Tuesday, 16 June 2020

How to become a digital competent teacher

digital competent teacher
With schools and colleges closed indefinitely, a viable alternative to classroom teaching has to be evolved. When face-to-face classrooms are not possible, online teaching, especially for higher classes, is an obvious option. Teachers have a new challenge before them. They need to learn the ropes of this technological pathway and update their skills in order to fulfil their role as effective teachers. The teacher’s voice, modulation, pause, emphasis on certain words or statements etc. are all essential elements here. The body language of the teacher, including one’s gestures, facial expression, and relaxed appearance establishes an instant ‘connect’ with the students.

The various social media and networking sites that students participate in have led to the belief that students are all tech savvy. This is a false belief. Recent research suggests that students are not well acquainted with ordinary desktop applications that have been taught to them. This generation of students uses technology to communicate with others frequently. This is quite different from using technology in education. It is more vital to enable students know how to learn than what to learn. Teacher in this e-learning era takes an entirely different role as a guide facilitating them to choose between right and wrong information, to enable them chooses the best and the most appropriate content amongst the abundant information available with technology.

Role of a teacher

One of the major challenges with online education is the changing role of the teacher. Four different roles are identified for online teachers:
  1. Pedagogical role
  2. Social role
  3. Managerial role
  4. Technical role
Pedagogical roles refer to teaching methods; social roles are the way teachers establish social relationships with the students; managerial roles include administrative and organizational tasks; and technical responsibilities are the technical support that teachers provide for students.

Responsibilities of a digital competent teacher

Teaching face-to-face and teaching online are both teaching, but they are qualitatively different. In comparison, driving a car and riding a motorcycle are both forms of transportation, but they have enough differences to warrant additional training and preparation when switching from one to the other. The same is true when teacher move from the traditional classroom to the online classroom. With this in mind, consider the following responsibilities of a digital competent teacher.
  • Making the material engaging
  • Encouraging facilitated discussions
  • Managing time
  • Assessing online learning
  • Preventing cheating in an online Exam
  • Choosing online teaching platform
  • Building student self-discipline

Making the material engaging

making the material engaging

In both face-to-face and online environments, it is crucial to engage students with the course. Making the class interesting not only motivates student work, it also promotes student success. Competent teachers do this by intertwining interesting anecdotes, videos, and examples into the lectures. They offer their students variety. Students are different types of learners, so, having this variety will ensure the students get the same opportunities to learn. Varying the activities in class helps teachers keep their students engaged with the content and help them learn better. They create competitions with giveaways and prizes to motivate the students. By placing some multiple choice questions at the end of each lesson, they evaluate student’s engagement.

Encouraging facilitated discussions

encouraging facilitated discussions

Interaction is the backbone of online classes. It helps teachers connect with the students and get them engaged. Most live stream and e-learning platforms have chats. Competent teachers take advantage by using them during their live lessons. Taking polls and asking the students questions during live lessons are great for interaction. Students can also write their answers in the chat. Competent teachers also address students by their names and encourage them to interact with each other.

Managing time

managing time

One of the major issues faced by teachers is the demand on their time, as it takes quite a bit of time to prepare, plan, and teach an online class. Here are effective time management tips competent teachers use to effectively manage their online classes.
  1. They develop a routine to begin and end work at the same time each day. A routine will enable them to effectively utilize their time, as well as serve as a signal to students that they are not available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
  2. They set office hour to assist students with questions or review feedback on assignments.
  3. They always follow a specific order of importance in the class that ensures all tasks are completed timely and efficiently.
  4. They simply reuse what they have posted in previous semester/quarter, as long as the course material does not change, and as long as the previous announcements and posts are tailored to fit.

Assessing online learning

assessing online learning

Assessing student learning is an essential component of effective teaching and learning in the online environment. Competitive teachers use assessment tools allow for both formative and summative assessment of student learning. Formative assessment tracks student understanding and areas of weakness during the learning process and allows the teachers to adjust teaching accordingly. Summative assessments are a test of learning, typically conducted at the end of the learning process (i.e. midterm or final exam).

The following are examples of assessments that have been shown to be effective in the online learning environment.
  1. Written Assignments
  2. Online Discussion: Asynchronous discussion activities
  3. Presentations
  4. Test/quiz/exam

Preventing cheating in an online exam

preventing cheating in an online exam

Taking online tests increases the chance of cheating in comparison with paper testing. What competent teachers do to prevent students from online cheating? Totally preventing students from cheating seems to be impossible with all the advanced technology out there today. Here are some tips and tricks that competent teachers use to prevent cheating.
  1. Do not allow selection and copy-pasting
  2. Randomize the questions
  3. Set a timer
  4. Use problem-solving questions, when possible
  5. Use secure browser to prevent screen sharing or mirroring
  6. Display one question at a Time
  7. Allow only one attempt to take an exam

Choosing online teaching platform

choosing online teaching platform

Finding the right online teaching platform is just the first step. Learning how to use the various features correctly is important. But using a platform and its features to teach effectively and ensure that all students are indeed learning is paramount. Many want to know which platform to use. Is it Zoom? But aren’t there privacy issues? What about Google Classrooms? Is that better than Zoom because it is an LMS? What’s an LMS? What about Microsoft Teams?

Competent teachers check the following features that help them choosing the platform that best fits their learning needs:
  1. Easy Access
  2. Friendly Interface
  3. Effectiveness of Teaching
  4. Interactivity and Live Sessions
  5. Content Security

Building student self-discipline

building student self-discipline

Self-discipline is the way to keep students focused on their study. Self-discipline is a learned behavior that not every student has. In fact, students with high self-discipline are also known to behave differently, have fewer absences, and do more homework than that of their less-disciplined peers. Self-discipline is not only found to be related to a student’s academic success, but to their behavior as well.

Competent teachers use the following tips to develop self-discipline in their students:
  1. They help students eliminate distractions
  2. Reward the students when they perform better in the class or on the tests
  3. Support the students with timely reminder
  4. Turn “must do” tasks into “want to” tasks
  5. Instill the right mindset for tackling challenges and learning from failure
  6. Encourage students to practice planning

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Personalized learning is the secret to student success

Teaching philosophies in education

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Personalized learning is the secret to student success

Personalized learning is the secret to student success

Every child is different, so why should learning be the same?

Until recently, classrooms looked the same as they did long years ago. Teachers would teach a class of 40 or more students, and students would memorize information in order to pass exams. Some students who grasped the concept quickly had to slow their pace, while students who were struggling would have to adjust to a faster pace.

teacher centered classroom

The old ways of teaching were no longer adequate for today’s changing technological world, and thus was born the idea of personalized learning. When the student is given personal direction, attention, and content catered to their specific needs, they learn more, faster. Meanwhile, online learning and tech tools make personalized learning easier for the students. Learning with technology will strengthen both personalized learning for students and professional development for educators.

What is personalized learning

Personalized learning is the key to engaging students, as teachers are leading the way toward making learning as relevant, rigorous, and meaningful inside classroom as outside. 

Personalized learning tailors learning experiences to each student’s strengths, needs, and interests. Students learn in different ways and at different paces. Personalized learning is a teaching model based on that premise. Each student gets a “learning plan” based on how he learns, what he knows, and what his skills and interests are. It’s the opposite of the “one size fits all” approach used in most schools. However, the end goal and academic standards don’t differ. Each student must reach a certain mastery level by the end.

personalized learning

Personalized learning examples

Example 1

Pat really loves dinosaurs, so the teacher creates a reading unit based on books about dinosaurs combined with a writing unit involving research about dinosaurs. If Pat is weak on particular styles of charts and graphs, Pat may get an extra unit that works on organizing information about dinosaurs visually.

Example 2

Sam wants to be a concert pianist, so Sam's educational program approaches history from the perspective of the history of music, and Sam actually spends less time daily on science so that there's more time for music-related studies.

Teacher can also give students the choice between reading a short story or listening to an audio version while reading. Allowing these kinds of customized learning give students the ability to choose the process that best fits their needs.

Personalized learning vs personalized pacing

personalized learning vs personalized pacing

What many schools are actually talking about is personalized pacing not personalized learning. Pat and Sam complete exactly the same reading materials, they study the exact same units in math, and they study history out of exactly the same textbook. The only difference is the speed with which they move through the materials. There is nothing personal about their learning program except the speed with which they move through it. It's the oldest problem in education, and personalized pacing does not help solve it.

The Benefits of using a personalized learning in the classroom

Personalized learning has become one of the most talked-about strategies in education today. The old-school methods of conducting a classroom simply don’t work for today’s plugged-in students. Modern learning theory supports the shift away from antiquated, rote learning models toward personalized learning model. This model creates fun and engaging classroom atmospheres that benefit students and teachers alike.

benefits of personalized learning

Here are many benefits of personalized learning.
  • Students are effectively more engaged and highly motivated
  • Self-regulation skills are built in students
  • Students are equipped with the tools to learn
  • Constantly challenged students are academically advanced
  • Lifelong learning mindset will be developed in students

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Teaching philosophies in education

What is critical thinking and why is it so important

Monday, 18 March 2019

Teaching philosophies in education

Teaching philosophies in education
Teaching philosophies express your values and beliefs about teaching. It is a self-reflective statement that describes both what you believe and provides concrete examples of what you do in the classroom to support those beliefs. It must be written in first person and should convey a professional image of your teaching. Teaching philosophy should be brief and well written. While Teaching philosophy can be probably longer at the tenure level (i.e. 3-5 pages or more), for hiring purposes it can be typically 1-2 pages in length. A teaching philosophy is also a document in progress and it should change and evolve as your teaching experiences build. 

Purpose of Teaching Philosophy 

Your reasons for writing a teaching philosophy may vary. You might be writing it as an exercise in concisely documenting your beliefs so that you can easily articulate them to your students and peers. It might serve as the introduction to your teaching portfolio. Or, it can serve as a means of professional growth as it requires you to give examples of how you enact your philosophy. 

Your teaching philosophy in education does several things for you. It can: 
  • Clarify what you believe good teaching to be. 
  • Explain what you hope to achieve in teaching. 
  • Contextualize your teaching strategies and other evidence of teaching effectiveness. 
  • Provide an opportunity for reflection on and the development of your own teaching. 
  • Convey your teaching values, beliefs, and goals to a broader audience 

How to write a Teaching Philosophy 

It is important to start by describing where you want to end. In other words, what are your objectives as a teacher? The rest of your philosophy statement should support these objectives which should be achievable and relevant to your teaching responsibilities; avoid vague or overly grandiose statements. 

Here are the questions to prompt your thinking: 

Concept of teaching 
  • What are your values, beliefs, and aspirations as a teacher?
  • Do you wish to encourage mastery, competency, lifelong learning, critical thinking?
  • How are the values and beliefs realized in classroom activities?
  • You may discuss course materials, lesson plans, activities, assignments, and assessment instruments.

Goals for students 
  • What skills should students obtain as a result of your teaching?
  • Think about your ideal student and what the outcomes of your teaching would be in terms of this student's knowledge or behavior.

Teaching methods 
  • What methods will you consider to reach your goals and objectives?
  • What are your beliefs regarding learning theory and specific strategies you would use, such as case studies, group work, simulations, interactive lectures?
  • You might also want to include any new ideas or strategies you want to try.

Your interaction with students 
  • What is your attitude towards advising and mentoring students?
  • How to make students feel comfortable in the classroom?
  • How to encourage students to interact positively with one another?

Assessing learning 
  • How will you assess student growth and learning?
  • What are your beliefs about grading?
  • What different types of assessment will you use (i.e. traditional tests, projects, portfolios, presentations) and why?

Professional growth 
  • How will you continue growing as a teacher?
  • What goals do you have for yourself and how will you reach them?
  • How will you use student evaluations to improve your teaching?
  • How might you learn new skills?
  • How do you know when you've taught effectively?

Now that you've written down your values, attitudes, and beliefs about teaching and learning, it's time to organize those thoughts into a coherent form. Responses to all of these questions will require some reflective thought and you will likely benefit from discussing them with other faculty in your department. Consider bouncing your responses off of your colleagues, ponder their responses, re-evaluate your positions, revise, talk some more, etc. Over time your responses will change to reflect how you have grown and changed as a teacher. Think of your teaching philosophy as a work in progress over the course of your career. 

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Sunday, 3 February 2019

What is critical thinking and why is it so important today

What is critical thinking

What is critical thinking 

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze the way you think and present evidence for your ideas, rather than simply accepting your personal reasoning as sufficient proof. 

Critical Thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve a problem or make a decision. 

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. Critical Thinking skills teach a variety of skills that can be applied to any situation in life that calls for reflection, analysis and planning. 

From solving problems in class assignments to facing real world situations, Critical Thinking is a valuable skill for students to master. It can also enhance their academic performance. Researcher Jane Qinjuan Zhang writes that critical thinking enables students to assess their learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, and allows them to take ownership of their education. 

If you work in education, research, finance, management or the legal profession, then critical thinking is obviously important. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career. You can also use critical thinking to free yourself from cognitive biases, negative thinking, and limiting beliefs that are holding you back in any area of your life. 

Benefits of critical thinking 

A well-cultivated critical thinker: 
  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely; 
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards; 
  • thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; 
  • Knows how to prioritize time and resources by systematically analyzing what is useful and what is not; 
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems; 
  • understands the experiences & views of others and enhance the ability to work with different people. 

Why critical chinking is so important today 

We live in a world of accelerating change. New industries are constantly being born and old ones are becoming obsolete. It's true that automation could overtake many jobs in the future. To ensure you're not replaceable by a machine, you need strong critical thinking skills. 

A study by Ball State University estimates that 5 million U.S. factory jobs have been lost to automation since 2000. A new McKinsey report warns that machines and AI could destroy another 73 million U.S. jobs by 2030, displacing up to 800 million workers worldwide. 

According to Nick van Dam, global chief learning officer at McKinsey & Co., this is the best time for people who have the right skills and right education because there are tremendous opportunities. It’s also the worst time in history for people with ordinary skills and education. 

Citing World Economic Forum research, van Dam said the Top 10 skills that will be in demand in the near future are: 
  1. Complex problem-solving 
  2. Critical thinking 
  3. Creativity 
  4. People management 
  5. Coordinating with others 
  6. Emotional intelligence 
  7. Judgment and decision-making 
  8. Service orientation 
  9. Negotiation 
  10. Cognitive flexibility 

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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Learning in the 21st century

Learning in the 21st century
What do we need to make a 21st-century skills curriculum? Do we need to change the way we teach? Firstly, it doesn’t look like we really need to change that much. We have classrooms that are dynamic, with digital tech and highly creative activities. But we also have a problem because society doesn’t measure success in softer skills. Success is judged on rote learning, photographic memories and the ability to write under a time constraint. This system perpetuates an antiquated view of education. It could produce academically brilliant students, but they may lack the skills that make them employable. 

Education is the key tool to manage the challenges ahead. That's why we must use education to help students ride this wave of change and give them the skills they need for the new jobs of the 21st century. The world in the 21st century is now seen as a place of constant change. In the world of today, students should know how to communicate, collaborate, and present their ideas to navigate through various challenges in the advanced life. As we move further into the 21st century, the call for pedagogies that promote 21st century skills to be adopted in Educational institutions and they should adopt pedagogies that promote the development of the following skills:
  • Critical thinking;
  • Problem-solving;
  • Creativity and innovation;
  • Collaboration and teamwork;
  • Leadership;
  • Communications and information fluency;
  • Computing and ICT fluency;
  • Career and learning self-reliance
Growth in connectivity, underpinned by rapid uptake of digital technologies, and the dominance of social media platforms, have informed visions of learning beyond formal school systems that are grounded in collaboration and networking. Educators should recognise the trends that are occurring with how students are learning and to integrate some of the features of this learning culture into their classrooms. 

An educator in the 21st century should be able to anticipate and make plans for the future. He or she should be able to prepare the students for the unpredictable situations in life with the involvement of technology. You may discuss how life-long learning will be a way forward in the future world. Active learning, project-based education, learning through inquiry, reasoning and problem-solving skills are all imperative for the holistic development of students.

We can't teach our students for tomorrow in the schools that existed yesterday. Educators should explore the high-tech and high-touch landscape and pull up the kids with them. KOBE Learn is an app designed to help young users learn common words and phrases in Ojibway, Cree and Oji-Cree, the traditional languages of the northern communities served by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education. 

21st century learner

"The focus was on the 21st century learner," said Sarah Johnson, the native language lead with the board, "many of our children are focusing now on technology." 

The app was developed by the board with the help of language teachers, elders and community members, she said, who worked together to decide on the phrases and the corresponding syllabics, and to make recordings of the words being spoken aloud. 

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Friday, 21 December 2018

What is digital portfolio and how it helps students for career success

digital portfolio helps students for career success
In the 21st century, we are seeing a shift in views regarding how students can be tested and assessed based on their performances inside and outside the classroom. Students can also be assessed by creating and displaying their work online through social media, YouTube, and digital portfolios. Regardless of the format of assessment, technology is becoming a critical part of learning as well as student performance. So, how we can use technology to create better assessments? 

Technologies are popping up everywhere that promise personalized learning through digital portfolio assessment, in which students showcase and assess their work and then post it online. The best digital portfolio processes do more than serve as an evaluation tool. It helps the student develop a stronger sense of themselves as a learner and see their growth over time. Students start to identify themselves as capable learners. If the digital portfolio has been maintained over several years, their progress is even more evident. 

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of education? To develop individuals who can reflect on their actions and make changes for the betterment of themselves and those around them? 

Digital portfolios came into prominence in the 1990s, around the time when computers became common place in classrooms. Digital portfolios cut the distance between student thinking and evidence of learning. There is no longer a need to represent understanding through a score or a grade. Digital portfolios allow students to learn the required material with depth and self-reflection. 

Digital portfolios should be process oriented

Digital portfolios should be process oriented

A myth in education is that we should only showcase student’s best artifacts of learning. We might think of an artist’s body of work when considering digital portfolios as an alternative assessment. Yet how did that artist get to a point of success? The development of their skills and talent didn’t just happen. Many mistakes, quiet reflection, and new pursuits of learning had to have occurred prior to mastery.

So, it would be logical to expect a student’s digital portfolio to be process oriented. This means that at every critical stage of learning, something should be documented. Not everything is published, but there is reflection and context for the work that’s attached to the artifact. Families, peers, and the student themselves come to see that understanding does not come out of thin air. The result is an appreciation for the process of learning itself that is not dependent on an external evaluation.

Digital portfolios Prepare Students for career success

Digital portfolios Prepare Students for career success

To thrive in the workforce, students must be able to differentiate themselves from other job candidates and show what they know in a way that goes beyond a transcript or static resume. The use of technology brings a job seeker to life and provides a connection point between employers and job candidates. Digital portfolios are a proven catalyst to employment for many students. The platform challenges the traditional resume and opens the door to a more holistic approach to cataloging achievements. For instance, a traditional resume allows a film student to describe a film they directed and produced, while a digital portfolio gives them the opportunity to actually show the film or clips from the film. This deliberate presentation of capabilities leads to increased confidence and accelerated progress. 

Where the portfolios should be hosted?

Where the portfolios should be hosted?

Many inexpensive or free digital portfolio tools are readily available and can provide a low-risk opportunity for educational institutions to explore and refine the purpose of their digital portfolio program while beginning to establish a digital portfolio culture on campus.

Students can create an incredible portfolios using Google Drive, Portfoliobox, Dropr and Blogger. They can decide to keep the portfolios private, invite a specific audience to view them, or connect them directly with the worldwide audience. 

A Glimpse about blogger

Blogs offer students the opportunity to create an online portfolio that documents success, progress, and achievement. In addition to a blog page, students share projects, investigations, and a bit about themselves. The sites allow the students to catalog their educational journey and provide opportunities to

  1. Demonstrate mastery of content.
  2. Reflect on the process of learning.
  3. Develop 21st century skills – empathy, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.
A teacher can use Blogger to host a blog to his class and allows students to be guest bloggers to share their experiences. Teacher can also include the links to each of their student’s portfolios on the blog to connect them in one place. You can check out a blog “AP Bio Rockstars” that is an example of it.

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Have a look on smarter sensors to build robots

Friday, 7 December 2018

Build robots with smarter sensors

Insight Into Swimming Fish Could Lead to Robotics Advances
The constant movement of fish that seems random is actually precisely deployed to provide them at any moment with the best sensory feedback they need any to navigate the world, Johns Hopkins University researchers found.
The finding, published on November 29, 2018 in the journal Current Biology, enhances our understanding of active sensing behaviors performed by all animals including humans, such as whisking, touching and sniffing, and demonstrates how robots built with better sensors could interact with their environment smarter and more effectively.

“There’s a saying in biology that when the world is still you stop being able to sense it,” says senior author Noah Cowan, a mechanical engineer and roboticist at Johns Hopkins. “You have to actively move to perceive your world but what we found that wasn’t known before is that animals constantly regulate these movements to optimize sensory input.”

For humans, active sensing is when we feel around in the dark for the bathroom light switch, or when we bobble an object up and down in our hands to figure out how much it weighs. We do these things almost unconsciously, and scientists have known little about how and why we adjust our movements according the sensory feedback we get from them.

To answer the question, Cowan and his colleagues studied weakly electric fish, fish that generate a weak electric field that emanates around their body and helps them with communication and navigation. The team created an augmented reality for the fish so they could observe how a fish’s movements changed as their feedback from the environment changed.

Inside the tank, the fish hovered within a tube where they wiggled back and forth constantly to maintain a steady level of sensory input about their surroundings. First, the researchers changed the environment by moving the tube in a way that was synchronized with the fish’s movement, making it harder for the fish to extract the same amount of information. Next they made the tube move in the opposite direction of the fish, making it easier for the fish. In each case, the fish immediately increased or decreased their swimming to get the same information. They swam harder when the tube’s movement gave them less sensory feedback and they swam less when they could get could get more feedback from with less effort. The findings were even more pronounced in the dark when the fish had to lean more on their electro sense.

Because Cowan is a roboticist and most of the authors on this team are engineers, they hope the biological insight can be used to build robots with smarter sensors. Sensors are rarely a key part of robot design now but these findings made Cowan realize they perhaps should be.

“Surprisingly engineers don’t typically design systems to operate this way,” says Debojyoti Biswas, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins and the lead author. “Knowing more about how these tiny movements work might offer new design strategies for our smart devices to sense the world.”

This work was supported by James McDonnell Foundation Complex Systems Scholar Award grant 112836; Collaborative National Science Foundation Award, grants 1557895 and 1557858 and National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant 1460674.

Watch How a Fish Explore the World


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