. Students join a class
    game and must answer multiple-choice questions on their own devices
    against a timer. I have given students Kahoot quizzes in the past
    without touching on the topic first and they have learned skills through
    playing the game by identifying patterns in right and wrong answers.
  2. Prodigy
    – Like Kahoot, Prodigy makes mastering skills fun. Students engage in a
    fantasy style role playing game in which fighting battles requires
    answering math questions. Teachers can choose the strand and assign
    “playing Prodigy” as homework. It’s much like math worksheets, only it’s
    not. Imagine “playing a game” for homework.
  3. Minecraft
    – I am a big fan of Minecraft as a tool to have students identify and
    extend growing patterns. Since we are virtually limitless on what we can
    build, there is almost an infinite number of ways students can extend
    patterns by building them. This approach personalizes learning,
    scaffolds learning and brings a natural differentiated instruction—not to mention the cross-curricular notion of building structures that exists in Science curriculum.
  4. QR Codes
    I began using QR codes as a way to make bulletin boards interactive. A
    personal highlight of mine was watching a former principal scan my
    bulletin board alongside students to see where it took them. I now use
    QR codes to disguise student work. Instead of posting student writing on
    a board, post the QR  code instead. It makes everyone feel a little
    safer.
  5. Augmented Reality
    – AR is like QR codes on steroids. As you scan physical content on a
    wall, you see rich interactive digital content on the screen. In the
    past I have made entire units as AR content where students would scan
    different items to receive different pieces of information. For so long,
    time has been a constant at school. With technology, all students can
    be successful given the right amount of time.
  6. Padlet
    – I was always a big fan of sticky notes so when I learned about
    Wallwisher (now Padlet) I got very excited. Padlet is a shared digital
    canvas where people can post ideas. Students are now able to view “chart
    paper” at home and not just on classroom walls. Possibilities here are
    only limited to the teacher’s ideas!
  7. A Class Website or LMS
    – This has been the biggest help in my teaching career. Posting content
    on a class website makes students accountable for their work and keeps
    parents in the loop. I post newsletters, our schedule, videos,
    resources, example questions and articles for reading. If you wish to
    extend this idea further, check out Remind as a way to text parents
    without revealing your cell phone number.

I have really just scraped the
surface with these examples. Technology has a way of making lessons
limitless and personal for all learners. Perhaps best of all, technology
gives all students a voice. Technology allows our quietest students an
opportunity to make incredible noise. Technology allows reluctant
sharers an opportunity to share ideas without being put on the spot.

I think the biggest hurdle with
technology is fear. I encourage you to take the leap. Jump in head
first. Be a co-learner with your class. I assure you the return is worth
the investment.

Congratulations to our current and
future prospective teachers. With the right tools, you can change the
world for all of your students. But don’t forget that what works for me
may not work for you as we are unique individuals. Also, what works for
you may not work for your students.

Perhaps my biggest learning curve has been to offer students choice. The “one size fits all” model need not apply.

Follow Brian at BrianAspinall.com

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