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Monday, November 20, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Facilitators


Facilitator- Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students. Educators:

  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual learning environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and/or computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections. (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)
The idea of educators being seen as facilitators of learning is both freeing and frightening. This concept worries some people into thinking that technology will replace teachers. Some individuals feel that the role of a facilitator diminishes the value of the teacher but I strongly disagree. The role of the educator as a facilitator empowers the teacher in ways that are bigger than any individual classroom:
  1. If teachers create learning environments that allows for creativity and voice/choice then students start realizing that education isn't about test taking and being fed but it's about curiosity and constant improvement of ones knowledge base. Mindsets can be changed.
  2. Becoming a facilitator of learning puts the onus of education on the student. The long held notion of education has been that it is the teacher's responsibility for the learning (or lack of learning) taking place in the classroom. By facilitating learning through various forms of instructional delivery both personally and technologically, it becomes more apparent when a student isn't doing their part in the learning process. It also allows the teachers the ability to have "evidence" to support what they see as a lack of effort from students through the use of software that shows the amount of time students are actually putting into their learning. Being a facilitator in this regard actually teaches students how to study and learn based on feedback teachers are getting from well chosen technology platforms.
  3. Becoming a facilitator of learning allows for more relational opportunities in the student's educational career. Research shows us that investing in children personally increases test scores. Becoming a facilitator by embracing tech tools that streamlines some processes and allows educators more time to work with small group and one-on-one experiences with their students. Many fear being seen as facilitators because of being afraid artificial intelligence robots or well written algorithms will replace the role of the teacher. But humanity needs humanity. I am a firm believer that teachers that truly care, have goals for their students, and seek to both empower and mentor will make such a big difference as facilitators of learning. 
When I ask myself and others why I became an educator it mostly boils down wanting to make a difference in the lives of others and having a passion for learning. The role of educators as learning catalyst facilitators will empower me to become more than I have been able to be in lives of individual students. The question is, will we adjust to this remarkable opportunity and look for ways to leverage our educational landscape to create this type of role for our teachers or will we digitize what we know and not take advantage of more opportunities for relational connections with our students?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas Tech Toy List


 It is the time of year where children are targeted by every toy commercial that comes on. Children start adding toy after toy to their list only because they are being bombarded with messages against your will. But fear not, there are so many choices that parents and grandparents can make that are considered a TOY as well as EDUCATIONAL. Below is a list of potential gifts from my realm of education - STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). Toys can be fun and educational at the same time. 

Ozobots - Yes! Teach your child how to code a robot. Ozobots are a cost effective way to introduce coding to the physical world. While you don't have to have a device with BIT to make them work having an android or iOS device to download the app takes your opportunities with EVO to the next level. Check out Ozobots for children of any age! 



Dash and Dot - Wonder Workshop makes robotics durable and cost effective for even the youngest child. You will need a device to code with these cute little robots but the 3 app choices gives you opportunities for all age groups to have a little fun with robotics.  

Rocketbook - It's going to seem magical, you are going to say "no way!" but Rocketbooks are a way to digitally store your handwriting and artwork in a reusable notebook. Buy the Rocketbook Wave and when it is full, clear it by putting it in the microwave with a cup of water. Wipe down the Rocketbook Color. The options are endless and the front of your refrigerator will be free of clutter as you keep your keepsakes online!  

Legos - Yes Legos! Nothing new here but the opportunities are endless! Do you have a future architect or a budding engineer, buy that kid some Legos and let the creativity abound. Do you have girls, buy her LOTS of Legos- we need more women in STEAM jobs. Google "Lego Challenges", print off the cards and stand back!

Sign Up for Coding Accounts - There are so many options to teach your child more about coding. What's coding? You might know it as computer programming. The nice thing about this option is that you can use the computer you already have at your house and just create accounts for your child- many options are absolutely free! Check out Scratch, the coding website written by two MIT students. Let them work in code.org and see what they enjoy. Invest in what peeks their interest. There future is computer science. Prep your child now for their future!

Virtual Reality Headset What is virtual reality? VR allows personalized virtual reality opportunities from games to field trips as if you are there in what feels like a total immersive experience. The opportunities are growing every day. Let your child dissect a frog or look at a 3D heart model using something like the Merge Cube below. You can use a phone with the lower cost VR headsets like as Google Cardboard but there are also stand alone VR Headsets like Occulus Rift.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4Zt3JZejbg

Merge Cube - This is a virtual reality experience you can hold in your hand. It works with both android and iOS phones and gives you a very cost friendly virtual reality option. Play games or view 3D anatomy images. It is a soft spongey cube that won't break easily but gives insight into the future of learning. 

Kanu Computer Kit - Have a future IT person on your hands or an engineer? Let them put a computer together! Learn about the inner workings of a computer and create one by themselves. Is your child a tinker/builder? This is like Legos on steroids for that type of kid. Not only are they building but they are learning how computers work at the same time.

Snap Circuits Jr. - A wonderful cost effective way for children to learn about electricity and the basic properties of electronics. Snap Circuits Junior allows children to create while teaching them the concepts of circuits and how they are a part of things we use every day. 

Arduino Circuitry Kit - Take circuitry to the next level with older children and invest in Arduino kits. These kits include components they can manipulate to create models of all sorts of things. Your future electrical engineer will thank you for this gift!

As you consider the various gifts above, click on the names and it will take you to a link where they are available to be bought. I am not endorsing the companies I've linked to, just trying to give you an option to see costs and availability. What I love about each of these options is that it is more than just a toy. Some of them are training your child how to think logically, some of them will require a design thinking mindset, and some will just cause them to go "hmmm" and then question what they currently know and consider their futures.

As I have mentioned, some require the use of  computer or mobile device to make them work. Please hear me say that research shows that the best learning during computer gaming happens when parents participate with their children. Take 15-20 minutes out of your day a couple days a week and grow your students STEM skills for the future they are going to be living in. Learn with them! I certainly don't know how to do all the things listed here, and that is the beauty of these gift ideas...the possibilities are endless! 




Monday, November 13, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Designers


Designer- Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. Educators:

  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovate digital learning environments that engage and support learning.  (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)

In today's world, educators no longer have to be tied to a textbook as their source of information. By accessing the internet, teachers now have quick, great connections to information in both a curated and non-curated format. Resources such as open education resources (ck12.org) or a myriad of online information in free or paid form now allow teachers to add both depth and breadth to their teaching by designing opportunities for learning beyond the typical sit and get classroom. 

For instance, through the use of learning management systems teachers can create online classroom modules that allow for personalized learning. Teachers can assign different students different tasks and resources that best meet the individual needs. By creating robust digital learning environments teachers can put more of the onus of time and task onto the student and use their time more effectively in the classroom for small group or one-on-one instruction. 

This standard also sheds light on the concept of authentic activities for our students. As a Learning Catalyst Designer educators should be looking for opportunities to create inquiry-based, problem/project base learning opportunities for their students. Today's technology allows classrooms to have experiences that were not possible 2 decades ago. The ubiquitous nature of information creates ease of access and opportunity in a tech rich environment. Today's educator can design classroom experiences that taps into this information and allows for learner variability as well as voice in choice in their pathways of learning.