Connected classrooms: visiting the world from your school!

This week, I have decided to talk about a great tool that I discovered last week. It’s the Google Connected Classrooms tool that now offers virtual field trips.

Since technology is now a huge part of teaching, being able to show to students places they would not have been able to visit is a great opportunity. I believe that English as a second language teachers can use this application to help their students develop their language skills while also discovering something different.

First, let me explain exactly how this works. Google Connected Classrooms offers different tools for teachers. On their website, a variety of field trips are posted on a schedule http://connectedclassrooms.withgoogle.com/ . These field trips are called hangouts. Teachers can simply show the live presentation on a smartboard in their classroom to their students. However, they can also RSVP and try to be one of the 4 classrooms taken to be live participants to the field trip (a webcam is necessary), meaning that their students will have the chance to interact with the guide! Here is Google’s tutorial on how to use Hangouts: http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/cc-faqforteachers.pdf

I believe this tool can be of great use to English as a second language teachers. As I have mentioned before, this could be a way to help students improve their language skills. Also, teachers can do follow-up activities on the field trip, for example a written assignment. I believe that this offers students the possibility to do something different, interesting and rewarding, while also being educative. The following link offers a video showing a little bit how the field trips go:

http://9to5google.com/2013/11/04/googles-new-connected-classrooms-program-takes-students-on-virtual-google-hangout-field-trips/

On another note, while researching information about this tool, I came across an article from Brian Fagioli on betanews.com who had doubts about the use of the virtual field trips. He brought up the fact that virtual field trips should not replace real field trips. While I agree that schools should offer students the possibility to discover the real world, I believe that real field trips are more complicated to do because of many reasons (budget, distance, time). With that in mind, I don’t see why it has to be one or the other…why not use Google to show students things they could not see on a real field trip? Hangouts offers opportunities they wouldn’t normally have! With that said, I recommend you read his article, as he brings interesting points: http://betanews.com/2013/11/04/google-connected-classrooms-children-are-denied-proper-field-trips/

Schoology: managing your teacher tasks!

Being a teacher involves a lot more than just talking in class and correcting exams. In order to be the best teacher possible, one has to be well organized. This is why I decided to present a tool created to help teachers manage everything that comes with being a teacher. This great tool is called Schoology. Officially called a ”Learning Management System”, Schoology offers many possibilities to the teacher. Messaging, calendars, cloud service, recording and grading tool are just a few of the things that can be used on Schoology. It also offers the possibility of communicating with students. https://www.schoology.com/home.php

The great thing about Schoology is that it’s free for teachers. There is a cost when schoolboards buy it, though. There was an article on forbes.com almost 2 years ago about Schoology. The author suggested how Schoology can be a great tool for a school. According to him, Schoology could really help the way school are managed. One example:

”Also on the horizon: a workload analysis tool to help teachers view students’ upcoming assignments and avoid cramming tests and due dates on the same day as their colleagues.”

This would definitely bring school to another level and help the students at the same time! http://www.forbes.com/sites/jjcolao/2012/04/16/with-education-at-a-tipping-point-schoology-scores-6-million-in-series-b/

This video explains how Schoology can help a teacher’s management :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqc1xE2H9Wg

Evidently, there are other types of platforms that can be used by teachers but Schoology is cleary interesting because it offers so much, all within the same tool. It is also very easy to use. If you need more proof that it is a great choice, the following link offer a blogger’s opinion about why Schoology is the best choice!

http://rtschuetz.blogspot.ca/2012/12/five-reasons-why-schoology-rocks.html

Using Facebook with students: Is it worth the risk?

Using social medias in school may scare some teachers, with good reason. Who hasn’t heard about students being not only bullied in school but also on social medias by their classmates. This has sometimes even led to horrible endings, such as suicide. Is Facebook, or any other social media for that matter, really this evil tool? Should teachers avoid using it as part of their teaching activities?

At this point, I’m not sure I can offer a simple answer. Whether a teacher uses Facebook in class or not, bullying will still take place on social medias. With that in my mind, maybe teachers can benefit from the advantages that Facebook has to offer. I believe this has to be done very carefully. An article on mashable.com, ”5 Best Practices For Educators on Facebook”, offers teachers some tips on how to make sure that they use Facebook cautiously (http://mashable.com/2011/12/05/educators-on-facebook/). For example, the writer suggests to use a group and to be careful with who you friend on Facebook. Our Computer Applications for ESL teaching, Mr Mark Miller has offered a similar opinion. In class, he mentioned how the use of Facebook with students should only be made via a group and that we should avoid friending students.

Facebook has many useful purposes for a teacher. Not only does it make it easier to communicate with their students, but it might also make it a little more interesting for them too. The website onlinecollege.com has published an article called ”100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom” (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2009/10/20/100-ways-you-should-be-using-facebook-in-your-classroom/). It offers many ways to use Facebook and many of them involve communication. If Facebook can help teachers share articles, information or anything else related to what they are teaching, then maybe using it isn’t such a bad thing, as long as it is done carefully! 

In the end, I believe that teachers can benefit greatly from the use of Facebook, as long as they are aware of the dangers of it and they plan it with careful consideration. As for the bullying aspect of social medias, the optimist in me now hopes that using Facebook groups and having to answer other students’ questions can create a more positive relationship between students! As Sarah Stewart mentions in her blog (http://sarah-stewart.blogspot.ca/2012/02/using-facebook-for-teaching-learning.html), students can help other students and they can grow a little closer because of that.

As a final word for teachers considering the use of Facebook, I offer this: Faceboook can be a great ally in your classroom, as long as you are aware of the dangers of it!