Using Podcasting to Enhance a Lesson

Podcasts are a great way for teachers to share a voice with their students. Many creative podcasts already exist for many subjects. In Psychology, one of the most intriguing podcasts is The Psych Files by Michael A. Britt, Ph.D.  In the Psych Files podcasts, Mr. Britt finds many creative ways to bring psychology content to life. A perfect example of this is his podcast episode, “Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in The Skinner Box”.

In “Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in The Skinner Box”, Mr. Britt conducts a faux interview with B.F. Skinner. By utilizing an image of B.F. Skinner while the audio of Skinner addressing questions plays in the background, it helps to bring Skinner to life.  Podcasts like “Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in The Skinner Box” can be very beneficial in the classroom because they can help student to identify B.F. Skinner as a real person and not just a name in the book.

Today’s students have grown up with digital media. They are used to looking at images on screens and hearing voices come out of speakers. Many of my students do not like to read.  By using digital photos and adding voices to podcasts, students will become more engaged with the content.

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Photo Sharing In The Classroom

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr user p.Gordon

With a heavy emphasis being placed on project-based learning in education, the ability to share and access photos can be beneficial. In 2016, teachers have many options for sharing and accessing photos, including; Flickr, Photobucket, Instagram, Google Photos and more. Choosing the best option to use in the classroom may depend on the desired goals.

Flickr was one of the first options for teachers looking to have students upload, share, and access photos for their project-based learning tasks. Flickr has seen some ups and downs since it’s inception in 2004 but currently boasts a large library of images that students can use in their projects. Flickr currently finds itself in a battle the Google Photos however with many users opting to utilize Google Photos.

Google Photos offers most of the same features as Flickr but while Flickr has chosen to charge customers for many of the features, Google Photos remains free.  For this reason, Google Photos is emerging as the leading tool for uploading, sharing, and accessing photos. Regardless of what service educators choose, photos can be used for a variety of project-based learning including; portfolios, digital storytelling, mapping, and more. For more information about using images in the classroom, check out 13 Ways to Use Flickr In The Classroom.

“13 Ways You Can Use Flickr In The Classroom.” TeachThought. Teachthought, 14 July 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/13-ways-you-can-use-flickr-in-the-classroom/&gt;.

Bamburic, Mihalta. “Flickr Just Lost Its Appeal — and the War against Google Photos.” BetaNews. BetaNews, 09 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <http://betanews.com/2016/03/09/flickr-vs-google-photos/>.
Gordon, P. Psychology Symbol. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <https://flic.kr/p/dJCFTn>.

Wikis – Not For 11th/12th Graders

Around 2010, I took my first graduate class that preached the value of using wikis in the classroom.  Around the same time, my district adopted the idea of using wikis as well. So, naturally, I dove in headfirst. For one year, I incorporated wikis anywhere and everywhere that I could in my lessons. Then I realized something.  My students despised wikis.

Wikis were packaged and sold to teachers as tools to get students working collaboratively and constructing knowledge. Those were majors goals of many districts in 2010 and even get some mention now in 2016. From the outside, it would seem like wikis would benefit students. I believe that is completely dependent upon the age and motivation level of the students though.

My experience with using wikis in the classroom was primarily limited to 11th and 12th grade students. In general, the students are not extremely motivated. They are even less motivated to work collaboratively. I once had a student response, “Just tell us what we need to know”, in when I gave them a choice in how we could cover the material for the upcoming chapter. Because of my experience, I believe that motivation to use wikis and work collaboratively is higher with middle school and elementary students.

Collaborating With Peers

Social bookmarking is a great way for colleagues in a certain field to stay share ideas and resources with each other.  Whether you are a professional in the business field seeking to make a profit or a teacher seeking the best practices to educate your students, social bookmarking can help. In a world where time is a concern for many adults, social bookmarking can bring all the resources of a group together in a way that can benefit the entire group without each individual spending a great deal of time on their own.

In the field of education, collaboration is a popular topic. Educational trends point to collaboration as a beneficial tool for educating students. In the same way, it benefits teachers by allowing them to share best practices. Unfortunately, many teachers are not given the time to collaborate and thus are not aware of many of the positive things that their peers are doing. School districts should seek out more time within teachers contracts where they can collaborate and building a learning community that will benefit the students in the district.
Many Learning Management Systems which schools are currently utilizing have features built in that easily allow collaboration. If districts provide teachers with in-service time to begin the process of collaborating, then the teachers may see the benefit of the collaboration and continue with their efforts on their own time.  Just like with most people, it is important that teachers see the benefits of an activity before they are expected to embrace it as practice.

Utilizing RSS Feeds & Social Media in High School

As a teacher of high school students, one thing that disappoints me is that the students do not seem to be aware of many important topics in society, let alone the topics we are covering in class. It seems hard to be so out of touch when considering most of my students are always on social media. However, they are not interested in reading a current tweet from CNN or other credible news sources. Most of my students use social media to send each other funny videos or watch funny videos others created on Youtube. Finding a way to allow students to continue to use social media but in a constructive way could be very beneficial for a high school classroom.  Having students subscribe to RSS Feeds can get this process started.

In most classes, topics are broken down into units. For each unit, students can search for blogs related to the topic and use an RSS aggregator to subscribe to interesting blogs or sites.  By doing this for each unit, students will be exposed to current topics in the field of study. This can be expanded even further by asking students to share posts that they find interesting on a social media site with some opinion on the post. This is just another way to incorporate technology into the classroom as well as elaborating on current issues in the field of study.

PA State Budget Impasse

The Keystone State Education Coalition maintains a blog that discusses current topics related to the PA state budget impasse. With no state budget, schools have not received the additional funding that they rely on to operate. Schools are beginning to make plans for potential closure. Pensions and reimbursement for students that attend charter schools are mentioned as big contributors to the financial crisis in many districts.

As a teacher in Pennsylvania, I am concerned with how the budget impasse will impact my future in education and specifically, how the public views teachers. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people talking negatively about teachers in the last few years. Every time that a district raises taxes, constituents are asked to question the importance of education and the role of teachers. Several districts throughout the Lehigh Valley, where I work, have recently negotiated new contracts for their teachers. It was upsetting to read some of the reaction to the negotiations from taxpaying members of those districts. I fear that the public does not understand the role and responsibilities of a teacher and with schools considering taking loans to keep their doors open until the budget impasse is resolved, I fear a backlash against teachers.

The question is… Does the public understand the roles and responsibilities of teachers or will their be a backlash if school districts begin to take loans and/or raise taxes significantly to make up for the lack of state funding?

Using Blogs/Discussions In Class

I have been using blogs in my classroom for over 5 years now. In fact, I have completed adapted my coursework so that all homework in my class is in the form of student blog posts. I am absolutely a moderator. I believe that if a student blog is going to serve the purpose of enhancing content knowledge for the topic covered in class, there must be some moderating.

When I first started requiring students to blog, I had very generic instructions.  My instructions have grown to be very specific based on my early experiences. In previous years, I had my students compile all of their posts on a Google Site as their own blog.  Since I teach an elective and we no longer require a 4th year of social studies, I eliminated that requirement to make my class a little easier. I would love to do it but we are in a competition for students so it was a requirement I had to do away with. Now, my students make weekly posts on our discussion board in Schoology and then reply to their peers. Since I teach Psychology, the student blogs revolve around their own behavior. Each blog is evaluated based on my Discussion Forum Rubric.
Since my school district is currently using Schoology and you have to be a member of our school to see the content, I’ve taken several screen shots of my blog area to show what it looks like.