Tag Archives: students

New Ideas for Using Technology in the Classroom

In the past I have mentioned my intent to use more technology in the classroom. Here are a few ideas that I have been exploring more and more on a daily basis. Of course, this depends on the resources that you have available, but all you need to be able to truly do these things is to have a laptop with wireless or networking available, and also a projector. In order for your program to truly be successful, you also need your students to have computer/internet access at home or in a computer lab at school that they can use during their study hall hours.

#1–Nicenet. Located at www.nicenet.org, this is an amazing teacher tool, especially for challenging your gifted students or your high school students. Students love it for two reasons: They can use it to interact with each other outside of school walls and they can have more exciting assignments that can accomplish more in less time. Let me explain. Nicenet is an online bulletin board that you, as the teacher, control and moderate. It is a private site that is only accessible by you and your students. Therefore, you do not have the potential problem of outside advertisements or spam mail that could contain dangerous content for your students. You can use it to do the following things:

–Post a discussion topic or assignment for your students to independently “turn in” online.

–Allow students to write responses to each others’ entries and start a discussion stream.

–Post links to websites for reading or youtube videos that fit into classroom goals.

#2–Youtube. Located at www.youtube.com, this is a tremendous resource for teachers. You do have to be careful of what content you are using–many sites are student-developed and may not contain accurate information. (Similar to the issue with Wikipedia.) However, they can provide an excellent anticipatory set or introduction to material. ESL students especially can focus with Youtube, especially if content vocabulary is introduced ahead of time. When my students read FDR’s “The Four Freedoms” speech in their books, they were able to hear the audio of Franklin D. Roosevelt giving the speech. Teachertube is another site similar to Youtube that contains academic videos that you can search according to subject area. Just remember that sometimes they videos need to be “buffered” or uploaded ahead of time so that they will play smoothly. You can do this by pausing the video and waiting a few minutes before playing it.

#3–Microsoft Powerpoint presentations. With the appropriate technology, teachers can quite easily use this powerful visual tool for presenting information. I suggest giving a Powerpoint presentation while asking students to fill out graphic organizers. It gives them a format for notetaking to keep them on task while you take care of your Powerpoint direct instruction of content. You can make it also more interactive by using a Powerpoint to create games and quizzes for students as a tool for review. You can also use it to show students primary sources that can be found online.

#4–Edmodo. So much controversy has bloomed over whether teachers should be using Facebook or connecting to their students’ Facebook pages. I personally do not “friend” my students or allow them to “friend” me. In my opinion, it is best to keep a professional distance from the personal lives of my students and avoid any issues that may arise as a result. However, I recently ran into a kind of Facebook alternative–one that allows a teacher to message her students, post documents and links, and maintain a calendar independently. This option is located at www.edmodo.com. If Nicenet gets too complicated in format for your younger students (say, Middle school or Upper Elementary), this new tool may be the answer to keeping your class in one private location where the focus is professional, not personal. Some of the tools provided by your school’s technology (such as Renweb or Edline) may overlap with this tool, but you can certainly control some of the design functions and use it in different ways. It’s a brand new tool offered through TeacherTube, which mean it may have a few glitches left to work out. After I’ve had a chance to set up my site, I’ll review it and let you know what I think!

In the meantime, I highly encourage all teachers to think outside of the box and actively push yourself to understand how to use technology. Don’t give excuses that you are too old to learn, but actively seek ways to be innovative with your classes. If you don’t know how to use the technology, ask someone who does to show you. Use whatever resources that you have available. Your students will thank you and you will appreciate it when they appear more engaged and ready to participate in your classroom activities. I personally have been astonished at the depth I have found in my students’ Nicenet responses. In most cases, it is more in-depth than I would ever receive in a classroom discussion since it eliminates fear of public speaking and encourages contribution and interaction. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Old dogs CAN learn new tricks!


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Good Books for Christian Teachers–The Chosen by Chaim Potok

As an English teacher, I am often called upon to select appropriate books to teach in my classes. Since I am the lead teacher in my department, selecting high school novels falls upon me, and this task I take very seriously. As a Christian teacher, I understand that my job requires sensitivity, detailed consideration and a logical rationale for each selection. Each book must be carefully read and selected with a Christian worldview in mind. However, each book must also strive to fulfill the academic requirements of my school as well, which has high expectations in mind. Students should be prepared to survive in an AP Literature and Composition course, which requires strong critical thinking skills and an ability to read discerningly.

One of my favorite picks is the novel The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. What can I say about this book? I love it! Not only does it relate to my students in Panama, it is perfect for discussing a different religion and religious tolerance. It is also excellent for use in a World Literature classroom since it provides so much opportunity for discussion of European history, especially history concerning the Jewish populations. In summary, The Chosen is a book narrated by a young Jewish boy named Reuven Malter, whose father is a professor who write articles about Jewish commentary and interpretation. At the beginning of the story, Reuven meets Danny Saunders, who is the son of an Hasidic Tzaddik rabbi. Although they meet under circumstances that should divide them concerning religion and identity, they somehow make a very unique friendship that helps them survive the coming-of-age process and coming to terms with their own roles within the Jewish faith. This book allows for critical discussion of the following topics:

–What should be the relationship between religion and the secular world?

–What are some Jewish beliefs and traditions? How are they similar/different from Christianity?

–What are the percentages of Jewish people residing in the U.S.? In Panama? In your particularly country? How did they get there and what type of Jewish religion do they practice? Are they Orthodox? Reformed?

–Why can we say that the Jewish faith is the “root” of Christianity? Knowing that, students will be able to develop a respect for Judaism.

–How can we maintain faith even when there seem to be “bad things” happening in the world? (For example, Reuven is living in NY city during the period of WWII.) What is our relationship to God, and how do we see Him?

This book is very multidisciplinary, as it allows students to look up statistics of Jewish populations and create graphs, research historical backgrounds to Zionism and WWII, learn a little bit about psychology and Freud, delve into the intricacies of a major world religion, write thoughtful journal entries and critical papers, and reflect upon a coming-of-age process that they themselves may be going through personally. If you haven’t yet read novels by Chaim Potok, check it out!

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Combating Racism in the Christian Classroom

I am always disappointed when I hear negative comments about the Christian community ignoring social issues such as racism. It happens in our churches, but we ignore it. It happens in our culture and in our world, yet we do not necessarily equip our youth to see it for what it is and do something about it.

Christian school teachers, in my opinion, are even more called to train their students to understand racism in all of its ugly forms, not as an outside entity (It happens “over there” to “some people” in “other places”), but as a continuous process of stereotyping, negative attitudes and discriminatory perceptions. Why is this part of our mission? It is an issue that it NOT political; it is a matter of ethics. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, we can appreciate the fact that a black American has finally made it to the Presidency and celebrate that fact by encouraging our youth to take advantage of education opportunities. We can take it upon ourselves to motivate our students to develop positive identities and role models within the African American community.

As a little white girl from rural Western NY, it is difficult for me at times to believe that I have a voice in helping to stop racism. I’m tempted to just say, “What do I know about racism? I’m one of the privileged majority. What right do I have to draw the attention of my multicultural students to the dangerous mindsets that perpetuate racism? Don’t they already know more than I do about these issues?” In this sense, it is not about white or black–we all have a part and a duty to train students to see clearly. Yes, my students may have had more personal experiences concerning racism. But it doesn’t necessarily make them mature thinkers in terms of how to react to these experiences and how to pinpoint how they affected their identity and their responses to society.

The interesting part is that in one of my very multicultural classrooms, where each student comes from a different ethnic/regional background, I found my students making blanket statements such as, “Black people create their own stereotypes” or “If they don’t receive a quality education, it is their own fault.” Now that my students have opened the can of worms dialogue, how can I guide them toward appreciating African American culture? These discussions came as a result of reading Zora Neale Hurston’s book Their Eyes Were Watching God and I found myself growing discouraged. What is the point of introducing such a beautiful, lyrical, important multicultural text if my students just aren’t “getting” it?

The solution to this problem that I am pondering right now is to get together some of the variety of women from the U.S., Panama and other Latin American countries who have successfully established themselves in a career field. My preference would be to choose a variety of women who come from different economic brackets, who can not only speak on the African-American female experience in a way that is relevant to the novel, but can also open up dialogue from personal experience concerning racism and how it has affected them. Will this work? I certainly hope so. Feel free to respond with your own ideas or comments.

One thing is for sure in my mind. Whenever students believe that racism is dead in their particular area of the world, or that it is someone else’s problem and not their problem, we cannot in good conscience permit that mindset to go unanswered. The danger lies in pretending that simply because we do not perceive aspects of racism or that it is not as visible in certain regions as in others that it has simply erased itself from society. How can we motivate students in the black community to rise above racism and believe in their own achievement? How can we encourage students to take advantage of educational opportunities offered to them instead of thinking, “That’s not for someone like me.” How can we show that we believe in our students, regardless of their racial background?

Let’s make our Christian school students aware of the issues around them, instead of just ignoring them because we believe they might be outside of their personal experience. We don’t stop teaching the Holocaust simply because we don’t happen to have any Jewish students in the classroom, so let’s not take teaching multicultural literature for granted.

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Introducing Motivos Magazine!

I would like to use this opportunity to present to you Motivos magazine, a publication designed to inspire hispanic and Latin American students to achieve their dreams using the tools of education. The founder/publisher happens to be a personal friend of mine, Jenee Chizick, and I know for a fact that she has made many personal sacrifices in order to create this particular magazine. Motivos is based in Philadelphia, PA and offers personal stories, tips, letters, features and “speak outs” that allow hispanic students to share their thoughts about stereotypes and allow successful hispanics to reach out to others.

The website for her magazine is www.motivosmag.com. I highly recommend a subscription to this magazine for any school, church, library, college or youth-serving organization. As you know, the highest-growing population in the U.S. right now is the hispanic population, and many of them are finding it difficult to achieve their dreams and goals due to lack of inspiration, an urban background and failing school systems. Motivos Magazine is a step in the right direction. The magazine comes with a student advisory board, and they are also looking for new student writers. For those teaching English, it provides a safe, multicultural read to open the eyes of your students. Check it out sometime!

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Teaching Students How to Think, Not What to Think

Daniel, a 17-year-old blogger, was frustrated. In his post entitled, “Why I Closed the Oprah Post After 224 Comments,” he mourned the reasons for his frustration:

“I had hope for excellent dialogue. Yet i could not find a single point of entry. This discourse had taken off at a blazing speed only to find itself revolving in the circular arguments of the “Oprah will burn in hell” and “Thou shall not judge” camps,” he wrote with a virtual sigh.

Daniel is a Christian, but he is well aware of how much Christians hide behind blanket statements and blind acceptance of doctrines, sometimes without even being aware of what the Bible has to say on the subject. He gives some healthy tips for those trying to defend an argument from a Christian perspective: “

“Stating how certain you are of her damnation doesn’t defeat her argument. Unless you come to a deeper understanding of your faith and learn how to articulate it graciously… then it really seems like you just want to bring people into line with your dogma,” he explains. To the “Do Not Judge Camp,” he responds, “Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who are extremely rude and truly judgmental..sorry . Don’t retreat to Matthew 7:1 or John 8:7 in cowardice when someone has not judged you but actually debunked you.”

He then went on in his blog to model what he expected from the website dialogue, deconstructing the philosophies held by Oprah and her latest guru, Eckhart Tolle. Daniel read the guru’s book, A New Earth, for the sole purpose of “understand[ing] their side of the argument.” He challenges statements made by Eckhart that all paths lead to the same “truth’ and that there is no absolute esoteric truth by pointing out the logical flaw in the inherent philosophical argument in a quote by Tim Keller: “How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?”

After I finished reading Daniel’s arguments, I was stunned at his ability to, first of all, shun the offensive, blanket statements many Christians make when they find themselves unable to articulate and create logical apologetics for their beliefs. Second of all, I loved how he was able to pinpoint the heart of the argument and get to the bottom of the logical fallacy. Finally, I found myself thinking to myself, “This is what I want my students to do!”

Lately, many Christian teachers have been discussing with me their self-doubts and confusion about how to be Christian teachers. My question is this: Are we teaching our students WHAT to think (i.e. “Evolution is bad!”) or are we teaching them HOW to think? (i.e. How do we recognize fallacies in arguments? Can we create and defend arguments against cultural relativism, nihilism, and postmodernism?) Today is a very dangerous world to live in, and if our students are to grow into maturity of faith, we really have to consider whether we are giving them the tools to do so, or whether our bottom line is that they memorize the scripture verse (preferably outside of context), and learn to parrot the basic doctrines of the faith.

Michael Essenburg, a fellow Christian teacher, recently sent me an email of the following online tutorials he was planning on offering as an alternative for Christian school students or homeschooled students.

Since Michael is a “friend of the site” and not necessarily a personal friend, I cannot recommend them based on personal experience. Yet, as I read the topics he is addressing it, and his Socratic Method approach, it becomes clear to me that he is moving in the right direction. We need to do more than just throw in a Bible verse alongside a lesson plan or use homeroom to present a devotional. We need to train our students how to think in a world that has forgotten how to think for itself.


Daniel www.heartofflesh.wordpress.com

Michael Essenburg www.closethegapnow.org




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Technology in the English Classroom

One of the greatest challenges that will be facing me next year is how to best utilize technology in the classroom, whether as an instructional tool, an assessment tool, or simply showing students how English and technology work together in today’s 21st century world. So far, our school is equipped with a fairly large computer lab–around 25 computers network-connected. We also will have a projector and laptop in each classroom beginning with next year. I’ve also talked the school into purchasing a few video cameras for use in creating video projects, and they have thankfully complied. This year, I used my personal portable DVD player for school DVD viewing because we have a limited supply of DVD players at the school, and some of them were missing remote controls or not working correctly.

Despite all of the increasing technology that is being made available to our school, I am facing the challenge of how to incorporate it into my classes and also with the challenge of how to coach a new middle school teacher how to incorporate it into the middle school curriculum, which is even more focused on computer literacy. They will need to be able to film, edit and upload Youtube videos, blog their own portfolios and demonstrate agility with Powerpoint and MS Word. I’m super excited about what the future holds, but I know that I will also need to teach myself how to do these things before I can begin to instruct students in their use.

So here is the challenge for you who view the Forum and want to share lesson plan ideas: Do you have any worksheets, plans or instructional guides that incorporate technology in your classroom as a student project? An assessment activity? An instructional tool? If so, pass the information along to your fellow teachers by either emailing them to me or by commenting on this site. I’m sure that there are many other teachers who are in the same boat here, and need to educate themselves or gather together resources and ideas. Remember–if you have any requests that you would like to be blogged on this site, be sure to let me know! I want this site to be helpful for you, and your needs may be different than my needs as a teacher. Also, if you saw something on this site that helped you, be sure to let me know!


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Student Entrepreneurs

In our international Christian school, we find that neighboring schools are helping their students learn about business through a student entrepreneurship program. These programs help students learn how to develop, plan and carry out their own businesses while they are still in high school. Since many of our students are bilingual or even trilingual, they are interested in international business as a major in college. For this reason, I think that this type of a program is very beneficial to my Christian school.

However, this type of a program is wonderful whether you are homeschooling, teaching at a Christian school or teaching in a public school. First of all, it provides real-life skills that are useful for students in the future. Homeschooled kids can learn how to plan, organize themselves and work independently while getting the social interaction skills that they need to be successful in life. Christian school kids can use an opportunity like this as a ministry opportunity. One Panamanian girl who attended a secular school said that from their profits, the school required them to give 40% to a charitable organization. If a secular school can use their program for community service, why can’t we? In public schools, resources are even more phenomenal, assuming that you are a Christian teacher who wants to inspire students to social change. You can then help develop this aspect in the lives of your students even though you are working in a secular environment. You can get local church groups in on it as volunteers. The possibilities are endless!

Below, I am posting a website for teachers to get involved in my links section. A training session for teachers is happening in Washington D.C. this summer. If you are able to get there, I would highly recommend it!


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