Collaborative Learning in the 21st Century

As I have been saying in my previous blogs, learning is not the same. I cannot stress this enough. Many people think being a teacher is easy because we have all had the opportunity to observe teachers everyday for over 12 years. This is not the case. We can, however, use these experience to grow and adapt with our learners.

Collaborative learning has become all the craze within the last decade. Teachers are realizing the importance of group work and encourage collaborative activities. How can we use technology and  collaborative learning? The Multi-Touch table is a perfect way to use collaborative learning in the 21st century.

How can we use a Multi-Touch table in our classrooms?

In his article, Collaborative Learning on Touchtables: Engaging Students with Group Work, Daniel Tomasini shares the collaborative advantages a touchtable or multi-touch table has to offer. I found this article in a tweet shared by Amanda Yacovelli. A multi-touch table is not merely a larger tablet. A tablet is for individual use while a multi-touch table is designed to be used by a whole group. This allows for students to work together on a project or activity all being able to contribute while using the advantages technology has to offer and students maintain engaged in their learning.



Apps for Teachers

The world is changing right before our eyes. Things that once were are no longer in existence. Gary Layton tweeted an article that Bianca Bosker wrote for the Huffington Post.  In her article she talks about this. In the last decade things like the VCR, phone booths, and many more have become obsolete.  If the world is constantly changing it only makes sense that the people are changing. More importantly this means that our students are changing. It is our responsibility to facilitate the learning in any way that reaches our students.

Check out this inspirational video about changing for our learners


IPads, and other tablets have become a huge trend in our country. Children can often work them before even reading. Tablets offer a variety of applications that can be used in many ways to facilitate learning with our students. Educational Technology & Mobile Learning’s article A Round-Up of 12 Educational Ipad Apps for Teachers provides a list applications and what they are do that are educational and useful for teachers use in the classroom.

1. Creative Kids

2. Audio Notebook 

3. Lets Be Social

4. The Love Book

5. Daisy the Dinosaur 

6. TheDesign Museum 

7. Color Uncovered

8. Touch Van Gogh 

9. Bubble Pop Multiplication

10. Puppet Workshop

11. Draw Your Stories

12.Disney American Presidents

Technology should be used as an advantage. Instead of banning these things from school we need to embrace them. Use them to our advantage. A game that educates and entertains is more effective.  As a future teacher I plan to always adapt my lessons to my learners and to use a variety of teaching methods including technologies and other ares of strengths of my students and I hope that all teachers do so as well. Our growing students will continue to grow far beyond we could have ever imagined. And after all, children are the future.


Google Science Fair

google fair
Through viewing feedly I stumbled upon an article about the 2014 Google Science Fair. In this fair, students are asked to submit their experiments online. This alone is a great way for students to carry out their tests and feel that they have a way to share it with others. It probes them to come up with different or interesting ideas and find a solution to answer their questions.

Another great part about the Google Science Fair is that it also has a component called the idea springboard. In this they are able to plug in what they love to do or are interested in and the springboard gives them videos and websites to view. I can relate to every year as a younger student being assigned the project of having to complete an experiment for the science fair. Every year I had no idea what I wanted to do. I would search tons of sites and keep looking for different ideas with hopes that one would spark my interest.


The springboard allows students to be given things that they are actually interested in. They have the option to put in a topic, place, or thing and have ideas that revolve around what they picked. I wish I knew of this in school because I could have picked topics that I really enjoyed instead of just using something I settled for.

This science fair also offers a section for teachers to view as well. So it’s a place that can be given to the students for help, but can also be used by the teacher, too. In this section teachers are given lesson plans that they are able to use. It guides the students through the process of experiments and ideas in science. This is helpful to first time teachers, who are new to teaching a class in science and need an extra help. It’s also good for the teachers who have been doing it for long periods of time and need extra inspiration and ideas to teach the class.

Negatives of Technology in Classrooms

Through viewing feedly and other social networks I originally thought that all technology in the classroom was a positive, but I realized I was wrong when I viewed this article. It’s not necessarily a negative, but there are some things that need to be watched out for so the technology stays strictly educational and nothing more.
For example, when students are given technology with internet access it needs to be monitored so that the students aren’t using it to go on social media. If they have internet access, it can appear as if they’re engaging in the lesson, but that they’re clearly doing anything but that. In addition to social media, the students could also be gaming. They could find alternate game sites and again not be paying attention.
It is handy that technology is portable and able to be used in a classroom. It’s important to make sure that every portable item is accounted for before and after class. Due to its portability, it could be removed by the students and no longer available for classroom education.
Not only can it be taken, but the technology could be inadvertently damaged. Sometimes accidents do occur, but the proper measures should be taken before this happens, such as having insurance. Students can be watched constantly as they’re using the devices, but it only takes a second for an accident to happen.
These are only a few of the possible negatives that could occur by using the tablets in classrooms. Although we want to expand how children learn and increase their knowledge, it’s important to know the risks of using the technology. Only if the teacher is completely aware of the pros and cons, then are they fully able to prepare for class accordingly.

Virtual Field Trips

google earth
I found this article through Lauren Leonard when she tweeted this article. This article was more of how to actually use the technology in classrooms and less of the effects that technology can have on education. It discussed how teachers can use Google earth and make a virtual field trip for the students. Not only is it free, but it’s easily accessible, so any teacher can use it.
Through the field trip there are constant pop-ups with information. The students aren’t just seeing what is there, but they’re being given additional information as well. It’s almost like they are walking around with a tour guide. An example is shown below. It gives the students something to discuss as well as having them complete an activity with what they just learned and saw.

google earth trip
This is an extremely great example of teachers becoming creative and using the technology right around them. I can remember as a young student playing around in Google earth. It was more like a game of finding your house and seeing what it looks like. I never would have imagined that it could be turned into something that was educational. Everything can be used for more than one purpose.
I can also relate this to a current class that I’m enrolled at in Rowan University. It is a second part of a teaching course and within this course it’s all virtual experiences in classrooms. In the first part of the teaching course the students are physically in a classroom with children and the second part students are in their own classroom virtually watching children in their classrooms. It’s an example that these virtual experiences aren’t just being used for the lower grades, but also at college level.
This can also be a great tool for those schools that are not fortunate enough to be able to afford field trips, but have the access to a computer. They’re still able to give their students the sensation of going to a different location without actually being there.

Classroom technology through the years

While doing research on education and technology I ran across this really cool video. It shows how technology has advanced and how it’s been used and continues to be used in the classrooms.

I smiled and nodded the whole time watching it. I can relate to most of it from the seat of the student. The teachers who taught me used some of the technology to conduct lessons in class. Today’s technology far surpasses what was used in classrooms in the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s. As a teacher, classrooms are now supplied with computers, laptops, ipads and smartphones. So I was totally surprised Spring 2013 semester when I took Child Development and the professor teaching the class used an overhead projector  for the students to take notes. He refused to use email or black board. In this day of modern day technology I must admit, we were all a bit stunned and slightly annoyed. Being from the era of constant note taking, the whole thing was very familiar to me. However, my classmates sighed loudly each time the professor used the overhead  to lecture and demanded the students take notes. Surprisingly, no one complained.

A Day with a Daycare Owner

I am very different from my classmates at Rowan University. Not just because of my age, race or weight or height but because unlike my classmates, I am not interested in pursuing a “career” after graduating from the university.  My goal: open a childcare center that provides children with quality care while introducing them to the world of  music, art, dance and reading. A place that will be a home away from home.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with Chesna Mitchell, the owner of Smart Start Academy in Philadelphia, PA.  It was actually Mitchell’s husband Detrick’s idea to open a daycare.

“He was tired of working  for the man.” “And when he came home with the plan of opening a daycare I thought he was crazy.”

Mitchell was already working in marketing for a fortune 500 company earning six figures. Once she saw that her husband was serious she finally got on board with his mission to open a day care.

After doing all the research and securing a spot, Chesna and Detrick used money from their savings and took out a small business loan and began the adventure into becoming child care providers and daycare owner.

“At first it was hard because I was doing most of the work alone.” Mitchell said. “I wrote the parents handbook, employee hand book and was outside handing outside handing out flyers.”

Smart Start Academy has gone through a few staff and employee changes but has been able to maintain a steady roster of children. After successfully opening the first location on Market Street in Philadelphia, the Mitchells opened a second location in Mt. Airy, PA and another within ten blocks of the Market Street location.

To help with the day to day activities the Mitchells had to hire an Executive Director to supervise the directors at each location. This allows Chesna the opportunity to work from home when needed. She visits each site as often as twice a week.

Originally from Philadelphia, Chesna now lives in South Jersey. She wanted to open a childcare center close to home. However, the rules and red tape for childcare providers/daycare owners in New Jersey are very difficult to get through. The rules and regulations are a lot stricter than Pennsylvania so it only made since for the Mitchells to go Philly to open their businesses.

I had the opportunity to not just talk with Chesna but to also visit one of the sites. I was greeted by her very friendly staff. I also got a chance to speak with the director, teachers and a few parents.

“Owning a childcare business comes with it’s challenges but it is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done.” Mitchell said.

I’m ready to get my business open. I just have to finish school.

Is Technology Evolving Education

Technology undoubtedly, has offered great improvements to education. In fact, perhaps technology and education are similes. I’m sure Jason Silva would think so. Technology and Education are ever evolving, the tools we use define the way we think and experience the world. Education is a technology, an individualized recording of human experiences that rely on the technology of books and experience to presumably prepare for a future.

If children in a classroom engage with their teacher with an iPad , will their work truly become more organized as the teachers suggest or is it just as easily lost in the digital world as stuffed in-between books in their desk? What other affects of overexposure to screen time can occur, ADHD? Or even not as extreme as labeling it- ADHD, how about the skill of developing slow cognitive thought?

I don’t question the use of some technology and exposure to technology, like in Art class if you don’t ever take out the fancy oil paints you never understand that medium. Or in the culinary world if you never use an ingredient or it’s cousin how can you prepare it without a really clear recipe. But the immersion of students into total technology feels wrong to me. Digital Technology can teach us many things but the process of learning needs to be multi-modal. I don’t want to raise children who can program software but can’t count apples in the grocery. Technology needs to enhance our education, release our minds from mindless tasks to create greater higher level thinking ideas, but first we all must learn fundamental life skills.


Have we gone too far perhaps in a few years we will provide educators with the tool to read student’s thoughts.

What is Literacy

Literacy is presumed by many to be a marked achievable accomplishment. In kindergarten we can assume you will read and write your name- that is literacy to a child. To an adult we know that there is a level achieved, being able to read a newspaper, complete a mathematical equation, write a letter, understand a contract and of course sign it.

In Kevin Kelly’s “Becoming Screen Literate,” he addresses people becoming literate in a media of digital video. Kelly states “The habits of mashup are borrowed from textual literacy. You cut and paste words on a page.” The problem with this technique of borrowing and synergy of ideas is where does the original authors work actually end and the new author begin. In this type of digital media for example, we can see how dangerously words and ideas can be clipped and formed to represent out of context an author’s intent.

Additionally, the student that is clipping segments of ideas and representing them as something different then their intent is learning dishonestly. They are learning the skill of misappropriation rather then the skill of complex thought.

Kelly states “truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen.” This refers to an elemental truth of all people we do really create our own version of the truth, because from our perspective we are only able to understand our version.

Literacy, to me is seeking further then our own original version of the truth, it is an ever moving target made up of every possible media and experience. You are illiterate to a road until you experience that particular road, but once you experience it you start to become familiar and understand the way to make your own route.



Can Children Really Learn by Playing Virtual Games?

As a  parent and teacher I have to always find creative ways to teach. I realized that children learn at different paces and in different ways. I am currently learning how to use technology to teach children.

I am a certified substitute teacher for the State of New Jersey. I am in schools from Trenton to Camden to Washington Township. I’ve seen first hand how students are taught different and how some schools and teachers have access to modern day technology to accommodate their teaching in classrooms and some do not. I recently covered for a teacher of a special education class. In the lesson plans each student was assigned their own laptop to use to play educational math and reading games. From my observance the children really enjoyed learning and were able to use what they learned in the classroom assignments. I’ve also worked in schools where the teachers barely had chalk to write on the boards and the students were not that interested in what was being taught. One day I was covering for a teacher who did not leave a lesson plan for me to follow. I had to reach into my own bag of creative teacher tricks to engage the children. Not just in learning the particular subject but to also make it interesting. We talked about the reasons they love math and the reasons they hate it. I decided to put the students in groups and worked with each group one on one to learn a little more about each student.  I learned that most of the students would rather play Xbox or PS4 than do homework.  So when I ran across this article I remembered my days working in that Camden class room with those students who were not interested in math but more interested in video games.