With the myriad responsibilities, anxieties, assessments, and learners teachers have to juggle, sometimes learning just one more tool can feel overwhelming. Obviously, my job is to put teachers at ease and to help them to see that the technology is just a different way to do a lot of the same things students already do. But that can be difficult to visualize.

Today, I had the opportunity to share with a group of passionate and dedicated 4-6 educators some ways to help engage learners using their Interactive White Boards. Our district has chosen to utilize Promethean boards, which offer a TON of great resources and lessons via their online community called Promethean Planet. Today, teachers created accounts, learned how to browse and refine resources, and then discussed ways these lessons could be used in class.

I always love listening to teachers share and generate ideas with one another. That’s why I love working with educators! We all have so much to share, even if we think what we do isn’t necessarily mindblowing or earth shattering. Spending time discussing ways to get kids up and involved in their learning is always beneficial.

Another tool I showcased for teachers was Kahoot – which is getting tons and tons of buzz in the educational world right now. Sometimes I think it’s helpful for teachers to see things from the kids’ points of view, so I had the teachers experience Kahoot from the student perspective first.

Some comments I heard:

  • “Wow, this is really fun!”
  • “I LIKE this!”
  • This was definitely worth it!”
  • “We’re going to use this this afternoon!”

As a presenter and instructor, who doesn’t love when their attendees feel like what you told them was helpful and worthwhile? But more than an ego boost, I like knowing that I have generated an excitement. How validating to know that I have worked to inject some enthusiasm back into something teachers do. As the teachers left, the principal remarked that she hadn’t heard so much excitement and energy after a training session in a long time.

It’s not just that Kahoot is fun – it is definitely that. But, beyond that, the tool (because that’s what’s really important here) WORKED THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO. Teachers were impressed with the ease of creating their own Kahoot. They liked that it involved EVERYONE in the class at the SAME TIME. Teachers remarked that they appreciated how it was fair – everyone had the same opportunity.

Before we left for the morning, I walked teachers through setting up an account and creating their first Kahoot. That felt like an important step for me, because I know for myself that I constantly learn about all these new tools but then never actually use them. Now that teachers have their own accounts, that’s one less barrier to them not using this in their classroom. We were even able to create a couple of questions for a quiz, so teachers could experience that as well.

Today sort of feels like when you have a great lesson with students. You feel validated and inspired to continue to work hard. You get a sense that what you’re doing matters.

Your Turn:

Have you ever had a lesson that turned out “just right”? 

How do you get the feeling that what you do matters? 

Community Connections – ENTH and the RDC

Yesterday, I had the opportunity work with 8th grade students who are in the midst of a project researching immigration in the United States. Rooted in the 8th grade Social Studies content standards, students work in small groups to research the reasons for immigrants to emigrate to America. In addition to looking at the reasons for the movement, students also analyze the cultural, political, economic, and social impacts that the immigrant groups experienced. They also look at ways immigrant groups impacted the United States’ politics, culture, society, and economy.

Later, students will take a look at a local organization, the Refugee Development Center. According to their website, “the Refugee Development Center was started in 2002 in an effort to provide the educational and social support refugees need to become self sufficient.” Since its beginnings, the RDC has grown tremendously, which speaks to both its need in the community and its ability to assist refugees. Part of the New Tech model that 7th and 8th grade students are engaged in at Everett New Tech High (ENTH) includes building connections to the community. Students had the opportunity to listen to a guest speaker from the RDC to learn a bit more about what the organization does. Many students attend school side by side with students from a variety of countries, so the connection is very real for them.

While the immigration to our country as a historical event is interesting and its impacts can be seen in our culture and society today, it is still somewhat distant and abstract. Learning about the difficulties and hardships that happened “back then” doesn’t always resonate with students today. By connecting the experiences of immigrants in the past to the experiences of refugees who come to Lansing and utilize the RDC, students will have a deeper understanding of the types of challenges immigrants experience when moving to a new place. As a way to support the work the RDC does, students will work on creating materials to help improve awareness of the RDC and its programs.

It is so inspiring and refreshing to see kids connected to their learning! There are so many awesome things happening in our local schools. I am excited to be a part of it, to support students, to work on harnessing technology’s powers to improve student achievement and to increase the awareness of what our brilliant students are doing.