Friday, June 28, 2013

Smartphones in the Classroom

Gualano, Gabriela

Korbey, H. (2013, June 25).  Students speak up: Trust us with devices. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Unprecedented numbers of students have access to a smartphone, and use them daily in class.  During the school day, middle and high school students text, use Facebook or Twitter, and take pictures.  Despite most schools having a cell phone ban during school hours, teens easily hide phones in backpacks and pockets, and turn phones to silent mode.  The article was concerned with middle and high school students, but even elementary-aged children are familiar with tablets, smartphones, and other digital tools.  Although 80 percent of high schools have access to smartphones, schools are hesitant to utilize them in any meaningful way.  Part of this hesitation stems from inequality and the lack of teacher knowledge.  Some schools are aiming to increase professional development with technology and provide students with tablets.

There are definite pros and cons with allowed electronic devices in the classroom.  As noted, though a large majority of students have access to smartphones, there are still significant numbers who do not.  Would projects be assigned in groups, or would there be school provided devices?  Will the school provide wifi and Internet access, or will students rely on their data plans?  More thought than simply bringing in phones to class one day is required. 

The Project Tomorrow survey also showed 7-20% percent of students used technologies to text with teachers.  I would be very hesitant to have students text teachers, especially with various editing and photoshopping capabilities.  I would suggest using Edmodo, or something similar, as a communication tool instead.  Online communication sites are also available on mobile formats.  Apple devices include FaceTime, but there are other options if needed.

Some limitations also include the small screen size of many smartphones.  Reading a newspaper article may not pose much difficulty, but an academic article or textbook may become difficult.  Tablets and laptops would be a better option, or smartphones with larger screens.  Some websites are not mobile-friendly, and would have to be checked before used in the classroom. 

Lastly, there are many teachers who simply do not feel comfortable with technology.  Yes it is a part of life now, but even if a teacher is open to the idea, the knowledge may be lacking.  For some individuals, even attending classes may not be enough for the teacher to feel really knowledgeable or comfortable with the technology.  It also assumes that the teacher has a smartphone or tablet to use to prepare for the lesson and use for examples. 

However, if the teacher is knowledgeable and there is equitable access to the technology, using various devices in classes could be a great learning tool.  Research for projects and assignments could be started under the teacher’s supervision, with instruction on how to determine a source’s credibility.  Teacher’s could provide step-by-step instruction on how to access databases with students following along in class.

Creative and fun assignments could be created with QR codes, geocaching, and other activities.  Phones and tablets are more portable that textbooks, notebooks, and pens, so assignments could be taken outside or around the school. 

There are also simpler assignments teachers could use.  Google Forms, peer-editing, group notes, and student collections of resources for a particular unit of study.  Group work can be easily divided and worked on without having to coordinate schedules or photocopying.  Presentations no longer need to be narrated PowerPoints, but can be screencasts, videos, and more. 

At a simpler level, these devices are timers, stopwatches, music providers, can access online grades, set reminders, check the weather, and notetakers. 

Schools and classes do not need a complete overhaul to a completely digital format, but incorporating technology students already posses would likely be a positive.  If a teacher tries and it fails spectacularly, then examine why it failed, and improve upon it.  Teachers don’t need to use smartphones and tablets every day, but should try it and see how it goes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Eight Ways of Intelligences

Gualano, Gabriela

Paul, M. A. (2008, June 10). Eight ways of looking at intelligence. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

The article explains eight different scenarios or possibilities that help make people smarter.  These eight are situations, beliefs, expertise, attention, emotions, technology, bodies, and relationships. 

Situations: I have very mixed feelings about this section.  One sentence I found particularly confusing.  Paul writes “situation intelligence, in other words, is the only kind of intelligence there is—because we are always doing our thinking in a particular situation, with a particular brain in a particular body” (p. ).  Perhaps I am misunderstanding the argument.  If Situation intelligence is the only kind, or all other kinds come through situation intelligence, then why are there seven others in this article?  What I found more compelling is the Nature vs. Nurture argument, and I believe both play a role in intelligence. 

The beliefs aspect was one I had previously not considered.  However, I would change beliefs to outlooks.  I associate the word with religious and ideological beliefs, although the article considers more mindsets or outlooks.

I found that many of these intelligences overlapped or were obvious.  Of course paying attention and expertise make you smarter.  An inattentive individual is generally not going to learn as much as someone who is paying attention.  That idea is behind any parent, teacher, adult, or peer who yells out “Pay Attention!”  I would also say that one who is in an expert in some area is rather knowledgeable.  After all, that is the definition of an expert.  Then if someone already has a strong background in a subject, new information is more easily understood and processed.  A fifth grader does not yet have an expertise in mathematics and will not be able to calculate 3D shapes on a graph, but a math professor, an expert, will.  As for the bodies section, I thought it was fairly well-known that sleep is necessary for learning.  Studying before bedtime, getting enough sleep each night, sleeping well before a test, avoiding cramming are all repeated to students. 

Emotions also affect how intelligently one thinks and acts.  Anxious and negative moods take away from working memory capacity.  Teachers who have students do brief exercises or breathing techniques are appealing to their emotions, in hopes that a more relaxed state will produce better achievement.  A positive mood goes a long way in learning.  Though not exactly mentioned, I would imagine that a negative mood also shows resistance to learning and acts as a kind of gate preventing new information. 

Technology is an interesting aspect.  Too often it is used in ways that assist in the short-term such as ‘just Google it.’  When used to their full advantage, technological devices can assist.  The article did not offer any suggestions on how to do this, just that it is possible.
Relationships are the last topic discussed.  People learn from others.  It can be as simple as asking when the test is, or the answer to Question 5, but others are necessary.  Peers can also be more helpful in explaining concepts.  A teacher has the academic knowledge, but may be unable to phrase this knowledge in a way comprehendible to the students.  Peers might share the same language and be better able to help. 

At the end, educators should create situations that foster relationships, positive emotions, utilize technology wisely, and foster engagement to keep attention.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Show This Article to Your Principal!

Michelle Windell

This article demonstrates what effective principals and superintendents at the forefront of incorporating technology into their schools are doing and thinking. They are willing to take risks, and encourage their teachers to do so. They understand the concept of modeling desired behavior (blended teaching and collaboration are given as examples). They work to change policies instead of saying no to innovations. They support teachers’ professional development. They fundraise to support good ideas. And they take heat from higher up, because schools in transition do not always perform so well on standardized tests or on traditional evaluations. The bottom line is that they put students first. The article concludes with the plight of a teacher who was unsupported in his attempt to gamify in his classroom. His morale was shot to the ground as a result, and he continues his work - what he knows is best for kids - in silence, behind closed doors, and without administrative support.

As the title post suggests, I think this is an excellent article to share with reluctant administrators. As the article points out, many of them are caught in between the school district/school board and the reality of the classroom. As teacher librarians, we must advocate for best use of technology in our school, and articles like this one could help with our powers of persuasion.