In the age of technology there will allows be distractions that prevent us from getting our work done. We have all been there lessons to plan, papers to grade, or just work to do, but wait let me just check Facebook or Twitter, or look at that latest Youtube clip everyone was talking about real quick. Next thing you know several hours have gone by and all the work you have planned to do still isn't done. If this happens to us as teachers it is definitely happening to students at home. It leaves us with the question "What can be done to help against these weapons of mass distraction?"
While technology may be responsible for a large portion of procrastination that is happening these days it can also provide a solution. There are now apps and websites available to help solve these problems for both teachers and students.
For Mac users there is a free app call SelfControl. This app only works for Macs but its very user friendly you simply set up a time limit that you want to be blocked, then create a blacklist of all the sites you think you might visit in order to put off getting your work done. Then click start, once the time starts you will be unable to visit any website included in your blacklist until the time expires.
For Window Users there is a website called Cold Turkey. This has a basic free version and a pro versions that you can pay for to get more features that include blocking apps and not just websites.
Its easy to spread the word of these sites to you students and if you have a class website make a resource section and post the links to these websites/apps. Also during parent teacher conferences if it becomes clear that a student is having a difficult time studying due to the ever growing world of the internet and social media you can offer these sites as a solution, even the parents themselves may find these sites useful for their everyday lives.
Who Owns The Learning?
When listening to Alan November's TED talk on best practices in teaching and learning, he makes it very clear that there needs to be a change. He talks about students feelings about their work and how they need to be given a purpose for their learning. I think many of us would agree that more often then not, students feel as those there is no purpose to their work. It is simply work, for work's sake. November argues that this needs to change. We need to give meaning to what students are doing in the classroom and a purpose for learning. If we give students a purpose for learning, such as solving a real world problem or advocating on a local issue, we have allowed the students to take ownership and responsiblity for their work. We are giving them an opportunity to create alegacy. Students will then be contributing to the world, adding value to their work, making it purposeful. And more importantly, students are responsible for creating that legacy. We will shift the workload to the students. The students will be empowered to take leadership of their learning.
3 Skills Students Need to Succeed:
November also gives a talk discussing the 3 most important skills students are lacking, and yet are the most important in order for them to be successful in today's world. First, is information processing. We really need to teach our students how to organize information, sift through it, give it value, and move on. Many students get wrapped up in this process and are unable to make a full transition through. Secondly, students need to learn to work globally. They need to be able to organize people all over the world to solve problems through global communication skills. Becoming a global citizen is one of the skills I value in myself and will forever work on instilling in my students in the social studies classroom. This is an extremely important 21st century skill that is crucial for students to grasp. Finally, he argues that students must become self-directed. This is the most important of the three. Students need to be able to function without someone hovering over them telling them every move to make. November discusses how we need to be turning out students who do not need a boss to tell them what to do at all times. If there was a candidate who was self-directed and did not need to direct instruction, then the position of the boss would be obsolete. We need students that are highly disciplined! This is something that is found in many problem based and project based learning. We want students to be able to take an idea and go with it and create a piece of work on their own. It is what they will be expected to do in college and in the workforce.
What Tools are Available?
There is a vast deposit of resources and applications available to educators to help facilitate the use of emerging technologies in the classroom. There are applications and resources to use for note taking, parent communication, visual imagery and organization, content specific apps, and social media for the classroom. Below are some examples of general education applications or those that are specific to social studies content.
Android Market: Skype, Edmondo, TED, Socratic Teacher, AndroClass, Reminder 101
Apple Store: Everntoe, 270 to Win, The States, PBS, TED, Educreations, iMovie, Jotnot, Twitter, Teacher Kit, OnmiFocus, Dropbox, Wunderlist, iTunesU, Quizlet, Edmondo
Google Search: Neu Notes, Screen Chomp, Skitch, Zite
* Above is a link to special pricing on apps for educational use.
Facebook in Education:
If you search within Facebook for the "Facebook in Education" page there is a page set up with resources for implementing social learning in the classroom. It also provides resources such as edutopia that provides starting points to help create social media guidelines for your school, bullying prevention resource guides, digital citizenship guides and much more information to think about when implementing social media in your classroom.
This is another resource for connecting, engaging and learning inside and outside of the classroom. Quite similar to facebook and a blog at the same time, students are able to post and upload videos as well as their own work. Each class page has a calendar, holds student grades, parent alerts and much more. The tag line is that Edmodo "makes your classroom a community".
Twitter is not an emerging technology itself, necessarily, but it is becoming an integral education piece for teacher professional development. A wise instructor once told me that Twitter is the best professional developement tool because it allows the classroom teacher to connect and network with educators around the world at the cutting edge of education technology. Professionals, researchers, principals, bloggers and other classroom teachers can tweet out links to blogs and other resources that aid in implementing technology in the classroom as well as talk about what works and what does not.
Below are examples of fun digital content pieces to use in the social studies classroom. The focus is on the use of games to promote meaninful learning. The video following is from a TED talk that discusses the new emerging theory behind gamification.
"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."