Unbelievably, we’re already at the start of a new year, more unbelievably a new decade, and the general feeling is to set new goals, accomplish new things, and learn new skills. Teachers are no exception, but considering the limited time that you have available, it is important those new skills be easy to learn so they can be quickly put into practice. Especially as we cross into another decade in the 21st century, skills should enhance classroom collaboration, embrace the use of interactive tools (i.e. interactive boards, tablets, student clickers), and become part of your regular routine in a technology-connected classroom.
Learning new tech can get cumbersome when you think it isn’t applicable or useful. How can learning a new skill, or set of skills, be a benefit versus a burden? Here are some things to consider for any skills learning program:
- To better retain the learning, real-life simulations should be incorporated. For example, if the training requires learning new software, the back story should revolve around real classroom situations.
- When possible, spread out the learning. It is easier to take in new information, and practice it, during shorter sessions with just enough information that it doesn’t get overwhelming. Better yet, learn new skills when you’re ready to learn and at your own pace.
- Building on the importance of incorporating real-life situations, applying new skills right away and repeatedly also helps strengthen retention. When we make it a habit to consistently apply what we learn, the new skill becomes automatic.
- Teachers are teachers for a reason – we love teaching! This love helps us to synthesize new skills into smaller, simplified chunks for our students. When we do that, our understanding of the skills and how they can best be introduced and practiced by our students is deeper.
- How do you know that you understand the new skill? Test yourself! Run yourself through situations that require you to use the skills in a meaningful way. If the training program includes an assessment, all the better.
All this being said, we can become over-inundated with new tech and software that we need to implement in a school year. This can be especially daunting when the school year seems to speed up, and time for focused and thorough learning seems scarce. We can appreciate online professional development programs that help us learn new tech skills on our schedule, adapting to our needs as busy professionals. One such training program is for the OKTOPUS annotation and collaboration software for interactive whiteboards. The OKTOPUS Educator Certification Course was designed to teach new skills using a “Show Me! Try It! Test Me!” learning model.
Lessons feature software simulations to teach how OKTOPUS education tools work, activities that encourage practice with the new skills, and knowledge checks and quizzes to assess understanding of key features. The bonus? After course completion, teachers receive certification for what was learned and unlimited access to the course content. Feeling a little rusty about using those new tools? Revisit the course modules as often as needed to review the target skills and gain the confidence needed to successfully use OKTOPUS with your students.
Why worry about squeezing in professional development when OKTOPUS provides effective PD on your time? The OKTOPUS Educator Certification online PD is focused on tech skills you will use with your students, incorporates active learning and assessment features, and helps you use software that will strengthen classroom collaboration. To learn more, go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com/professional-development.
Have “green thumb” bragging rights? Or have goals of becoming one? Why not share your affinity for cultivating plants, as well as the science behind it, with your students?
Qwizdom OKTOPUS is providing a FREE learning package on plants to use with your interactive displays. Use OKTOPUS annotation and collaboration software to present the lessons and deliver the question sets focused on parts of a plant, plant growth, and seeds. Click on the link to get your activities: Houseplant Appreciation Day activities
Explore and experience OKTOPUS today, starting with your free lessons for National Houseplant Appreciation Day. Go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
The word ‘innovation’ is generally defined as the introduction and/or use of some new idea, device, or method with the goal of producing positive change. Many companies are working towards creating a culture of innovation so that the byproduct of improved collaboration, discussion of new ideas, and goal-making is increased exposure and profitability. But, before a company can reach those goals, they must first agree on who they are and what changes are needed to make a powerful impression in the market. With so many minds attempting to come together and agree on a united vision of the company’s future, tech tools can certainly support and promote this process (think interactive displays, annotation software, and polling apps or tools).
“When you need to innovate, you need collaboration.” – Marissa Mayer
With leadership’s dedicated support and commitment to change, team members can engage in conversation that will help them dig deeper into who they are as a company. For example, using tech tools, such as interactive boards or projection hardware and presentation software and tools (Qwizdom and OKTOPUS both offer collaboration and polling software), list answers to key questions such as:
- What value do we bring to our customers? How?
- What can we do that no other company can do?
- What makes us different than other companies in the same, or similar, market?
- What are some challenges unique to our company?
- What has worked for our company in the past?
- What hasn’t worked and why?
- Where could there be a struggle to change and innovation?
These discussions can lead to connections between colleagues and points to explore for improvement. By finding common ground, while building buy-in from all members, change can include how members see themselves and their potential in the company. Understandably, it can be difficult to schedule these types of integral conversations, but the value has exponentially positive outcomes. For example, set up a simple slide presentation with some of the questions listed above.
Using software, such as ActionPoint and OKTOPUS, add question types such as a rating scale or Yes/No, to gauge how team members really feel about the current company culture. Data can instantly be viewed, leading to meaningful conversations about how each member feels the company can reinforce their positives and move towards creating a powerful, and achievable, vision for the future.
“It’s important to create a culture of innovation – one that both values and rewards risk.” – Barbara Landes
Besides strengthening innovation culture, important results from these conversations include, but are not limited to:
- the sense of validity each company member feels, knowing that their voices have been heard
- greater willingness to share ideas, especially when contributions are positively recognized
- clearer identification of each member’s strengths and how they can best be utilized
- a supportive environment that welcomes, and fosters, creative thinking
- stronger collaboration on the execution of new ideas or creation of new products and services
The flow and progress of conversations can be recorded and saved for future team discussions. For example, OKTOPUS for Business has tools to support conversation, collaboration, and connections in a team. In addition, as individual team members invest time in research and developing new ideas and products, these can be easily shared with others who can test and provide constructive feedback. Watch: OKTOPUS Annotation Software
“Regular brainstorming is as critical to an organization as regular exercise is to your health. It creates a responsive innovative culture.” – Tom Kelley
Revisiting the questions asked to start the change process is helpful for measuring how much the company has embraced a culture of innovation. Seeing measurable progress can build confidence and team members are more willing to share how innovative the company has become, including with outside stakeholders. Being associated with an innovative company that has a strong mission is very attractive and draws in more who are interested in what the company has to offer. Producing short videos of these positive changes can be shared with long-time and potential partners to boost the confidence in the company’s willingness to adapt and evolve.
“The heart and soul of a company is creativity and innovation.” – Robert Iger
Creating a culture of innovation is not a new idea since companies regularly look for ways to broaden their customer base and strengthen their foothold in the market. The challenge can be how a company sees the importance of fostering and nurturing innovation culture. The time and effort invested in doing this results in identifying and actively working with the company’s mission, purposefully working towards the end goal, and helping each member of a company’s team grow creatively in attaining that goal. An innovative company culture can only lead to success.
November is designated as Native American Heritage Month, a time to explore the distinctive cultures, histories, and traditions of Native people. This month can also be used to focus on the history and current circumstances of the different tribes in America, including the challenges Native people have faced and how they have overcome those challenges.
Qwizdom is providing a FREE learning package on Native Americans to use with your interactive displays. Use OKTOPUS annotation and collaboration software to present these activities, which include lessons and questions focused on the history of regional tribal groups, as well as to begin and/or continue your discussion on Native people. Click on the link to get your activities: NAHM_2019
Explore and experience OKTOPUS today, starting with your free lessons for Native American Heritage Month. Go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
As you sit at your desk, staring at your tablet and the array of lessons coloring your virtual planner, trying to figure out “What next?” for the week’s lessons you feel…tired. Not just tired – exhausted, frustrated, and stressed. You’re this close to walking to the Principal’s office and turning in your classroom keys. You’re not alone. The first year of teaching can be HARD. No amount of teacher PDs, staff meetings, and conference goodies can seem to make it better. The IDEAS ARE AWESOME but it can be overwhelming. What really is the focus?
The consensus of many educators is that it is essential that our students must have 21st century skills that will help them in the future job market. In a practical sense, these skills will help them thrive in an environment that is technologically advancing daily. What are some of these 21st century skills?
- Critical Thinking involves problem-solving, which is vital to improvement and progress and builds on students’ cognitive development (from knowledge to evaluation).
- Collaboration, or working with others, helps students to learn to make compromises and reach better outcomes to problems posed.
- Communication is an important skill because students need to be able to convey their ideas with others who have different personality types and thinking ability.
- Creativity encourages thinking unconventionally, or ‘out-of-the-box’, so that students adapt to different situations versus sticking to traditional ways of doing things.
- Flexibility requires that although students have developed a plan, things happen, and they need to know how to adapt and when to make changes.
- Information Literacy is a skill that students need in order to recognize fact from fiction when presented with data.
- Initiative is one of the more challenging skills to master because it necessitates that students start projects and plans, incorporating strategies learned, and practice this skill often.
- Productivity is getting things done in a set amount of time, but with the many distractions that abound, focusing on tasks can be a challenge and this skill is crucial for a future in the work force.
- Social Skills can be strengthened during collaborative group activities because etiquette, manners, and conversation (initiating, participating in, sustaining) are necessary to make progress.
- Technology Literacy seems like an obvious skill, but the more students are taught how to use different forms of technology, the more adept they will be with performing various tasks.
Considering the importance of these skills, the time needed to plan a unit and/or lessons integrating these skills, and the actual time needed to support these skills, it can seem like there isn’t a planner large enough to squeeze everything in. But what if there was a tool that could be used to combine many of these skills at once? Qwizdom recognizes the need to incorporate technology while integrating many of the skills previously described. Both the Qwizdom Student Response System and Qwizdom OKTOPUS software help students build on these 21st century skills through their collaboration features, subject-specific lessons, and gaming components. Here’s an example of what a typical day can be with Qwizdom:
|8:30 – 8:45 A.M.||Attendance and Homework check using Answer Key in self-paced mode|
|8:45 – 9:30 A.M.||Language Arts using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons such as “Main Idea — Implied vs. Stated” or “Parts of Speech”|
|9:30 – 10:15 A.M.||Learning Centers using GameZones; pull small groups for reteach using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons and/or OKTOPUS subject-specific tools|
|10:15 – 10:35 A.M.||Recess|
|10:35 – 10:45 A.M.||Transition activity using GameZones — game or Teaching Tool|
|10:45 – 11:30 A.M.||Math using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons such as “Fractions on a Number Line” or “Addition Word Problems”|
|11:30 – 12:15 P.M.||Lunch and recess|
|12:15 – 12:30 P.M.||K.B.A.R. = Kick Back and Read|
|12:30 – 1:30 P.M.||Social Studies or Science using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons such as “Communities and Government” or “Water Cycle”|
|1:30 – 2:15 P.M.||Computer Lab or Library|
|2:15 – 3:00 P.M.||Music or P.E.|
|3:00 – 3:20 P.M.||Closing and dismissal|
For any lesson using the Qwizdom SRS, you can present activities that include questions for your students to answer using a remote, a.k.a. clicker, or the QVR app. You can also pose original questions during a lesson to better gauge student understanding and address any challenges immediately. This encourages flexibility and adaptability for both you and your students (i.e., Where should I go from here? What skill needs more time for understanding? How can I understand this better? Is there another way to look at this?).
For lessons using OKTOPUS software, students can collaborate using laptops or tablets with the Qwizdom Notes+ App, sharing out annotations as you present. The versatility of an interactive whiteboard allows you to provide a dynamic learning experience for everyone. For example, use Glass Mode in OKTOPUS to explore a website or view a video, saving annotations for later use. Or, while introducing new vocabulary, use Word Vault to create and pose simple drag-drop/matching questions. Lesson questions can be answered via a polling function providing you and your students with valuable feedback.
Both Qwizdom SRS and OKTOPUS software include game features to boost motivation and increase positive collaboration, communication, and social skills when played in teams. When setting up a presentation, simply select a game type — Baseball, Fast Track, or Mission to Mars.
If you have an interactive display with OKTOPUS, the GameZones section includes games and Teaching Tools for direct and guided instruction, or to use independently at learning centers. For example, the “Teaching Base Ten” activity allows you to create different numbers using base-ten blocks, helping students understand place value. Students can take the initiative to choose activities that will help them improve their understanding of newly acquired concepts and skills. This can motivate them to take responsibility for their learning progress, leading to better outcomes. For more on how GameZones is a great addition to creating and using learning centers, read Learning Centers Made Easy.
With greater incorporation of technology, students become more engaged in learning, and your role changes from lecturer to coach, encourager, and supporter. You may even discover that the stress that overwhelmed you in the beginning has shifted to the anticipation of watching your students take their learning progress in their own hands, becoming more and more adept at the 21st century skills essential for success.
With our quickly changing world, technology has become a major part of our children’s day. Whether at home, school, or even during extracurricular activities, our children are interacting with some type of technology such as smart phones, laptops, and interactive boards. These interactions tend to mostly engage their mental ability, but is that all they need? To help our children be balanced and healthy individuals, we need to also engage them in physical activities, thus the need for National Child Health Day. Child Health Day is observed the first Monday in October and this year, it’s today – October 7, 2019.
To help you observe this day with your students, we are providing FREE activities to use with your interactive displays. Activities include lessons and questions focused on exercise and physical health, keeping healthy, and nutrition. Click on the link to get your activities: Child Health Day.
Use OKTOPUS annotation and collaboration software to present activities, which can give you insight in what your students are understanding via immediate feedback. Redirect, reteach, or review the lessons after today to keep your students thinking about their physical activity and the need to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
“You can’t educate a child who isn’t healthy, and you can’t keep a child healthy who isn’t educated.” –
Explore and experience OKTOPUS today, starting with your free lessons for National Child Health Day. Go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
Walk into most elementary classrooms, and you will probably find learning centers strategically placed in the environment. Why learning centers? They are set up to reinforce concepts and skills, engage students in collaboration, as well as provide them with a sense of autonomy and responsibility over their learning. Combine this with learning tech, such as interactive displays, and the possibilities for increased progress are enhanced.
My earliest memories of school were the learning centers in my kindergarten class. We rotated between puzzles, kitchen area, guided reading with the teacher, playing with blocks, class library, and coloring pages. I LOVED learning center time! I had no idea that each center’s activity had a purpose. For example, the puzzles were used to help us develop problem-solving and memory skills (“Where does this piece go?”, “Didn’t I see a piece that could go here?”), the kitchen area reinforced real-life skills such as preparing a meal and tidying up, and the library gave us the opportunity to choose what to read in a comfortable space. So many skills in seemingly simple centers.
Most likely from your own experiences as a student and teacher, learning centers have multiple purposes and goals. Some of these may include:
- Providing differentiated learning experiences for the varied levels (i.e. of learner, English-language ability, learning style, etc.) in the classroom
- Introducing, reinforcing, and extending concepts and skills that students are expected to master over the course of the year
- Giving students multiple opportunities to work with others, including collaboration tasks with a common goal
- Building self-confidence by allowing students to work on activities individually and at their own pace
- Offering students opportunities to actively participate in their learning versus a “sit and listen”-style of learning where engagement is minimal
With the emphasis on today’s learners becoming 21st century proficient, the use of technology has become commonplace in many classrooms. Combining the innovation of interactive touch panels and the importance of learning centers, GameZones provides learning activities in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies that can be played in up to four different areas of a board. You can assign up to four different games, with any number of players per game. A typical learning rotation using GameZones could look like this:
- Social Studies: States Memory Game – There is a choice of three different activities:
- Matching the state flag and shape with its name
- Matching the state shape with its capital
- Matching the state flag with the state shape
- Math: Math Race Story Problems – One to four students “race” to answer short word problems by selecting the correct answer from four choices.
- Language Arts: Adverb Balloons – There is a choice of five different adverbs to identify:
- How Adverbs
- When Adverbs
- How often Adverbs
- Where Adverbs
- How much Adverbs
- Science: Water Cycle – Label the graphic to show the different stages of the water cycle.
Of course, the flexibility of GameZones makes it perfect for any classroom setting. A game can be used to help introduce, reinforce, and reteach a new concept or skill. They can be played independently, with a partner or in small groups, or directed by a paraprofessional to provide supplemental instruction according to students’ needs. GameZones supports the value of differentiated instruction for the different levels and capabilities in a classroom. This video explains how:
Create new “learning center” memories for your students by incorporating innovative collaboration tech, which includes games that support and enhance what students are learning, encourage cooperation and responsibility, and boost active learning and engagement. Get your free trial of OKTOPUS annotation and collaboration software with GameZones and explore the potential for your classroom. Learn more by going to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
Change can, at times, be a challenge especially if we’ve become used to doing things a certain way or using a specific program or tool for years. But change can also lead to a “reinvigoration” of strategies and techniques we’ve grown accustomed to. Remember the first time you used an interactive whiteboard? You may have been unsure if you would learn to use it successfully and quickly, but you got the hang of it and have experienced the benefits of using interactive boards for classroom instruction. Over time, you have accumulated a valuable treasure trove of interactive lessons and have an action plan for their uses this school year. Did you know that OKTOPUS software for interactive boards makes it easy for you to use your prized materials, including SMART Notebook and Promethean ActivInspire activities? Incorporate your favorite lessons with OKTOPUS annotation tools and games for a truly interactive learning experience.
To import your favorite interactive lessons within OKTOPUS is as easy as 1-2-3:
No need to recreate the wheel! Use your existing interactive lessons to engage your students and keep them focused. OKTOPUS converts the file contents for use within our application and supports annotation, shapes, lines, text, and images.
Watch this short video to see how simple it can be:
Of course, besides using your tried and true favorites, OKTOPUS also has hundreds of activities and lessons in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies that are available for your use. Easily annotate over premade OKTOPUS lessons, imported lessons, or any document, image, web app, or video using Glass Mode. Use the Voting Tool for immediate feedback and quickly view what needs to be retaught or reviewed. OKTOPUS collaboration software also comes with GameZones, a multi-touch and multi-player games feature. Students can play individually or as teams on up to four different games at the same time! To learn more about what OKTOPUS can do, go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
So, if the thought of having to learn something new sounds like it would take too much time (and possibly tax your nerves), no worries because OKTOPUS makes the process of using your favorite lessons simple. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover that OKTOPUS is the perfect package – subject-specific lessons, annotation tools, polling features, and learning games.
“Have you started planning yet?”
This is a common question heard on many a school campus about this time of year. Yet, planning for the new school year involves more than laying out the units and lessons for the year. Planning also involves the strategies that will be used to effectively explain the concepts and skills students need to learn (dare I say, master?) by the end of the school year. Of course, the ultimate goal is that your students have learned enough of the concepts and skills required that they can apply them independently in life. So, what can you do to help? What strategies have proven effective?
Effective Teaching Strategies
“Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.” — BF Skinner
- Using visual aids such as pictures, models, and graphs are powerful support tools for learners of different abilities and levels. Students manipulate objects and tools to deepen their understanding of the why’s and how’s of a new concept or skill. Through animation and videos, they can also visualize the learning experience.
- Differentiating the learning to meet the needs of your students who may have unique learning needs and/or are at different levels in their learning. Providing students choice in how they can reinforce the learning of new concepts, as well as giving them time to explore and experience new learning, can boost their confidence and be willing to try new ways of learning.
- Having students explain their thinking, the process and strategies they took to work through a problem, and how they felt approaching the problem. This can be done as a think-pair-share, in small groups, or as a class, possibly incorporating interactive white boards to keep everyone actively engaged in the explanation.
- Providing feedback to your students helps them see what they are doing right and what they need to work on. Through feedback, they will have a clearer understanding of missteps or misunderstandings that they will improve on for the next time. Feedback also gives you an opportunity to plan for next steps with instruction and/or review.
- Incorporating games can do wonders for boosting the motivation to learn, as well as increasing active participation in the instruction. Games can be as a simple as a “race” (or timed test) to more complex, with multiple levels, similar to what many students already experience with games they play at home.
“Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.” – Dr. Kevin Maxwell
You may find yourself inundated with products and resources that can help make your teaching experience simpler and more efficient. After all, you are limited in the number of instructional minutes in the day so one product that can help you incorporate the effective strategies described is optimal. Also, finding a resource that speaks to your students’ differing needs can be a challenge but there are easy-to-use products on the market that that can support your instructional goals. One such resource is OKTOPUS GameZones for interactive displays. GameZones is a multi-touch, multi-player collaborative learning software that includes Teacher Tools for introducing, scaffolding, or reviewing concepts and skills such as counting money, addition and subtraction facts, and reading sight words. One such teacher tool is “Teaching Time” wherein students learn and practice how to read time with different intervals using an analog clock. A follow-up game that can be introduced as a whole class activity, then played in teams or individually, is “Time” in which students match the time to the analog clock. Watch the video to learn more.
“Technology will not replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.” – George Couros
Your role as teacher does not change – one who helps students learn and apply new concepts and skills through classroom instruction and supplemental activities. But, the tools and resources you use can change and adapt to your students’ individual abilities. Why not try a tool that not only helps support your role, but can boost the confidence, participation, and learning progress of your students? To learn more about GameZones, or any of the Qwizdom OKTOPUS features, go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.