Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why should we use SKYPE in our face-to-face classes?

This blog post is a response to a person who found me on Skype...

The reasons behind putting Skype into the classroom are
1) to provide diversity (sometimes I am teaching only kids from Brazil or Asia)
2)  to advertise the school ...
3) to make the class exercises REAL and
4) to show the limits of skype to my face to face students.

I push the face-to-face students to make videos for the virtual students.   The homework becomes essential because there are students in other places who are waiting for the  face to face students to do something.

Skype is not a perfect connection tool for the classroom.
a) the Internet is sometimes unreliable and might be slow.
b) there is no easy way to "rewind" and listen again
c) too much information is coming... if a group of students is watching Skype with a single virtual student, that virtual student doesn't often know who is talking.
d) most of the Skype session is taken up exchanging information that is more efficiently given by email or asynchronous video.  Skype is best when it is a FOLLOWUP to a video and email exchange.

The most effective procedures are:
-- video "welcome" messages from the face to face class so that the virtual students can study something before the SKYPE contact.
-- videorecord the skype conversation.
-- analyze the Skype conversation.  Let the face to face students look and listen to the talk.
-- post the videos on youtube so that virtual students can participate, too.
-- keep maps, photos and other visual items ready near the computer so that you can show students on skype something to talk about.
-- mini-videos can be recorded and exchanged ... For example, I sometimes use my wife'siPhone to make a short video message to send to my former students who are in Saudi Arabia.  Then they send me a reply using their iPhone (to capture a video of 45 seconds and then send it).
If students are shy, point the camera at the floor when they are on the skype talk.

If you want to discuss ways to use Skype in the classroom, contact me  +1 954 646 8246 or email or catch me on Skype  SteveEnglishTeacher

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some key principles about "lecturing less"

What is the essential message of becoming a "Guide on the Side"?

I’ve had some requests from readers of my other sites and to explain the principles of “lecturing less” and becoming a guide on the side.   The key principles are
a)  listening to what students want to learn
b)  sharing with students the research about what experts think will be needed by employees and workers of the future.  I like talking to students as "young adults in training."   Here's what I will talk about with my future colleagues" is the way I introduce some ideas.  (That approach sometimes works.)
c)  taking time to link students to “collaborative skills.”   Show students that they don’t need to re-invent the wheel, just collaborate with others.
You can explore some of the principles of becoming a "Guide on the side" by looking at these videos

For example, the BIBPenpals work connects nicely with Dominos For Schools and the work of PikiFriends.  As an independent educator, I look for useful pieces from other educators.  It helps to give time to teachers to explore and learn from colleagues.
Here’s a link that I suggest to teachers and students:
I’m impressed with the organization and passion of the lessons on this site.  I’m going to recommend that teachers who take my courses look at     Steve McCrea    trainer.  and
Steve McCrea
+1 954 646 8246  if you want to chat.  
Sometimes a phone call is faster than setting up a skype call
SKYPE   SteveEnglishTeacher

Friday, June 8, 2012

Another reason why I carry a video camera when I'm in a school... capture best practices

How can a teacher give another teacher useful feedback?  By visiting the other teacher's classroom, unannounced, just drop in to pick up a book or put up a poster...  with a digital video camera.

Sporadic observations with near-immediate feedback help, but even better is a quietly captured teacher-led moment -- capture the segment on video so that the other teacher can see what he looks like.

"To see ourselves as others see us."   There are few principals who are as adept at the drive-through observation and the timely follow-up as Diane Grondin.  I learned this technique of the "drop in" observation from Ms. Grondin, a charter-school principal, and I hope to emulate her fabulous memory by using my video camera (appropriately).  

Here are some examples of what I picked up while observing Omar Vasile.  best practices  (how to guide presentations by students)  I captured this and other clips during my break time when I spent several weeks teaching in a school in South Florida.   In five weeks I spent 25 hours in that teacher's classroom and actively invested at least two hours of that time observing the teacher.  I selected moments to video (with his permission) and analysed the video or the class later with him.  The results are on   best practices (using a mobile phone effectively -- being a role model)   Teacher talk (how to tell stories and capture attention.... "There was this guy who made a mistake..."  oh?   What did he do?  ...Omar got your attention...)  a teacher demonstrates random learning, careful meandering, purposeful exploring and clicking  (what's over the horizon?)  

A teacher who is open to observation is also a teacher who is likely to be open to learning more.  I hear that he is available for work teaching history or social studies.   His jokes disarm and jostle the students just enough to reset their boredom countdown clock...  Every two or three minutes, someone starts to wander, and Omar is ready with a remark to grab someone's attention (or to reset everyone in the room to pursue the task at hand).

I'm looking forward to visiting Omar in his next teaching position, to see what I might learn by observing his best practices.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to transform a school.... with insight from Pikifriends

Two items have crossed my computer recently.

PIKIFRIENDS and a leadership quote.

1)  A thoughtful summary of 1) how to bring Tech into class and 2) issues of "old style teaching"
These two links are related to transformation in a school and classroom:

 all of this comes from    

2)  Here's a cool leadership quote

The Chief Operating Officer looked at Lisa blankly and told her that he had never studied leadership, didn't know anything about it and had no desire to learn.  Lisa was stunned.  Lisa later learned that the COO's management philosophy was simple:  people need to do what they are told and not complain.

-- report of an anonymous employee in a large engineering company

from The Leadership Challenge by J. Kouzes

The image on this blog has nothing directly to do with the content.  It's just a reminder that you should find "Clark American Educator 2012" and click on the article that appears.

Monday, June 4, 2012

We often don't see what we look at...

David Eagleman has a useful video that points out the difficulty that many teachers have.  "I showed this procedure in class and I'm sure the students paid attention.  But then they can't produce the answer when I give them a test later in the week."

What's different in the photo?

Listen to the video starting around the end of the second minute, around 1:50
(If you look below, you will see the difference immediately, 
because you can compare the two slides side by side.   
It's better if you look at the video.  It took me 45 seconds 
and I got it only because the speaker, Eagleman, gave some hints...

This video has made me aware that there are imes when it makes sense to 
watch a video replay before saying what we saw or heard.
Why not embrace video cameras in the classroom?
particularly the comment on March 1, 2009

Here is the two parts of the video, side by side....

I bet you see the difference now...
It's likely that you looked at the people and compared their hand positions, 
the color of their clothes, the length of their hair...
We expect that position of a body would change...  not the position of the items that
are not expected to move.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Thoughts about an electronic course...

I read the following at a discussion site for an online course that is centered in California:

Wow.  I admit that I had a similar impression in some face-to-face classes ... and it was when I found out about other articles that the teachers mentioned during the lectures that I really got started...  There is a particular lecture about a year ago that got me started.   The article by Richard E. Clark (search "Clark 2012 American Educator" and you will find a great link)  

That's when I realized that even in my teaching I was not really promoting "learning."

Here's the link to the Clark article:      WORTH A VISIT