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EdTech in the Classroom: Nurturing Skills That Students of Today Need for Jobs of Tomorrow

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 8:09am

I misplaced my phone a few days ago, and I went crazy until I could find it. It was almost as if I couldn't function. The funny thing is, I didn't even own one until a few years ago. Yet, I somehow managed to get through my days in relative peace and productivity.

Pexels

This seems to be the case with technology. As recently as a decade ago, much of the tech that streamlines our lives and jobs didn't even exist to the extent and capability that we've become accustomed to today.

Imagine what our lives will be like ten years from now.

It is this kind of projection that has business leaders and educators sounding alarm bells in think tanks and industrial publications all over the world.

Some researchers predict that, by the year 2030, we could lose up to 40 percent of jobs considered essential today. That includes white-collar staples in fields like accounting, law, and medicine.

The recent pandemic has even forced us to redefine what careers are considered essential to some extent, and how many jobs we can actually get by without. There's a fear that this trend will render the bulk of our workforce unemployable when technology dominates.

How Educators Can Keep Future Workers From Going the Way of the Dinosaur

As much as some people fear that technology will make people obsolete, at least in modern workplaces, when applied strategically and with intelligent foresight, emerging tech will enhance our lives and create new career paths.

Consider how many occupations that are common today didn't exist in 2010, such as social media manager and digital influencer.

While many of the technologies currently in use will become obsolete by the time today's students enter the workforce, basic technical skills and principles will remain relevant.

For example, take someone who graduated in the late 1980s with a computer science degree.

Almost all of the programming languages and methods mastered then seem like ancient hieroglyphics to today's STEM students, and they're completely irrelevant in the workplace. Windows and the commercial internet didn't even exist; the information superhighway was merely a dirt road from university to university.

However, the principles of coding, such as logic and data flow, are still essential.

When assessing and using tech in the classroom, here are some skills educators can help develop in their students that will always be in demand.

Creative Collaboration

Businesses have been gradually transitioning to the cloud for some time due to the demands of data collection and storage. Recent events have forced remote learning and work and made the art of distance collaboration an essential skill. Zoom meetings and TV broadcasts demonstrate nearly unlimited potential.

We currently have cloud-based technologies like Google Drive at our disposal. They're even loaded onto our smartphones and computers by default.

Teachers can prioritize using such platforms in the classroom by allowing students to work on projects together or exchange files and information. This teaches them to use technology to work toward a common goal without restrictions on time or geographic location, which will become the norm in the future.

Critical Thinking

Another thing that recent events have taught us is how surreal the world can be. We're veering into an atmosphere dominated by fake news and misinformation that leaves us feeling unable to trust our own eyes and ears.

Educators can reinforce critical thinking skills and analytical capabilities by teaching students how to discern fact from fiction. This can be achieved by incorporating research and fact-checking technologies/methodology.

They can also cover the ethics of internet usage, help students understand the dangers of misinformation, and explore the methods used to create and spread false information.

Analytical Thinking

Moving further into the fourth industrial revolution – what some are calling Industry 4.0 – there is a comprehensive case to be made about the advantages of formerly “sci-fi scary” technologies like robotics, AI, and machine learning.

For example, big data is one of the driving forces behind the business in nearly every sector and industry. Once our children graduate and enter the workforce, data analysis and related technologies will dominate the landscape.

Educators can leverage existing tech and encourage analytical thinking that will be needed in the future. For example, they can have students create and conduct surveys using Google Forms and then present the information they collect. This platform is free and widely available on the internet, and it will allow students to hone their ability to collect, analyze, and present data.

Innovation and Creative Thinking

With smartphones, students have an unlimited amount of knowledge and educational resources in the palm of their hand. Google has become a verb, as well as a search platform. Teachers can leverage this unprecedented access and capability by teaching students creative ways to use the tech tools they have at their disposal.

For example, students can use 360-degree video tech to take a virtual field trip to almost any place in the world without ever leaving their classroom. Many museums and historical sites offer such access for free online.

Technology and Responsibility

With the freedom technology offers comes responsibility. Teachers need to highlight the importance of online safety and cybersecurity by using best practices in their classrooms and teaching students safety standards like passwords security and basic netiquette, such as how not to be a troll.

Communication Skills

Since we’ll be working in predominantly virtual workplaces, it’s essential to also acquire proper communication skills, which are different online than in the real world.

One of the drawbacks of online communication is that we miss many cues that we usually receive through body language. There is also the pitfall of not getting the message across, so when in doubt, overcommunicating on project goals or requirements and asking for proper feedback are the way to go.

Continuous learning and adaptability

We witness a rapid change in the technology that we use on a daily basis. When some tech becomes obsolete or is replaced by a new standard, it’s important to be able to get accustomed to these changes fast.

Luckily, even without continuing formal education, it is easier than ever to stay up to date on industry demands and standards. Case in point: our example student from the 1980s would have needed to pick up web design, JAVA Script, and HTML to stay in the industry once these technologies became a standard. However, it’s easy to do so via online courses, training, and tutorials, many of which are free.

Encouraging students to identify skill gaps and upgrading their skills when necessary will make it easier for them to adapt to any new software or equipment they might encounter in the future.

Final Thoughts

The future paradigm shifts that seem so jarring today will be gradual in reality as long as we prioritize the foundational technical knowledge future workers will need to survive.

Rather than fearing that robots will replace us, enlightened leaders in business and education are highlighting ways that tech will enhance our lives and free us to explore new horizons.

For our students to transition into a workforce that is agile and adaptable, we should veer away from an education model based on a 19th century production-based mindset. The new focus should be on a core curriculum that puts technical prowess at its foundation, combined with developing the soft skills that make us human.

 

Potential Uses for Chatbots and Instant Messaging Apps in Teaching and Learning

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 7:03am
Introduction

Instant messaging is already an integral part of the average student’s life, and it can also have many uses to boost their education. Additionally, advances in technology mean chatbots are becoming increasingly versatile, and are now capable of enhancing the classroom experience in many ways. These technologies can compliment each other to support students both inside and outside of the classroom and providing additional learning opportunities and methods.

Here are 7 of the most effective potential uses of chatbots and instant messaging in the modern classroom:

1. Student Feedback

Student feedback is vital to creating a more effective classroom and teaching approach. Getting feedback from students presents several challenges however. Sending students detailed surveys and questionnaires can take up their time and get low response rates. While interviews enable teachers to dig deeper into students’ opinions and feedback, these are very time consuming for teachers. Furthermore, students may give less honest answers due to social pressure.

As a feedback tool, chatbots provide the best of both worlds. Chatbots allow students to give feedback in a conversational format, interpreting their answers and using branching surveys to respond to their feedback. Chatbot surveys can get triple the response rate of feedback requests sent via email.

2. Virtual Teaching Assistants

Chatbots can provide valuable teaching assistance both in and out of class. In class, this can enable students to ask quick questions and check information without interrupting the flow of a lesson.

For example, if a student doesn’t understand a key term or formula they could message the chatbot for clarification. For complex questions, the chatbot could forward the query to the teacher, to be answered at the end of class.

With the latest advances in AI and natural language processing, some chatbots are even able to handle the most complex questions and provide highly specific responses. For example, when Ashok Goel, a professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, used a chatbot to respond to his students, most of them didn’t realise they were talking to an AI.

This also enhances learning outside of the classroom, helping students check information for their homework or revision without wasting time logging into your site or finding the right answer on Google. Besides helping students get information faster, a chatbot able to provide schedule details and FAQs can greatly reduce the number of times teachers have to send the same answer to different students.

3. Chatbot Campus Guides

Besides providing schedule information, there are many other ways a chatbot can help students stay organized. They can also be used to give new students directions to their next class, or give guidance on submitting their assignments. Asking a chatbot is often much easier than searching a school’s site for department-specific rules and requirements. Furthermore, automating routine messages like these is estimated to save an average of 30% of associated costs.

Students can also use chatbots to get information about any campus or student support services, enabling them to access those services without the need to discuss personal topics with their teacher.

4. Automated Tests and Quizzes

Chatbots can be a useful studying tool to help students revise with quizzes and tests. Making this content available through instant messaging and social media means students can always test their knowledge at a time that suits them.

As a result, students can make use of their time to answer a few questions even if they are on the move. Logging into your site to use web quizzes can be slow on a mobile connection, whereas instant messaging is fast even on a poor connection.

5. Individual Student Support

In addition to giving automated responses and scripted interactions, chatbots can pass the conversation on to teacher or tutors. This makes it easier for students to get help when they have a complex question, and is faster and less formal than sending an email.

This enables teachers to be more aware of students who are struggling to keep up and provide individual support. Being able to have their discussion with a chatbot sent on to a teacher can also make it easier for students to open up about issues they are having. Making these services easier to find and access improves student perceptions of institutional services, which is the most important factor in student retention.

6. Group Discussion

Providing group instant messaging for students lets them work together and continue to discuss what they are learning outside the classroom. Creating a classroom atmosphere when students are not able to meet up to study in person can improve motivation and productivity, as well as letting students help and teach each other. Group messaging bots can also be used to let students take part in group quizzes and tests, creating a competitive element to their independent learning.

To provide the most productive environment, it can be a good idea to use a dedicated study group app, as these are free from distracting content and unrelated social interactions.

7. Time Management

Scheduled instant messages can help students be ready for class, reminding them when to log in or arrive, and providing important deadlines and dates.

Using a texting app in education to send SMS reminders can offer additional benefits however. Texts are more likely to be opened immediately and don’t need an online connection, making them more effective for sending urgent messages. Additionally, a texting app can be integrated with your schedule to send reminders automatically, reducing human error if the schedule is changed.

Conclusion

Chatbots and instant messaging will play a key role in the future of education, not just during the current crisis. These technologies are already ubiquitous and offer many benefits to both educators and students. Adapting your teaching approach to include these technologies can upgrade your classroom experience and set students up for success.

 

With E-learning, School Districts are Building the Foundation for Better Learning Outcomes

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 8:33am

 

When Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered schools closed throughout the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic, sending home millions of students to learn remotely, Cicero School District 99 was ready. The K-8 district of 14,000 students, southwest of Chicago, was already five years into its mission, driven by Superintendent Rudy Hernandez, of changing the way it delivers education through technology in the classroom and beyond. Cicero 99 has embraced one-to-one learning, putting computing devices in the hands of all its students. It adopted Google Classroom and the Schoology online learning management system as foundational education tools. And it charted a professional development path for its staff that included Google Educator certification, with nearly 300 teachers certified at Level 1 or 2 so far. When Cicero 99 students and teachers began sheltering at home, they were ready to continue their studies.

“Our students are fortunate because prior to coronavirus, that's how they'd been learning,” said Cao Mac, Cicero 99 Chief Information Officer, who worked with partners like LG to create a classroom digital learning framework. “They’re still learning in the same manner because we've had that infrastructure in place. Our teachers have been doing this for the last five years, so now we're 100-percent remote learning and we're still seeing our students connected and engaged with our teachers.”

K-12 school districts and service providers throughout the country have stepped up heroically to try and facilitate remote learning during the pandemic. By late March, New York City had distributed 175,000 laptops, Apple iPads and Chromebooks to students so they could study from home. Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools set up drive-through distribution days for students needing mobile devices to participate in the county’s new Continuity of Learning initiative. Online conferencing company Zoom gave schools free access to its platform and lifting time restrictions for its basic accounts. Google and Microsoft have also offered free access to their collaboration platforms. And internet service providers such as Comcast are addressing the digital divide by offering free connectivity to low-income families.

To be sure, the current crisis has focused schools’ attention on enabling e-learning. When the pandemic subsides, districts that haven’t already will likely take a closer look at e-learning and the skills and solutions that make it possible.  A study by Deloitte found that educators, students and parents want more and better access to e-learning. Not only does e-learning allow education to continue in times of disruption, whether due to a public health crisis or natural disaster, it creates new opportunities for students and teachers to improve learning outcomes.

During the sea change in U.S. education in the spring of 2020, our education experts reached out to administrators, teachers and parents. Here are a few things school districts will be considering as they explore e-learning — now and in the future:

E-Learning is Based on New Ways of Delivering Education

At Cicero 99, every classroom has an interactive screen, connected to the district’s online learning resources. Students are able to wirelessly “cast” what they’re seeing on their one-to-one devices to the classroom display in order to share ideas with teachers and classmates. Cicero 99’s Sherlock School even has an immersive video wall from LG that lets groups of students experience the subjects they’re learning about. Yes, today’s generation of students is already digitally savvy, but experience using technology for education can help ease the transition to e-learning. “Our transition has really been seamless not just for our staff, but also for students, because they've been learning in a 21st-century learning environment,” said Mac.

E-learning Takes Multiple Forms, Requires Support

When students are learning from home, part of the experience is necessarily asynchronous. They log into a platform like Canvas, Google Classroom or Schoology to complete assignments, look for resources, post questions to teachers and more. In addition, now, through the widespread availability of video technology, they can engage in real time with classmates and teachers using Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Educators need training with such tools — not only how to use them but how to use them effectively — and districts need support staff in place to troubleshoot systems quickly if they malfunction. If there are technical difficulties in the classroom, the class can usually continue; but when a virtual classroom has a glitch, learning gets put on hold.

Access is Critical

School districts have spent years implementing one-to-one learning. Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, schools made tens of millions of mobile devices available to students. But the device is just one component; Internet access — especially now, when learning is 100-percent online — is equally important. And not every student has access. It’s estimated that 98 percent of U.S. schools have high-speed broadband to support e-learning in their buildings, but millions of students don’t have the access they need to work from home. Districts can work with internet service providers to help facilitate free or affordable connections. Others, like Cicero 99, offer portable WiFi hotspots with their students’ one-to-one devices. Regardless of how students and teachers connect, to the extent e-learning takes place over their networks, districts also need to ensure they have the robust infrastructure needed to deliver increasingly multimedia-rich materials from their learning management systems to students.

Security is Equally Critical

And when students and teachers take advantage of e-learning, it’s incumbent on schools to make data privacy and security a top priority. Especially in challenging times, when schools can expect to see an increase in online scams, phishing attempts and other potential cyberattacks, it’s important to have procedures and policies in place that protect students and district networks. Technology such as content filtering, single sign-on authentication and mobile device management can help school districts maintain trusted connections between one-to-one devices and online learning systems. School districts need to work with solution providers to maximize the security settings on their platforms and teach students and facility to be aware of cyberthreats and how to protect themselves online.

When schools get back to normal, it will likely be the “new normal” people talk about. E-learning will help the nation’s school districts though the current crisis, and it will also lay the foundation to tap into new classroom technology opportunities, while at the same time enhancing learning outcomes 365 days a year.

“As a district, we have all the key components to ensure that, pedagogically, we’ve changed our mindset on leveraging technology tools in the classroom. We're seeing the benefits today,” said Cicero 99’s Cao Mac. “The online enrichment exercises and activities students used to do in class, they're now doing from home.”

 

Changes to the Administration of SAT’s Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 8:12am

A few months back, the College Board announced that the administration of the SAT tests was being significantly altered to to the COVID-19 pandemic. I recently connected with Sara Roberts, a tutor for Math Nation, who seemed well informed about these changes. I asked her if she would write up a quick overview of these changes for our readers and she kindly did so. – KW

What will the adjusted SAT consist of? How will it be different from the normal SAT?

Due to COVID-19, the College Board cancelled the March, May and June SAT Administrations. Fall administrations are currently set for August 29th, September 26th, October 3rd, November 7th, and December 5th. Students can get early access to register for August, September, and October if they are already registered for the June administration or are in the high school graduating class of 2021 and do not have an SAT score yet. The College Board is also working to expand testing centers in the fall so that every student who wants to take the SAT can.

How can students learn more about this?

Students can stay up to date on the latest changes with the SAT on the College Board Website (https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat). Currently, College Board has alerts regarding cancelled administrations of the SAT as well as helpful articles for everything from ‘interpreting your scores’ to ‘what to expect on test day’. Additionally, Math Nation is always posting up-to-date information as we receive it. If there are any changes, Math Nation will provide materials for students (such as videos and practice problems) to use to prepare and practice for the test.

What do you suggest students do differently to prepare for this different version of the SAT?

Students should continue to prepare for their SAT as they normally would during this time. Communication from the College Board has been that they are, “preparing to significantly expand our capacity for students to take the SAT once schools reopen.” The College Board has also said that they are prepared to administer a digital exam in case school does not reopen in the fall. The digital, remote version of the SAT would measure the same student-preparedness for college as the paper-based test. Since there is still no official word on a remote, digital version of the SAT, using both paper-based and digital study resources will best prepare students to take the exam in the fall.

How can students stay on track and continue to prepare for the SAT?

There are many great resources to prepare for the SAT and sometimes it can be hard to chose which option is best. It is helpful to chose a platform such as Math Nation which incorporates multiple avenues for learning. Math Nation has study guides, engaging videos with on-screen teachers, and digital practice problems that give students immediate feedback. Even with the best resources, studying for the SAT will only be effective with a plan, and study plans are not one size fits all. After students figure out how long they have to study (1 month, 3 months, etc), they should spend time researching a plan that best fits their lifestyle and SAT goals. The most important part of creating a SAT study plan is sticking to it! The more consistent students are in their studies the easier it will be to stay on track and not get overwhelmed as the test date approaches. Additionally, we want to remind students who studied for the spring or June SAT that got rescheduled to not get discouraged. The time and effort they spent studying will l pay off for them when they are able to take their rescheduled SAT.

 

The Fundamental Five: A Framework for Improving Communication Processes

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 11:02am

Over the past weeks, we've been talking with school and district leaders as they continue to navigate these new challenges we're all facing. As students adapt to a new way of learning, it’s important to recognize that the pressure to succeed remains, now amplified without their usual means of support. In addition, parents are struggling to understand the best way to support their children and are desperately seeking guidance and structure from the educators leading this change.

Here at the Instructure Center for Leadership and Learning, we have been consulting with countless school leaders and our own internal experts to learn more about how we can support educators as they strive to find common ground. Ultimately, we realized a successful transition to learning from home begins with a desire to make learning personal for each student.

To aid in this transition, we took the most prevalent student concerns and narrowed them down to five questions, which we call the Fundamental Five. This simple framework serves as the foundation for improving communication processes—wherever and however learning happens.

The “Fundamental Five”

1. What am I supposed to do?

With a shift to learning at home, parents and students are feeling particularly stressed about how to structure their days. Sending or posting a detailed schedule of each day’s activities, assignments, and readings with clear directions, expectations, and submission requirements will help keep both students and parents on track. If you are using online resources that require a student login, don’t forget to include easy-access to login information.

2. When is it due?

Many schools are struggling to determine how to get resources to students and are finding it even more difficult to collect student work. Many districts are opting out on collecting assignments and are choosing to focus on an extended continuous learning model. If you are going to apply due dates to assignments, it’s important to make sure there is clarity around when work should be completed and how students should turn their work in to teachers.

3. How did I do?

Providing feedback to students while they are learning from home can be challenging,  but it is even more important now that you are apart. When you provide students feedback on assignments, graded or not, you are communicating to them that the learning process will continue and that you acknowledge their effort. Grades are inevitable. Feedback is personal.

4. Can you help me?

There are parents sitting with their children right now wishing you could step in to provide the support their child needs. We know that communication methods will vary greatly from school to school, but having a clear method for connecting with your students and parents is key.

5. What more can I do?

Like it or not, students are still worried about their grades. The transition to learning at home is likely to create additional stress and uncertainty around grading practices as students adjust to the new normal. Creating additional and alternative opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding and show that they are meeting expectations is essential to alleviating stress.

 

Students and parents will continue to face many trials that don’t fall into your sphere of influence, but they are depending on you now more than ever to provide clarity and consistency around the work that needs to be done. As the need for remote learning continues, opportunities will arise to learn and adapt as a community, as we are all committed to ensuring the success of our students. On behalf of the Instructure family, we’d like to thank you for the work you are doing to support teachers, parents, and students. We are honored to support you.

 

Top Tech Skills You Can Learn During Quarantine

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 6:53am

This is a great opportunity for students, especially as some head into slower summer months soon. This is also a good opportunity for those who may have been occupationally displaced due to the pandemic.

Practicing social distancing means spending all of your time at home, but this doesn’t have to be an excuse for you to be unproductive. Turn that frown upside down by making a positive experience out of these troubling times. We suggest you take charge of the situation and use it to pick up a few new skills that could help boost your career opportunities.

It goes without saying that the tech market is a continuously growing industry that is constantly looking for qualified employees. So why not use all these free hours to learn tech-related skills?

Online coding bootcamps, for instance, take between 3 to 12 weeks to complete, so we can say that you managed to go through all courses during the quarantine period. In this guide, we’ll show you some of the best tech skills to learn and how you can do so.

Data Science

Data science is one of the fastest-growing fields in the tech industry and today most companies rely on data scientists to make smart business decisions. So why not try learning about data science and expand your career opportunities? Let us demonstrate how data science really works under the hood.

A data scientist is able to analyze a business problem based on the company’s databases and come up with ideas to approach this challenge and predict possible scenarios. This is also made possible through a process called data acquisition, where a data scientist gathers and scrapes information from different sources such as web services, online repositories, and databases.

Once this step is completed, the scientist prepares or cleans the data to make it more easily understandable. Then he or she will analyze the results and communicate them to the company’s team via a process called data visualization. 

All these steps are helpful for a company to identify potential errors and to come up with an effective business decision. Companies all over the world leverage from having a data analyst or data scientist to optimize their performance. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are using data science to have a better understanding of genetic reactions. This helps them to have discoveries that could change the quality of life of many people in the world. 

Data science opens up the possibilities of various roles such as data analysts, machine learning engineers, data engineers, and deep data engineers. At this point you may be wondering, how much does a data scientist earn? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a data scientist can earn from $95,000 to $185,000 a year. This positions it as one of the highest-paying jobs in the tech industry.

If you’re wondering where you can learn these skills, there are several data science bootcamps that will accelerate your career in the field. Flatiron School is one of the most popular ones. It offers a 15 weeks bootcamp where you’ll learn all the skills needed to stay ahead in the data science field. 

Software Engineering

Software engineering is everything involved in the conception of the desired software. A software engineer is someone who writes and tracks the performance of code, besides other multiple tasks involved in the development process. To create software products, developers do research, make prototypes, design and modify existing code, so this is a profession that covers a lot of ground in the tech industry.  Most of today’s companies require the help of software developers for their commercial products.

Did you know that 70% of the time you spend on your phone is spent on apps? This illustrates the importance for companies to have their own well-integrated software. Having such software allows them to take their operations to the next level in terms of customer loyalty. So we can say that learning this new skill will open up the possibility to work in almost any type of company. Besides, this profession also has one of the highest tech salaries. A software engineer can earn from $105,000 to $120,000 a year.

Where can you learn this tech skill? Thinkful has a 7-month bootcamp where you can learn all skills needed to work in a software developer position. Thinkful is currently using a remote model due to the current situation, so you can easily take advantage of this while exercising movement control.

Mobile Development

Everybody uses mobile apps. When you’re on your phone, you spend most of the time on your preferred apps. Having a mobile app is very lucrative for companies since they can improve customer loyalty. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of mobile development is expected to grow 21%. Since this is a very in-demand skill we could easily assume that it has a good salary (and it does)—an iOS developer can make up to $155,000 a year. 

What is mobile development all about? It is the process of creating mobile apps for devices powered by iOS. iOS developers work with two coding languages which are Objective-C or Swift. Objective-C was the first language people used to mobile programming, but it was very hard to use at first, so Apple came up with an easier and more intuitive language called Swift. While the latter now ranks higher in popularity, it’s still good to know and understand Objective-C. 

But how do you become a mobile developer in quarantine? Lambda School offers one of the most complete iOS development bootcamps, and you’ll have the option to either pay upfront or pay the entire course after you’re hired. 

Web Development

Web development is not only an in-demand skill in the tech industry, but it is also a crucial position in every company. If your company doesn’t establish a social presence,  your brand might never occupy a space in your customers’ minds. So every company, organization or institution must have a well organized and attractive website where visitors can come to look at their products or services. That’s why it is so important for them to have a highly-skilled web developer.

Web development is the process of creating, designing and maintaining a website. A website developer works with programming code to ensure the website’s functionality based on the client’s requirements. 

This process includes writing markups and coding. Web developers can specialize in two areas—front end and back end development. Front end developers deal with all the process of designing the visual aspects of the website, while back end developers work with servers integration. Both of them are equally important for the optimum performance of a website. Some of the most common programming languages for web development are CSS, HTML, and Java.

Where can you learn this skill? General Assembly is one of the leading institutions in terms of web development, and they’re currently working completely remotely to ensure the students’ safety due to the current situation. General Assembly also offers a top-notch specialization in front end development, for those of you who already have some web development knowledge and enjoy working with front end development. 

Conclusion

Don’t let this stay-at-home period stop you from improving yourself. These are some of the skills you can learn from the comfort of your own home. The goal is to invest all your time into something that will help you take your career to the next level. Most of these schools we suggested offer remote lessons. Grab this chance to upskill and use it later to build a profitable and successful career.

The Pandemic Educator – Retooling Education (Weekly Live Webcast, Resources, Guest Appearance)

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 9:02am

Tips for taking your instructional show online and reflections from our experience at The College of Westchester

On Friday, April 17th it was my pleasure to be a guest on my friend David Mahaley’s new weekly webcast delivered on LearningRevolution.com. LearningRevolution is a daily online education conference site that educators can sign up for free. Every day they offer multiple different live sessions online.

David and I have known each other since back in 2012 when, as Head of School for the Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina, he envisioned and facilitated a 1-to-1 iPad program starting in the high school there, which in turn led to running the TLIPAD annual conference for several years (this was really the first national conference series focused on using the iPad in education).

Today David is busy helping to develop online learning and courses for various businesses and education institutions, and he runs his own consulting company, Edtech Solutions.

With the onset of this challenging situation we find ourselves in worldwide, David wanted to share his knowledge and experience and help educators with the transition so many have had to quickly make to taking their instructional show online. His weekly webcast takes place at 1 PM EST every Friday afternoon (sign up for all of the LearningRevolution webcasts here).

In this episode of The Pandemic Educator, David explains his four part approach to being able to deliver a high quality remote teaching experience, and then we explore some of what I have experienced as we quickly moved to fully remote teaching at The College of Westchester. I provide the recorded session below, and then summarize some key takeaways from the discussion.

4 Points of Emphasis when it comes to taking your instructional show online

David does a great job of identifying and briefly exploring four key considerations that all educators will want to work through as the move to remote teaching. Here is late April as I write this, many educators have already had to tackle some of these things, but many are also likely to not have considered a few of them and how they might help them with this new, challenging approach to teaching.

1. Home Base – This just refers to the idea that you need to select the primary platform from which you will delivery resources to students (in many cases, your school will have identified this for you already). In higher education, this is typically an LMS (Learning Management System), whereas in K-12, platforms like Google Classroom and Edmodo are popular. There are also myriad web page hosting platforms used by schools, which are focused more on proving simple resource pages for teachers to use. In cases where educators have no school-determined platform, they may be whipping up their own using web sites like Weebly. Most teachers are likely to have already figured this part out by now.

2. Learning Library – Here we consider how we can best organize resources thatwe wish to catalogue for our own use and reference. I frequently here educators and users in general complain about the challenge of organizing the many web links that they wish to store and have access to. The basic bookmark structure in browsers is not always very efficient (and of course, this is browser dependent). There are many tools for doing this sort of thing (I’m a fan of Trello, for example). David suggests the use of Google Keep (jump to around 9:00 in the video to check this out further).

3. Connecting Through Media – This is an area that is likely still ripe for exploration by any educators. There are many forms of media available to supplement or compliment the content you are delivering, and the ways in which students review and apply the knowledge they should be acquiring. Slide decks, videos, podcasts, and other rich media can provide engaging means by which students can learn more about a topic. David recommends exploring Steve Covello’s Teaching With Rich Media, a free online book, to explore and understand this at a deeper level.

4. Communication – Lastly, David emphasized the importance of effective communication with students and their families during this unusual situation. Tips include providing a weekly overview, make it clear what needs to be completed and when, and focus on timely responses and contact (explore the video for more).

Key Takeaways from my experience as an online educator and administrator

In the second portion of this episode, David and I discuss some of the things that I have experienced in my role at The College of Westchester, both from a teacher’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. The college was very proactive from the start as things began to be concerning in the first week of March (I wrote a piece about this here).

After a little dialogue about EmergingEdTech, we explored these questions:

• What had to be done to quickly move your faculty and students to an exclusively online format?
• What are some of the most important activities leaders in education can do to support their staff, students, and extended learning communities (families)?
• How can the flipped learning format be used effectively…to produce quality learning results and high student engagement [while remote teaching]?
• What advice would you give to instructors as they work to take their instructional show online?

To the latter question, a few key points I emphasized were:

Presence – One of the most essential aspects of successful online instruction is instructor presence. You need to be seen and be present for your students. In the case of moving to remote teaching, one of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to conduct synchronous video meetings with tools like Zoom (and, although some students may have issues attending, there is a lot to be said for doing this during the time slot that you would have taught regularly).
Feedback – Student need feedback on their work! I have often been frustrated to learn that my kids were not getting feedback on work, or when I hear this from other students. How did I do on the assignment? Why did I get a C? What can I have done better?
Let them know their grades – This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Students should have a sense of where they stand in a class. My daughter’s high school provided 5 week (i.e. mid-quarter) grade ranges and comments – that’s awesome. On the flip side, I’ve heard students say half way through the term that they have no idea what their grades are. Teachers make absolutely sure that students know how to access their grades, and what their approximate grade range is, it multiple points throughout a term (and no, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of traditional grading, but if we have to use it, they are more useful and meaningful when students are readily aware of them).
Flexibility/understanding – I don’t know about the students you work with, but my school is located in Westchester County, just north of NYC, and many of our students come from socioeconomically challenging circumstances. Many also work in the healthcare field. Suffice it to say that many of them are facing serious difficulties as a result of themselves or family members losing their jobs or being sick, quarantined, or worse. It is a very rough time for many of them. What do you know about what your students are going through? Be understanding and realize that you may not know what they are dealing with.

Hopefully some of the ideas and resources in this article and video can help you make the most of this ‘new normal’. Our students deserve the best we can do to support them. Thanks and stay well.

 

Understanding the Effect Social Media Can Have on Developing Brains

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 9:42am

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As the events of 2020 continue to unfold, daily life is changing in unprecedented ways. Overarching shelter-in-place and social distancing orders have left the bulk of American families with plenty of free time — too much free time, many would argue. For our children longing for social interaction outside of the immediate family, social media may seem like the perfect escape from boredom and isolation.

As such, young people and their parents, for that matter, around the world are turning to various apps and social media platforms en masse for emotional support and social connection in the wake of a global pandemic. Those bored and isolated teens and tweens continue to rely on their traditional favorite platforms, notably Snapchat and Instagram. In fact, studies conducted before COVID-19 hit show that 75% of teens use those two platforms, both of which allow users to share images and short videos.

But our increased reliance on technology and social media may not be good for our children’s’ mental health or developing brains, despite the platforms’ crucial function of providing human connection when real-world channels are unavailable. Social media and technology have become an undeniable part of children's lives, and are even more ubiquitous in 2020. Thus, in these challenging times, how can parents and educators help young people to balance the good aspects of social media with the negative effects, especially where mental health is concerned?

Positive Aspects of Social Media

Interestingly, the COVID-19 epidemic has become an unlikely experiment in the viability of social media as a replacement for tangible human connections. For many of us, social media has suddenly become a crucial lifeline and a reminder of what once was. Educators may be able to stay connected to students via social media platforms, even providing them with mental health and learning resources with help from instructional technology.

Social media may also serve as an outlet for creativity, which is crucial during times of social isolation when young people aren’t able to express themselves in a physical classroom space. In this way, social media may even benefit the developing brain, rather than stifling it. In fact, the American Institute of Economic Research (AIER) recently published a study on the connection between TikTok and human creativity.

Among social media platforms, TikTok is the new kid on the block, but it’s already immensely popular among young people and has even launched musical and dance careers. Users can create short, fun videos and share them far and wide with TikTok’s more than 800 million global users. According to AIER, TikTok “reveals the untapped creativity of the human mind.” In this way, the platform allows young people to freely express themselves without fear of online trolls or unkind comments that can negatively impact self-esteem.

The Negative Effects of Social Media Overuse

Of course, social media isn’t all about human connection and self-expression. There’s also a dark side to technology, most notably in the realm of mental health. And we can learn a lot about the ways in which social media impacts brain health from millennials, sometimes called the “burnout generation.”

Millennials are considered the first generation to grow up in a world saturated with technology and the internet. And they seem to be paying the price for that constant connectivity. According to Fiscal Tiger, millennials are “struggling with mental health in greater numbers than older generations,” notably depression. Social media seems to be at the crux of the issue, as millennials are particularly susceptible to its negative elements, including the concept known as FOMO, or fear of missing out.

While it sounds arbitrary, FOMO can be a serious matter for young people longing for social connection or who desperately want to fit in. The idea that one is missing out on important events or life milestones can negatively impact self-esteem, fueling anxiety and depression. FOMO can effectively snowball into something more serious, and that negativity can be difficult for young people to break free from.

Mental Health Warning Signs

Unfortunately, it can be more difficult to recognize the signs of poor mental health during times of mandatory social isolation. Seclusion ultimately affects everyone, no matter our age, and not in a positive way. Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of continued isolation, and no amount of social media and online connections are necessarily going to improve the situation.

Yet parents, educators, and caregivers should be aware of the warning signs of depression, whether it’s related to the overuse of social media, social distancing, or an underlying mental health condition. Continued depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on the developing brain, effectively masquerading as the new normal and severely impacting cognitive function.

It’s important to note that depression related to temporary events, such as social isolation, is typically fleeting and less serious than clinical depression. Either way, depressed young people may exhibit symptoms including insomnia, irritability, persistent sadness, and the loss of interest in daily activities. And a constant reliance on social media can compound those symptoms, most notably when cyberbullying enters the picture.

Final Thoughts

Social media and technology are an undeniable part of our children's lives. While social media does indeed have positive aspects, its overuse can be detrimental to the mental health of young people. Educators should be on the lookout for mental health warning signs, and work to highlight the positive role that technology and screen time can play in our daily lives.