Friday, February 15, 2013

ISU CI 426: My thoughts for future teachers

Last night I had the opportunity to be part of a panel that spoke to the Iowa State CI 426 class (principles of secondary ed). I have done this for several years now and definitely enjoy getting into the classroom in that capacity. After some early questions to the panel we broke into content groups and I had the opportunity to speak with about 20 history/social studies majors. I wanted to share some of what came out of our conversations.

*I cannot overstate the importance of Twitter in my educational world. Before I got there I sent out a tweet asking what future teachers NEED to know that I should share with the group. I got several responses from all over the country, but more than the messages, the students were impressed with the real-time responses and feedback. Twitter is my 24/7 PD.

*"When you're using so much technology how do you assess?" Writing! My kids write all the time. Whether it's an essay, a paragraph, a wiki post, a sticky note etc. they are constantly writing. Every project includes a writing component. Common Core essentially asks us all to be language teachers, so the writing and using text based prompts are important. You can even use the technology to find great primary resources. There are hundreds of great websites with excellent primary source materials - check Docs Teach, Library of Congress, presidential libraries, etc. The Truman Library website has a great collection.

*"What tech do you need to use?" Find something that you are comfortable with, learn it, and use it. You don't need to know everything. You cannot master everything. There are a hundred ways to video chat. I use Skype. There are 100 ways to share documents. I use Google Docs. Nobody will ever have enough time to learn it all, and when you need something new - Go to Twitter!

*"What if you don't have the funding?" Very few kids don't have cell phones these days - pair them up if it's an issue. Ask for donations from family and friends. I have done a lot with 2 old iPods my sisters didn't need anymore and my own personal computer. Kids can still create on a limited budget. Apply for grants, talk to school-parent/community groups - my Foundation gave me the money for a Wii. The Iowa Council for the Social Studies gave me a grant for the money to get more games and controllers to make it more classroom friendly. A lot can be done with free/cheap tech and even a basic computer lab or cell phone.

*"How do you fight the history teacher as boring lecturer stereotype?" My classroom is often what I like to "organized chaos". Get the kids up and moving, learning on their own. Be a facilitator of learning! Let students create their own learning opportunities. Don't waste precious time on things they can Google faster than you can ask the question. There is a time and a place for facts, names, dates, but don't get bogged down in being the center of attention. Feed their curiosity and they will remember it a lot longer than if they memorize for the test and move on. Today we're finger painting in my sophomore class - they have to define collective learning through finger painting (we have been discussing early humans and human ancestors and today we're discussing the early art forms & symbols of those groups).

*Not a knock against Iowa State, but maybe one against all colleges - you are NEVER prepared enough with Ed Tech courses (one course? with outdated technology by the time you get into the classroom?). Especially if you are planning to teach in Iowa with the number of schools that are going 1:1. Find a way to embrace it, learn it, and utilize it.

*Always be open to being a life-long learner. You will learn more in your first year of teaching than you did in the last 4-5 in college. What is expected of you "in the field" is not always what they ask of you in the classes you take. Embrace that there are always ways to improve your teaching. You will never know it all. Develop your own style, figure out what works for you and your kids, and always strive to improve.

Share your own advice for future teachers in the comments!

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