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Empowering Educators for 21st Century Teaching & Learning

Urban EDU Coach

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Posted on June 23, 2013 at 3:19 AM Comments comments (58)
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21st Century Learning & Thinking Revolution

Posted on June 1, 2013 at 9:36 PM Comments comments (40)
The computer age has gone through a liberation of sorts. Information is acquired in real- time, it is accessible right now, and users decide whether or not the information acquired is relevant. Moreover, the 21st Century brought with it revolutionized teaching and learning. People interact differently in the 21st century than we did in previous centuries. Computer users have transformed into active media consumers who no longer passively consume information. In the past we were merely consumers of news. We were given news from newspapers, radio and television. Citizens were generally not part of deciding what was newsworthy nor did we play any part in reporting the news. There was no democratic process, we didn’t get to vote on it, we didn’t get to say what was news worthy, and unless you were on the scene and chosen to speak by the reporter who was also on the scene, citizens had nothing to say about news choices. Our opinions didn’t matter and what we knew about an incident didn’t matter. However, the news media has been democratized. Social networking has changed the way we get the news and it has changed the way news is reported to the public. Media is simply not traditional anymore. Web 2.0 has proven valuable for communicating and sharing up to the minute news.

Do you remember the earthquake that destroyed Haiti in 2010? The earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake with an epicenter (the point on the earth’s surface that is directly above the hypocenter of focus, the point where an earthquake or underground explosion orginates) near the town of Léogâne (Ouest Department), approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au- Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.

I remember it well. Not because I was there but because at the time, I was on Facebook tinkering and chatting with a friend who had recently moved to New Jersey. Tina asked me about the welfare of mutual friends including, Elice my Haitian buddy.

Up to the Minute News. Social Media, Access to the World. It’s a Whole Lot More Than Mere & Idle Chatter!
Social Networking gives us access to others all over the world with whom we would never be able to reach. President Obama utilized social media in the 2008 election. A Facebook post instigated the recent revolution in Egypt. A blog post impacted the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States early in 2012.
It felt as if Tina asked about Elice at the very moment I saw the first stream of post coming through my feed from “a friend of a FB friend” who was an actual friend of my good friend Elice. Can you follow that stream of “friends”? This is what social networking does for us; it gives you access to people all over the world to whom we never had access to in the past. This “friend of a FB friend of Elice’s actual friend of a good friend Elice’s “ lived Miami at the time. I befriended him on FB after my return from a trip to Haiti two years before the earthquake.

Did you understand my connection? Now let me tell you about my good friend who was born and raised in Haiti. She came to America in 1976. She had a death in her family in 2008 and asked me if I would make the journey home with her because she hadn’t been home in 20 years. Being a close friend, she thought I would bring her a level of comfort and prevent her nervousness about the trip and since she agreed to help with some of expenses related to the trip, I jumped at the chance to visit another country. Elice and I moved quickly to get our passports in order. Her brother met us at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Elice’s family and friends in New York as well as the 4 cities we visited in Haiti treated me like the royalty I should have been. When her brother’s neighbor found out that my maiden name was Boisseau, he shrieked in slow and broken English, “Welcome Home Meechelle Boisseau there are many Boisseau’s in our country, no your country. You have returned home!” I felt a connection to Haiti so when I saw the first message about the earthquake in my stream I felt a panicked like “my family was in trouble.”

The streams of posts from Haitian American friends were coming and they werecoming quick and fast, suddenly I began to get friend requests from other Haitian Americans who saw my posts in their feeds, likes, and comments. I also sent friend requests to other Haitians who were “friends of my friends” so I could read more of news of deaths, people dug out of caved homes, pictures of utter devastation, videos of total chaos, and shouts of those in pain and need. People were sending pictures they either took first hand of victims or pictures they got from other friends of friends and family on the ground. Some streams were in French and I couldn’t read them but the pictures were universal. Images have no language. The suffering and turmoil was evident so I reposted them. People were asking if anyone had seen their children, their mother, and their friends.

Social Networking - Real Time, Right Now & Relevant News
People were asking if anyone had contacted the Haitian Consulate her in Evanston.
Events began to be posted where people were gathering in Chicago as well as other cities for information, to raise funds, and to collect medical supplies, food and water. We went to several events to do my part because “my family” was in trouble. I convinced my own sisters and brother, their husbands, my sister- in-law, and our children here in Chicago to help. We banned together and organized a gospel concert to raise what we could to send to Haiti. We found several Haitian organizations on Facebook to send the items we collected and the money we raised. I asked a small church where I attended to start collecting medical supplies, food, clothing, and other items I saw on Facebook that was needed. We contacted the Haitian Consulate they picked up our stuff and shipped with others immediately.

We asked students at the school where I worked at the time to get involved in the giving. We got my daughter who lived in California the time involved. She added interviews from Haitian American Citizens to her video blog. We were involved, highly, actively, and aggressively! We were connected. We got more information for Elice and her family from FB than we did from the news, and it felt good to help. Elice’s family in New York and Chicago, not FB savvy, called Elice several times a day to ask her to ask me to check Facebook to get updates as they could not reach the family they needed to reach by phone. It was Facebook that engaged us in the earthquake as if we were on the ground in its midst.

Elice camped out at my house a few days so that she could read my stream of feeds on Facebook. I taught her how to chat, respond to posts and send messages. I taught her how to “get the news” she desperately sought about family members and her country. When she stayed over she sometimes stayed up all night reading and posting while on three way calling with her brothers in Chicago and New York. The news was posted in real time. It was right now and it was certainly relevant. I investigated my family tree because I wanted to be forever connected with these people with a fortitude that is admirable and found the connections I sought. It was an amazingly unbelievable and valuable experience greatly impacted by social media, specifically, Facebook, a Web 2.0 tool!

Social Networking in the Classroom is Here to Stay
Elice and her brothers have since gotten the Internet in their homes and are on Facebook communicating with their family and friends whom in the past, they hadn’t communicated with in over 20 years; whereas prior to the 2010 earthquake they saw little need for the internet and Facebook especially. They are sharing their children’s wedding pictures and graduation videos, and even unassuming things like recipes and bible verses. They are experiencing their family in ways they were not able to before. By and large, the enormous social feat is a match for advances made during the infamous industrial revolution, from 1750 to 1850, especially for families like Elice’s. Like the industrial revolution social networking highly impacts change in families, in communities, and even in education. This social networking revolution has spread throughout the world and it is not going anywhere. We are experiencing an era that will be recorded in history as a major turning point in the socialization of people worldwide and an era that has made an impact on daily life in so many ways for so many people. For us, living in this day and in this time, social networking is as sustainable as the publication of the 1st Chicago Tribune in 1847.

The 21st century brought with it innovation that is matched to the invention of the celebrated electricity as well as the development of the legendary telecommunications. However, there are teachers whose teaching strategies are stuck in the 20th Century, most due to a lack of information and sheer fear. To far too many teachers cell phone in the classroom is often a dirty word. Schools are still creating elaborate systems for having students check in cell phones each morning only to have to take valuable time in returning these cells phones.

Most of these phones they require students check in are connected to the Internet and with a system of teaching students cell phone etiquette, these phones can be used in classrooms, especially where technology is limited or not available at all. I find this amazing and backward. If students can learn to solve complicated mathematical formulas and read complex text, they can learn the things to do or not to do on a cell phone in a classroom. Teachers can collaborate and discuss beneficial ways to use the cell phones students already have to involve them in “The New 3 R’s: Real Time, Right Now, and RelevantTM” learning, and instruction that highly involves them so that they want to absorb information. The New 3 R’s: Real Time, Right Now, and Relevant instruction is appealing, engaging, participatory, involving, evolving, inclusive, collaborative, and exciting.

The sad thing about it is that social media is not away. It is here to stay. It is changing lives and transforming societies not just in the United States but also throughout the entire world. Teachers in Singapore are partnering with the countries Ministry of Education get Web 2.0 Tools for the classroom. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and social computing are impacting classrooms all over Europe and have been since 2008. Students in South Africa and Asia are blogging. The use of Web 2.0 technologies is sweeping America like word of the first telegraph. In order to prepare our students to be global thinkers and learn to think outside of the box in which they live, we need to include Web 2.0 tools in more classrooms, especially in urban and rural areas where resources are limited.

Be Converted

Posted on June 1, 2013 at 9:17 PM Comments comments (328)
     Despite the accolades Web 2.0 technology is getting from innovative educators, there are a numerous number of teachers who don’t used Web 2.0 tools in the classroom yet. Because social networking sites require a personal profile to sign up, educators are fearful. Some don’t want to old friends or fraudulent family members to contact them. Others don’t want to be tracked by debt collectors. Some educators are fearful that because of the many budget cuts more technology in the classroom, it is simply too costly and not in the budget. Others fear they don’t write well enough so they fear blogging. While others fear being involved in controversy that may cost them their job. “I don’t want my business in the streets”, this is a very common reason. One educator I talked to said she didn’t like her work or her name being included in a particular stream during a Google search. Another teacher is afraid of being sued for using Google images. Yet another educator fears someone else stealing his work. Believe it or not, others are just simply resistant to change. Either way the result is fear of social media; fear to embrace new technologies that could engage their students in new learning.

Fear Cripples Even Teachers
     Why the resistance? Whatever the reasons, it seems fear keeps teachers from embracing technology in the classroom. When I suggested using Blogging, Podcasts and other Web 2.0 tools to one of my colleagues, I was told. “I don’t want to be replaced by a computer, and I don’t see what’s wrong with what I have been doing. I’ve been teaching this way for years. “
     The world is changing. Most Web 2.0 tools are simple to use while others may not be as simple. Nonetheless,   whether simple or not, this change is inevitable for classrooms. It has to be since today’s students are digital natives. Informal surveys of students report that they used more technology and Web 2.0 tools outside of the classroom that they do inside. 
     When I asked 10 teachers if they thought students needed to learn to use more technology, they all agreed. However, when I asked if they used it in his or her classroom, 8 out of the 10 said no. Of the 10 educators informally surveyed, half were college instructors and half were high school teachers. I asked the college instructors to what extend they at least used various features of Blackboard or other course management tools. They said they only uploaded their syllabi but that was only because their campuses required it. “My students need to learn to write first. They need the basic. We don’t have time to be on those computers, plus my class is not scheduled in a lab anyway.” My next question was; could you reserve a computer lab? The answer, “I don’t have time for the red tape involved.”

Your students will love you for it.
     Each high school teacher voiced their strong concern about students using cell phones in theclassroom. Their greatest fear was that they would use Facebook or Twitter to socialize or text friends for the same reason. Neither of them thought creating plans to teach appropriate use was feasible. They just didn’t want to deal with it. “No way, I don’t want the responsibility”, said one high school educator.
     What will we do? Will students have to become 21st century “digital civil rights workers” organizing protests and sit-ins, to get their needs met? I challenge you to take your own survey. How many educators around you are using technology, outside of Microsoft Office in the classroom? A formal survey described in the Technology section of LA Times (December 8, 2011), confirms that most students use more technology outside of class than they are required to use it during classes. The news survey also reports that “while 73% of teachers say digital content is essential, only 11% of districts are using it according to a survey of IT professionals.”

21st Century Learning Leverages Technology to Empower Students
     Taking this information in account, do you think students are being prepared to function successfully in the world of work? Remember now, more companies are digitalizing their work for better efficiency and to keep up with the competition. Where does that leave our students when it comes to seeking gainful employment? Where does it leave them as they seek to compete in aggressive colleges and universities?

Don’t Be Afraid…,Just Click on it!
     Fear is a normal physical or emotional response to risk, chance, trauma, or danger. We have feelings of fear so that we can protect ourselves from legitimate threat. However, we often have “feelings” of fear for reasons that are far from being life threatening. One can feel fear because of previous bad experiences. It is common knowledge that the best way to quell fear of any kind is to face the personal demons to move beyond the fear. 

These are 3 tops for ridding oneself of social media fear.

1. Just Tinker. Schedule time to tinker, explore, and experiment one site at a time. Start a blog of your own. Embrace it and understand the process. As always, practice makes perfect.
2. Communicate with other instructors. “Friend” others on the sites. Post, ask questions and share information. People usually love sharing. After all, sharing is the point right.?
3. Educated yourself. Take a webinar, take to colleagues during professional learning community times at your school. Talk to other teachers you know. You’d be surprised at who you already know who uses Web 2.0 technologies already. Read educational blogs. Educator are blogging about 2.0 all the time.

Once You Try Web 2.0 Tools You Won’t Go Back
     There is good news. Just as all fears can be overcome by facing, fear of social media can be overcome merely by practicing. Slowly become an expert one site or one App at a time. Take your time to explore and experiment. Web 2.0 technologies are user friendly and convenient.
     Beware, though, of changes that could happen any day. Sometimes developers warn users of changes, other times they don’t. Understand that change is part of the process and embrace it. If there is a change you really can’t live with try this. Don’t be afraid of controversy. Send a message to support and voice your opinion about the change. Post your opinion for others who use the site to see as well. You never know how many other people also feel the same way. When developers’ see that a great number of their users object, they will most often adjust the change for easy use. They want you to use their tool, they don’t want you to take down your profile. Do it slowly, but do it!

Suspension, expulsion or restorative

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 11:48 PM Comments comments (191)
In many urban schools there is a concern for customary and habitual suspensions and expulsions.  These practices are largely driven by the over-representation of minority demographics.  Minority students make up a large portion of the population of students who are suspended or expelled from school.  An alarming fact is that  African American boys make up 23%% of the CPS's student population yet  76% of this  student population are expelled from CPS schools. Also important is emerging research that indicates that these consequences, suspension and expulsion, are not likely to change the inappropriate behavior of the students involved, nor do they serve to deter other students from engaging in the same behaviors. Instead, these consequences make the suspended student’s academic progress more difficult and they may increase the likelihood of the student dropping out of school or having other negative life outcomes.

As a result, educational leaders are beginning to examine our school discipline policies with an eye for making them both more effective and less reliant on traditional exclusionary consequences. Employing restorative practices into school wide behavior management plans may help us to better serve students with behavior challenges. The typical behavior triangle illustrates the kinds of actions that have been built into our schools’ formal disciplinary codes of conduct as part of an array of preventions, interventions, and consequences for inappropriate behavior.  The implementation of restorative practices in schools has at least some research demonstrating positive behavioral-change outcomes for students and the research is growing.   When schools implement restorative practices they boost the opportunity to maintain or re-engage students in school rather than pushing them out.

To make these alternative options work as prevention or as a disciplinary consequence, some “prerequisites” may also be needed. A school climate supportive of positive behavior, efforts to build positive interactions, appropriate instruction, and ongoing close supervision may prevent behavior problems from growing to crisis proportions and requiring disciplinary consequences. Here are several examples of programs that support the previous alternatives to suspension:

  • Creating a restorative and caring school community and climate. Programs that attend to patterns of good communication and problem solving, having clear patterns of authority and decision making, procedures for developing and implementing rules, helping students feel they belong and are welcome, good curriculum and instructional practices, and having a clean and positive physical environment.
  • Efforts to build adult-student relationships. Programs offering opportunities for students to develop individual relationships with staff.
  • Increased parent involvement and engagement. Programs that involve a variety of parents and community members in functions and activities within the school, and maintain communication about their children.
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) , character education and consistent school values. School curriculum and organization features that promote the development of fundamental values in children. Typically these list desirable goals for student behavior.
  • Early identification and intervention. Programs that permit systematic screening of students for potential behavior problems, and which provide interventions for the students identified as at “risk.”
  • Mediation programs. Programs that teach students about non-violent conflict resolution and allow students to use and experience these in school. Peer-jury and mediation is one example.
  • Bullying prevention and intervention. Programs that teach students about bullying behaviors and how they can be reported to teachers. Specific interventions are created for both bullies and victims.
  • Conflict de-escalation training. Programs that teach staff and students to recognize and to disengage from escalating conflict.
  • School-wide discipline program. Programs that develop a common terminology and consistent approach to discipline across school staff. Responsibilities of students and staff are identified, consistency in rule enforcement is increased, and consequences are identified for positive and negative behaviors occurring anywhere in school.
  • Positive office referrals and recognition. Programs that “catch students being good” and identify, reward, and celebrate individual students for appropriate behavior (e.g., attendance, being on-time, improving grades, meeting behavior goals).

Each of these “prerequisites” is also supported by a body of research that indicates positive, promising effects on student behavior in school. If they are to be effective, these “foundations” must be implemented in such a way as to become a normal part of that school’s culture. They enable the “disciplinary alternatives” of restorative practices to be effective by providing the context and skills for appropriate behavior. They will permit a substantial reduction in the use of suspension and expulsion as disciplinary options; have the side effect of decreasing staff stress related to behavior, and increases academic achievement for all students. They will also provide a way to reduce the involvement of students with emotional or behavioral disorders in the problems associated with suspension and expulsion.

Urban schools should be cracking down on students with discipline problems by implementing restorative practices that will decrease out of school suspensions and expulsion that do more harm than good. An alternative to suspension plan is rooted in the development of sound restorative justice practices, prevention of constant inappropriate behavior and intervention that transforms behavior when necessary.  The suspension or expulsion of students with emotional and/or behavioral challenges due to the societal ills, which plague them, has been problematic and controversial.  Restorative practices should be a constant source of training and collaboration among school leadership teams and their staffs.  Many urban education leaders are rightfully concerned about the numbers of students who are being suspended or expelled for their inappropriate behavior.  Yet very little is being done to change the behavior.

Johnny can't read, still

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 11:17 PM Comments comments (25)
Over the years we have spent too much time talking about the problem. We have raised valid issues regarding the fact that many students can't read. We have talked about why they can't read. Entire school districts have bought expensive programs and materials that were supposed be the answer. 

In 1964, John Holt became a prominent educator when he pointed the finger at the system because "Johnny" could read. He wrote a book called, "How Children Fail" detailing reasons why our kids fail. Then he tried to answer the question in which he posed, "Why can't Johnny Read". He toured the country being invited to talk shows, universities, churches, talk shows, and game shows. Finally, he decided that the system was what was the powers that be wanted it to be, so he wrote a third book called, Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, whose conclusion called for a "Children's Underground Railroad" to help children escape compulsory schooling. 

His quest began in 1964 and ended in 1976 when he began a newsletter for parents who wanted to teach their children at home. Thus, began the contemporary home school movement. In 1976, he published Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, whose conclusion called for a "Children's Underground Railroad" to help children escape compulsory schooling. 

Today, 1 in 4 American children still can't read.  That means that 6 out of every 24 high school students can't read.  They are not literate and cannot function adequately in society.  It is 2013. How many years ago since 1964, when educator John Holt first began his screaming and hollering? By 1979 he was burnt.  He then made his life simple and  learned to do something he wanted to do all his life, play the cello.  Still wanting to write, he wrote a book about it called, Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story.  He died in obscuring in 1985 still, advocating for the education of the young people in American, especially the poor ones, realizing that, the system is what the system wants the system to be.  

Illiteracy is passed down from parents who can neither read nor write; it is learned.  More than 80%  of juveniles who are  in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.  This proves that illiteracy and crime are closely linked.   Teenage girls between the ages 16 to 19 who  have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to get pregnant than girls their age who can read proficiently.  75% of Americans who receive food stamps are not proficient in reading and literacy while at the same time, 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare.

Consequently,  in 2013, Johnny still can't read. Now we have several more  problems. In addition to the fact that many adolescent youths still can’t read, in almost every classroom there are 6-7 students in middle school and high school who are not literate.  According to Common Core State Standards,  every K-12 teacher is now a Reading instructor, even those who teach Math. The purpose is to create an army of reading specialists to attack the literacy problem that haunts our students and prohibits them from being successful. Most teachers don’t know how to teach reading. They haven’t been given the tools they need.

I won't mention names, but an urban High School  in an urban district  has 300+ seniors in the class of 2013.   Only 56 students out of the 300 are eligible for graduation.  To add insult to injury, the school administration are allowing those 56 students who are eligible for graduation to put on a cap and gown to walk across that stage to receive a diploma, 20 tickets so that the audience is filled and the school looks good.  This is an atrocity!

Schools in urban areas are closing in droves because of funding cuts.  Children who attend these schools are being sent to schools out of their districts.  Kids are being forced to cross gang turfs putting them in danger.  So then, what do we do to fix the problem?  What is the solution?   Urban Edu Coach has one solution;  Every Teacher is Reading Teacher Literacy Series.  We travel to where you are,  upon request.  Consider us for your professional development needs.  

We have a problem

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 1:51 PM Comments comments (22)
What's tweeting in education today? Listen up educators. Get those students online NOW! 

I have been in education for over 27 years and I have experienced first hand that the American education system has an amazing resistance to innovation.  Approximately 100 years ago Thomas Edison once said, "Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools...our school system will be completely changed inside of ten years." However because of a deep resistance from administration as well as teachers the classroom experience hasn't changed much at all for contemporary students.  .

What's wrong America? Malaysia Goes Google.  This month, May 2013, Malaysia has announced it is adopting Google Apps for 10 million students, teachers and parents, and deploying Chromebooks to primary and secondary schools nationwide.  American schools aren't leading in education because we won't get with the program.  Technology is here to stay.  It is not going anyway.  Why the resistance, still?  

The education system operates under the antiquated needs of an agrarian and industrial America when students were off in the summer and in school for short hours during the day to allow kids to work on their family's farms.  Why still the same system?  

Advances in information technology have revolutionized how people communicate and learn in nearly every aspect of modern life except for education, except guess what? Yep, you guessed it EDUCATION.  But check this out!  Mostly in America.

American schools, especially in urban and rural areas has not been transformed by technology  because the people who govern education  and teachers with little to no technology skills say technology is a distraction.

I wonder, why don't urban schools have enough computers or ipads for all students, or at least 50 % of them? Why is there only one computer lab in most schools with less than 25 computers in the lab? While there are hundreds of students in the building?

The American education system is a system of compliance rather than a system that encourages curiosity leaving many children behind.  We are too concerned with paperwork and red tape that we neglect the learning of many of students   They are falling through the cracks in droves.  American students are only number one in confidence; not math or science or reading.  What's wrong with that?  What does that say about us?

Social media is here to stay and educators simply need to step up to the plate.  According to Sandrine Rastello & Jeanna Smialek in their article  Cybersecurity Starts in High School with Tomorrow’s Hires, says that student with technological skills are being hired as interns as young as 16 by both private and governmental agencies. 
“I cannot hire enough cybersecurity professionals, I can’t find them, they’re not qualified,” said Ryan Walters, who founded mobile data security company TerraWi Inc  in 2009.  

Additionally, according to the article, " President Barack Obama  describes the threat as one of the nation’s most serious perils, while the  Department of Defense   has said the Chinese military has targeted government computers. With few specialists trained to respond to evolving attacks and most universities still adjusting to requirements, demand is overwhelming supply."  

This is where the job opening are, in technology.  Yet, how many students are fully engaged in technoloyg in American classrooms?  Better yet, how many are even 25% engaged?  Moreover, statistics say there are 5-6 students in every urban classroom who still can't read.  These are high school classrooms.   We clearly have a problem!  What are your thoughts?

Digital literacy heightens student achievement

Posted on April 28, 2013 at 8:22 PM Comments comments (53)
Unbelievably, in the year 2013, there are many schools in urban and rural areas without adequate technology in the classroom. On the other hand, there are schools that spend a great deal of funding making sure schools have the latest technology for student use. Can you believe there are schools that have this equipment tucked away and locked up? In many cases, school officials fear students will “get hooked” on technology, be distracted by it, or be overwhelmed by it.In other cases, the teachers in charge of these students lack the 21st century skills necessary to incorporate technology into lesson plans. Teachers still give paper tests. They still require students “do” poster board projects. They still have students submit writing using paper and pen. 

Others still have tons of journals and notebooks on the table by their desks trying to get to them for reading and grading.What are student outcomes when technology is incorporated in the classroom?Disappointingly, many educators don’t recognize that students already have the essential digital skills required to utilize technology efficiently in the classroom. Educators take this fact for granted and miss out on opportunities to ignite teaching and learning successfully.21st century teaching and learning requires teacher to ensure all students have transformed from basic computer skills to conducting an effective Internet research. Research says, it’s time for educators to use technology in the classroom in order to get the measurable gains in academic subjects we seek.Educators who incorporate technology in lessons and project enable students to use Web 2.0 tools to analyze information, evaluate information, explore, draw conclusions, test theories, and acquire knowledge.

On the other hand, many forward thinking educators recognize the importance of digital skills to today's learners. These educators see the role of digital skills in raising achievement in reading and math as well as all other content areas.There are new Web 2.0 tools being developed and refined every day. They are made available to help prepare students for the next generation of research, assessments, and acquisition of knowledge, heightening student achievement.

10 tips for incorporating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom

Posted on April 21, 2013 at 1:57 PM Comments comments (36)

1. Incorporate Web2.0 tools at any level in your lesson planning.

2. Overlapping resources at different levels of learning is normal.

3. Integrate Web 2.0 tools according the relevance they have to your lesson or project.

4. Ensure the Web 2.0 tools support your intended student outcomes.

5. Reuse tools students like but don’t be afraid to try new ones.

6. Enhance differentiation by providing students a choice of topics and artifacts.

7. Rid yourself of fear many educators have of technology and have fun.

8. Avoid testing more than 1 or 2 tools at a time; you don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your students.

9. Be consistent.

10. Learn to troubleshoot your favorite sites one at a time.

Reprinted from my Chicago Urban Examiner, April 11, 20103

21st century differentiated instruction

Posted on March 23, 2013 at 10:22 PM Comments comments (34)
Reprinted from the Chicago Urban Examiner.

FEBRUARY 23, 2013

 What is differentiated instruction for the Digital Age? This educational philosophy says that a teacher should provide students with diverse content, assorted processes, allowing for student to create variant products and artifacts as a result of every lesson.It says that no two learners are alike and to differentiate instruction means to vary the learning environment in recognition of variances in students’ readiness, prior knowledge, backgrounds, partialities, interests, experiences, and learning styles.Utilizing Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom is the ultimate differentiation instructional philosophy. It is based on the idea that no one student is alike. All the guidelines for differentiation are embodied into Web 2.0 classrooms at the mere touch of a key on the computer. 

Web 2.0 not only makes differentiation possible, the technologies make differentiation easier than ever.In the past, differentiated instruction has not necessarily been easy for teachers. Web 2.0 technologies play an important part in verifying effectually grouping of students for instruction, to successful develop classroom management procedures, and identify engaged learners.Web 2.0 tools in the classroom is about students changing the way they use social networking to acquire knowledge by engaging in thought-provoking exploration, information storage in a multiplicity of locations, and forming collaborations to share useful information with others world-wide. 

As 2013 fast approaches, many schools not only collect cell phones as mention previously, but they are still blocking social networking sites as they did in 1999.School districts who have moved into 21st Century learning are instead having collaborative discussion during professional learning community sessions. They are creating strategies, changing policy, organizing professional development, and promoting the use of social media to involve students in making positive global connections. Teachers, worldwide, are engaging themselves with Web 2.0 technologies so they can immerse their students into deeper involved learning experiences.

What is the real reason why all classrooms, especially those in urban and rural areas have not forged into 21st century teaching and learning? Why can’t students opt to either write in an online journal or digitalize their notes?Why aren’t more teachers digitizing teaching strategies for more effective differentiated instruction that meets student needs, and appeals to the new digital learners sitting in front of them every school day who ready to be engaged in active learning using the technology readily available and most often free?What teachers say about Web 2.0 Technologies in the classroom…

• Highly engages students
• Lessens the digital divide
• Improves students’ communication skills
• Maximizes students’ understand of content
• Increases student academic achievement
• Minimizes teacher workload
• Advantageous for helping teachers maximize class time
• Decreases prep time
• Makes learning fun for students
• Easily differentiates instruction
• Web 2.0 technologies makes my students love my teaching even more!

Should teaching evolve as technology does?
Using social media supports instruction that is appealing, engaging, participatory, involving, evolving, inclusive, collaborative, and exciting.

The old software are the new apps.

Apps are web-based software replacements created to be available for users from the browsers. Without sophisticated software installations, photos can be cropped, document created, files stored, podcasts recorded, videos created, and slide shoes can be shared.  Web-based Applications are generally user friendly and easy to use. They don’t require normally special training or knowledge.

What is Blended Learning?

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 9:01 AM Comments comments (31)
First published in my Urban Education column at on January 31, 2013.  

Many teachers who teach in urban settings complain that students are unmotivated and they don't know what to do. Learners who act out have in many cases simply become disinterested in school for various reasons. One of the main reasons is that they have been disengaged in learning so often that they have lost interest. Absenteeism is a main cause of disengagement. Learners who are absent too often miss important information and get behind so they lose interest. 

 The acting out and unmotivated learner misbehaves in order to cover up the fact the he or she doesn't understand and they don't want anyone, including the teacher, to know that they don't know. Blended learning is a 21st Century tool which allows teachers to differentiate instruction is a way that each learner is engaged in what he needs to learn, and nobody else in the class knows what that something is except the teacher and him. This allow students who have been absent and missed important information and necessary instruction to catch up at their own pace. 

 What is Blended Learning? Blended learning is an innovative combination of direct face-to-face instruction coupled with online learning. It may also be called hybrid learning or mixed mode instruction. It allows teachers to mix different learning environments, allowing for student need. This computer mediated method of instruction approaches teaching and learning in more integrated manner. Blended learning comes in many forms. There are many programs such as Achieve 3000, MyReadingLab, MyWritingLab, and others that can be used to engage students in differentiated online activities. In the past, technology-based program such as Aventa, Apex, and K12 acted as the star of the classroom with very little face to face instruction. 

 The programs can become quite costly. Additionally, in many cases, there was an tutor or instructional mentor in the classroom guiding students while the actual teacher was someplace on the other side of world. Students only had access to the actual teacher via the internet. Though this works for students who are on level and on target for leaning, districts are finding that this approach is not as effective for the unmotivated learner. The unmotivated learner and in fact great benefit from online activities and online instruction, they need a teacher in their faces every day. They need this teacher to encourage them and facilitate learning in their behalf. Thus, there are many approaches to blended learning. 

 Blended learning has many shapes and forms. Entire districts or individual teachers involve students in many different ways. There is no definitive outline or format. In some cases learners involvement in technology is highly structured and while in other cases it is not. At the same time, in some teachers rely highly on computers and other hand held technologies and in other cases, the teacher can only get a computer one day a week, or even one hour each week. Either case provides teaching and learning for the blended learning model of instruction. Whether we want to accept it or not, blended learning is the future of education

 However, there is often a reason for concern in low socio-economic areas where a digital divide still heavily exists. Real funding barriers exists in many urban and rural areas. Despite the fact that technology is becoming less expensive, in some areas the digital divide has not narrowed. Urban schools still face the challenge of the lack of necessary resources to provide technology for all students. These facts are real and relevant. Districts and administrators are encouraged to give attention to the need for more technology in all classrooms. It is 2013, why don't all classrooms have enough technology for all students? Not withstanding, this is where free Web 2.0 technologies and hand held devices including cell phones come into play. Teachers are now being trained to use Web 2.0 technologies to engage unmotivated learners in the classroom. In this case, technology and the teacher are the co-stars of the show. 

 The teacher plans for instruction as usual. He or she then incorporates one or more free Web 2.0 technologies into the lesson plan to engage students in the learning process and support the learning he expects to take place as a result of his lesson. Both teachers and students alike benefit in significant ways from the use of Blended Learning, the approach offers unequaled advantages. Teachers are better able to differentiated instruction than otherwise available in the traditional environment, in a more effective way. Students who are either behind or advanced are afforded opportunities to work at their own pace. A teacher is better able to support student individualized need without pulling her hair out. 

 Students can access lessons and activities anywhere and anytime, making it perfect for students with high absentee rates. Teachers are better able to connect Blooms Taxonomy, multiple intelligence instruction and meet the needs of her student's various learning styles. Finally, when students are engaged in a Blended Learning environment they become better equipped with critical thinking and trouble shooting skills necessary in the world of work that awaits them.