Sharing Enthusiasm for Technology in Education


Effective Learning Using Internally Motivated Real-World Projects

Author: Mark Botelho Posted: 2017-06-06

Teaching students skills in a manner that allows them to create or follow an ambition should be the focus of curriculum. The benefits to having students create works regarding their learning outside the classroom is that it gives them motivation to improve, and the added benefit of promoting themselves to schools and employers. It establishes a habit of positive use of social media which often times is not the focus they take. Giving them a positive use of social media is a non-direct benefit. Having students create projects outside the school is difficult for some subjects and content areas, but when it is a possibility we should encourage students to try.

An example of self motivated real world projects done outside of the school influence was my middle school broadcasting class. This is a class in where students create news segments which are then combined into a weekly school news broadcast. This is not revolutionary in itself and many schools already have a news broadcasting show that combines many different skills from core classes. The difference with my course is that I promote the class as a real world skill and encourage students to create news segments outside of school. The goal is not to coerce them but to have them find their own ambition. This could be creating a YouTube channel, a blog site, or creating art work to display in a local café.

Another example of students taking what they learn and applying it to real world projects involves students of my web development course. One of the students, Jeong-Bin Yeo, was approached by a fellow student asking them if they could create a specialized mathematical calculator to find matching prime number pairs. The other student, Dhruba Jyoti Paul, created a Random Classroom Group Selector for teachers ( Additionally, the student offered professional development workshops to demonstrate the use of the program. Both of these examples exemplify students taking the skills and understanding of what was taught to them and creatively creating a real-world project without someone telling them to do it. 

To truly show the potential success of a student, we shouldn't be looking at a diploma or list of grades which are not a perfect measure of a students potential in the real world. A better measure would be to gauge a real world example of their abilities. These examples should be projects that are independent of external motivators to be valid, otherwise they are no better than a orthogonal transcript. 

As teachers we should continually be encouraging our student to do real world projects that are not made only for the sole purpose of displaying at school. Our job is to give them the skills needed to create and then let them step into the real world to try and share their works. It may be the case that nobody sees what they make, but at least they are on the path to authentic learning. 

Link: Link Reference.

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Using YouTube Content for Educational Fair Use Purposes

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2017-03-07

Link: Link Reference.

Best Practice for Technology Use in the Classroom

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2017-03-05

Having worked in education for the last couple of decades, I've observed many different teacher's solutions for managing classroom computer use and I've compiled them here to help other teachers. I consider these tips to be best practice as many teachers do these aspects already as part of their daily routine. Below are the tips that appear to work well for all age levels and environments.

  • Give Clear Instructions: Have established classroom rules about appropriate use. Don’t allow technology use without specific instructions to do so.
  • Check for Understandings: This keeps students on track with learning objectives, random or on scheduled interval is best use, walk around the classroom for 1 on 1 interactions.
  • Don’t rely on Technology “Silver Bullets”: such as remote management software, Students often finds ways to circumvent monitoring software, usually is buggy or has technical glitches, students go off track when teacher is distracted anyway, expensive.
  • Keep individual work to short time frames: you would never show a full movie when you only need to show a clip same is true with technology use. Use it where you will have the most impact then stop and interact with students.
  • Strategically setup classroom layout: for ease of monitoring for students who have a difficult time following computer expectations.
  • Plan digital resources beforehand: to keep students working towards a specific goal, don’t allow them to try and find age level resources on their own, give them starting points and/or keywords and phrase to seed their inquiry.
  • Have lesson extension ready: for those who finish early, typing practice, pre-determined educational games, virtual labs or field trips.
  • Be prepared to have a backup lesson or activity: technology often has problems and can cause a disruption when it doesn’t work. Having a site with online activities that students know how to use can be a life saver.
  • Make sure all resources are leveled correctly: especially the reading level. Help students by giving specific research instructions and seed their searches with sites or resources, teach them how to build on their search inquires to make them better as they progress through their projects.
Please feel free to add a comment with your suggestions to help teachers manage their classrooms. :)

Best Device for Students and Teachers; School-Wide Device Choice

Author: Posted: 2017-02-19

Bridging Devices

The best option for students and teachers in schools today is a device that is portable enough yet, powerful and functional in terms of getting work done. Today there are few devices that fit the bill, such as convertible laptops, traditional laptops, and to a lesser extent Chromebooks.

The beauty of a bridge device is that they incorporate multiple methods of input such as a touch interface, stylus, and a keyboard / trackpad. Typically, they are also lightweight. Having to carry around, or have available a few devices such as a table and a laptop or desktop, defeats the purpose of being mobile. Bridge devices have cameras, and can detach easily from their combo keyboard battery. In addition, they are powerful enough to take on any task or demanding video.

Soon we should all have a good selection of device to choose from that will free students to work anywhere anytime. By purchasing bridge devices schools can also save a good deal of funds by not having to buy multiple devices, allowing for funds to be allocated towards other needed devices for the classroom. Finally, both students and teachers can choose devices that fit their teaching and learning styles allowing for differentiated instruction in both directions.

Choosing a Multifunctional Bridging Device

As the famous television, Chef Alton Brown advocates concerning the purchase of cooking utensils, they must be multifunctional. As so must be computing devices. Their function and input methods should be flexible and multifunctional since not every teacher or student works the same way.

When initiating a device agnostic school environment, it is crucial that the teachers and students have access to device that add functionality. The goal is to teach content and skills, not to learn a specific device or operating system. Exposure to different software and devices helps students learn the intuitiveness across all systems. By implementing an agnostic school where students and teachers can use the devices they are already familiar with, there is less training needed, and the user will be comfortable and motivated to use their devices.

By using a variety of devices, students can extend their learning to outside school creating opportunity for real world connections with what they are learning as students can use web based programs across all devices which may be different in their homes.

We are doing a disservice to student and teachers by only using one type of device or platform. Technology rapidly changes and students should be learning on all devices and comparing and contrasting what they can do on their system with what their peers can do. 

Freedom of Choice & BYOD

One of the main arguments for the use of BYOD in schools is that all students get to use devices that they are comfortable using. This saves a great deal of time and effort, as faculty don’t have to teach the minutia of device use, which is a colossal waste of time. One major benefit to a device agnostic BYOD program is that schools don't have to pay for upkeep of devices that are bought and owned by the students.

The argument against BYOD that I hear in most schools is that students all need to use the same device. These same people argue it's hard to train students in the basic use of their devices if they all are different. This is a false argument, as teachers still must teach to different versions of software even if students all have the same device. Oftentimes if not always, software versions differ even on same devices due to minor device variations or outright user interface upgrades. How often students update their software determines whether all the devices are in sync. This almost never happens thereby forcing teachers to teach to different versions regardless.

Schools could force updates to maintain uniform operating systems and programs using specialized software, but that is a costly solution. Schools would balk if teachers requested new text books every year so why should electronic devices be any different? Devices typically needed upgrading every couple to few years depending on the upgrade cycle and forced upgrade path. The only company that guarantees backward compatibility is Microsoft. Allowing students to choose their own devices and to maintain them saves an incredible amount of resources. All major apps and software are platform agnostic, meaning they work on all systems. In addition, most functions today that are needed in schools have a web variant that will work on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Funds can be better spent on teacher training and other aspects of the school environment that won't need replacing every few years and require our needing to purchase support services and follow expensive upgrade cycles placed upon us at the whim of companies whose sole purpose is to sell us more devices!

Benefits for Agnostic Approach
•	Wide exposure to new innovations in Hardware & Software
•	No OS platform training needed for converts 
•	All systems need patching regularly; No expensive MDM needed!
•	Virus infection is "dead", Symantec has given up on making virus software; Biggest threat is mal/spyware which affects all operating systems
•	Most computer functions can be done online; even tablet apps are having web based interface
•	Good for content creation

Chromebook Invasion

In the United States Chromebooks, have surpassed both Apple and Microsoft as the first choice for student use. Chromebooks are very in-expensive. They are essentially a tablet without the touch screen, but without the high cost. They use Google's Chrome browser as their operating system. They are light, have a keyboard, camera, and have a long battery life. They are ideal for students in a school that uses Google Apps environment, or primarily use online tools. They can only do what can be done in a web browser. So, movie making is out, unless a subscription to a movie making online site is purchased.

Limiting a student or a teacher’s choice to a one brand or device in today’s web centric world only limits the ability to use different teaching and learning styles and methods. By mandating only, the use of one particular device, essentially is tying the hands of both teachers and students by limiting them which is the exact opposite of differentiated instruction. 

By allowing a more open system environment in schools, the learning community will be able to adapt more quickly and easily to changes in the ever-changing world of technology innovations. Using the students as a source of potential new programs and devices will only help create a more dynamic learning environment. By encouraging a device agnostic environment is the best option for schools when looking to create an effective learning environment.

Google Web Store for Education Apps

Author: Mark Page Posted: 2017-01-09

Finding useful applications to enhance student learning can oftentimes be a time consuming endeavor. There are many details that a teacher needs to take into consideration before choosing a program to use in the classroom ranging from cost, platform, age appropriateness, and its usefulness rating. Finding a one stop place to search for learning applications is now a much easier task now that Google has a well established web application store that allows teachers to confidently find applications.

The Web Store is accessible to all devices regardless to platform, which allows teachers to extend the learning environment outside the classroom. The majority of applications are free, and many integrate Google Drive for easy access to school services such as storage and sharing. Using the built in search filter is easy enough to use by selecting “education” category. Finally by using the user rating system teachers can find applications that are tried and true. 

Taking a few minutes to explore the Web Store is sure to be an enlightening experience and will give an idea of what is possible using web applications for learning in the classroom.

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