I am a teacher.app

50 fab apps for teachers

Image: 50 fab apps for teachers

I have now made the transition to app. I am not just a teacher. Not just someone who gets up , goes to school , delivers the curriculum and assesses. I don’t just address content, well being and performance standards and criteria. I am an app as well. I set tasks, the parameters for tasks,select the tools,  challenges, to do lists, missions to accomplish, goals to attain. I offer hints and tips, cheats even. I set reminders, alerts, pop up information. I perform routine tasks as we develop the backdrop for the learning environment. I am a help desk. I offer ticks for accomplishments and create lists of learning gaps. I perform routine tasks to keep the stability of the environment but create learning missions. None of this overloads me or makes me work 24/7. I am available outside of school hours but not in any big or demanding way. Like an app, I am there to progress activity and learning and problem solving. In many respects we need to redefine what a teacher’s job is and what their availability is. Being available electronically is not an imposition nor an energy drainer. It creates a seamless connection with key participants. I’d love to see the performance standards turned into challenges and missions so they can be completed in some real way rather than just part of a student or teacher tick the box assessment sheet. Something which is developed and worked towards. I don’t mind being an app. It means the world has changed and I have changed with it.

Much ado about literacy

Digital literacy isn’t new. We have had computers in schools since the 80s. We have mobile phones since the 90s. The big shift was in the 90s. It has only really been since 2009 that there has been a massive push to get technology up and running in classrooms – all classrooms. Not just a computer room for occasional use. In Australia we have made a big commitment to this and used a lot of time , energy and thinking to ensure our students are comfortable with technology and digitally literate. So what is the headline?

School computer use may be affecting literacy and numeracy skills, OECD study says

If you read the article it suggests technology doesn’t teach literacy – teachers do. The article did not highlight the real strength of Australian schools for which we do need recognition. It has been hard work . There have been numerous stakeholders and the level of collaboration across school communities and key technology providers and advisers has been a J learning curve and pretty impressive:

By analysing international test results for 15-year-olds, the OECD found Australians perform significantly above the average in digital reading, and in particular, have strong web-browsing skills, are better able to plan and execute a search, evaluate the usefulness of information, and assess the credibility of sources online.”

We need recognition for that but we are also aware we are at the stage now where we can enhance and improve what we are doing. Getting the juggernaut rolling was a monumental team effort and the best learning and teaching I have seen in education. I have seen a lot of rollouts in 42 years as a teacher. The technology roll out has been a demanding and appropriate learning programme for teachers because they have been challenged very thoroughly and tested really well.

For this reason I think we need to be careful about what we say about technology and literacy. Everything in books is on the net. A computer , its application and use , is far more demanding than any print based course both as a teacher and learner. The literacy demands are complex and can be met but it is not as easy as getting out a book and putting pen to paper. Computers and mobile technology offer so many different forms of communication and each has to be weighed up, quantified and analysed. Additionally, as teachers, we have been providing a significant role in language development. Technology has been critical in evening the playing field in this area. In Australia , differentiation of the curriculum really matters. Our classes comprise students from different cultures, language backgrounds and we include students like those on the autism spectrum and with special needs. We include everyone as much as we can because we have a belief that is right. We have become quite expert in creating learning environments for all sorts of students because it is about their needs.There has been a better accommodation of a broader range of students in classroom because technology has helped us create and find suitable  materials. We have been working on personal learning plans and technology has facilitated that.

National and international tests are important and the results are always interesting but drawing hasty or illogical connections from results is not doing us or the testing justice.

  • What was being tested when the OECD tested for literacy?
  • How were these tests performed?
  • Were the tests performed so students could operate from their natural strengths?
  • Did they look at the composition of classes across countries?
  • In Australia we are teaching students who have English as a first, second, third, fourth and even fifth language. Did we account for that in our testing?
  • Were students allowed to take the test in their strongest language?
  • We have a highly transient world population for all sorts of reasons. Were those factors considered?

We need to ask the questions, get the answers and look at how we can use technology to improve what needs improving. We have access to everything. How we effectively use that is what teaching is about.

Match Three with STEAM components

STEAM Where would we be without gamification? I have just used the STEAM acronym and tried to find three indicators of each which start with the same letter to be indicative of meeting the component in lesson planning and delivery. This is a work in progress. It is not definitive and I have shared it so that others can be encouraged to break down the components of STEAM (Science, Technology , Engineering, Arts, Maths) into an applied model which is easy for teachers to consult as they think and plan. We need something like the Bloom’s Taxonomy – a STEAM Taxonomy to pin us all down and get us thinking in a more consistent fashion. I have a mix of verbs and adjectives. I’d prefer one or the other so that is my next challenge. Just throwing it out there.

This is 21st century teaching

EdTech Mixed Plate has a number of videos on YouTube where practising teachers join together to discuss ICT in the classroom. This is what we can do now as teachers. We can join together online and discuss things which are important in a classroom and how we develop and pioneer technology input – or anything else for that matter.The videos are professional development for the teachers participating but they are also professional development for anyone watching. The episode I am using today is on Minecraft in the classroom because Minecraft is gaining traction in classroom use. EdTech Mixed Plate discusses a range of topics and it is interesting to see how the teachers have become involved in edtech and mostly the co ordinator for edtech in their school. Worth a look because I am pretty sure this is the future and now such a gift to us in terms of professional development. Technology is offering us all sorts of possibilities . We are waiting for bandwidth so we can implement these opportunities more effectively.

Technology reads your mood

Scientist Rana el Kaliouby has been working on technology which can read your facial expressions and then know how you feel. The TED talk here explains her rationale behind it and then how it has been developed. Towards the end you can see for yourself how detailed and accurate it is. They have been researching and refining it for quite some time and soon it will be in place in the real world. They have been working on cognitive intelligence for technology. They are adding another layer to that by investigating and exploring emotional intelligence with regard to technology. Rana el Kaliouby was driven to work on this because she was separated from her family for some time and she really was only interacting with devices. She also wanted her family to better understand how she felt as she was only communicating with them through technology. I can see ,like her, that emotionally smart software might have a place in a classroom so that it could make better recommendations for students who are not engaging with what you have offered as a teacher. I can hear it now. “See? FooGoo is telling me I am bored with it. You need to show me something else. “ I can also see that the software might bypass the teacher and recommend something of its own which will engage the student. Fun and games to come. The gender differences with interaction were interesting and worth pursuing for what that really means.Do I need a device which reads my mood? I don’t think so, but I’ll have to wait and see what transpires by way of development. Technology is plastic and circuit boards. I don’t have a need to engage emotionally with it nor for it to know how I feel. I don’t talk to my pot plants either. Rana el Kaliouby says she expects this to be real in 5 years. It means we need some idea of what it will do, what it is capable of and , inevitably, how it can be misused, so that we, as teachers, are ready for it.