Creative Teacher» Is Not an Oxymoron

What is a creative teacher? There is no such thing as perfectly creative teacher or a non-creative teacher (Bramwell, Reilly, Lilly, Kronish & Chennabathni, 2011). The act of teaching demands creativity to answer the omnipresent question, «How am I going to engage the students this week?» This question weighs heavily on every teacher as he or she creates learning plans.

There is a perception that some teachers are gifted with natural creativity, and the rest of us have to beg and borrow to obtain creative ideas. I suspect that truly creative teachers are not so gifted in creation but they are masters at gleaning ideas from all kinds of sources.

Gifted or not, all teachers can use a dose of creativity to liven up the learning.

Where can teachers find creative ideas? Well, if you have a lot of time, you can sift through the mountains of horribly cute activities for coloring, connecting the dots, fill in the blanks, or other not-so-engaging worksheets found on websites. I propose a different tactic. Start with the masters of creativity: animated shorts. These little videos can be wonderful introductions to lesson topics — interesting, engaging, and humorous. In most of these videos there are no words (satisfiying Robert Marzano’s non-linguistic representation), so they work with basically all levels and multiple subjects.

Masters of Creativity

The video of two wildebeests contemplating crossing the river makes a spectacular lesson warm-up about decision-making, the art of persuasion, and the foibles of human nature (ahem, or biology). The «What If Animals Were Round» series of videos from Rollin’ Wild can really spark student imagination. Pixar has numerous interesting shorts that teachers can use to grab students’ attention. Some of my favorites are the old man playing chessor the unfriendly birds.

Characteristics of Creative Teachers

Once you have the student’s attention, what do you do to keep it? Of course, experienced teachers have a few well-worn techniques in our teacher toolboxes, but new teachers are expected to provide the same levels of student interest with their quivers nearly empty. A study done by Bramwell et. al. (2011) suggests that creative teachers do similar things.

First, creative teachers not only learn about their own personal learning preferences and their students, they also tune into their colleagues’ preferences. Creative teachers routinely customize their own learning activities and also glean and adapt techniques and strategies from their peers in order to reach particular sets of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.

I have found that I am most creative with things that interest me. When I teach the culture and history lessons on the ancient Mayans, I don’t seem to have trouble finding creative learning activities. Finally, creative teachers value learning and interpersonal connections with students and their colleagues. Creative teachers deliberately spark interest, curiosity, and real-world application of knowledge through collaborating with fellow teachers and others.

Building a Creative Community

One of the biggest mistakes that new and experienced teachers make is trying to be creative on their own. Chatting with fellow teachers about ways to engage students can spark creative ideas that can become excellent learning experiences. Also, teachers often neglect to chat with administrators about their learning plans.

As teachers, we are connected to elements within our domain of the classroom and school. The most creative teachers also engage administrators to help in their creative projects, because administrators have wider connections and will gladly serve as liaisons to access the district and community resources.

Rather than being an oxymoron, the words «creative» and «teacher» are synonymous. Teachers are and should be creative masters at taking dull, monotonous learning objectives and making enticing, engaging learning activities. Teachers can seek inspiration from other creative masters and find volumes of «advice» and resources on the Internet, but some of the most important resources are found in the room next door and the office down the hall.

What is a creative idea for student learning that you’ve designed recently? Please share in the comments section below.

Reference

Bramwell, G., Reilly, R. C., Lilly, F. R., Kronish, N., & Chennabathni, R. (2011). Creative teachers. Roeper Review, 33(4), 228-238.

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11 Habits of an Effective Teacher

I really appreciate teachers who are truly passionate about teaching. The teacher who wants to be an inspiration to others. The teacher who is happy with his/her job at all times. The teacher that every other child in the school would love to have. The teacher that kids remember for the rest of their lives. Are you that teacher? Read on and learn 11 effective habits of an effective teacher.

1. ENJOYS TEACHING.

Teaching is meant to be a very enjoyable and rewarding career field (although demanding and exhausting at times!). You should only become a teacher if you love children and intend on caring for them with your heart. You cannot expect the kids to have fun if you are not having fun with them! If you only read the instructions out of a textbook, it’s ineffective. Instead, make your lessons come alive by making it as interactive and engaging as possible. Let your passion for teaching shine through each and everyday. Enjoy every teaching moment to the fullest.

2. MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

There is a saying, «With great power, comes great responsibility». As a teacher, you need to be aware and remember the great responsibility that comes with your profession. One of your goals ought to be: Make a difference in their lives. How? Make them feel special, safe and secure when they are in your classroom. Be the positive influence in their lives. Why? You never know what your students went through before entering your classroom on a particular day or what conditions they are going home to after your class. So, just in case they are not getting enough support from home, at least you will make a difference and provide that to them.

3. SPREADS POSITIVITY.

Bring positive energy into the classroom every single day. You have a beautiful smile so don’t forget to flash it as much as possible throughout the day. I know that you face battles of your own in your personal life but once you enter that classroom, you should leave all of it behind before you step foot in the door. Your students deserve more than for you to take your frustration out on them. No matter how you are feeling, how much sleep you’ve gotten or how frustrated you are, never let that show. Even if you are having a bad day, learn to put on a mask in front of the students and let them think of you as a superhero (it will make your day too)! Be someone who is always positive, happy and smiling. Always remember that positive energy is contagious and it is up to you to spread it. Don’t let other people’s negativity bring you down with them.

4. GETS PERSONAL.

This is the fun part and absolutely important for being an effective teacher! Get to know your students and their interests so that you can find ways to connect with them. Don’t forget to also tell them about yours! Also, it is important to get to know their learning styles so that you can cater to each of them as an individual. In addition, make an effort to get to know their parents as well. Speaking to the parents should not be looked at as an obligation but rather, an honour. In the beginning of the school year, make it known that they can come to you about anything at anytime of the year. In addition, try to get to know your colleagues on a personal level as well. You will be much happier if you can find a strong support network in and outside of school.

5. GIVES 100%.

Whether you are delivering a lesson, writing report cards or offering support to a colleague – give 100%. Do your job for the love of teaching and not because you feel obligated to do it. Do it for self-growth. Do it to inspire others. Do it so that your students will get the most out of what you are teaching them. Give 100% for yourself, students, parents, school and everyone who believes in you. Never give up and try your best – that’s all that you can do. (That’s what I tell the kids anyway!)

6. STAYS ORGANIZED.

Never fall behind on the marking or filing of students’ work. Try your best to be on top of it and not let the pile grow past your head! It will save you a lot of time in the long run. It is also important to keep an organized planner and plan ahead! The likelihood of last minute lesson plans being effective are slim. Lastly, keep a journal handy and jot down your ideas as soon as an inspired idea forms in your mind. Then, make a plan to put those ideas in action.

7. IS OPEN-MINDED.

As a teacher, there are going to be times where you will be observed formally or informally (that’s also why you should give 100% at all times). You are constantly being evaluated and criticized by your boss, teachers, parents and even children. Instead of feeling bitter when somebody has something to say about your teaching, be open-minded when receiving constructive criticism and form a plan of action. Prove that you are the effective teacher that you want to be. Nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Sometimes, others see what you fail to see.

8. HAS STANDARDS.

Create standards for your students and for yourself. From the beginning, make sure that they know what is acceptable versus what isn’t. For example, remind the students how you would like work to be completed. Are you the teacher who wants your students to try their best and hand in their best and neatest work? Or are you the teacher who couldn’t care less? Now remember, you can only expect a lot if you give a lot. As the saying goes, «Practice what you preach».

9. FINDS INSPIRATION.

An effective teacher is one who is creative but that doesn’t mean that you have to create everything from scratch! Find inspiration from as many sources as you can. Whether it comes from books, education, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, blogs, TpT or what have you, keep finding it!

10. EMBRACES CHANGE.

In life, things don’t always go according to plan. This is particularly true when it comes to teaching. Be flexible and go with the flow when change occurs. An effective teacher does not complain about changes when a new principal arrives. They do not feel the need to mention how good they had it at their last school or with their last group of students compared to their current circumstances. Instead of stressing about change, embrace it with both hands and show that you are capable of hitting every curve ball that comes your way!

11. CREATES REFLECTIONS.

An effective teacher reflects on their teaching to evolve as a teacher. Think about what went well and what you would do differently next time. You need to remember that we all have «failed» lessons from time to time. Instead of looking at it as a failure, think about it as a lesson and learn from it. As teachers, your education and learning is ongoing. There is always more to learn and know about in order to strengthen your teaching skills. Keep reflecting on your work and educating yourself on what you find are your «weaknesses» as we all have them! The most important part is recognizing them and being able to work on them to improve your teaching skills.

There are, indeed, several other habits that make an effective teacher but these are the ones that I find most important. Many other character traits can be tied into these ones as well.

LAST WORD: There is always something positive to be found in every situation but it is up to you to find it. Keep your head up and teach happily for the love of education!

http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/11-habits-effective-teacher

15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher

Recent technological advances have affected many areas of our lives: the way we communicate, collaborate, learn, and, of course, teach. Along with that, those advances necessitated an expansion of our vocabulary, producing definitions such as digital natives, digital immigrants, and, the topic of this post — «21st-century teacher.»

As I am writing this post, I am trying to recall if I ever had heard phrases such as «20th-century teacher» or «19th-century teacher.» Quick Google search reassures me that there is no such word combination. Changing the «20th» to «21st» brings different results: a 21st-century school, 21st-century education, 21st-century teacher, 21st-century skills — all there! I then searched for Twitter hashtags and Amazon books, and the results were just the same; nothing for the «20th-century teacher» while a lot for the «21st»: #teacher21, #21stcenturyskills, #21stCTeaching and no books with titles #containing «20th century» while quite a few on the 21st-century teaching and learning.

Obviously, teaching in the 21-century is an altogether different phenomenon; never before could learning be happening the way it is now — everywhere, all the time, on any possible topic, supporting any possible learning style or preference. But what does being a 21st-century teacher really mean?

Below are 15 characteristics of a 21st-century teacher:

1. Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions

As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to «spoon-feed» the knowledge or teach «one-size fits all» content. As students have different personalities, goals, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort — an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes!

2. Students as Producers

Today’s students have the latest and greatest tools, yet, the usage in many cases barely goes beyond communicating with family and friends via chat, text, or calls. Even though students are now viewed as digital natives, many are far from producing any digital content. While they do own expensive devices with capabilities to produce blogs, infographics, books, how-to videos, and tutorials, just to name a few, in many classes, they are still asked to turn those devices off and work with handouts and worksheets. Sadly, often times these papers are simply thrown away once graded. Many students don’t even want to do them, let alone keep or return them later. When given a chance, students can produce beautiful and creative blogs, movies, or digital stories that they feel proud of and share with others.

3. Learn New Technologies

In order to be able to offer students choices, having one’s own hands-on experience and expertise will be useful. Since technology keeps developing, learning a tool once and for all is not a option. The good news is that new technologies are new for the novice and and experienced teachers alike, so everyone can jump in at any time! I used a short-term subscription to www.lynda.com, which has many resources for learning new technologies.

4. Go Global

Today’s tools make it possible to learn about other countries and people first hand. Of course, textbooks are still sufficient, yet, there is nothing like learning languages, cultures, and communication skills from actually talking to people from other parts of the world.

It’s a shame that with all the tools available, we still learn about other cultures, people, and events from the media. Teaching students how to use the tools in their hands to «visit» any corner of this planet will hopefully make us more knowledgable and sympathetic.

5. Be Smart and Use Smart Phones

Once again — when students are encouraged to view their devices as valuable tools that support knowledge (rather than destructions), they start using them as such. I remember my first years of teaching when I would not allow cell phones in class and I’d try to explain every new vocabulary word or answer any question myself — something I would not even think of doing today!

I have learned that different students have different needs when it comes to help with new vocabulary or questions; therefore, there is no need to waste time and explain something that perhaps only one or two students would benefit from. Instead, teaching students to be independent and know how to find answers they need makes the class a different environment!

I have seen positive changes ever since I started viewing students’ devices as useful aid. In fact, sometimes I even respond by saying «I don’t know — use Google and tell us all!» What a difference in their reactions and outcomes!

6. Blog

I have written on the importance of both student and teacher blogging. Even my beginners of English could see the value of writing for real audience and establishing their digital presence. To blog or not to blog should not be a question any more!

7. Go Digital

Another important attribute is to go paperless — organizing teaching resources and activities on one’s own website and integrating technology bring students learning experience to a different level. Sharing links and offering digital discussions as opposed to a constant paper flow allows students to access and share class resources in a more organized fashion.

8. Collaborate

Technology allows collaboration between teachers & students. Creating digital resources, presentations, and projects together with other educators and students will make classroom activities resemble the real world. Collaboration should go beyond sharing documents via e-mail or creating PowerPoint presentations. Many great ideas never go beyond a conversation or paper copy, which is a great loss! Collaboration globally can change our entire experience!

9. Use Twitter Chat

Participating in Twitter chat is the cheapest and most efficient way to organize one’s own PD, share research and ideas, and stay current with issues and updates in the field. We can grow professionally and expand our knowledge as there is a great conversation happening every day, and going to conferences is no longer the only way to meet others and build professional learning networks.

10. Connect

Connect with like-minded individuals. Again, today’s tools allow us to connect anyone, anywhere, anytime. Have a question for an expert or colleague? Simply connect via social media: follow, join, ask, or tell!

11. Project-Based Learning

As today’s students have an access to authentic resources on the web, experts anywhere in the world, and peers learning the same subject somewhere else, teaching with textbooks is very «20th-century» (when the previously listed option were not available). Today’s students should develop their own driving questions, conduct their research, contact experts, and create final projects to share all using devices already in their hands. All they need from their teacher is guidance!

12. Build Your Positive Digital Footprint

It might sound obvious, but it is for today’s teachers to model how to appropriately use social media, how to produce and publish valuable content, and how to create sharable resources. Even though it’s true that teachers are people, and they want to use social media and post their pictures and thoughts, we cannot ask our students not to do inappropriate things online if we ourselves do it. Maintaining professional behavior both in class and online will help build positive digital footprint and model appropriate actions for students.

13. Code

While this one might sound complicated, coding is nothing but today’s literacy. As a pencil or pen were «the tools» of the 20th-century, making it impossible to picture a teacher not capable to operate with it, today’s teacher must be able to operate with today’s pen and pencil, i.e., computers. Coding is very interesting to learn — the feeling of writing a page with HTML is amazing! Even though I have ways to go, just like in every other field, a step at a time can take go a long way. Again, lynda.com is a great resource to start with!

14. Innovate

I invite you to expand your teaching toolbox and try new ways you have not tried before, such as teaching with social media or replacing textbooks with web resources. Not for the sake of tools but for the sake of students!

Ever since I started using TED talks and my own activities based on those videos, my students have been giving a very different feedback. They love it! They love using Facebook for class discussions and announcements. They appreciate novelty — not the new tools, but the new, more productive and interesting ways of using them.

15. Keep Learning

As new ways and new technology keep emerging, learning and adapting is essential. The good news is: it’s fun, and even 20 min a day will take you a long way!

As always, please share your vision in the comment area! Happy 21st-century teaching!

http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher

What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship

The greatest software invented for human safety is the human brain. It’s time that we start using those brains. We must mix head knowledge with action. In my classroom, I use two essential approaches in the digital citizenship curriculum that I teach: proactive knowledge and experiential knowledge.

Proactive Knowledge

I want my students to know the «9 Key Ps» of digital citizenship. I teach them about these aspects and how to use them. While I go into these Ps in detail in my book Reinventing Writing, here are the basics:

1. Passwords

Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites? Do they have a system like LastPass for remembering passwords, or a secure app where they store this information? (See 10 Important Password Tips Everyone Should Know.)

2. Privacy

Do students know how to protect their private information like address, email, and phone number? Private information can be used to identify you. (I recommend the Common Sense Media Curriculum on this.)

3. Personal Information

While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favorite food) can’t be used to identify you, you need to choose who you will share it with.

4. Photographs

Are students aware that some private things may show up in photographs (license plates or street signs), and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture — even if they aren’t tagged? (See the Location-Based Safety Guide)

5. Property

Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Do they respect property rights of those who create intellectual property? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights. Sometimes they’ll even cite «Google Images» as the source. We have to teach them that Google Images compiles content from a variety of sources. Students have to go to the source, see if they have permission to use the graphic, and then cite that source.

6. Permission

Do students know how to get permission for work they use, and do they know how to cite it?

7. Protection

Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work? (See Experiential Knowledge below for tips on this one.)

8. Professionalism

Do students understand the professionalism of academics versus decisions about how they will interact in their social lives? Do they know about netiquette and online grammar? Are they globally competent? Can they understand cultural taboos and recognize cultural disconnects when they happen, and do they have skills for working out problems?

9. Personal Brand

Have students decided about their voice and how they want to be perceived online? Do they realize they have a «digital tattoo» that is almost impossible to erase? Are they intentional about what they share?

Experiential Knowledge

During the year, I’ll touch on each of these 9 Key Ps with lessons and class discussions, but just talking is not enough. Students need experience to become effective digital citizens. Here’s how I give them that:

Truth or Fiction

To protect us from disease, we are inoculated with dead viruses and germs. To protect students from viruses and scams, I do the same thing. Using current scams and cons from Snopes, Truth or Fiction, theThreat Encyclopedia, or the Federal Trade Commission website, I’m always looking for things that sound crazy but are true, or sound true but are false or a scam. I’ll give them to students as they enter class and ask them to be detectives. This opens up conversations of all kinds of scams and tips.

Turn Students into Teachers

Students will create tutorials or presentations exposing common scams and how to protect yourself. By dissecting cons and scams, students become more vigilant themselves. I encourage them to share how a person could detect that something was a scam or con.

Collaborative Learning Communities

For the most powerful learning experiences, students should participate in collaborative learning (like the experiences shared in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds). My students will collaborate with others on projects like Gamifi-ed or the AIC Conflict Simulation (both mentioned in a recent post on game-based learning).

Students need experience sharing and connecting online with others in a variety of environments. We have a classroom Ning where students blog together, and public blogs and a wiki for sharing our work with the world. You can talk about other countries, but when students connect, that is when they learn. You can talk about how students need to type in proper case and not use IM speak, but when their collaborative partner from Germany says they are struggling to understand what’s being typed in your classroom, then your students understand.

Digital Citizenship or Just Citizens?

There are those like expert Anne Collier who think we should drop the word «digital» because we’re really just teaching citizenship. These are the skills and knowledge that students need to navigate the world today.

We must teach these skills and guide students to experience situations where they apply knowledge. Citizenship is what we do to fulfill our role as a citizen. That role starts as soon as we click on the internet.

Homework: Helping Students Manage their Time

This is the second of two parts. Part one can be found here: Is Homework Helpful?: The 5 Questions Every Teacher Should Ask.

Teachers assign work each and every day, either in class or for homework. That is the easy part. Put it on the board, tell students to copy it down, and move on to the next item on the day’s agenda. But why don’t teachers help students figure out how much time to allot to assignments? How do students know if an assignment should take 10 minutes or 40?

It is a blind spot in my own teaching. I never realized until lately that I wasn’t supporting students with time management skills. I wasn’t developing their ability to assess an assignment and correctly evaluate how much time it should take.

Why is this important? With good time management, students know how much time they have, how long it will take to get assignments done, and what they can accomplish in the time they have. This gives them more breathing room, which reduces the feeling of being rushed, which in turn leads to less frustration and stress.

Here are two ways to support students in understanding time management.

Do the assignment yourself — See how long it takes you to complete the work. Then remember, you are the expert with this material. Ask yourself, how long would it take for a proficient student to complete it? What about students with disabilities, what might hinder their progress? Then provide students with a range of times. If you believe an assignment should take 15-25 minutes, let them know. The benefit of this is that it allows students to plan better. They can situate homework in the context of their entire day. A student may get home from school at 3:30 and has soccer practice at 5pm. He now knows that he can complete your homework in any 25-minute window between the end of the school day and the start of practice. The downside to this is that some students may lose confidence and doubt themselves if an assignment takes much longer than you suggested.

Rate the assignment — Classify assignments into three categories with time frames for each so that students know what type it is and how long it should take to complete. Here are three ways that I categorize assignments:

Quick checks — These assignments are measuring sticks of understanding and they are short and sweet. I expect students to spend 20-50 seconds on each question on these types of assignments. A 20-question quick check should take 6-10 minutes.

Thorough Responses — When you want answer with more substance and more development, I look for thorough responses. These types of assignments are different than quick checks because I expect students to spend 2-4 minutes per question. Thorough responses typically have fewer questions consequently.Thorough response assignments take my students 20-35 minutes.

Sustained Thought — When students must access new material, when there is challenging reading, or when they must chew on ideas before they formulate responses,  students can expect to spend 30-40 minutes to complete an assignment.

http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/homework-helping-students-manage-their-time