Does YA Literature belong in the Classroom?

There’s opinions all over the board on what kind of literature should  be taught in the classroom. Tradition dictates that teachers impart the Canon onto their students, making them read the classics and appreciate the literary greatness of the days of yore. On the other end of the spectrum, though, lies the teachers who want their students to read modern works more relevant to their experiences, vernacular, and cultures.

Printz Award winning author Amy King has had discussions with many English teachers who refuse to teach her novels, including her major award winner Please Ignore Vera Dietz, to their classes. Her suspicion, particularly of private schools, is that teachers are worried about preparing students for standardized tests and college classes, not in developing the students into lifelong readers or “modern” individuals.

The whole idea of a canon can be traced back to English colonialism. As a means of ushering in modern “western” standards, laws, morals, values, and religious practices, England introduced its own education system that stressed literature as a way to teach and “correct” the morals of the natives of their colonies and territories. The English canon, since then, has become a source of identity and pride, with its works glorifying Christian morals and bringing its audience to enlightenment and intellectual superiority. Thus, to modern advocates of the canon, the main argument is culture building.

Others, though, argue that forcing only the canon on students makes reading a chore and a distasteful activity, and therefore fails to produce lifelong learners. Legendary author Maya Angelou was once quoted as saying, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Many younger teachers have taken this attitude in their reading selection and tried to offer a wide variety of media (audiobooks, graphic novels, etc) as well as a broad array genres and topics that include culture points relevant to modern times with references to what’s going on in the lives of today’s teens.

Some teachers use a blend of canon and modern books in their curricula and “pair” them to give students some perspective on how similar themes play out differently given different places, times, and cultural cues. Some teachers have abandoned the concept of assigned reading altogether and instead offered a list of books from which students can chose and select the specimen of their desire to study a certain theme or device.

There are benefits and drawbacks to the inclusion and exclusion of YA literature, but the most important question to ask to ensure a positive result is the purpose of the literature assigned. If its historical appreciation and a shared experience, the canon may be the proper source, but for relevance and long-term reading delight, YA literature may do the trick.

Edtech Trends Changing the Classroom in 2017

As we all know technology is ever-so changing. 2016 was the year that really focused on increasing educational trends for next year. In my last blog post, I talked about the next level educational technology will take us to. With 2017 right around the corner, it’s important to keep an eye out on the implementation of these up and coming trends.

Personalized Learning

One of the biggest ways technology will continue to revolutionize the classrooms is to focus on a personalized form of student learning. A personalized learning program will allow each and every student to learn in the classroom at their own pace while striving to reach educational standards. Programs will focus on students learning in a way that they understand. When students aren’t able to keep up with their fears, the begin to establish lower self-esteem and engagement. Through a personalized program, students will be able to learn and use new strategies to reach goals. This will also allow them to learn time-management and interaction skills that they will be able to apply outside of the classroom.

Collaborative Learning

Back when we were young, group work was one person doing the work, while the other members just sat there. Times have changed, however, and collaboration is now being implemented in the learning process. Collaborative learning will allow students to interact through various forms of technology (i.e. social media, google drive, etc.). Students will each be able to contribute their thoughts and ideas for assignments due within the classroom. This will encourage social interaction while implementing problem solving and critical thinking skills. Students will also be more engaged within the classroom and look forward to coming to school. The idea of daily and long lectures will decrease, as students will practice learning methods through the guidance of their teachers and each other.

Flipped Classroom Concept

Another trend that will be implementing a collaborative and personalized learning concepts is the flipped classroom model. The model focuses on completing homework assignments, and interactive learning labs in school, rather than a daily lecture. For homework, the students would go home and listen to lectures and watch videos based on what they are learning. This allows for students to learn at their own level without becoming frustrated and stressed out. This concept works well with the advancement of technology as interactive learning because studies found that children spend a lot of their time after schools on a computer or tablet. The interaction will allow for virtual feedback and help in the learning process while receiving help from a teacher during the school day. They are able to put hands-on skills at schools where they can ask questions and gain critical thinking skills through the process.

What’s Next for EdTech?

The future of technology is ever changing and new tech is coming out, what seems like, every day. With new advancements in technology, there are also new uses – especially in the classroom. This blog highlights a few exciting and new technologies that will be making their way into classroom in the near future.

Open Classrooms

Open classrooms in and of themselves are not technology, but rather the structure that assists tech implementation. In order to use technology, it often takes place in a collaborative setting. Opening up the floor plan by creating pods of desks, instead of rows, allows the teacher to facilitate the use of technology. The classroom becomes an efficient, collaborative environment where tech exploration thrives.

3D Printing

3D Printers are not a new technology, but the recently have become more affordable, smaller, and quicker. Due to these advancements, classrooms can start adopting the printers as educational tools. The possibilities are endless. Three dimensional models can be printed for further exploration, students can design their own blueprints to then be printed, and they can even learn how to troubleshoot and fix the tech.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality, like 3D printing, has been around for a little while, but we are going to see it popping up in classrooms more in the near future. Bringing augmented reality to the classroom is possible, in part, from app development. Augmented reality used to only have been possible through expensive, clunky workstations. Now, you can create augmented reality in computer programs and view it through the camera of your smartphone.

Competency Based Education

Competency Based Education (CBE) is being practiced in higher education, but may also be used in grades K-12 someday. CBE is the practice of matching the education with an individual’s skill level. If a student posses the knowledge and understand of a course, they should not be made to sit through a class that’s too easy. Using CBE, students would skip over that class and be places a higher level up or be given more challenging work. This is all made possible with the help of the next section.

Digital Data Platforms

Digital data platforms for teachers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and simple to use. Schools are gathering student specific data from individual test scores, grades, and other metrics in order to monitor student progress. These platforms also hold curriculum materials and tools for teachers.

The world of EdTech is exciting and growing at a rapid rate. We are using technology to change our students lives for the better. Embrace new technology and you’ll be amazed at what it will do for your classroom!

Back to School a Parent Guide

Your kids will be back to school before we know it and the best thing to be is prepared. Parents are the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to helping students get back in the swing for a new school year. The list below highlights a few ways to help kids get ready and stay motivated for a new year of learning!

Develop a routine sooner than later

It’s hard for children and adults to make abrupt changes to their schedule. Help your kids get ready for waking up earlier than they are used to before the first day of school. In the month before school starts, slowly start adjusting bedtime and wake ups so your students can get used to waking up for school. You can even make it fun by waking them up early to do fun activities! Who said waking up early has to be a punishment?

Set up a designated homework space

Set up a homework space with your children. This should be an area where there are fewer distractions and has all the supplies they may need. The designated space will promote good habits and can be customized for any child’s learning style.

Keep the fun going

Plan a few mid school year adventures! Just because the summer is over doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Plan fun and educational trips or activities during the school year to keep the fun going all year long. You can even use them as motivation for good grades by planning them around the time grades come out.

School prep

Make school prep fun. Come up with a shopping list together of things your child will need and want for the upcoming school year. By doing so together, your child will start to get excited about the new school year and how cool they are going to look with their new gear. Plus, your child may provide some hidden insight to what they need based on their learning style to be successful.

Go out with a bang!

Plan one last end of summer hurrah! This doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation, but set aside some time right before the school year to celebrate summer and the upcoming school year. Have a little party to enjoy all the pictures and memories of the summer and then talk about all the exciting things the new year has to offer. This last hurrah will make your child thankful for all the fun and ready to learn within the coming weeks.

Encouraging Courageous Thinking in the Classroom

You might have read that title and be scratching your head a bit. What’s a “courageous thinker?” I’m glad you asked. You may know some courageous thinkers. People like Elon Musk, the founder and brainchild behind Tesla, and Tom Chi, Google’s former head of experience. These people are courageous thinkers because they have taken on the massive task of thinking outside the box to make the world better.

Courageous thinkers take the world’s problems and come up with ways to solve them. This is a pretty cool way of thinking, but what if we could instill this mentality into all of our students. There is a quite simple answer – we can.

Collaboration and Debate

We need to encourage our students to both collaborate with each other AND debate each other. We need to do it early and often. These two areas specifically breed courageous thinkers for a few reasons. Collaboration takes a lot of teamwork and a heck of a lot of compromise. In order to become a courageous thinker, we need our students to work together in environments that aren’t always so cut and dry. Additionally, the more brain power working on one assignment, the more can be done!

Debate has a similar effect, but for different reasons. Learning to debate on tough issues effectively and resourcefully takes a lot of courage and quick thinking. It’s easy to give up or insult someone when they do not agree with you, but it takes a certain kind of person to debate with dignity and poise. This kind of mindset helps mold courageous thinkers of tomorrow.

Appropriate Tests and Tasks

We need to be giving our students appropriate tests and tasks for their learning style and level, but we can’t stop there. To cultivate courageous thinkers, we need to have the scaffolding in place to scale students up and push their potential to the limits. The more we are able to do so, the more they will go on to crave this type of achievement later in life.

Consistent Feedback

We need to adopt school wide feedback that is consistent throughout their time with us. This is important for their growth and their own reflection. If we are not consistent, our students can become confused and not know what they need to improve upon or even what they are being compared to. In order to encourage courageous thinking, we need to set the groundwork for consistent and constant feedback. This feedback allows for self reflection and will follow these students for the rest of their life. If we can give them the tools to self asses and improve, they will push themselves for the rest of their lives.