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.
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.
Choose the best answer to the following question:
On a Wednesday afternoon, a math teacher asks his class of 6th graders, “Who wants to play a game?” What is the most likely response from the class of students?
- A few students raise their hands while the rest of the class shrugs their shoulders with indifference.
- About half the class raise their hands enthusiastically, and the other half of the class nod their heads in resignation.
- About half the class raise their hands straight up, a fourth of the class raise their hands with some enthusiasm, and the rest of the class shrug with indifference.
- The entire class raise their hands so high that their bodies are practically ejected from their chairs, all while yelling, “Me! Me!”
- None of the above. You teach a classroom of robots.
Playing games in the classroom has often been seen as a reward for great behavior or completing classwork on time, a keep-‘em-busy activity for rainy days inside, or as a time-filler on a Friday afternoon when the weekend is this close. How do you use games in the classroom? Do you use games?
Incorporating games in an educational context can be tricky, especially when considering video games. How will the game work with a class of 30 students? Will the younger students understand how to play? What is the time investment in using video games to learn a new concept or skill? Is it even necessary to do so?
There are the adventurous few who use video games as an integral part of their teaching day and have found success in doing so. These educators find that there are incredible benefits to incorporating game play, such as:
- Increased student motivation and engagement
- Greater variety of active learning opportunities
- Immediate feedback reinforces learning
- Repeated practice with new skills for mastery
But, are all video games conducive to learning? Besides research (search “What games do 5th grade math teachers use?”) and reading through user reviews, it is important that you play the video games yourself. As you do, reflect on the following questions:
- What is the goal of the game?
- Is the game simple to understand?
- What is the purpose of the game?
- Are there different levels to the game?
- Which students would benefit from the game?
- Will students get feedback on their game play?
- Is this a game my students would want to play?
You may have other questions depending on the makeup of your class, such as language and maturity level of the game, game support that students can independently access (i.e. a Help link or FAQs page for general game play information), and student accessibility during the school day (i.e. Can the video game only be played as a whole class? Can it be played in small groups on one device?). It is clear that the use of a game played on an interactive board, laptop, or tablet needs more research than simply, “What looks fun and is free?”
There are features of a video game that can answer many of the questions you may have about a game, especially its relationship to effective learning:*
- Motivation: Does the game motivate students because they are able to work through and solve a problem? Once the problem is solved, are there more to solve so that they feel a level of mastery? Playing a game that motivates a student to continue through learning and advancement is certainly a plus.
- Competition: Is there a degree of healthy competition involved? Gamers tend to enjoy the competitive piece of video games and this can be appealing in the classroom setting.
While, yes, there are many aspects of a video game to consider before including it as a learning resource, it could ultimately be the change needed to engage even the most reticent learner. Again, a simple search of the internet can lead you to research articles and white papers on the benefits of game play for learning, including those that explain how this can be done successfully.
Read more about how games can be incorporated into a traditional multi-step lesson plan in the blog Learn Using Games for Interactive Whiteboards. If you’re still unsure, a number of education-focused companies offer free trials of software that include learning games, such as Qwizdom OKTOPUS. OKTOPUS has Math and Language Arts games as a collaboration feature of their software. Watch this video to learn more:
OKTOPUS also has the GameZones app for interactive boards, with subject-specific games for practicing concepts and skills learned in the classroom. To learn more, watch this video to learn more:
The next time you ask your class, “Who wants to play a game?” do so with the assurance that the games you’ve chosen are the ones they need to boost their confidence, increase active learning, support collaboration with peers, and motivate them to keep trying. Who knows? You just might see 100% hands up in the air.
*Gee, James Paul (August, 2006). Are video games good for learning? [article]. Retrieved from http://cmslive.curriculum.edu.au/leader/default.asp?id=16866&issueID=10696
Can you correctly complete the following sentence?
____ sentences have ____ that students need to fill in with the correct _____.
Correct answer: Cloze sentences have blanks that students need to fill in with the correct answers.
Cloze activities can be applied to a wide range of topics with a variety of objectives that include accurate spelling, learning new vocabulary words, and reading comprehension. Most often, cloze activities come in the form of fill-in-the-blank sentences with either single correct answers, or appropriate answers that contextually make sense. For example:
A cloze activity can also be used for comprehension and vocabulary building in any subject. Display and read aloud a short passage for the students. Then remove some words that are key to understanding the content or story, including new words that were frontloaded prior to the reading. Students can work individually or with a partner to fill in the blanks. For example:
To help facilitate different cloze activities for instruction, Qwizdom OKTOPUS (annotation and collaboration software for interactive boards) has the Word Vault tool. From text created in OKTOPUS, highlight and click/tap a word to store it in the vault. Words collected here can be dragged out into the blank created in the text. If the word is correct, it will appear in its original form.
You can also add custom words to the vault in activities where the students need to choose the correct word from a list.
The Word Vault is essentially a drag-and-drop tool that can be adapted for multiple uses such as categorizing, labeling, sequencing, and filling in the blank. Watch the video to see a few ways Word Vault can be used:
Cloze activities with the OKTOPUS Word Vault can help to:
- increase student participation and engagement in their learning,
- support peer interaction and collaboration through review of content and ideas, and
- strengthen retention of key vocabulary and concepts across multiple subjects and topics.
Facilitating cloze activities, augmented by annotation and collaboration tools like Qwizdom OKTOPUS, can lead to success for all involved in the learning. Can you correctly complete this sentence?
OKTOPUS offers a ____ trial and ____ tutorials to help get ______ started in your _______.
Fractions can be the most frustrating concept to teach!
I struggled with making sure my students understood that in order to do anything with fractions (compare, add, subtract, etc), the fractions themselves had to have equal-sized parts. Can’t compare fractions with a fraction bar that is two times larger than another fraction bar, all of the parts are different sizes. Can you say, “CONFUSION?” Even paper folding and using rulers to show equal parts could sometimes lead to more questions (not every child can fold a sheet of paper into eight equal parts, no matter how many times you tell them “Fold hamburger”, or “Fold hot dog”). But, the OKTOPUS Fraction Tool can make equal size parts, and better yet, does it consistently! Students will be able to identify, compare, and calculate with fractions much easier with this learning widget. Doubting its wonders?
Do you want to learn more about this and other subject-specific tools that can help change a frustrating teaching activity into a smooth, focused one? Go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
Teachers, you are visionaries of learning in your classrooms.
You work hard to develop lesson plans that will create learning pathways for each of your students, making modifications according to need (i.e. English Language Learners, students with special needs, highly capable students, etc), and ensuring that your students have opportunities to collaborate. You envision that by the end of a strong lesson, or series of lessons (unit), there are positive outcomes for each of your students and the potential for increased progress. By incorporating technology, a strong lesson can become a dynamic one. When that technology is in the form of games, that lesson becomes a dynamic, motivational, and memorable lesson. Learn more about how OKTOPUS Game Zones can be incorporated into your traditional lesson plan using your interactive board.
Essential Parts of a Lesson Plan
Introduce the lesson with a “hook” that will grab hold of the students’ attention. For example, if the lesson focuses on Parts of Speech, play a quick game of “Parts of Speech” where students can sort adjectives and nouns or adverbs and verbs. Students can come to the interactive board as partners and work together, or one student can act as the “sorter” while the class tells where each of the words go.
- Direct Instruction
This is the heart of the lesson where explicit teaching of the concept or skill takes place. For example, if the direct instruction focuses on comparing large numbers close this part with a game of “Comparing” where the greater than and less than symbols are dragged to correctly describe the inequalities. Use the “Think Aloud” method to work through a few of the inequalities, then invite students to complete the others, encouraging them to explain their process as they complete each inequality.
- Guided Practice
Students are expected to practice what they learn, with your assistance. In this part of the lesson, direct students to work with a partner or in small groups as you walk around and observe their collaboration and understanding, providing guidance as needed. For example, to help students through understanding government, have teams work together to play “Branches of Government”. Students will place descriptions in the appropriate boxes for the branch of government, its members, and their responsibilities. You can clarify misunderstandings as students work together.
- Independent Practice
This is the time that your students will show how much and how well they have learned a concept or skill. They will complete activities independently, with limited assistance from you. As a motivator and “sponge” for when students complete independent work, they can start a game focusing on the target skill. For instance, after a student has completed a math workbook page on finding the area of shapes, they can play “Area” and work on their own or with a friend to calculate the areas of different rectangles.
- Whole class wrap-up
Conclude the lesson by briefly summarizing the concept or skill learned and ask students what they have gleaned from the instruction and activities. Encourage them to share what helped them learn the skill. Play a game together to reinforce the learning. To wrap up a lesson on the human skeleton, play “Skeletal” where parts of the skeletal system are identified. Once labels are in their correct places, a new blank diagram is loaded for additional practice. Game Zones has a number of games to support Social Studies, Math, Language Arts, and Science concepts and skills.
- Extension Activities
Extension activities can help students build on the objectives of a lesson or series of lessons (unit). With Game Zones, students can work on one game together or split the screen to play up to four games independently. Touch panels can be set to table top mode so teams or individual students can play games you have chosen. This is a great way to extend four different concepts and skills in one area!
Click here to watch a video for more on Game Zones.
Yes, games can help children learn! Integrated into a traditional lesson plan, games can help create a positive learning experience. Besides the obvious motivation factor, games focused on specific concepts and skills can reinforce what students have learned and provide a scaffold to the next concept or skill. Games can also keep a class focused, providing you with the opportunity to engage the class in a different way. Reflect when you were a student and games were used in the class. Didn’t you look forward to the weekly spelling bee, Heads-up 7-up on rainy days, or board games for indoor recess? Instead of games for only rainy days or as a “special treat”, incorporate gaming into the instructional landscape of your classroom.
Technology can take gaming to another level and Game Zones includes over 90 educational games to engage even the most reticent learner in your class. Try OKTOPUS Game Zones for free in your class, comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on how you used a Game Zones game, and you might win a $50 Amazon gift card for that comment!
*Please see Game Zones (Social Media) Comment Terms for rules. Contest runs between February 5, 2019 to February 7, 2019.