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Top Tablet Tips

With a new year already strongly on the way, a lot of teachers are finding themselves in the strange position where learners have personal devices, whether it is phones of tablets, in the class. And this makes them uncomfortable in their own class. 

We have been using tablets in some of our classes for two years now, here are the top tips our teachers share on how to manage personal devices in your class. 

Remember that you are the teacher in the class and you make the rules. If you tell them to put the tablet away, it should be put away immediately. If something can be done just as well with pen and paper, you should do it with pen and paper.Just because learners have access to devices, does not mean you have to use it in every lesson. Like most things in life, if you overuse something it loses it effectiveness. If you are not planning to use the tablets in the next 10-15 minutes, tablets should be face down on their desk. (A standing tablet is a guarantee that they will be distracted.…

Are you better than YouTube?

There was a time when people said you could learn everything from the internet. These days, it seems to be true that you can learn everything from youtube. I can't remember when last I tried a new recipe that was not accompanied by a youtube video. A friend recently decided to learn how to knit from youtube. As a start-up entrepreneur, I am spending hours on YouTube learning everything from marketing to financial skills.   Pick a skill, and you will find a video about it. 
So recently, I was asking one of our students if she thinks school is still necessary when we can learn everything on youtube? I was pleasantly surprised by her answer,  A teacher makes life easyLet's not fool ourselves; even kids realise that having a teacher has some advantages. The biggest advantage to inherently lazy kids, otherwise known as the average child, is that they can put the responsibility for their learning on somebody else. I once taught an extremely intelligent learner. We both knew the only r…

Be present in your class

When I started out as a teacher, one of my more experienced colleagues told me that to be a good teacher all you have to do is be kind and consistent. The years since, has only convinced me of her wisdom, but I think if she was still teaching today she might have added a third thing, be present. 

Up until about five years ago, when you were at school, you were in a bubble. Unless there was death in the family, all news could, and would, wait until the end of the day. I can still remember during the 1992 Cricket World Cup; our principal would make all call announcements to keep us up to date with the score. It was almost as if the classroom was a sacrosanct space where everything paled before learning for both teacher and learner. 

This wasn't by design or enforced by rules. It was the reality of life; you could only be in one place at a time. The smart phone changed it all. Suddenly you can get a message from your husband reminding you to pick up milk; an email from the principal ab…

Technology can make you productive even when sick

Most South African teachers will understand when I say that I don't know how we are going to make this term. It seems like we are just back from holiday and already the exam is on us. So you can understand my frustration when I realised this morning that even though I spend the whole weekend in bed with a cold, I am still not well enough to go into school. I cannot afford to miss even one lesson at this stage. (Neither can I afford to cough all my germs over my learners and them also getting sick).

But I am happy to report that at the end of the day none of my classes was behind. Both my learners and I had a very productive day and all thanks to technology. 
A sick teacher's best friendGoogle Classroom for a start, is a sick teacher's best friend. Gone are the days where you colleagues had to run around to photocopy work for your classes. As I was sitting snuggly in my bed I looked through the work I planned to do. Luckily all my textbooks are on my computer, so I had everyt…

Remember to clean your Classroom folders.

On Day 13 of the Google Classroom Challenge, we spend the day deleting all the unused folders in your Classroom folders. Since Classroom automatically create files and folders it is a good idea to repeat this at least once a term. 
So here is your friendly reminder that it is time for you to do a spring clean of your folders again. 

How often do you clean out your Classroom folders? Do you delete files and folders or prefer to keep them in an archive folder?

5 Reasons why every teacher should try an InstaWorksheet.

A few months ago I blogged about the wonder of what I call an InstaWorksheet. You set up a Google Slide deck and share it with your class. Each learner claims a slide and either creates a question, or a summary or a presentation about the topic that you are working on. Since I started using InstaWorksheets I have been using it in a wide variety of ways.  If you are not yet using InstaWorksheets you are missing out. 

Here are five reasons why...1. It takes no time to prepare.There are very few things that you can do in class that take as little preparation as an InstaWorksheet. Technically you only need to create a slideshow and share it. But I like to have at least a front page and a page with instructions. 
This morning I had my grade 9's for a double period, and we all know that grade 9's struggle to work consistently for 90 minutes. So while they were working, I quickly set up an InstaWorksheet and the last 20 minutes was spend on independent research. 
To save even more time …

Digital Literacy

Teachers often mention that learners have no clue how to use computer programs like Word, Excel or Powerpoint (or their Google counterparts). So much so that teachers use it as a reason/excuse why they are not expecting learners to do more on their devices.

In an ideal world, all students should be taking computer literacy for a year or two. In the world we live in using a computer is an essential skill, like reading and writing. I was sitting in on interviews recently, and it amazed me that they even mentioned proficiency in Word/Excel/Powerpoint under their skills. I assumed it was a given. 

But it is not in the curriculum, and we all know that due to time constraints teaching things that are not in the curriculum just doesn't happen. 

Not giving learners assignments to do on their computers/tablets are not the solution. One way of dealing with the problem is to give them tips. These tips don't need to be limited to how to do things, but also how to make better presentations. 


Be curators, not just distributors

The internet is an amazing place, and as teachers start to get into the concept of sharing, the number of resources available online are staggering and growing by the minute.  Add to that the ease with which we can share these resources and the world is your oyster....or not. 
A number of teachers have told me recently that they find the idea of getting ideas and resources online a daunting task because there is so much available and you spend hours separating the good, from the mediocre and the bad. 

I belong to a few teacher groups and pages on Facebook and follow lots of teachers on Twitter. On all of these platforms, resources are shared freely and often. Over the last few months, I have started to distinguish between the curators and the distributors.  Don't share everything you see.It is so easy to share links on Facebook and Twitter that at first, I found myself sharing things indiscriminately.  If you share everything you see, anything that looks like it might be vaguely inter…