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What to Look Forward to from The Teacher’s Academy at the PETE&C

The Teacher’s Academy will be hosting a booth at the annual PETE&C in Hershey, Pennsylvania this February. At the conference, educators from across the state come together to learn from each other.PETE&C

Participants will walk away with a deeper understanding of the importance of technology in education — and, if they’re lucky, they might even leave with some great prizes and a few professional development hours under their belt.

Here are some details about the PETE&C (Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference):

  • Date: February 11th-14th, 2017
  • Location: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA
  • Provides programs based on technology in the educational field
  • Consists of keynote speakers, concurrent sessions, students showcases, and more
  • Educators can take a course, apply to enter their students in showcases, host a booth, volunteer, and more

To learn more or register, visit the conference’s website.

TTA

 

At The Teacher’s Academy, we offer a variety of Act 48-approved courses in hopes that teachers can learn relevant and advanced material to pass on to their students. As a website that offers professional development, we understand just how important technology is in the education field. To display our offerings and give teachers more information about our services, we will be exhibiting and giving away a few prizes at the PETE&C.

Here’s what to expect from our booth 116 in the Great American Lobby:

  • 4 Fun Best-Selling Teacher Books Giveaway
  • 3 $50 Visa Gift Cards Giveaway
  • Healthy snacks (and not so healthy snacks!)
  • Free Books for Teachers! (Our crowd favorite is back! Stop by booth 116 to take any gently used book donated by teachers from around Pennsylvania!)

Stop by our booth to ask about our courses, find out how to fulfill Act 48 requirements, learn about our affordable and convenient services, and win some fun prizes along the way!

Our online courses, which are Act 48 approved in PA, are creThe Teacher's Academyated by teachers, for teachers. Teachers can select courses based on the grade level they teach, their subject and interests, and more.

Browse our website or call us at 215-660-4926 today to complete your professional development hours in PA and learn more about The Teacher’s Academy: where teachers go to learn.

4 Reasons Teachers Mix up their Lessons with Mix!

A Teacher’s Review of Microsoft Mix

Microsoft just released a new add-in for PowerPoint. This free downloadable feature Mixencompasses the familiar PowerPoint presentation design tools with the technology to create real interactive presentations for your students that can be viewed online. As my own teaching has evolved to include a class web page with tons of resources for students, this new app brings that page to life with interactive presentations and opens the door to the flipped classroom. To be honest, it’s mixed up my lesson planning; It’s mixed up my presentations; it’s mixed up my assessments; And I love it!

Here’s my disclaimer:  I am not a paid representative for Microsoft or Mix. But I am beholden to the greatest, most important industry on earth- teaching! I love sharing what I’ve learned with fellow teachers. This one is worth it! Plus, if you already know PowerPoint, there’s not much of a learning curve. Did I mention this feature is free? Sill not sure if Mix is worth it? Here are four good reasons I recommend teachers mix up their lessons with Mix.

#1: You can Record your Presentations!

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Ever prepare that crucial lesson and notice two or three students were out that day and missed it? Or maybe you wish

 you could be in two places at one time when students are moving through centers in your room.  With Mix, you can record your presentations, post them to your web page, or send a link to view them on the Internet. Presentation recordings can be done “on the fly” or in a controlled setting. I, personally, love the raw and real experience I capture in a live slide recording. And I can quickly post it to the class web page for my absent students. Even parents have appreciated these presentation recordings as a window to what was being taught that day. Regardless of the subject area you teach, if you use PowerPoint to present information, this tool will add a few valuable features that are sure to mix up how you deliver lessons in the future!

How I use it:Parents and students replay presentations to review solving an algebraic equation; rewind the explanation of the law of diminishing marginal utility; share their class poetry reading.

 #2: You can add Quizzes to your Presentations!

Mix_Quiz

You might be reading this and thinking, my presentations already have quizzes… I know mine do! I use the animation features in PowerPoint to create what I thought was an interactive quiz. But the reality was, if students didn’t click on the right object or they clicked objects in the wrong order, the quiz might not work properly! Or, if it did work properly, it was a result of hours of planning and design in PowerPoint. Mix allows me to quickly insert multiple choice, true/ false, short answer and even polling questions. The result looks and functions like an online survey. And get this… as the creator of the Mix, I can view the analytics of the quiz takers. These analytics don’t only show how well the students did on the quiz, they also show (1) How long they spent on each slide; (2) If they skipped to the end or; (3) If they had to revisit certain slides. It’s all that behind the scenes stuff that teachers need to determine the effectiveness of their lessons.

How I use it: Using slide recording, I create a mini lecture followed by a quiz that I have used in class “centers.” These centers are student-driven. They seem to like it because they get to wear headphones, but also, they can complete the exercise at their own pace! Some quiz questions have “hints” that students can choose to show. Some questions may allow second or third chances. Some don’t! It’s all up to me. Plus,  I see what students need help on  and in what areas, thanks to the analytics. I also observed a Science teacher use a Mix he created that contained polling questions about an experiment they were conducting. Students were given a link to this Mix before the experiment began. As they went through the different stages of the experiment, he would ask the students to open the Mix and answer the polling questions. Again, the analytics gave him instant feedback of student comprehension.

 #3: You can Screen Cast!

Mix_ScreenCastI’ve always shied away from attempting a flipped classroom experience because each flipped lesson I attempted needed some sort of specific tutorial. After the flipped experience, I would hear students say, “The directions didn’t make sense!” “I couldn’t find that web page!” “I don’t know how to write a formula for that in Excel!” So, I found Screen Recording in Mix. Using the familiar workspace and tools in PowerPoint, recording my clicks and clacks on the computer was so simple. The video automatically inserts in the presentation, so it’s easy for my students to view it! No more excuses for not completing the work at home! (Well, at least no more of those excuses!)

How I use it: As I mentioned, I would record myself doing any type of tutorial from how to conduct a web search, to how to save a file, to how to write a formula, to how to post a blog. Anything my students need to know how to do on the computer, I hit record!

#4: You can Publish your Presentations!

This means the viewer of your presentation does not need PowerPoint to view Mix Publishthe presentation. You know how you can send YouTube links to friends? Now you can send your PowerPoint presentation using a similar format. When viewed, it doesn’t open PowerPoint, it uses the Internet browser to view the Mix like a video. And yes, if there is a quiz in there, they can view and take the quiz! How convenient!

How I use it: Rather than uploading large PowerPoint files to my class web page, I just post a link to the Mix. Usually the Mix is the class presentation, a quiz, a tutorial- or a combination of all three!

Sounds great, but I don’t have time to learn Mix. I’m a teacher, remember?

You do now! The Teacher’s Academy recently released a new course called, Microsoft Mix for Educators and it’s worth 18 hours of professional development. Like all The Teacher’s Academy courses, this one is approved for professional development hours, continuing education units, PDUs, or whatever your state calls them!The Teacher's Academy

In Pennsylvania, we are Approved Providers of Act 48 hours. In Texas, our Continuing Professional Education (CPE) number is 902185. The Teacher’s Academy is also approved to offer the IACET CEU. (International Association of Continuing Education and Training).


The Teacher’s Academy has a variety of courses in
technology, health and even resourceful teaching methods. Check out our course catalog for a complete listing of courses. The Teacher’s Academy was started by teachers, for teachers… like you!

 

Top 5 Take-Aways from the Pennsylvania Education and Technology Conference

The Pennsylvania Education Technology Expo and Conference was very special to The Teacher’s Academy this year. Not only did we get to see lots of familiar faces and meet new teachers, we were honored to be able to present a small section of our Mindfulness in Education course.

Throughout the conference, we received tons of great teaching tips, advice and tech tools that teachers swear by. Now it’s time for us to share the best of the best with you! Check out our Top 5 Take-Aways from PETE this year…

5: Words of Wisdom

Teachers were eager to share their favorite philosophies and quotes that keep them motivated from September to June! Here are our favorites:

  • “Kindness 1st!” -Rianna, Sayne School District
  • “Always be willing to learn from your students.” -Amanda, Derry Township School District
  • “Show students it’s okay to make a mistake or that things go wrong. Adjust and reset, that’s how we learn.” -Dom, New Brighton Area High School
  • “If you take care of yourself, you can better help each other.” -Kevin, Garnet Valley School District

 4: Mindfulness Apps
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As Mindfulness continues to make waves in public education, curious teachers may want to try out some mindful practices on their own before bringing these strategies to their students. Fair warning: Learning Mindfulness may change the way you live! Here are some of our favorite Mindfulness Apps:

  • Insight Timer.com Download this app to your mobile device for instant connections to group meditations, poetry readings, and more. The timer feature allows you to set your meditation time, background music, and peaceful meditation sounds. So nice!
  • Smiling Mind.com au A non-profit seeking to make mindfulness accessible to all. Take a survey to assess your current state and find recommended meditations based on the results. Their programs are designed for ages 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, etc. Included on the site is a meditation/ mindfulness tracker.
  • Buddhify.com For meditations on the go! Choose what’s happening in your life at the moment and find a 6-14 minute meditation for it: Traveling, difficulty sleeping, or just simple meditation- it’s all there!

3: Video Resourcescamera

  • YouTube You Tube is a dumping ground for all kinds of educational videos, movie clips, inspirational talks, tutorials, etc. Did you know that you can create your own playlist of saved videos and subscribe to helpful channels? (It’s not just for looking up old 80s rock videos anymore!)
  • Snip for MS Windows This is an easy-to-use feature for MS users. You can create your own screen casting video or convert your PowerPoint Slide Show into a video! You can even annotate on the screen and record your voice to customize your videos- and it’s free! Look for our new course on Mix to be released in 2017!
  • PBS Learning Media  A familiar site for many teachers, PBS Learning Media provides quick clips of historically accurate videos. Science news, as well as tutorials for English and Math concepts provide another way for teachers to differentiate learning, and for students to achieve deeper understanding of content.
  • Do Ink Your students will have a blast creating their own videos using a green screen backdrop. They can use pictures, video, or design their own graphics to create and retell stories or present information. Visit the tutorial page to see how you can use this in your own classroom.

2: Newest Apps

Do your lesson apps need an update? Are you just starting to integrate apps in your classroom instruction? Check out these tested and favorite apps submitted from both teachers and students.

  •  Epic! Encourage young readers with instant access to an extensive library for free! Audio and Spanish versions are available too! Anyone else can join for about $5 per month.
  • Seesaw Remember when students would keep all of their work in a folder? Using Seesaw, they can keep all of their work on an interactive, online folder that can be shared with teachers, family and peers. This is a great time management tool for teacherkidscomps and an empowerment tool for students.
  • Newsela This news source for students provides information on the latest scientific discoveries, political issues, weather, current events, etc. Students can use the information to write their own summary and teachers can use the quiz tool to assess. Stories are written in Spanish and English for students interested in learning another language. Lots of ways to differentiate instruction too!
  • MobyMax This is an educational tool designed to find specific gaps in student learning and then “fix” the gaps with differentiated instruction and motivational tools. Reading, writing, science and social studies content are covered. There is even a test prep tool!

1: Mindfulness in Education Workshop

This is particularly special because The Teacher’s Academy presented, Unplug: Mindful Practices that Work for 150 technology teachers! Our presenter, Maggie Haflett, was overwhelmed with gratitude for the immediate and eager acceptance of this new (to education) practice. Teachers came to this conference thirsty for the latest and greatest in technology, but came out of that workshop with a renewed appreciation for slowing down and fostering our abilities to focus more.

We want to thank all of the teachers who attended the conference for their support and promotion of Mindfulness in Education. To learn more about this practice and get 18 hours of PD, click here!

There were so many great ideas, it was impossible to fit them all into this blog. In fact, we are inspired to write another course to showcase what we learned from you! Look for another website review course to be released later this year. It will contain more suggestions from our PA teachers as well as our teachers from Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia, South Dakota, Tennessee and Colorado!

The Teacher’s Academy is honored to provide high-quality, relevant and affordable professional development courses for busy teachers. Visit our website to view a complete listing of courses in our course catalog.

Getting to Know Your Students Through Art

 

Getting to know your students through Art                                                                      paint hands

Our most important duty during these first few weeks is to get to know all these bright new faces sitting in front of us. All of your students will bring their unique stories and personalities into your classroom and it is your job to figure them out.  How will they learn? What are their likes and dislikes? What is their home life like? Will they respond to you? AHH! There is so much to figure out and so little time to do it. Instead of giving them a 100-point questionnaire, consider utilizing a few of these art activities. You might learn more things about your group than you thought you would! Oh, and it might actually be fun! Who would have dreamt it?

Name that Kid

The dreaded “name game.”  As classroom sizes inflate each year, teachers are challenged to find new ways to log their kids in the old memory bank. Of course there are always THOSE students who are burned into your brain almost instantaneously— the little boy that tells you he likes to eat boogers for breakfast or the little girl who blurts out how she likes to put makeup on her dad. Regardless, how are you to remember the other 28 kids staring back at you on the first week of school? Or even worse, what if you are a special area subject teacher that only sees these kids for an hour once a week or on Day 6? The task can seem pretty daunting.  One way that helped me on the first day was to have each child create his or her own nameplate. Jazz up the classic table tent or folder with a few of these variations.

  • Have the children turn the letters of their name into favorite things. For example, have each letter reflect something about themselves: a favorite animal, food, season of the year, subject in school, after-school activity, etc.
  • For younger children, print out blank bubble letter versions of their name and ask the kids to fill them in using stickers, cut-outs or stamps.  Each day of the first week, pose a question to the students and have them use their bubble letter name plates to answer it. The repeated exposure will help both you and your students identify names and provide associations with their favorite things. Check out Woo Junior for some great printable letter templates.
  • For slightly older children, ask the students to pick a “spirit animal” or an animal that best represents them. Then, ask the kids to pick their favorite color and an adjective that best describes themselves. Challenge them to incorporate all of these ideas into a picture with the first letter of their name.  By the end of the first day, you will have a bulletin board full of dancing horses with pink hair and skateboarding bears with blue sunglasses. By reviewing these names and drawings frequently, you will actually create a memory device to help you learn about your kids!

Under Your Roof

Finding out about students’ home life can help teachers a great deal. One of the best ways to learn about what is going on at home is to have your kids draw their families. Art therapists and child psychologists have long used children’s drawings to help analyze their feelings about a situation. Some characteristics may be exaggerated or left out and can house artgive insight into what a child views as valuable.

  • Fold a paper inward and cut the upper corners to make a house shape and have the children fill it with their family, pets, and favorite things.
  • Don’t forget to have them draw themselves in the portrait. If there is something alarming about their picture, seek counsel from a professional.
  • For older kids, ask them to draw a typical day in their house with their family or make up a cartoon where everyone in the house makes an appearance.

Learning about their home life will at least give you an idea if there are specific challenges your students are facing each day. Knowing that a child shares a room with a younger sibling or splits time between divorced parents may help avoid awkward exchanges and give insight into everyday struggles.  There are websites such as this one which can be helpful in analyzing your students’ psychological status, but always consult a professional if you have serious concerns.

My Superhero Alter Ego

art suppliesWho hasn’t fantasized about having secret superpowers? Personally, I’ve dreamt about teleportation on just about every Friday afternoon commute. This is a great activity for all ages with a few modifications. Challenge your students to draw their future selves as working adults. They can pick any career and environment that they want. Encourage them to dream about what they want to be when they grow up with no limitations or barriers. Then, have them draw their Alter Ego Superhero self (think Clark Kent/Superman).  They will need to be specific about their special powers and at least one weakness.

  • Encourage them to use details in their drawing like making their cape a favorite color, a poster in the background with their favorite pop star, or perhaps their favorite food on their desk at work.
  • Descriptive drawing is just as important as descriptive writing so have them tell you all about their characters by writing about them.
  • Questions such as, “If I could solve one problem in the world it would be…” can provide interesting responses and may even reveal a specific passion or emotion in some kids.
  • In order to make this a little easier on students, provide blank templates or drawings of people that they would need to change or add details to.
  • For small children, give choices or ideas about what sort of powers there are and what they could help solve.  You could prompt them to discover what their “kryptonite” is by giving them examples of unappetizing foods or unpleasant weather situations.

Believe it or not, a Superhero can tell you a lot about what someone values and fears. Be prepared to be asked what your superpower is as well.  It might help to come to school with your cape in hand that day. It shouldn’t be too difficult, since being a teacher gives you instant superhero status!  Have a great year!

The Teacher’s Academy is the proud parent company of Act 48 Academy. We provide Act 48 Hours for PA teachers, and professional development hours for teachers across the USA. Check out our Online Course Catalog for the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development courses, created by teachers for teachers.

Click Find Your State for specific details on professional development from your department of education.

Enjoy!

3 Strategies that Engage Students

(That You Probably Haven’t Tried!)

Finally summer is here! With this school year safely in the rear-view mirror, teachers will have plenty of time to reflect on what worked and what will need to be improved upon for the coming year. Keeping students engaged in learning can be a struggle at any point during the year. Having a variety of ways to reengage students can be the difference between a good year and a frustrating one. (This applies to both you and your students.)

Luckily, student engagement is a problem with a wide range of solutions to choose from and fairly easy methods of implementation. Do you already employ these strategies? Take a moment and see if you are doing what some experts recommend and if not, take advantage of the insight from experienced teachers…These strategies work to get and keep students engaged- and their teachers too!boy with a lantern

1. Project-Based Learning (PBL)

In a PBL classroom, the students create projects as a way of demonstrating knowledge. Students are given a real-world problem or question and then given the tools and support to find a solution or answer. The students are responsible for the research, design and presenting the solution to the audience. The teacher acts as a facilitator, guiding the processes and using embedded assessment practices to monitor progress.  In many cases, an expert in the field will come in to help guide the students as well. The expert acts as another resource for students as well as a strong connection to the real world problems that need solving. Solutions are often presented to an audience with the intent to implement. Students get an extra boost of motivation when they know their hard work is for more than just a grade!

In other words, take the subject matter and apply the lesson to real-world problems. For example, my second graders this year were learning about recycling. In the old days, we would read about recycling in a book and then take a class on what we read. In my class, however, we take a trip through our school to go through the class trash cans at school! (Ewe…Gross! And the kids love it, and they talk about it at lunch, and eventually it becomes “one of those projects you get to do in 2nd grade!”) After collecting some interesting things, we examine and determine what can be reused, recycled, or replaced with a better option.

Of course a lesson like this comes with a little extra preparation, like getting gloves for the kids, asking teachers for cooperation in advance and reminding the students to wash hands afterwards! But the lasting effects of a project-based learning experience is worth it!

Here are a few resources to help you find more information on how you can implement project-based learning activities in your classroom: EdutopiaThe Teaching ChannelLesson PlanetTeach Thought

2. Genius Hour

This strategy, brought to our attention by Genius Hour.com, is a great example of how Young man using laptopeducation can look to industry for engaging. Employees at Google® get to spend 20% of their time, working on a project of their choice. The results have been impressive. During this “free time,” employees use their interest and expertise to solve problems, make processes more efficient or develop new software. It’s where Gmail was born! You might be thinking, “Yeah, well, those are professionals with a secure set of expertise. I’ve got a room full of silly 6th graders!” Even Google had to put a few parameters on the 20% time and you will too. Even so, it’s proven to be incredibly successful.

Many middle level and high school teachers have already adopted this philosophy, and their students are able to spend 20% of their class time working on solutions that are of interest to them. Genius Hour starts with a driving question or problem. The question or problem, although chosen by the student, must have a level of complexity that would require research. Once the teacher and student agree on the question or problem, the student uses a variety of different resources to try to answer the question or solve the problem.  Finally, the solution is shared with an audience. Many times, these solutions are posted on a shared site for anyone to view. This strategy develops independent learning skills, fosters creative thinking and brings fun back into learning.

Here are a few resources to help you find more information on how you can implement Genius Hour activities in your classroom: Mind in BloomTeach Thought

3. Makerspaces

Makerspaces are small, dedicated spaces in a common location, usually a library or an empty classroom. In a makerspace, students can tinker around with almost anything of interest: Legos®, Kinex®, clay, blocks, circuit boards, craft items, gardening, health, etc. These spaces do not require any type of technology and can be tied to the curriculum. Students can learn about a math or science concept and then create something that represents what they’ve learned. Some Makerspaces have 3-D printers on hand for transferring the concept into a tangible item. Of course, students can share their creations with teachers, other students or the rest of the world. Expect to see an increase in student engagement, determination and creativity after a Makerspace has been implemented in your school.F

Makerspaces can be found in New York, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio classrooms to name a few! Hopefully, some of these strategies will find their way into many more classrooms across the country.

Here are a few resources to help you find more information on how you can implement Genius Hour activities in your classroom: Makerspaces.comEdutopia, How the Maker Movement Connects Students to Engineering and TechYou Tube, What is a Makerspace?

Where to get even more great resources for professional development:

Check out The Teacher’s Academy website for some more great ways to keep teachers and students engaged all year long. Need to get caught up on those professional development requirements? Get them done this summer! The Teacher’s Academy is the place most teachers look to help maintain their certifications or fulfill teaching license renewals. Not sure if your district will accept TTA courses? Check out the Find your State Page and see if we can help. (We probably can!)

The Teachers at The Teacher’s Academy want to wish all of our amazing teachers and fun, safe and happy summer!

The Best of Summer Education Conferences

Summer is just around the corner! Are you dreaming of some much needed pool-time, ice-cream-eating, back-yard BBQ fun? We are! After you’ve packed up your last classroom box and sent off your final report card comments, you will be free to relax and recharge for the next two months.  While you enjoy the “relaxing,” we’ve got you covered for ideas for “recharging.”

Education conferences are a great way to recharge! They provide a forum for meeting some of the most influential people in education and help you to gather new ideas and inspiration for your future classroom.  However, because there are a variety of educational conferences planned in cities all over the country, it can be difficult (and time-consuming) to choose the one best suited to your interests.

No worries! The teachers from The Teacher’s Academy have organized a list of high quality, worth-the-trip, educational conferences planned for this summer.  Our list of conferences includes: location, dates, theme, keynote speakers, a sampling of sessions and a link to the website for more information. Enjoy this quick glimpse of the most popular educational conferences and find the best way for you to recharge!

ASCD Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 9.35.23 AM
Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, LA
Theme: Teaching Excellence
July 8-10

Keynote Speakers:

  • Andrew Miller, Education Consultant for ASCD
  • Darlene Axtell, Teacher, Counselor, Presenter for ASCD
  • Carol Ann Tomlinson, Teacher of the Year, recipient of All-University Teaching Award and best-selling author
  • Erik Powell, Teacher, Curriculum Designer, ASCD faculty
  • Nicole Clifton, Instructional Leader, Author

 Highlights of the ASCD conference:

  • Expand your professional skill set.
  • Target your learning needs.
  • Uncover teacher-proven secrets.
  • Cultivate relationships with colleagues and experts.
  • Advance your career.

Sample of Sessions:

  • Designing Project-Based Learning Activities for Rigorous Learning
  • Designing Lessons with Student Engagement in Mind
  • Improving School Culture to Improve Student Achievement
  • Creating a Classroom Environment Focused on the Whole Child
  • Lesson Planning for Creative and Critical Thinking Skills
  • NOLA as a Classroom: Travel as a Resource for Excellent Education

For more information visit the ASCD website.

 

NAESP National  Association of Elementary School Principals naesp
The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, MD
Theme: Best Practices for Better Schools
July 6-8

Keynote Speakers:

  • Daniel Goleman, Psychologist and Author
  • Dr. Russell Quaglia, President of Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations
  • Pedro Noguera, Urban Sociologist

Highlights of the NAESP conference:

  • Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities 
  • High Leverage Leadership (Practices for 21st Century Principals)
  • Emerging Issues (Game Changers in Education)
  • Transforming Schools (Equality & Equity)
  • Arts Education (Spotlight on the “A” in STEAM for 21st Century Learning)
  • Technology and Social Media (Curriculum Integration, Digital Tools, & Communication Strategies)

 Session Samples:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders at School: Life Literacy and the Pursuit of Content
  • Band of Brothers: A Focus on Making Good Boys Great Young Men
  • Cultivating Creative Thinkers, Innovators and Masters of Core Content Through Design Thinking
  • Diggin’ Deep: What Matters Most for Student Results
  • Connecting Learners to Schools: Building a Culture that Engages and Supports Student Learning

 Note: This conference might be geared towards principals, but there are plenty of workshops for everyone.

For more information visit the NAESP website.

 

ISTE  International Society for Technology in Educationiste
The Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO
Theme: Educational Technology
June 26-29

 Keynote Speakers:

  • Michio Kaku, Theoretical Physicist and host of TV specials on: The Science Channel, The History Channel, BBC and The Discovery Channel
  • Ruha Benjamin, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.
  • Michelle Cordy, Inspirational 3rd Grade teacher from London, Ontario

Highlights of the ISTE Conference:

  • Experience the latest learning technologies.
  • Explore interactive teaching technologies that enhance creativity and learning.
  • Network with like-minded educators at the after-hours ISTE Campfires. These organic, participant-driven learning experiences, organized by topic, are designed for learning and sharing in an open environment.

Sample Sessions:

  • iPad for Early Learners: Create and Collaborate
  • Filmmaking for Teachers
  • The Essentials of Online and Blended Learning
  • A Day in the Life of a Google Classroom

For more information visit the ISTE website.

 

TCEC Texas Career Education Conferencetcec
Forth Worth Convention Center, Ft. Worth, TX
Theme: Career and Technical Educators
July 25-28

Keynote Speakers:

  • Adam Braun, Best selling author and Founder of Pencils of Promise, an organization that builds schools in poverty-stricken areas around the world
  • Mick Normington, Author and expert in understanding the types of skills needed in today’s work place

Highlights of the TCEC conference:

  • Explore the latest trends in Career and Tech Education.
  • Get advice from experts in the field on improving your program and instruction.
  • Network and connect with other teachers in the field.

Sample of Sessions:

  • Can I Use Your Pen? No! Go Make Your Own!
  • Learning Games: Anatomy and Physiology
  • New Teacher Orientation: Arch & Construction, Arts & A/V, Info Tech, Manufacturing and STEM
  • Claymation Basics
  • Bringing Cytogenics into the Classroom
  • Work Based Learning Training for Career Preparation/Practicum Programs

Note: This conference is specifically geared for career and technical educators like: Administrators, Counselors, Business/Finance Teachers, Marketing Teachers, Health Science Teachers, Manufacturing Teachers, Architecture Teachers, STEM Teachers, Arts, A/V and Communication Teachers

For more information visit the TCEC website.

 

Campus Technologycampus technology
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA
Theme: Education Technology Conference
August 1-4
 

Keynote Speakers:

  • Richard DeMillo, Executive Director of the Center for 21st Century Universities
  • Stephen Downs, Program Leader, Learning and Performance Support Systems
  • Amy Collier, Associate Provost for Digital Learning Middlebury College

Highlights of the Campus Technology conference:

  • Experience interactive, education workshops that focus on the advancement of educational institutions.
  • Discover innovative solutions to drive student success.
  • Develop new teaching and curriculum models to align with 21st century conditions.
  • Meet the pioneers who are revolutionizing the field of education.

Sample of Sessions:

  • Virtual Reality and the Future of Learning
  • Spruce up Your Campus Learning Spaces without Breaking your Budget
  • Coalescing Data-driven Student Lifecycle Solutions in Higher Education
  • Technology Trend Panel: Strategic Planning in an Era of Transformative Change
  • From Zero to Hero: Setting Up a 3-D Printing Infrastructure
  • Digital Learning for Arts Education

For more information, visit the Campus Technology website.

 

The Teacher’s Academy is a company created by teachers for teachers. We are an approved provider of Act 48 Hours in Pennsylvania and Continuing Education Units in Texas. We also offer ACSI hours for our Christian schoolteachers across the country.  We provide professional development hours for busy teachers in most states like Oregon, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, etc.   Find your state page on our website!

 

We hope you have fun checking out these conferences, but we really hope you have more fun relishing all that summer break has to offer.  Enjoy, teachers!

Top 10 Summer Reading List for Teachers

Hey Teachers, This one’s for YOU!

Every year my district releases the summer reading list for students. As a parent, I really appreciate how the books are screened, reviewed and rated. And as for my kids… Luckily, today’s book selection is way better than when I was young! They have enough entertaining reading options to last all summer. I, on the other hand, do not! Where are the book suggestions for teachers? Never fear, the Teacher’s Academy has got you covered. At the Teacher’s Academy, we know what teachers want (because we ARE teachers): Books that are entertaining, informative and make an impact. And it wouldn’t hurt if these books slipped in a little professional development!

The Teacher’s Academy chose 10 amazing professional development books that teachers will love to read this summer. These books will have teachers reflecting on their school year, recharging their batteries and planning new ways of inspiring their students.

So, if you are heading to the southern, sunny ranches in Texas, the northern adventures in Oregon, the east coast shores of New Jersey, or any of the fabulous cities in between, grab a great book for the trip and relax while you revive your passion for teaching!

10. CreaBookCreativeSchoolstive Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson, PHD

It is time to change our outdated factory model of education for a more effective, creative design. Ken Robinson offers ideas on creating a student-centered approach to learning and eliminating the burden of standardized testing. You will enjoy his wit and humor too!

BookWhisperer9. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller and Jeff Anderson

Gather some ideas from a teacher who throws out traditional reading strategies and uses her students’ interests to nurture a love of reading. Donalyn shares her own teaching journey down a crooked path of trials, failures and finally, an awakening. She includes a recommended list of books for parents and teachers too!

8. Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Key to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley

Donalyn Miller continues her teaching journey in the “Wild” by offering strategies on how to nurture of love of reading in your own students. This book is packed with management tools, lesson plans and assessment ideas.  Teachers can continue to improve their reading programs by doing more than just putting great books in the hands of their students.

BookStratospsphere7. Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge by Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan believes teachers can escape from the traditional content-based curriculum and embrace the high-tech changes to develop higher-order thinking skills. He offers ideas on how to make these changes a reality for classrooms across the country.

BookMakeitStick6. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel

Recent studies on how our memories work have shaped new strategies for teaching. Maybe using personal learning styles is not as effective as using more complex methods? Maybe cramming, underlining and highlighting are not effective study habits? Check out this very new teaching concept that uses activities like forgetting, self-testing and multifaceted learning, to build strong memories.

 BookUnshakable5. UnShakable: 20 ways to enjoy teaching everyday…No Matter What by Angela Watson

This collection of inspiring ideas will have you loving teaching again! Teachers spend so much time finding ways to develop that intrinsic motivation in their students – this book is a guide for teachers to find and develop their own intrinsic motivation, everyday.

BookLearnLikePirate4. Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz

This book is packed with ideas for teachers to employ in their classrooms! Here are just a few strategies teachers will learn: craft relevant (and interesting) lessons, provide opportunities for students to demonstrate leadership, instill confidence in your students, develop a sense of curiosity. The focus is on improving the whole child – not grades, Argh! Feel like a pirate now?

BookMindfulTeaching3. Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone who Teaches Anything by Debora Schoeberlein David with Suki Sheth, Phd.

This book talks about the positive effects of applying mindful practices in the classroom and offers strategies for implementing those practices. The Teacher’s Academy has a course called, Mindfulness in Education so no need to continue to express how much we love this one!

 BookTeachKidstoThink2. Teaching kids to think: Raising Confident, Independent & Thoughtful Children in an age of Instant Gratification by Darlene Sweetland, Phd and Ron Stolberg, Phd.

This book does double duty as a book for educators or parents. Many of our kids and students need instant feedback, instant answers, instant information and they can easily get it by doing a simple search on the Internet. How is this instant gratification affecting their minds? How do we teach patience and self-reliance?  This book has all the answers – but you’ll have to read through it, slowly. 🙂

BookFTest1. F This Test: Even more of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson

Oh my gosh, every teacher must read this book… It’s hilarious! Sick of testing your kids? Well, they’re sick of it too! See the honest and hysterical responses kids write on their tests.

The summer is not only a great time for teachers to catch up on reading, but also to get started (or finish up) those pesky professional development requirements. The Teacher’s Academy is created by teachers and we know how time consuming all of that continuing education can be. Check out our online courses and you’ll see how cost-effective, relevant and convenient professional development can be.

The Teacher’s Academy is the proud parent company of Act 48 Academy. We provide Act 48 Hours for PA teachers and professional development hours for teachers across the USA including Texas, Colorado, Oregon, and much more!. Check out our Online Course Catalog for the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development courses, created by teachers for teachers.

Click, Find Your State for specific details on professional development from your department of education.

Have a great summer, teachers!

 

“Whoever is happy, will make others happy too.”

-Anne Frank

The Teacher’s Academy is honored to introduce our April Teacher Feature, Mrs. Lisa Mancini!

Fostering a love for reading at the middle school level can be a quite challenge.  Kids spend so much time immersed in the fast-paced world of technology that they often don’t have the patience required to appreciate classic literature.  We met one teacher who is able to use her students’ interest in technology to keep them motivated, curious, and persistent in the challenges that come with developing strong reading skills.  Simply put, she nurtures a good old-fashioned, love for reading.

Spark CuriosityMancini

The beauty of Mrs. Mancini’s teaching is that she is able to develop her students’ comprehension skills in such a subtle way that they become captivated before even beginning the book.

On the day I met Mrs. Mancini, she was introducing, “The Diary of Anne Frank” to her lively 7th grade students.  Before they were able to open the book, Mrs. Mancini used the website http://annefrank.org to allow her students to experience a virtual tour of the secret annex where Anne and her family hid for 3 years.

The realization of war and the occupation of the Nazi army in Holland were sub-topics that her students quickly picked up on.   They asked questions about Anne’s older sister who was called to report to one of the camps in Germany.  They wondered about how Anne’s friends must have felt when she just disappeared, unable to say goodbye.  They considered the risks taken by her father’s employees to keep the whole family hidden. In short, they were able to make the deep connections to the people and events in the book that are vital to reading comprehension.  Did you forget we were in English class?  I did!

Performing Arts and Reading…

Next step, reading!  Not reading from a textbook or even the diary, but from a scripted play.  Mrs. Mancini skillfully incorporates the performing arts to allow her students to further immerse themselves in the story.  The students have already chosen which characters they will portray.  They sit together, practicing their lines, while Mrs. Mancini helps to further define the characters.

 “I never thought I’d see the day where Mr. Frank goes into hiding.” She states to her students.  “What does that sentence tell you about Mr. Frank?”

The students discuss what they know of Mr. Frank’s character thus far and devise several responses:

“He’s a good person.”

“He’s trying to protect his family or else he wouldn’t have to go into hiding.”

 Mrs. Mancini offers a little more guidance. “What kind of people go into hiding?”

The enthusiasm in the room is palpable as students jump to chime in.

“Criminals!”

“Bad people, people who are wanted by the government.”

“Mr. Frank is not a bad person. That’s why no one can believe he has to go into hiding.”

“Exactly.” Mrs. Mancini smiles and leads her students into a discussion of the other 7 characters and some background information to help set the scene.

The kids have lots of questions.

 annefrank“Why are the names different in the video?”  One perceptive student asks.

 “Anne was afraid to get anyone else in trouble.  She knew if they were caught and the names of the people who shared the annex with her were in her diary, the Nazis would punish them too.”

Mrs. Mancini continues to explain why Mrs. van Pels has on 7 layers of clothing and a fur coat in July and why Peter might be happy to burn his Star of David, but Anne can’t seem to let hers go.  She points out how Mr. Frank, the eternal optimist, continuously tries to keep everyone’s moods elevated, even in the darkest of times.

Her students are comfortable with their characters and the play begins…

Foster A Love of Reading

Mrs. Mancini gives stage directions and supports the integrity of the play by encouraging her students to read their parts like true actors…

“Come on Zac! This is the perfect role for you! How would you act if your mom was embarrassing you?”

With Mrs. Mancini’s encouragement, Zac (reading the role of Peter) over-emphasizes the total embarrassment of having such a doting mother, “Pleeease Mother!” he says, with the dramatics of a seasoned professional.  The classroom erupts with laughter until the student playing Anne chimes in with her eloquent voice, evoking the energetic spirit of the real Anne Frank.

Mrs. Mancini’s students continue to have fun reading their parts. Mr. Frank, Margot, Mrs. Frank, Mr. and Mrs. van Pels, Peter, Mr. Pfeffer and of course, Anne, enjoy experimenting with voices and emotions, while the rest of the class encourages the actors to “stay in character.”

At the conclusion of the play, the students are directed to write about the characters.  Using laptops, they log into www.goformative.com. Mrs. Mancini hands out slips of paper with the names of two characters the students can describe.

Incorporating writing immediately after interactive visuals and a dramatic reading makes her students better equipped to respond.  They get to work right away, with very little discussion. Soon the classroom is filled with the clicking sounds of confident writers. Students are able to post their responses onto the common page where Mrs. Mancini can quickly read or share the comments.

At the end of class, students gather to sign up for characters to portray during tomorrow’s lesson.  “I’m going to read the role of Mr. Frank! I can’t wait until tomorrow!”  Chirps one enthusiastic student.

Kindness and Giving… Keystones of a Successful Teacher

“My favorite thing about teaching is having the chance to play a small part in so many lives. Knowing that I have had a role in the education of so many young lives is very powerful. I also love the opportunity to start again each fall; it gives me the opportunity to improve my craft and set new goals for myself.”

Even with a story as tragic as that of Anne Frank’s, Mrs. Mancini is able to find elements of life and joy that she then brings to her students.

Not only does this create strong readers, but it also develops compassion and interest in historical events that students may not have been able to connect to previously.  And, perhaps even more importantly, it demonstrates Mrs. Mancini’s ability to teach her students that to avoid hatred we must embrace kindness.

Mrs. Mancini performs her own acts of kindness in many different ways.  Along with her entire school community, she supports the Kelly Ann Dolan fund, which raises money for families of sick children. She organizes the Lee National Denim Day at her school, to raise money for breast cancer research.  She is one of the 7th grade team leaders, as well as backstage support during school plays.  She also serves as the CB Cares Boomerang Award Coordinator.  (A district-wide initiative to honor students for small acts of kindness.)

“I love helping students earn recognition for the great things they do each and every day.”

As a graduate of Bloomsburg University and a daughter of two teachers, Mrs. Mancini never dreamed of doing anything but becoming a teacher herself.  She was inspired to earn an additional certification in German by a very special, energetic 13 year-old girl, who also had a great love of writing.

“I LOVE reading. My love of reading turned into a love of writing.  I see the two going hand-in-hand. Good writers need to be good readers and vice-versa!”

Mrs. Mancini works with LearnZillion and the Louisiana Department of Education, writing curriculum guidebooks for teachers. She is also a Graphite Certified Educator, which gives her access to some really cool technology.  On first impression, she presents herself as quiet and modest, but don’t let that fool you! This 21st Century teacher loves to stay active! She is a competitive triathlete and a mixed martial artist. She has been fortunate to have support from some awesome people in her life in order to accomplish all of these amazing things.  Her husband and two children join her for adventures whenever they can. Each summer, the four of them escape to North Wildwood with her in-laws so they can be outside and hang with family and friends.

As an energetic teacher who loves to read and devotes herself to making this world a better place, Mrs. Mancini has some pretty high hopes for her own students…

“I want them to find something they love and go after it. I want them to know that great things are possible with hard work. I want them to know that they might fall down along the way, but there will always be a way to get back up and keep going.”

Thank you so much, Mrs. Mancini!  Anne could not have said it better herself.

Check out The Teacher’s Academy to find an array of affordable, convenient professional development courses. All courses are Act 48 Certified and accepted in most states. Click here to find a course that works for you!

High-tech Teachers from PETE & C Share their Best Tech Tools

We Celebrate Teachers
Last month we collected some amazing techy ideas from the teachers at the PETE & C. But, before we share these ideas with you, we wanted to tell you about all the incredible, hard-working teachers that we met while at the conference. The Teacher’s Academy was delighted to be able to recognize some of those teachers with well-deserved gifts. amazon winnerCongratulations to Wendy Evans, Jennifer Kling and Rosemary Kennedy – each winners of the $50 Amazon gift card giveaway! The Teacher’s Academy also gave away 30 copies of A Tribute to Teachers by Richard Lederer to some very deserving teachers.

The Teacher’s Academy Pays it Forward
Throughout the year we’ve collected gently used books from teachers’ libraries across the state. Our hope was to give these treasures away to teachers needing to expand their libraries. We are happy to report that we were able to find new homes for every single book! Thanks again to all of the great teachers who made this conference super fun and educational for us.

If you did not get a chance to go to the PETE & C this year, no worries! We will bring the BEST of the PETE & C to you! Every year, we are lucky enough to meet hundreds of teachers at this high-tech conference in Hershey, PA. This year, we decided to tap into their techy brains, find out what technologies are actually working in the classroom and share them with teachers across the country. If you stopped by our booth and filled out a card with a cool tech idea, check out your contribution below!

Useful Website Recommendations from Real Teachers

Holy smokes! So many cards had Nearpod listed as one of the best tech tools for the classroom! This tech tool is a simple way to create interactive lessons for your students. Easily grab pictures from your computer, videos from the Internet, or use the activity slides to allow your students to draw or respond to questions. You can create your own interactive lessons or pick from thousands of pre-made standards-based lessons. Sign up for a free 30-day account. I promise it won’t take 30 seconds for you to decide that this is a must have!
Altoona Teacher comment: “I’ve been using Nearpod a lot. The students love it!”

This was the next most popular tech tool that teachers love! Kahoot allows teachers to easily create interactive assessments (Kahoots) for their students. Choose from multiple-choice quizzes, discussion responses and surveys, then add videos or pictures to spice up the assessment. Assign a pin number and any student with a device can log in and play (I mean learn) from anywhere! The fun part is that it is delivered like a game. Students are engaged, learning and having lots of fun!
Paoli Teacher comment: “Kahoot-it! and Discovery Education are indispensable.” Which leads us to our next website…

Discovery education has one of the largest no-cost vaults of current information accessible to teachers. They offer lesson plan ideas, puzzle makers and activities for students of all ages. But, perhaps, most amazing are the virtual field trips. Teachers can virtually take students to places around the world to meet scientists and learn first-hand about animals, environment or the people who share our planet. In just a few clicks, your students can view the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro or swim with sharks! Discovery Education is a fantastic resource for STEM programs or cross-curricular integration.
Harrisburg Teacher comment: “My students love to research ideas using Discovery Education.”

Plickers is an older website, but one that many teachers still find indispensable. This is a cool tech tool for formative assessment. Students hold up “Plickers” cards to answer questions and an app on the teachers’ phone reads their answers instantly. Teachers can then adjust instruction immediately to reach students who need extra help or move on! This tool alleviates guesswork for teachers and prevents embarrassment for students. A fantastic teacher from Prospect Park recommends Plickers!
Scranton Teacher comment: “Great tool for a formative assess & kids think it’s a game.”

Remind (formerly Remind101) is a safe, simple and free way for teachers to chat with students and parents. Teachers can send a last minute update or a quick reminder about events happening at school. Parents and students can alert teachers about being sick or needing extra help. This tech-tool opens the door for lots of communication, without exchanging phone numbers. Thank you to some incredible teachers from Williamsport and Penn Foster for introducing us to this website. (Penn Foster is an online high school where communication is key!)

Are you looking for a complete Physics curriculum or just a few demonstration videos? The Physics Classroom website gives teachers everything they need to create an interactive physics learning environment. This website uses downloadable lessons and game-like, interactive activities to make learning physics fun and easy! It also offers a lab, a teacher tool kit, ACT test info and much more!
As parents and teachers we are always concerned about our children’s health. Teens are of special concern since they tend to be less communicative. Teen Health.org allows teenagers to access good advice from experts when they may not be comfortable asking a parent or a teacher. This free website invites teens to click on interactive buttons to find out about topics like: Meningitis, prescription drug abuse, fighting depression, healthy eating, or helping friends with issues like cutting. It is a fantastic resource to empower teenagers to help each other! And it’s not only for teens… Younger kids can click on interactive buttons to learn about fun topics like the digestive system and why feet stink. There is also a tab for parents with buttons linked to kids’ health topics. These are only a few of the helpful resources available on this website. Please take a few minutes and check it out!
A great idea from a tech savvy-health-conscious teacher in Gettysburg!

“Creativity is essential to particle physics, cosmology, and to mathematics, and to other fields of science, just as it is to its more widely acknowledged beneficiaries – the arts and humanities.” – Lisa Randall
Yes! We absolutely need to make math fun for students and Minecraft can be used for such a purpose. Students can create or destroy bridges, walls, fortresses, hallways, secret rooms, stairs and so much more, using the digital blocks as their materials. As they build and reconstruct, they are learning about height, width, area, perimeter, size and space. They are also thinking about design, structure, architecture and, most likely, other art concepts. Connecting art and mathematics goes back thousands of years. Math concepts come to life with art! Art can be key to making math fun and accessible to students. “Use Minecraft to teach perimeter.” Thank you, awesome teacher from Central Fulton!

Google Slides is a website that we, at the Teacher’s Academy, love so much that we created a course about using it effectively in the classroom. Slides is Google’s answer to MS PowerPoint. It is not as flashy as PowerPoint but it is free and you can attach pictures, video and text in the presentations, just like the Microsoft product. Google also has Docs (similar to MS Word) and Sheets (similar to MS Excel). “Kids can use Google Slides for presentations and short reports.” They sure can! Thanks again, awesome teacher from Central Fulton! Check out our course Google Slides.

Central Fulton is becoming our favorite place! They’ve offered another fantastic recommendation for a great teacher tool – Go Noodle. Go Noodle provides teachers with quick video clips that get students dancing, stretching, running or even winding down. Most importantly, it releases good energy so students can focus in class. These quick “brain breaks” are beneficial to everyone involved, including the teacher. Check out Go Noodle and get your students focused.
“Go Noodle for brain break awesomeness.” Thanks Central Fulton teachers! We think you are all filled with awesomeness!

Want to connect with your students?
Students were eager to tell us their favorite tech websites as well. Here are the top 5:

  • Plickers!– Turns out kids like Plickers just as much as teachers! This app lets kids answer questions anonymously to avoid fear of getting the answer wrong in front of their friends!  Plus, “It’s cool!”
  • Notability– Kids appreciate the new approach to note-taking with the Notability app. Their notes come to life with their handwriting, photos and typing options.
  • ITunes U– This app provides resources for any subject right on the ipod. Teachers can generate lesson plans and deliver them via recommended apps. Students can connect with each other and the entire lesson can be done using just the ipad!
  • Showbie– For the paperless classroom, this app helps teachers and students collaborate, give feedback and grade assignments.
  • Google Expeditions– Google has photographed the world and they are giving it to us- for free! Students can travel to the top of the Himalayas or to the bottom of the oceans. No wonder this is a favorite for students!

Thanks and see you next year!

The PETE & C is a great place to learn about the development of new educational technologies but, it is also the one time of year that we get the chance to thank the fun, energetic teachers making a real difference in education. So, again, thank you for all that you do and make sure you stop by our booth next year!

*Most of our business comes from teachers who have taken a course and shared their experience with other teachers. We really appreciate the honesty, loyalty and excitement that these teachers possess when talking about The Teacher’s Academy. So, please feel free to share our blogs, Facebook posts and links to our website with anyone you feel may benefit from our services. It’s because of all of you wonderful teachers that we are able to provide the great resources that we do! Thank you!!

January 2016 Teacher Feature: Brian Blair

“Life is the hardest teacher, she gives you the test first and the lessons after.”

-Anonymous

 Hey teachers!  The Teacher’s Academy is excited to kick off 2016 with an introduction to a high-tech, innovative 9th grade modern American history teacher from PA.  (Yes, I used high-tech and history in the same sentence!)  You’ll be inspired by his out-of-the-box approach to teaching and motivated to create your own digital lessons.  It doesn’t matter what subject you teach or even the age, grade or ability level of your students.  Mr. Blair’s custom learning experiences are cross-curricular, engaging and adaptable to a variety of academic levels.

Get ready, because this is not your typical history class and Mr. Brian Blair from Bucks County, PA has no interest in being a typical history teacher…

Teacher Brian BlairThrough innovation, experimentation and communication, the lucky students in Mr. Blair’s classroom are obtaining the skills necessary for success in college and career while having a blast… in the past!  Images of modern American history cover the walls of classroom 501.  Louis Armstrong plays soft jazz music over-head as students file in and get settled.  The 1920’s culture is the theme for today, and to bring them back in time, Mr. Blair begins class by allowing students to observe and discuss a political cartoon from that era.  Even though they are separated by almost five generations, these savvy students are able to quickly observe striking similarities in the 1920’s culture and politics with our own 21st century society.   Students are given time to discuss the fear and symbolism in the cartoon while connections are made to a current events article.   The feel in the classroom is easygoing, safe and positive.  His students seem to know what is coming and are excited to begin their exploration of the 1920s.

 Innovation

Exploring history does not happen merely in books in this classroom, rather learning occurs in a digital realm.  Mr. Blair and his team of teachers have worked together to create digital learning experiences for students in grades 7 through 9.  Using Web 2.0 tools, students have access to the “Course Site” where videos, advertisements, pictures, articles and teacher-created questions related to the content have been posted.  (Teachers can also post questions or additional information while the students are working.)  There is a “comments” section for student responses, and they can also access the videos and articles from a home computer.  Students now have the freedom to review on their own or spend more time on an area they found interesting.

Creating an online curriculum takes planning and collaboration, but once the process is in place, the content comes to life.  This method is certainly a major change in the way teachers can deliver curriculum, but it in no way diminishes the role of the teacher.  In fact, the teacher becomes a crucial piece of the learning process by creating an environment that supports and challenges all students.  In this environment, the teacher has more time to coach one-on-one or clarify misconceptions and enrich learning.

Back to the ‘20s…

As his students gather their laptops and head-phones, Mr. Blair directs them to digital “stations” that he created so his students can experience history in a whole new way.  In Station #1 students are able to witness the popular roaring ‘20s dance craze “The Charleston.”  A picture of the actual dance steps is posted in this station for adventurous students who want to get out of their seats and try a few steps.  (Several do, to the delight of the rest of us!)

Station #2 introduces the dynamic changes in transportation that occurred in the ‘20s by allowing students to watch and/or read about Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and understand how the assembly line allowed Henry Ford to build his Model T at the rate of 1 every 93 minutes!

“Oh my gosh!  There is a kid doing The Charleston on the wing of a bi-plane!”  Click on Station #3 and you get to see “barnstorming” the very real and death-defying entertainment of the 1920s.  (Thank goodness for Steven Spielberg!)

As the students begin to immerse themselves in the videos, the classroom becomes more vibrant and exciting.  Mr. Blair encourages the excitement by posting a few new pictures and tempting his students to check them out.  “I think I just found my favorite barnstorming image and I’m posting it on the Course Site.”  Frantically, the students search for the image.  It’s a picture of a few men playing cards while flying on the wing of the plane.  Hilarious?  Well, his students think so!

Experimentation

Since 2011, Mr. Blair has been the department coordinator and catalyst for introducing Web 2.0 tools into the classroom.  This has encouraged digital collaboration between teachers.   He is a proud member of a talented team of 7-9th grade teachers also possessed with the ambition for creating amazing learning experiences for their students.

“I work with an incredible team of teachers in my department, in my building and in this Mr. Blair's studentdistrict as a whole.  They are all great collaborators and expose the students to high quality teaching and learning daily.  We even have a member of our department here that is getting published and has a fledgling career as a historical rapper on iTunes.”

His decision to become the department coordinator did not come without some apprehension.  With the support of his principal, his new roll allowed him to completely redesign curriculum delivery using the latest technology which has had lasting effects on the department and, more importantly, the students.  He has incredible confidence and does not hesitate to take risks or experiment with ideas outside of the teaching “comfort” zone.  He is aware that things will not always go perfectly, but taking risks is important for growth and change.

“I think the best advice for anyone in this profession is to not be afraid to try new ideas or experiment with new technology.  I know at times we have a tried and true approach and we may not want to deviate from the norm, but some of my greatest moments as a teacher have evolved from trying a new digital platform or creating a screencast of content I used to stand in front of a class and deliver.  We sometimes need to refine who we are and what we do.  Sometimes it works and sometimes… it is dynamic…”

Communication

Mr. Blair has a natural read for middle school learners.  He has an easy smile and makes Brian Blairthe whole class feel comfortable communicating with each other.

“The students need to be comfortable talking in this class,” he says with a wide smile.

I know exactly why he’s smiling.  Student chatter can be quite uncomfortable for some teachers to accept, but learning to communicate effectively is a key skill that students will not learn by staying quiet.  Of course, anyone who works with 13, 14 and 15 year old students can also understand the challenge to get any kind of valuable response!  No doubt, these students were very comfortable discussing ideas with Mr. Blair, but most of the discussion happened between the students.  Discussions about the political landscapes, the differences in the cultures, and the similarities in our hopes and fears were happening in small groups all around me.   Mr. Blair supports students just enough so they are able to succeed independently and challenges others to dig deeper.  Some students formed strong opinions based on the new information gathered from the videos but also from listening to their peers’ reactions.    Many were practiced in the art of persuasion and used those skills to change minds.  His students are expert communicators already.

Mr. Blair mentioned his team of teachers more than once and, to an outsider looking in, it is clear that this team of teachers has created an effective, fun way to accomplish many academic goals.  Through collaboration and effective communication with each other, no one loses site of the end product.

History in the Making

Mr. Brian Blair began creating his own history in his junior year of high school.  As a teenager, he would sit in his favorite class (social studies) and imagine ways of using different types of visuals or primary sources to make the lessons even more interesting.  After graduating from Penn State, earning a Masters degree from Villanova and years of teaching experiences, Mr. Blair still imagines news ways to make his social studies class even more interesting!

He has been awarded by his district for in-house assessment services, worked for ETS, The National Board and currently contributes to Learning Bird.com.  (As part of Learning Bird, he creates short educational videos to increase student engagement and keep education moving in a digital direction.)  He runs a Claymation Camp with a fellow teacher at Bucks County Community College and has coached tennis and track for years.  Like any respectable Pennsylvanian, he is an avid participant in fantasy football and could be considered an originator of that great pastime considering his family involvement since 1972.  (Respect.)

Most importantly, Brian is the proud father of two little aspiring rock-star girls and a brand new baby boy!  I must mention that he happens to be married to another fantastic teacher who was featured in our 2015 line-up of amazing teachers. J

Back to the 21st Century

The time flew by and I seemed to have been lost in the super fun, “roaring” ‘20s, because class was about to end and I was not prepared.  I jumped to get my notes and continue my observation, but most of the students had filed out.  So, I thanked Mr. Blair and started to leave.

Just before I walked out the door, I had a chance to ask one of Mr. Blair’s lingering students about the class.

“What do you think about your history class?”

“It’s pretty cool,” she responded.

“Well, what do you think about your teacher?”

She too gave me a wide, easy smile, “He makes class really fun!”

I’d have to agree, Lexi!

Thanks Mr. Blair, for being The Teacher’s Academy January 2016 Teacher Feature! You are truly making history!

For more information about technology courses, social studies courses and professional development in your state, visit The Teacher’s Academy. It’s where teachers go to learn!