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Another take on the climate change issue.

So I live in the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean, where summer is normally very hot. That means that we are pretty used to heat, but it also means that we get to feel heat variations a little more, because when it gets hotter here, it gets reeeally hot!

Now, there has been a lot of discussion over the causes and the effects of climate change, some go as far as to deny its existence. Most of these talks go about economic and social effects of these changes, and that is good. Today, however, I want to take a look at another aspect, that may very well be placed in any of the categories aforementioned, but that maybe, just like me until now, you have not thought about it that way.

I was just having lunch at a fast food place (don´t say anything) and a whole lot of teenage boys came in, they were wearing soccer uniforms, so I guess they are participating in a summer camp. I started thinking about how I used to spend my summers as a kid. Back then, summer camps were not as popular as they are now, or maybe I just didn´t know about them. If they were popular, we could not afford it anyway.

But I was lucky, I had relatives in the country side, I got to go to “el campo” to my grandparents and my uncles. We got to go swimming to the ponds, we got to help harvest corn and peanut and many other crops from our family land. But now, when I go to my grand parents I can not show my sons the places where I used to swim, nor where my grandfather used to have “el conuco”, it is all dry.

You see, this climate change thing, has effects even over how low income families can spend their summer. We need to do something about it and we need to do it now, not for us, as the effects of any action will not be seen right away, but for the future generations, for our grandchildren, so they have a “campo” to go to.

Free code camp. Learn, code, help.

Today we want to echo a post from lifehacker where they share an awesome initiative. FreeCodeCamp.com this is website where you can acquire all of the necessary skills to become a professional programmer and you can also create apps for non-profit organization.

While you need to complete all of the courses, and they are quite a lot, about 1600 hours, in order to be able to start developing applications, you can do it at your own pace and all for free.

We encourage you to check it out and hopefully join a great community of professionals willing to help you in the journey of becoming a programmer.

freecodecamp

Digital Citizenship. A must!

Right now a group of students of a master’s program is receiving a lecture about Risk conducts online. I had to take the same class about a year ago and I can’t help think about what a teacher’s role must be in helping students stay safe online.

Our students spend so much time online that it is hard to tell what is real life for them. Even for us, our online footprint is very important as it may have an impact on our professional lives. If that is the case for us, how much more important should our student’s online reputation be?

Teachers are responsible, at least partially, for creating the conditions for our students to learn how to be the best digital citizens they can be. From how to create a good email address to how to protect their personal information, from protecting themselves to protecting others, students need to develop the right mindset about their digital lives.

There are many tools online to help develop digital citizenship with our students. Of all of these I prefer Common Sense Media. They offer so much, materials for parents, for teachers, for students, for everyone! If you are concerned about your students privacy, their reputation and their overall safety, please take a look at Common Sense Media’s curriculum.

Congreso ILALE 2015. Breve resumen.

Invitación ILALE 2015Durante los días 10 y 11 de este mes se celebró en las instalanciones del Embassy Suites de Santo Domingo el 12vo Congreso ILALE. Organizado por el Instituto Latino Americano de Liderazgo Educacional y con la colaboración de una gran cantidad de instituciones de educación superior, entre las que podemos mencionar al INTEC y al IGLOBAL, entre otras. La línea temática este año fue El aula como espacio de Investigación y reunión a una gran cantidad de expertos en las áreas relacionadas a la investigación en el salón de clases, particularmente la investigación-Acción.

La conferencia magistral de apertura estuvo a cargo del Dr. Héctor Valdés, quien compartió sobre las tendencias y retos que tiene la investigación en latinoamérica. Entre los planteamientos del Dr. Valdés vale la pena mencionar los siguientes:

  • La necesidad de crear las condiciones necesarias para que los docentes puedan realizar investigaciones, sin que este proceso interfiera con la que es su tarea primordial, la enseñanza. Algunas de las condiciones que habrían que crear son aquellas relacionadas con la cantidad de horas que el docente pasa en frente de la clase, las que tienen que ver con condiciones salariales y la relación entre el sistema educativo y el sindicato docente.
  • La  necesidad de dedicar más y mejores fondos para incentivar la investigación por parte de los docentes. Esta es una oportunidad para dedicar parte del 4% que recibe educación.
  • La necesidad de entender la educación como algo más que una serie de contenidos. Entender que “se educa para ser mejores personas”.

El Dr. Julio Leonardo Valeirón director ejecutivo del IDEICE presentó algunos de los resultados del programa Docente Investigador – Innovador. Un programa durante el cual docentes de distintas escuelas reciben financiamiento de parte del IDEICE para desarrollar proyectos de Investigación – acción en sus respectivos centros educativos. La discusión llevó a reflexionar sobre la necesidad de replicar estas experiencias al tiempo que se hace necesario una sistematización de las experiencias para una mayor divulgación de los mismos.

Por otro lado, resultó muy interesante la presentación de la Dra. Rocío Hernández y la Licda. Patricia Liranzo, sobre sus experiencias con la investigación – acción en sus clases en el INTEC. Uno de los aspectos que nos llamó muchísimo la atención fue la concepción de libertad de guiada que se maneja en estos proyectos. Un concepto sobre el cual ya hemos escrito con anterioridad y que no parece vital para el desarrollo de la creativida y, por consecuencia, el aprendizaje de nuestros estudiantes.

Por su parte el Dr. Mauricio Duque hizo énfasis sobre la necesidad de dotar a los docentes de las habilidades mínimas necesarias para hacer investigación de calidad. Otro aspecto que resaltara el Dr. Duque es que muchos de los esfuerzos que se realizan desde los sistemas educativos están basados en mitos y no en los resultados obtenidos de las investigaciones que a nivel mundial se realizan. Exhortó a los presentes a ahondar en sus conocimientos sobre las mejores prácticas educativas.

De la mano del Dr. Víctor Gómez – Valenzuela vino la disertación sobre los aspectos éticos y formales de la investigación. Durante su presentación llamó la atención sobre la obligatoriedad de cumplir con los protocolos internacionales que en materia de investigación existen, particularmente aquellas investigaciones en las que intervienen menores de edad.

Otras presentaciones versaron sobre experiencias más concretas en las aulas. En una entrada posterior estaremos conversando sobre estas iniciativas.

Definitivamente fue una experiencia interesante. Lamentamos que no estuvieran presentes más docentes que los que allí se congregaron. Nos parece que este tipo de encuentros tienen la posibilidad de afectar la práctica docente de manera muy positiva.

Educating is a matter of the heart.

One of the reasons I started blogging was to share my journey implementing technology in my classroom and while it has been a great pleasure for me to see my students use the tools at their disposal for learning purposes, it is not that, the use of technology in the class, what they seem to value most.

As part of a sort of end of year tradition, we had a chance to reflect over the year that just ended for us. I took the time to remind them of all the growth that we had this year and all the expectations that we have for them. Some of them shared what they felt was the most important lesson we learned over the past school year. None of them mentioned anything related to the projects we made or the use of cool tools or going paperless.

What they did mention was:

  • you helped me feel that I was part of the family.
  • you taught us not to leave anything to chance.
  • that it was ok to be wrong.

All too often we forget that in the end we are not just providing tools and skills that will help our students navigate in an increasingly more technological world, we are also contributing in the development of the humanity of our students. We are responsible for showing our students how to be better citizens, how to treat others, how to love one another.

Looking back at all the accomplishments that my students had this year, I´d have to say that the most important one can not be measured with a score.

If you`d like to read more about the importance of emotions and relationships in teaching please read:

George Cuoros post.

Watch this TED Talk:

What´s the most important lesson you learned this year? tell us in the comments.

Minecraft online summer camps

Last week we attended a seminar on the use of technology in the classroom. The seminar was hosted by INTEC-PREPA and conducted by Zobeida Ramirez. One of the topics during our conversations was the use of video games in education. As it is well known, any time this subject is brought up, Minecraft is a must discuss topic.

Some of the educators there gathered seemed very interested in the topic and we suggested joining a Minecraft online summer camp. And so we agreed to make a post on the topic and here it is.

One of such camps is being offered by Connected Camps. Their online camps offerings include:

There´s also a series of webinars to help you set up your own summer camp. You can even try the camp for free before you commit to purchasing the program.

A quick search online should give you more options if you are interested in taking some online training to use Minecraft in your class. Remember that there is a Edu version of Minecraft follow the link for more information about it.

If you would like to have more information on using Minecraft in your class, follow these links:

Feel free to share any other resource that you may have in the comments area.

Herramientas en línea para la enseñanza de la química.

Herramientas en línea para la enseñanza de la química..

Storytelling in science

It seems that lately every advertising we see is not selling a product but a feeling. From soda ads to video games to toys, ads are not about the product, they are about some sort of experience that they promise to make you live. That is storytelling. The art of storytelling is one of the oldest forms of art.

When we think of storytelling, we often think of language arts or history. It makes sense to use this strategy in these areas because after all these subjects relay a lot in the use of language. We rarely ever think of storytelling as something that could be used in the setting of more “hard” science. Hard sciences, such as physics, depend on facts and formulas and solving exercises and all the “hard” stuff.

For many, all that is very hard.

Many students are not used to present their knowledge in a “factual” way. Those students that are so good with the language, sometimes struggle with the formulas and the facts.  So I decided to try and incorporate some of the language teaching strategies into my science teaching. I have been an ESL teacher for some time now and it only seem right to put that experience, in language teaching, to use in my science teaching.

When we gave students the assignment of coming up with a creative way to demonstrate their understanding of some of the concepts that we had learned over this semester, I was not ready to see what they had in store. Poems, songs and even dances were developed by the different groups to show complex concepts such as wave-particle theory, electromagnetic waves, color and light.

What´s more interesting is that through these art forms, students tried to tell a story. Concepts were connected through a sort of tale. Imagine being able to talk about waves without words, showing the relation between energy and wave frequency with dance moves, creating a poem that tells the story of light and its characteristics. Many students that had struggled with demonstrating conceptual understanding, did an awesome job for this assignment.

Giving students the opportunity of using their talents to show understanding really paid off this semester. Many of them showed a renovated interest in science when it was presented in a more story like fashion. Many more, were able to show how well they had understood concepts when given the chance of showing this knowledge via, what until that moment was an unconventional way.

BYOD, tips for an efficient implementation

Some time ago we shared a post on our school starting a BYOD implementation. It has been a little over a year since we started the process and we are still learning. Some things are so much better now and we would like to share some of the tips that we have learned over this time.

1. Clear purpose.

Technology is a part of our students´ lives. They use it pretty much for every thing and their social interactions mostly happen through their devices. This reality poses a challenge for teachers trying to use technology for a productive purpose. Students will, very often, wander off.

For our classroom, some simple agreements helped reduce the cases of distraction due to improper use of tech.

– All screens face down. With this instructions, our students understood that for the moment being tech was not to be used. Their attention was to be placed on the discussion happening before their eyes, not on the screens.

– Keep records of everything. This helped ensure that the devices were used to keep track of the class and thus reducing the opportunities for students to start games that were not part of the class.

2. Creative/ challenging problems

Trying to change their view of tech, from an entertainment device to a productive one, requires for the assignments to be challenging and demanding. Assignments need to present the opportunity for students to use their devices in ways that they have not thought of before. Give them the chance to use their device´s capabilities to demonstrate their understanding of concepts. Have them provide clever solutions to their problems in the class using their devices. It adds a lot of fun to using devices productively.

3. Give them freedom to produce.

One of the biggest advantages of using tech in the class is that it gives the opportunity of creating a variety of products to show understanding. Give students room to suggest ways for them to demonstrate their knowledge. An artistic productions is as good a demonstration of learning as a quiz, some times, even better.

4. Integrate tech in every step of the way.

Make sure that your activities require that they use the tech for every step of the learning process. From introducing the new concepts to evaluating it, tech needs to become a routine tool of the class.

This simple tips have made this year´s round of integration much more smoother for our students. They have come to the point where they do not have to ask whether they have to use their devices for the class, it is assumed. They already know they have many ways to show understanding, so they strive to show the best they can do.

What other tip would you add. Let us know in the comments.

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