#Twitter #Hashtags for #PD

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.53.09 AMI can’t rave enough about the benefit of following #Twitter feeds for “just-in-time” professional development (PD)!  In the few years that I have been on Twitter, I have made new friends from around the world, built a supportive & informative PLN, and added multiple ideas to my “teacher’s toolbox”.  To say Twitter has revolutionized my teaching practice and philosophy may be an understatement!

Here are a few Twitter hashtags that I regularly follow:

  • #BFC530 – BFC stands for ‘The Breakfast Club’ and we chat every morning at 5:30amEST!! Each morning, a focus question is posted and the attendees of the chat spend a few minutes responding.  The questions are always encouraging and thought-provoking; the educators, always positive and supportive.  Today’s question was: “What PD books are on your agenda this summer?” Now I have a list of about 20 more books I want to read this summer!! We usually wrap up by 5:45am.  I can’t think of a better way to start my day!
  • #TeachMindful – This is another joy booster. The idea behind #TeachMindful is ‘a Twitter Chat about creating mindful learning environments for students. Bringing calm and focus to the classroom#’ Teaching is all about the kids and #TeachMindful reminds me where my focus should be each day.
  • #edtechchat – This is a great feed for all things EdTech. The collaborators share resources, links, and ideas for integrating EdTech into your curriculum. Just this morning this link was shared: Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.06.44 AM

Now my mind is buzzing with how to add this to our 6th grade world geography curriculum! The podcasts and guides for adding digital curriculum to the classroom have inspired me to continue pursuing excellence in my edtech journey.

  • #SummerLearning – This is a hashtag that I just recently started to follow. Because I am enrolled in grad school this summer and am working on curriculum development for my school, I thought it would be great to see what Twitter has to say about Summer Learning. Just this morning, I found this link to a post about grammar. Even though I currently teach 6th grade science and world geography, the English teacher in me is always in-tune to spelling and grammar errors. The link includes a description of five of the top grammar feeds to follow on Twitter. Fun!
  • #EdChat – This hashtag helps keep me up-to-date in the world of education. Timely news stories and recent educational reform are often topics of discussion. Today this handy chart explaining differentiation (always a hot topic at faculty meetings:) was posted: Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.39.42 AM

As you can hopefully see from this post, Twitter is my preferred method of PD.  Rather than sit in an hour long faculty meeting discussing topics of little interest (sorry admin:~), I can spend an hour (or more:) following hashtags and come away with new perspectives and inspiration. One word of warning: Twitter can quickly become OVERWHELMING! I find myself jumping from link to link and before I know it, hours have passed by. I try to limit my time on Twitter but I find so many great ideas that oft times I have 20+ tabs open and my brain is whirling in all different directions.  Does anyone have a # for that?!?!

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Integrating Technology Into the Content Areas

Some of the most oft heard comments from history and geography students are, “Why do we have to know this stuff?” “It happened over 100 years ago!  It’s so boring!” And yes, ancient history or even history from just a few decades ago can seem dull to the younger generation. Engaging young historians can be quite a challenge for teachers, but the effective use of technology can make history come alive.

Clearly, helping students to understand the world around them and make global connections requires the opening of classroom walls.The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has determined ten themes related to social studies standards. One of the themes, science, technology, and society, directly addresses the integration and implementation of technology. Social studies instruction is designed to help us discover and better understand our world and its people, and technology-based strategies have become integral to this instruction (Diem & Berson, 2010).

Thankfully, educators now have a wide variety of technology-based tools to enhance the social studies curriculum. Some of these tools include simulations and problem-solving environments, access to primary sources, electronic research strategies, timeline generators, virtual field trips, digital storytelling, and geospatial technologies. I have used a few of these tools in my geography classroom and have found the students much more engaged in the lesson.  Recently, prior to a field trip to Ellis Island, I introduced the students to the immigrant experience through the Scholastic website Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today. The students were excited to hear the audio recordings of immigrants who had made the long and perilous journey from Europe to America.  We then viewed the digital timeline and used the data to compare the number of immigrants who came to America from 1820 through 2009. The students were then able to “meet” young immigrants who have recently come to the United States.  Through the website, my students were able to watch videos, listen to audio recordings, and explore a historical timeline.  The students’ engagement increased as these technology tools were implemented.

Geospatial technologies can also increase student motivation and interest.  Teachers no longer need to purchase expensive GPS devices. Today’’s smartphones and mapping software such as Google Maps provide all the information a class of budding geographers need.  Geocaching, the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website, has become a popular classroom activity. Students can go on a geocaching treasure hunt around their school grounds.  While discovering small “treasures”, students learn mapping, GPS, and navigation skills, all vital to the geography curriculum.  Google Earth has revolutionized the task of plotting locations on a map.

Blogging about history, creating “virtual” battles, and social networking with students across the globe are a few more of the ways we can teach our students to become global citizens. With today’s technological advances, the opportunities to make history come alive for our students are only limited by a teacher’s and the students’ imaginations.

Bernard, S. (2009, May 27). How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-social-studies-lessons

Ellis Island Interactive Tour With Facts, Pictures, Video | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/

Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies. (2015, May 20). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/integrated-learning-broadcasting-and-social-studies

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.

Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games for Content Area Learning

In an effort to increase student engagement and performance, our high school initiated a game based learning program in our 7th-12th grade basic skills class in language arts and math a few years ago.  What, if any, are the advantages of game-based learning?

According to a Yale study of 500 second graders, “short video games designed to activate specific neurocognitive processing systems can serve as brain warm-up calisthenics to improve cognitive performance immediately following the video game” (Banville 2016). If in fact this proves true for students of all ages, then implementing video game warm ups into any lesson could assist students in getting ready for the task ahead.  Just as an athlete stretches and completes a few warm up laps before running a race, students must mentally prepare themselves before embarking upon a difficult lesson.  Could playing a few video games assist in this warm up? “The team found that by using short, 5-minute games before the full lesson, students did not only better on the training games over time but also did better on lessons that followed, but had nothing to do with the subject matter of the game.” (Banville 2016).  According to Dr. Bruce Wexler, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Yale, the games increased focus, self control, and memory (Banville 2016) among the participants.

Focus, self control, and memory are three cognitive skills vital to learning. However, what does the research show about educational programs based solely on playing games? In the Wiki Space Gami-fied, video games are evaluated for their value in teaching problem solving skills based on real world problems or events. Students engage in thinking games revolving around subjects such as world hunger and genocide in order to foster critical thinking skills.

While thinking about game-based learning specific to my content area of world geography, the games Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? immediately came to mind.  Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is based on a 1990s PBS television show for kids. According to the product description on Amazon, “Carmen Sandiego is up to her thieving high-jinks again. While children travel the globe to track her down they learn about geography, history and world cultures.” This high-interest game could definitely increase student engagement.  

Oregon Trail is another game for the PC.  Oregon Trail’s gamemakers entice kids to “travel the trails and make history come alive! Kids will build real-life decision-making and problem-solving skills as they choose their wagon party and supplies, read maps, plan their route and guide their team through the wilderness. Develop solutions to help your friends and family survive the dangers of the long journey including raging rivers, buffalo stampedes, sickness, and starvation. Discover a learning adventure that’s greater than fiction—about real people with real dreams facing and overcoming real challenges. Build decision-making and problem-solving skills as you experience the challenge of traveling the trail! My own children played these games growing up and seemed to enjoy the challenge of the game while acquiring some basic geography and history skills.

In his blog Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne writes a post entitled Ten Interactive Geography Games and Maps. While some of these games are simple map location type games, others such as Placefy “present players with an image of a city square, buildings, and other famous landmarks. Players then have to choose the correct answer from four answer choices. Playing the game is simple, but the images as questions make it a challenging game” (Byrne 2010). Similarly, Geoguessr is a web-based geographic discovery game designed by Anton Wallén, a Swedish IT consultant, released on 9 May 2013. Geoguessr takes advantage of Google Earth’s street view locations and requires players to guess their location in the world using only the clues visible. Geoguessr can be played as a one or two player game. After students make their guesses based on the clues, a map opens with the exact location, the location of the student’s guess, and the  distance from the correct location all placed on the map.  These visual images are a relative advantage when teaching basic mapping skills.

An article on the TeachThought website, 6 Basic Benefits of Game-Based Learning (2013), lists six benefits of game-based learning:

  • Increases A Child’s Memory Capacity
  • Computer & Simulation Fluency
  • Helps With Fast Strategic Thinking & Problem-Solving
  • Develops Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Beneficial Specifically For Children With Attention Disorders
  • Skill-Building (e.g. map reading)

Clearly game-based learning can offer a relative advantage over traditional classroom instruction. Students may be more engaged in the lesson and cognitive skills can be honed. Game-based learning can also improve critical thinking and problem solving skills, both integral to 21st century education.

Resources:

6 Basic Benefits Of Game-Based Learning. (2013, March 15). Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/technology/6-basic-benefits-of-game-based-learning/

Banville, L. (2016, October 1). Brain Trainers May Kick Start Learning in Students. Retrieved from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2016/10/01/brain-trainers-may-kick-start-learning-in-students/

Byrne, R. (2010, February 22). Ten Interactive Geography Games and Maps. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2010/02/ten-interactive-geography-games-and.html

gamifi-ED – home. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://gamifi-ed.wikispaces.com/