How to Manage a Hybrid Classroom Effectively

Hybrid teaching is here to stay – at least for the time-being (and probably long into the future). It is therefore crucial for educators everywhere to keep their hybrid-teaching skills in tip top shape.  Today, I’ve invited Kiara Miller from The Speakingnerd to share her excellent suggestions on how teachers can effectively manage their hybrid classrooms.

Kiara Miller

The pandemic, coupled with technological advancements, have set new terms for the education landscape (whether we like it or not). A lot of educational institutions worldwide are now switching to remote or hybrid teaching models in conjunction with face-to-face methods . With all the changes being embraced in the education sector, it is blatantly apparent that educators are trying to create an all-inclusive learning culture.

Through virtual, synchronous, or hybrid models, students who can’t afford to join an in-person class due to unavoidable circumstances can be accommodated. It’s also an attractive model for learners who wish to physically come to school for only a few days per week. Research shows that up to 82% of students opt for a hybrid learning environment over a traditional one. The research further goes on to indicate that 94% of teachers are in support of hybrid learning as long as they have proper resources and a suitable curriculum to follow.

The hybrid model is becoming common in both the education and workplace environments, but when it comes to education, it manifests a unique set of challenges. Teachers must manage students (in-person and remotely) in a way that ensures that they actively participate in class.

Teachers must also ensure that students stay engaged and get the proper support whenever needed. With all this to consider, it is essential for teachers to find ways of managing hybrid classrooms effectively to optimize student participation and academic performance. What follows are some of the approaches to look into.

#1: Use the right technology

First and foremost for an effective online class to take place, both teachers and students must have the right technology in place. Teachers may have no influence on what type of technology or software students can use, but they can guide them when it comes to choosing the right learning software. Having the same or similar learning devices allows effective collaboration. The teacher will not struggle to connect with the remote students or assign tasks to them when suitable hardware and software being used universally and consistently.

As a teacher, the aim is to connect the remote students to the in-person classroom. Here you will need a range of things in place such as cameras, screens, monitors, projectors, smartboards, and microphones, among others. In most cases, it’s essential for the remote students to turn on their cameras to help you monitor them or allow effective interaction. Remember to teach your students how to participate in-class using video conferencing tools since this may be new to them.

Please note that it is important to continue operating as per the traditional classroom management principles. This means that the teacher will only look out for add-ons that can help in the proper management of a hybrid classroom. If you require your students to be in class at the same time as with the synchronous learning model, it’s essential for them to be on time, participate and submit assignments like other students.

#2: Plan and organize every lesson thoroughly

We all know how teaching is a challenging profession and now that it’s going virtual, teachers are expected to handle more duties and responsibilities. As a teacher, you must know that there will be moments when you have to spare time helping the remote students to connect or use any tool. You will have possibly have to intervene in a student wrangle that may break out in physical class among others, or deal with other behavior management challenges (such as low-level disruption).

Richard’s bestselling book for teachers.

Similarly, you must ensure that your teaching devices are in a good condition before a lesson and that they are connected. Also, ensure that your teaching resources and materials are in place. You may have to plan effectively by prioritizing topics and deciding those that you would handle in-person or remotely. This will help you create a perfect balance between remote learning and in-person instruction.    

Consider talking to the remote students about how to create an ideal learning environment that is free of noise and other distractions. A disorganized classroom will divert students’ attention and affect their engagement in the various activities. It is essential to know that managing a hybrid classroom will always require more time as you have to focus on both in-person and remote students.

#3: Create a sense of community

Although you will have to teach two groups of students (in-person and remote) it is very essential to create a sense of community. Do not let physical boundaries create a gap between students. Creating a sense of community will help you promote an ideal learning environment. Even though studying remotely, let them know that they are part of the class. Create time and allow students to interact in order to build their social skills or bond. Turn your camera around to the physical students to show their faces in the virtual classroom, for example. Get the students who are learning online to way hello and goodbye to the in-class students, and vica-versa, if you have time.

You can also bring up a topic and ask for everyone’s participation for students to learn beyond the already-set curriculum. You can also model the ideal code of conduct that you want your students to follow. All these engagement tactics will bring students closer, increase morale and it will help them feel psychologically safe.

#4: Ask questions to keep students engaged

Instead of rushing through the syllabus, it is important to weigh the engagement level of your students. Ensuring that your students (both in-person and remote) are engaged will require paying extra attention to them. In the case of remote students, it’s so easy for them to get distracted from the class due to technical issues or other emergencies. Some students may also be passively attentive (hence the earlier suggestion of asking them to keep their cameras on).

Experiment with ways of keeping your students engaged. Engaged students tend to be actively involved in classroom activities and show more interest in every idea brought forward. For that matter, ask questions frequently to know whether your students are attentive or not. Assign teamwork to increase collaboration and sharing of knowledge. Use live-quiz apps, hybrid-teaching apps and play learning games

All this will help students set common SMART Goals and will also teach them how collaborative efforts can bring dreams to reality. Avoid assigning different topics to students simply because they study remotely or because they might find it hard to access the material or resources.  

#5: Manage your time wisely

Proper time management is associated with a range of benefits when it comes to hybrid classes. As a teacher, you must remember that you will have to race with time whether it’s about completing the syllabus, creating extra time for your students, or when it comes to your mental health.

First and foremost, the synchronous model where students are in class at the same time, although in different locations, ensures that you and your students are on the same page. It also helps students obtain the same experiences since classes are conducted in real-time. All these offer assurance that your efforts for students are fully optimized for their academic excellence.

Whether it’s conducting a lesson, monitoring an examination, or switching between classes, managing the available time is key to getting things done smoothly and effectively. There is a range of time tracking tools that teachers can utilize to track time and students’ performance.

On the other hand, you can also provide learning materials (online and offline), use past exam papers, or encourage learner-to-learner interactions and discussions to speed up classroom tasks. Through this, you will have provided all-round assistance to your students and will help you create time for yourself to reduce burnout chances. 

Conclusion

Summing up, more education institutions are embracing the hybrid teaching culture since it is all-inclusive, flexible, and seen as a reliable approach to extending education to millions of students. However, with it comes, a range of concerns that educators and instructors must look into if they are to provide constructive lessons.    

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6 Ways Virtual Reality Can Transform High School Education

Updated: 17th July 2022

Accompanying podcast episode:

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global virtual reality in education market is booming, and is projected to grow by an average of 45.2%, every year, between now and 2029. Teachers everywhere would be wise to skill-up and take courses in Virtual Reality EdTech in order to get prepared for the exciting changes we will soon see in our classrooms. Today, I’ve invited Kiara Miller from The Speakingnerd to share her insights into how VR will change the way we do things as educators for many years to come.

Kiara Miller

Gone are the days when all you had to do was walk into a classroom, explain a concept, dictate notes, and call it a day. These days you can offer your students more than that, thanks to technology. Technology in the education sphere is a hot topic and trust me, it will remain so as long as the world continues to embrace it.

Nowadays, teachers can offer students meaningful and impactful learning experiences using Virtual Reality technology (VR). According to this recent report by Global News Wire, the virtual reality market in the education sphere is expected to reach $8.66 billion in 2022, at an annual growth rate of 36%. In fact, 97% of students in technologically developed/developing countries would like to study a VR course.

360 VR is a type of VR that is commonly used in education. It offers immersive experiences by using specialist cameras and equipment to capture real-world locations. The content is then viewed on VR headsets or projected onto walls. Students don’t have to leave their classrooms or spend a lot of money to travel to locations that were once imagined. Virtual trips can happen anywhere and anytime as long as the students have the right equipment.

In a world where it is increasingly becoming difficult to attract students’ attention, engage them or keep them motivated to pursue studies, virtual reality technology seems to have the potential to provide at least a partial solution. It is associated with a range of benefits that we are going to explore together today.

The 7 Vivid Ways Virtual Reality can Transform School Education 

#1 VR offers amazingly immersive in-class learning experiences

What are your thoughts about students vividly seeing what is being taught rather than imagining things? STEM subjects such as biology, computer science, and architecture require hands-on experience for students to obtain a deeper understanding of the concepts and to build their expertise. Virtual reality allows educators to embed really impactful learning experiences into their curricula.

We live in a world that is increasingly dependent on technology and obtaining digital skills is seen as the way forward for future professionals. Using virtual reality in schools helps to provide in-depth knowledge to students on what is being taught. They can zoom in and out of locations that are a thousand miles away, observe how human blood flows throughout the body and even conduct specialized surgery.

VR brings things closer to students and makes things a reality that could have been impossible to relate to otherwise. It also allows students to interact with objects, chemicals or scenarios that could be too dangerous to interface with in the real world.

#2: Intricate concepts are simplified

There is nothing that hurts quite like like teaching a concept to students and then receiving negative feedback at the end of it. Teaching is a profession that requires patience, especially when describing and explaining difficult concepts or topics to students who may not have the ability to grasp the content immediately.

VR technology can help students to decipher intricate concepts with the help of images, videos, or virtual tours. VR is also an excellent add-on to a range of active-learning strategies since users are immersed in, and interact with, 3D worlds.

Intricate concepts are not easy to unpack and yet they also vary in their degree of complexity. Cases where learners can’t visualize what a teacher is talking about tend to produce confusion. Students tend to become passive learners in such scenarios, which negatively affects their performance. VR technology offers a solution in that it can be introduced to classrooms to help students get a clear view of the concepts being taught.

#3: Increases engagement 

Unlike traditional teaching methods, Virtual Reality can fully immerse students in the lesson being taught. Seeing something for the first time or that which seemed impossible increases enthusiasm and also maintains a high level of attentiveness. With the help of virtual reality tools, students can connect to worlds and objects which are normally out of their reach.

VR also stimulates higher levels of imagination which helps students understand concepts better than when just reading about them. The interactions enabled by VR help to keep students’ engagement high throughout the lesson.

#4: Increases practicality

Reading about something is different from having hands-on experience. Students that put more emphasis on learning concepts than practicing them find themselves increasingly left out. In simple terms, knowledge without practicality has a limited impact on students. For certain fields like biology, engineering and computer science, practical skills are vital to survival in an increasingly competitive world.

VR can increase students’ ability to understand concepts, implement what is learned and think of new ways of doing something better. Reading about something and learning how it works helps students believe that they are set on the right path. Also, it helps them set SMART Goals which are believable and achievable. With that, virtual reality offers a new meaning to education, by letting students know that they can put to use what’s learned.

Teaching makes a difference when learners are able to put what’s learned into use. In today’s world where skills are the top need of the hour, in-school training is essential and VR can help out. Using VR in class lays a platform for deep learning which helps students understand content better than when only surface learning takes place.

#5: It’s all-inclusive

Virtual reality has a wide range of applications in the education sphere. It can be used in architecture, philosophy, design or even in science classes. Videos can also be produced in a range of languages. On the other hand, it is suitable for all types of classes whether those occur in-person or remotely. Additionally, every student gets the chance to participate in and enjoy the experience: something which cannot be said for the majority of traditional teaching methods.

#6: Increases Retention

The purpose of teaching is to offer knowledge that can help students academically perform better and excel in their careers. However, the traditional teaching approaches, which tend to be text-based, do not offer optimal learning outcomes. With this approach, students tend to easily get bored, lose interest in science subjects and even perform poorly in exams due to low retention levels. 

VR is changing students’ school experiences by enabling effective learning to take place. Scientifically, the brain processes images better than text. This means that students can easily learn, retain and memorize what is taught in class with the help of VR technology. VR can also rewire the brain and enhance the neural relationships that are required for memory and learning to take place.

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5 Ways Learning Technologies Help Students Improve Grades

Technology permeates almost all of the day-to-day things we do as teachers. Today, I’ve invited Kiara Miller from The Speakingnerd to share her ideas on how educational technology can be used to improve student attainment.

The education industry is evolving at great speed, all thanks to technology. We now see things like online courses or remote learning conquer the education sphere. If we at one point had to gather all that we need in a physical classroom in order to teach, the present scenario proves to be different. Similarly, if it was once compulsory for us to travel miles away from our homelands to get into Harvard University or any other world top college, that’s not really the case today. In simple terms, it’s your choice! 

Right in the comfort of your home or office, you can enroll in any university or college seven thousand miles away from your locality. You can learn virtually with some of the world’s smartest students and gain incredible insights or enroll in an online master’s program of your interest. By the way, that’s just a piece of the cake!

As technology evolves and continues to conquer every aspect of life, we believe it has illuminated the education sphere in several ways. If parents or guardians were once worried about the negative impact of screen time and social media apps, there is another side of the coin that is really interesting.

Nowadays, education is quite affordable because of remote learning. Students can access more learning material and interact with specialists for quality ideas, which is reflected in their performance. Therefore we believe learning technologies have a more substantial impact on student outcomes as explained below.

#1: Time Tracking Tools

Effective learning can’t occur without the proper management of time. Whether it’s on the teacher’s side or the students’ end time management is essential for efficiency. With the modern learning technologies, students’ time management skills are enhanced greatly as they are able to set SMART Goals and manage their time accordingly. Many students use the SMART approach when setting goals and it helps them prioritize time wisely.

My award-winning book for teachers.

Whether it’s research on a topic, group assignments, or during an examination, the time tracking tools help students complete tasks within a given amount of time. Managing time effectively lessens classroom stress levels, creates time for other tasks, and also helps students to realize greater goals. McGraw-Hill indicates that 35% of students reported reduced stress levels related to studying or exams when asked about the effect of technology on their learning and grades. 

Besides the time tracking tools, students can also leverage productivity tools such as spreadsheets, databases, graphics, presentation software, and word processors among others for more efficiency. These productivity tools can be utilized depending on the student’s grade or area of interest.

#2: Collaboration Tools

Collaboration is crucial in learning as it helps students gain new insights and share perspectives about a topic or concept. Modern learning technologies today have taken learning to a better level by replacing teacher-centered and text-based education with collaborative learning tools. All of these create better and more meaningful experiences which make learning more adventurous.

Collaboration tools have also made it easier for students to share learning resources or work on group assignments while studying remotely. Tools like Zoom, Slack, and video conferencing allow timely collaboration between students. Similarly, collaboration tools do improve communication between the teacher and students as they allow both parties to share information, or add comments. 

#3: Learning Applications 

There is a wide range of educational and learning applications/software that students can leverage today to up their grades. A range of these top-notch learning applications come with a variety of features and capabilities that help students of all levels learn better remotely.

Generally, learning applications are designed to help students develop an interest in learning, understand new concepts easily, or get more creative. They also allow gamification which makes learning fun and engaging when compared to traditional learning approaches.

Similarly, they are fundamental to personalization. Personalized learning helps students with unique learning abilities and needs to learn better. With a perfect learning application, a student can get more acquainted with concepts that may seem complicated in the classroom. These applications also enable self-paced learning as they allow flexibility.

#4: AR & VR 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) offer immersive experiences in any area of application. When it comes to the education sector, AR and VR are ice breakers, especially when it comes to higher education. AR and VR technologies use 3D imagery, simulation, and advanced audio-visual effects to optimize learning outcomes.

These technologies are highly reliable when it comes to practical or non-theoretical concepts, or we can say science, engineering, architecture etcetera. Augmented Reality alters the existing reality using sound, or images whereas virtual reality is a superior form of technology. It generally creates a new and simulated environment that provides a new dimension to a concept.

Although both engaging and interactive, virtual reality makes learning immersive since it helps students learn intricate concepts as though in the physical world. For example, a Biology student can utilize VR to understand the intricate parts of the human brain and the nervous system. This provides a deeper and more accurate understanding of what the student is learning about. More purely, VR and AR increase curiosity in learners which helps them to go for even the once-difficult subjects or areas.

#5: Better Retention

Learning and putting into practice what is learned is essential in modern life. There is no way learning is useful unless the concepts are practically displayed. When it comes to education, technology has helped students master concepts and perform better in class. Learning is even more interesting.

The application of AR and VR in the education sphere is the finest example of how technology has impacted learning positively. Findings prove that the human brain responds to and processes visual data better. Above all, 90% of the information passed on to the brain is visual. It means that students can learn better and deeper when concepts are presented via visualization.

It also makes memorization easier as some students find it difficult to remember what they learn in class. Additionally, students easily put what they learn into practice when learning technology (i.e. AR & VR), or gamification is utilized during the teaching process. 

Conclusion

In summary, learning technologies are simplifying learning and they have made education more accessible to learners. More so, it is also helping students understand concepts better which helps them to perform better. However, the effective use of technology in learning requires thoughtful consideration not to complicate things for the students. Teachers must guide students when selecting the learning technology depending on the purpose, and where. It will increase engagement and make learning more exciting.   

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5 Ways Teachers Can Prevent Burnout While Teaching Online

It is no hidden fact that teaching is a stressful profession. From managing students to maintaining multiple records, teachers have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. Moreover, if stress remains unmanaged and unnoticed for a long time, it can even lead to serious burnout. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to share her insights and tips for maintaining a stress-free life as an online educator.

Accompanying podcast episode:

In modern times, where digitalization was supposed to take the burden off the shoulders, more stress was somehow added on to teachers. Moreover, it even led to serious burnout situations for some. If you think that these are just random verdicts of ours, let’s have a look at some of the statistics to back up these claims:

  • The world’s largest teacher burnout survey concluded that almost 65% of teachers are facing burnout in their jobs. Additionally, 85% were recognized as working “unsustainably” which led to a significant impact on their mental and physical health. 
  • As per the survey of March 2021, 42% of educators have considered retiring or quitting their current position last year, and they say it happened because of their shift to virtual learning or COVID19.
  • Almost 40% of the teachers believe that they are less productive when they are under stress.

These statistics are evidence enough that some teachers are still not comfortable with the virtual model of learning. Moreover, they are finding it hard to cope with the burnout occurring while teaching online. If you are a teacher, then there are chances you could have related to one of or all of the above-given statistics. Moreover, we understand how difficult it can be sometimes for you to handle so much pressure and still have a smile on your face while delivering the lectures.

That being the case, this blog will effectively highlight the top 7 strategies that can be utilized by you to prevent or deal with burnout while teaching online. 

5 Strategies For Preventing Burnout While Teaching Online

#1: Take the 4A’s approach

One of the most effective and efficient forms of preventing burnout is using the approach of 4A’s of stress management given by Mayo Clinic. To elaborate, 4A’s stand for Adapt, Alter, Accept and Avoid. A detailed elaboration of all the 4 A’s with respect to the teaching profession is presented below

  • Adapt – During online teaching, you may have to deal with different kinds of students and various situations regularly. Adoption of new things and changing your standards of dealing with things according to the virtual environment can lead to eliminating the scope of stress and burnout in different situations. 
  • Alter – When in a stressful situation that cannot be avoided, try altering your behavioral traits and communicating better. It is no hidden fact that during teaching we have to deal with a lot of stress associated with various types of work. Moreover, the link of physical communication is often broken in online classes. In such situations, try communicating openly with higher authorities about the problems you are facing. 
  • Accept – We often find it difficult to deal with situations when we are not ready to accept them. We can not deny the fact that virtual learning is the new normal. In order to accept the situation, first, you need to identify the stressors and then react accordingly. 

Identification and acceptance of stressors is the most important strategy in stress and burnout management. For instance, some people get stressed about teaching in front of a screen, while some feel burned out when it comes to grading papers. When you know and accept what you are stressed about, it becomes easier for you to respond to the situation.

  • Avoid – Believe it or not but there are situations where you can simply avoid the situation to reduce the risk of stress. You might have different tasks to perform within two days and the ideal way to deal with a situation is to plan the important things accordingly. 

#2: Set firm boundaries

One of the biggest issues teachers come across while teaching online is the lack of maintenance of work-life balance. Lack of work-life balance not only impacts your mental health but if continued for a long time, it can lead to serious burnout. Hence, it is really essential for you to set firm boundaries between your professional and personal life.

That is the reason many prominent people have explained why it is important to learn how to say ‘No’. This not only simplifies your life but also gives you enough time to relax and start your new day with a positive attitude again. 

In the scenario of online teaching, you can decide not to work after the classes which will give you enough time to plug out from the hectic schedule of virtual classes. This will assist you in maintaining your mental peace and will assist in regaining your energy back.

In order to effectively manage your time and set boundaries, you can use the Pareto principle to meticulously manage your time and get positive results.

#3: Try different stress-releasing activities

In online classes, teachers often feel burnout because the link to the physical world is broken and they get less time to focus on themselves. However, we need to always remember that self-care is not selfish. On the contrary, it’s about knowing the correct time to take some time off. This break will assist you in giving the time you deserve to maintain that mental peace.

While teaching online, you can just adjust your lectures with frequent short breaks which will give you enough time to regain your energy and relieve yourself from stress. In such situations below mentioned are some of the stress-relieving activities that you can try:

  1. Get away from your screens and relax your eyes
  2. Try meditation
  3. Drink your favorite tea or coffee on your balcony 

Moreover, did you know that taking a 30 minute walk can help in dropping your stress levels?  It’s not important to take a 30-minute walk at once, just divide your time and complete different sessions at times. This will assist in lowering your stress levels and can prevent burnout in a long run. Along with this, these activities will also contribute to your self-improvement.

#4: Give positive affirmations to yourself

Saying a mantra, such as “I know how to do it and I will do it” is an example of a positive affirmation that you can say daily. Positive affirmations will not only help you to reduce stress but also help in maintaining calmness in handling all of the challenging situations that arise throughout the day.

As per the article by Cohen and Sherman, affirmations are related to one’s identity, efficiency, and productivity. Psychological studies say that there are many changes that occur in the brain with self-affirmations.

For instance, when you are in an online class dealing with disruptions and you feel students are not under control – at that point various positive affirmations can help you. It will assist in calming you and release you from the stress of handling chaos in classrooms. This will also contribute to making you a happy teacher

#5: Delegate classroom responsibilities

In virtual classrooms, there are many responsibilities that need to be taken care of but can be performed without your supervision. In such scenarios, you can delegate the responsibility to your sincere students. Examples of such responsibilities may include:

  • Verbally reporting about the progress of the group they are working in
  • Creating, sharing and monitoring the creation of project work (e.g. Google Slides, Sites, Docs, Sheets, etc.)
  • Uploading project work to the relevant place (e.g. Google Classroom)

Conclusion

To encapsulate, nobody is denying the fact that teaching is not an easy profession. Moreover, virtual learning even made it tougher for teachers to cope with their stress. In that situation, the need is to effectively manage your mental health and try the above-given strategies to prevent burnout and embrace the changes that are happening in the education sector in the form of virtual learning. 

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Deep Learning vs Surface Learning

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Accompanying podcast episode:

I’m currently working through an excellent online course offered by the University of Queensland via EdX. The course is entitled ‘Deep Learning through Transformative Pedagogy‘. It’s absolutely fascinating and I would highly recommend the course for any teacher who is serious about helping students prepare for examinations, catch-up on missed work or understand complex content.

In today’s blog post I aim to share:

  • What I have learned about deep and surface learning from the course so far
  • Some practical ways in which deep learning can be encouraged in the classroom

So, get ready for a deep dive into this compelling topic!

A brief history behind the development of deep learning practices (and why surface learning is no longer enough)

The course began with brief history of schooling, and how technology has been a key driver for the need to educate children. The point was made that surface learning (e.g. memorization of facts) may have been sufficient in the past. However, for our learners today, facts can change very quickly. Skills need to be upgraded regularly and throughout one’s life. As a result, teaching has seen a massive shift from teacher-centred approaches to those which are learner-centred. Contemporary pedagogical approaches, such as constructivism (where students are active participants in their own learning and construct new knowledge based on links to current understandings and prior fundamentals) have an important role to play in this new, digital age.

It’s important to remember throughout today’s blog post that effective and active learning are two sides of the same coin: to be effective, learning must be active. Research shows that learner-centred approaches to teaching that change and develop student thinking get better results in terms of student learning outcomes than traditional information transmission methods.

What is deep learning, and how is it different to surface learning?

Deep learning means asking big questions. When students have the opportunity to explore a topic: asking the why, what, where, when and how behind some concept, idea or process, they learn a plethora of different things and extend their knowledge and understanding.

Surface learning involves rote memorization, and I saw a lot of this happening when I worked in China. Examples included colleagues who had very high-level credentials from top universities in Asia, but who were unwilling to perform classroom practical tasks/experiments with students because either ‘the students didn’t need to do that to pass their exams’, or the teachers themselves felt nervous due to inexperience. This seemed to really show itself in one subject in particular, however: mathematics. Students would be trained to learn lots of formulae, and would be given an astronomical number of drill questions to do for homework. However, when it came to applying the mathematics to an unusual or real-life problem, many students struggled.

Since taking the online course with the University of Queensland, I’ve learnt a number of interesting facts about deep learning:

  • Deep learning often involves revisiting and reviewing a topic, and can be achieved through tasks in which students are involved in active problem-solving.
  • Neuroscience teaches us that the brain is plastic, and that chemical changes actually occur during deep learning. Deep learning involves consolidation of knowledge, and is driven by protein synthesis in the brain. Animal studies have shown that when protein synthesis in the brain is blocked, only surface learning occurs.
  • Deep learning is a process of integrating new facts we learn about the world into our existing semantic framework.
  • Deep learning can be achieved when students are given the opportunity to discover content, knowledge and skills for themselves.
  • Deep learning Involves an analysis of the information being collected, allowing a more complete understanding than surface learning can provide.

In contrast to deep learning, surface learning concerns itself only with the knowledge, ideas and content present in a curriculum. Deep learning is all about relating or extending all of that. This surprised me to some extent, as I thought that learning high-demand content (e.g. redox equations in IB Chemistry) would be considered deep learning, when actually it’s just surface learning (even though the content may be considered ‘advanced’). Deep learning would occur when the student is able to apply their knowledge of, say, redox equations, to unfamiliar or extended contexts  – such as when the student is tackling sub-sections of an IB HL exam paper in Chemistry, or designing and implementing an experimental investigation into the topic. 

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear-cut distinction between surface and deep learning: rather, there exists a gradation between one and the other. A progression is made from having an idea to having many ideas (surface learning), to relating and extending those ideas (deep learning).

Whilst the progression from surface learning to deep learning follows a continuum, it is also cyclical – as students begin to relate and extend ideas, they come up with new ideas which brings them back to the surface learning part of the cycle.

What kinds of activities can teachers do in the classroom to encourage deep learning to take place?

  • The Flipped Classroom: This was something completely new to me which I discovered on this course, and it was really enjoyable to learn about this novel approach to teaching and learning. The basic idea is that pre-reading is done at home and homework is completed in class! The students come to class already prepared with some fundamental knowledge, and then complete activities based upon what they have read. Collaborative activities (e.g. using Padlet) are really good for getting students to reflect on their learning. In terms of the pre-reading to be done at home – this doesn’t actually have to be reading. Short, 5 minute videos that the students have to watch may be enough.
  • Give students some prompt material (e.g. a website to use, an information sheet, etc.) and ask students to CREATE something from it. Good things to create include a Google Slides presentation, a Google Site, a Google Doc summary, an infographic, a stop-motion animation, a quiz (e.g. a Kahoot!) and so on. Please note: If you ask students to create something, then make sure they present it to the class in some way (e.g. a short talk). Students can work in groups for activities like this. I’ve written a separate blog post about encouraging creativity in the classroom here.
  • Since deep learning can be achieved through revisiting and reviewing content and skills regularly, journaling and past-paper practice can meet the necessary requirements. With past-paper practice, however, make sure that the students make full corrections, and can somehow articulate why they made made mistakes. The process of completing, correcting and reflecting on past-exam paper questions (or exam-style questions) is a problem-solving sequence in and of itself – hence a deep learning activity.
  • Practical work that allows students to explore an unusual context, or an extended part of a topic, can definitely encourage deep learning to take place – especially if the students have been involved in the creative design of the task themselves in some way. Think about opportunities you can create for students to design and implement their own experiments, presentations, model-building and practical/hands-on work (e.g. welding together an iron gate, making an item of clothing, building the circuitry for a small radio – it will depend on the subject you teach, of course).

Recommended further reading

Constructivism: Creating experiences that facilitate the construction of knowledge. The University of Buffalo. Accessed: 23rd May 2022.

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In Defense of Vocational Education and Trades: The Shocking Truth!

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

I thought I was doing the right thing when I decided to go to university at age 19.

Almost everybody encouraged me.

Only one person (an old friend) told me that it was a probably a financially stupid idea.

In fact, my school’s careers’ counsellors told me that graduates earn more, on average, than non-graduates. I was also given a few lessons on how to write a CV. Oh, and as a nice bonus, there was a section in the library where I could look up job profiles and career pathways.

That was where my careers’ guidance ended.

What I really needed to hear was the blunt truth: that I would amass a huge amount of debt, and at the end of it all a mediocre salary would be waiting for me. I needed to hear that a master’s degree would open many more doors for me than just a simple bachelor’s. I needed to hear that the reputation of the university I would go to would be one of the first things an employer would notice – and a top tier university, regardless of teaching quality or departmental reputation, would look amazing on my CV.

Basically, what I should have been told (multiple times), is that if I’m going to decide to rack-up student-loan debt of up to £15,000, which I’ll probably be paying-off well into my forties, then I’d better make damn sure that I go to a top-ten, world-class university, and that I get a first class or 2:1 degree.

Nobody told me that.

I also should have been told that I didn’t need to go to university, or get into debt, to earn good money (in many cases higher than that of graduates).

Training to be on-track (pun intended)

Imagine my disdain when I recently found out that the average train driver in the UK earns almost double what the average teacher does:

  • In 2020, the average UK train driver earned £57,323 per year
  • According to Prospects UK, the average UK Qualified teacher earned £35,608.50 in 2021 (I’ve taken the average for every UK region, and calculated an average of the averages).

Wow! No student loan debt and no four years of extra study, and as a train driver I’ll be earning more than the average UK teacher does. I think I would have liked to have known that back when I was in high school.

Whilst, of course, money is not the only factor to consider when choosing a career path (train drivers can work very unfavorable hours and do not enjoy as many holidays as teachers do, for example), it is still a pretty important point of information to consider.

Here are some other career paths that do not require a bachelor’s degree, but pay really good salaries (data courtesy of Ramsey Solutions – I’ve taken the US salaries and converted them to the GBP equivalent using the exchange rate at the time of writing):

  • Air Traffic Controller: $130,420/£105,693 per year
  • Elevator Installer and Repairer: $88,540/£71,753 per year
  • Nuclear Technician: $84,190/£68,228 per year
  • Web Developer: $77,200/£62,563 per year
  • Dental Hygienist: $77,090/£62,717 per year
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: $70,380/£57,036 per year
  • Aerospace Technician: $68,570/£55,570 per year
  • Police Officers and Detectives: $67,290/£54,532 per year
  • Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives: $65,420/£53,017 per year
  • Radiologic and MRI Technologists: $63,710/£51,631 per year
  • Executive Assistant: $63,110/£51,145 per year
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant: $60,950/£46,394 per year
  • Electrician: $56,900/£46,112 per year
  • Plumber: $56,330/£45,650 per year
  • Wind Turbine Technician: $56,230/£45,569 per year
  • Hearing Aid Specialist: $52,630/£42,652 per year
  • Firefighter: $52,500/£42,546 per year
  • Sheet Metal Worker: $51,370/£41,631 per year
  • Real Estate Agent: $51,220/£41,509 per year
  • Surgical Technologist: $49,710/£40,285 per year
  • Carpenter: $49,520/£40,131 per year
  • Licensed Practical Nurse: $48,820/£39,564 per year
  • Masonry Worker: $47,710/£38,664 per year
  • Sound Engineering Technician: $47,420/£38,429 per year
  • Solar Photovoltaic Installer: $46,470/£37,659 per year

At least I can glean one nugget of solace from my life-choices: I ONLY acquired £15,000 of debt to become a fully qualified teacher. The average student graduating in the UK in 2021 amassed £28,121 of personal student loan debt. In America, for 2022 (i.e. currently), the average student loan debt per graduate stands at a whopping $40,329!

Conclusion

Careers’ guidance counsellors – start telling high school students the TRUTH – that if they go to university they’ll probably amass a mountain of debt that they’ll be paying off for decades, whilst probably not earning that much money afterwards. Tell them that there’s ANOTHER WAY – that there are jobs that do not require such a massive monetary and time-investment, but which pay a lot!

A question I pose to today’s trainee teachers is a bleak one: Was it worth getting into around £28,121 of debt, just to one day earn an average salary of £35,608.50?

The answer to that question will depend on many factors. Just remember, however: the average Elevator Installer and Repairer is probably earning more than double what you are!

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5 Ways to Use Past-Exam Papers With Your Students

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

Past-exam papers provide teachers with the opportunity to train students in time-management, exam-technique and key skills, since they provide students with exposure to the same style of questions that they will encounter in their final exams.

Think about anything at which you’ve become proficient: be that riding a bicycle, martial arts, painting, yoga or anything – it was practice (and lots of it) that made you proficient at that thing. Natural abilities will, of course, contribute to mastery, but ultimately the greatest way to achieve superiority in any endeavor is through practice.

Past-exam papers provide students with the vital practice they need to succeed in the final exams, and today I would like to go through some ways in which we can use past-papers in the classroom with our students.

Tip #1: Create end-of-unit assessments from past exam paper questions

Whenever I reach the end of a topic I use past-paper questions to test my students’ knowledge and understanding of what they have learned. These questions can either be pulled off pdfs through screen captures, or they can be built using question banks. Currently, I teach KS3 Science, Edexcel IGCSE Physics and Chemistry and IBDP Chemistry – and all of these courses have great question banks for teachers to use: namely Testbase for KS3, ExamWizard for Edexcel, and the IB Questionbank for IB subjects.

Of course, these question banks are not free, but they are worth the slice into the school budget in my opinion as they provide teachers with a very quick way to build test papers from past-paper questions. Another massive advantage of question banks over full pdf past-papers, other than speed and efficiency of test-building, is that questions are categorized by topic or syllabus statement too. Question banks will also automatically add up the question scores for you, saving you further time as you calculate how much the test should be out of.

And on that point: total marks – make sure you calculate your mark-to-time ratio too. For Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry, for example, students have to complete 110 marks in 120 minutes – i.e. about 65 seconds per mark. This means that when I am assigning a 1 hour test for this subject, it needs to contain 55 marks of questions. Any less that this and I’ll be giving the students too much time to complete the paper, which won’t be an effective ‘model’ of the real exam.

Tip #2: Use past-paper questions for in-class structured revision

Create special test papers that are built from past-papers and give them to your students to complete during normal lesson time. This, of course, works great when students are preparing for an imminent end-of-unit test or terminal examination (e.g. an end of year exam). Consider the following:

  • Students should receive quick feedback during these sessions, and should know exactly where they have lost marks (and why). Include enough questions to be completed during the lesson, along with enough time for checking through the mark scheme in a final peer or self-assessment exercise. In my case, for example, most of my lessons are 1 hour long. This allows me to create a 40 minute paper, with 20 minutes left over for marking and feedback.
  • Always provide the official mark schemes, so that students become familiar with the language and skills needed to gain top marks.
  • If possible, allow for a 5 or 10 minute discussion at the end of class to go through difficult questions, common misconceptions that are tested by the paper and even command terms like ‘evaluate’, ‘describe’ and ‘explain’.
  • During the final feedback and marking part of a revision lesson, tell your students to be VERY STRICT when checking the answers. If the answer that is written does not match the mark scheme word-for-word, then it could be wrong, and the student should come and seek your advice.

There are some nifty ways that you can make lessons like this more active, engaging and spatial for learners than they would be otherwise. Some ideas you might want to try are as follows:

  • Cut up the questions and answers (i.e. physically, with scissors). Give students one question at a time, and when they have finished they can come and collect the official answer from your desk.
  • Provide students with the official answers, one at a time, and ask them to write the question that each answer pertains to.
  • Consider using live quiz-based apps that have quizzes built from past-papers on them.
  • Play learning games with your students and use past-paper questions, key vocabulary and command terms to create the questions.

Please be advised that when students reach a certain age (i.e. mid-teens and older), their exams become very content-based and, therefore, revision lessons need to be quite intense in order to be effective. The odd ‘fun’ lesson here and there containing learning games and competitive quizzes can offer a nice break from the intensity of completing whole papers. However, ‘fun’ lessons like these tend to be less efficient at embedding high-demand content than, say, a lesson in which students complete a 40-minute assessment filled with past-paper questions.

#3: Create homework assignments from past-paper questions

This is a great way to train students in time-management. Make sure your learners know the mark-to-time ratio for your subject (e.g. 1 mark per minute), and specify how long they should spend completing the paper at home (e.g. if it’s a 35 mark homework assignment, then the students would have to time themselves for 35 minutes, if the ratio is 1 mark per minute). You may even want to share a Google Sheet with your students in which they can type their names and exactly how long, in minutes and seconds, it took them to complete the homework. The aim of this exercise would be to improve efficiency over time, with (hopefully) a downward trend being observed – the more past-paper homework the students get, the less time each one should take as the weeks go by. Another adaptation of this, is that you could ask the students to write down how much time it took them to complete the work on the paper itself (if you’re collecting it in and marking it by hand).

#4: Use ‘reverse questioning’

I mentioned this briefly earlier – provide the answers, and ask the students to write what they think the questions are.

This is really good for getting students to think deeply about the knowledge and skills they need to master for the exam, along with deep consideration of command terms and the key vocabulary requirements of their upcoming assessment. For me personally, a common command term that comes up is the word ‘explain’, and it takes time for many students to realise that they need to state why something happens when they are told to explain something. I train my students to always use the word ‘because’ when the question asks them to ‘explain’. For your subject, you may have similar challenges that only be solved by regular past-paper practice and a heavy focus on key vocabulary and command terms.

#5: Use past-paper questions and model answers to create ‘frameworks’

Give students past-exam paper questions and model answers for them use as ‘frameworks’, or skeletons, for building:

  • Flashcards: A lot of research has shown that flashcards are a brilliant revision tool. They can be created digitally (e.g. on websites like Quizlet) or physically on paper. Make sure the students write/type the question on one-side of the flashcard, and the model answer on the other side. This could even be done as a group activity, with different groups swapping flashcards and testing their knowledge as a plenary session to a lesson.
  • Consider asking your students to choose a live quiz app and create multiple choice quizzes using past-exam paper questions and model answers.
  • Mind Maps: Do some research into this, as many educators think Mind Maps are something they actually aren’t. Mind Maps are a very well-defined psychologically favorable learning tool created by the late Dr Tony Buzan (with whom I was very lucky to have a one-to-one video call with just before he passed). Mind Maps need to be created in a certain way in order to be effective, so make sure your students know the rules. Once students know the rules, they’ll then need practice in order to put past-paper questions and model answers onto their Mind Maps. These will often need to be shortened in some way, and illustrated.
  • Learning Journals: This very popular blog post of mine goes through what learning journals are, and how they can be used as a great revision tool. When used correctly, they can be VERY effective.

Conclusion

Past-exam papers really are the bread-and-butter of effective revision and exam-preparation. Use them to:

  • Create end-of-unit assessments
  • Guide in-class structured revision
  • Create homework assignments
  • Create ‘reverse questioning’ tasks
  • Create ‘frameworks

Suggested further reading

Wade, N. (2022) Are past paper questions always useful? Available at: https://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/insights/are-past-paper-questions-always-useful-neil-wade/ (Accessed: 10th April 2022)

Tan, A., & Nicholson, T. (1997). Flashcards revisited: Training poor readers to read words faster improves their comprehension of text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(2), 276–288. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.89.2.276 (Accessed: 1st May 2022)

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock: A Lesson For Teachers Everywhere

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

The 94th Academy Awards will forever be known as the night when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock: be that staged or not as the case may be. In today’s blog post, I go through some things that teachers and schools can take from this fiasco when designing curricula, preparing young people for the future and discussing this issue if and when it arises in our conversations with students.

Lesson #1: Managing your emotions is a key life-skill

What I think became very apparent from this situation was that Will Smith’s actions were completely unacceptable. He went from smiling and laughing to full-fledged violence in less than a minute, and it was completely unjustified. As teachers, our message to students has to be that violence is a never the right way to deal with people who offend us.

As a consequence of this outburst, Will’s reputation has been tarnished for life – a reality that will affect him in many and varying ways. For the majority of our students, (who, of course, will not become A-list celebrities), a moment of public rage like this can be career-destroying or business-destroying, and could even land them with a lengthy prison sentence.

Our students need to know that.

Our students really need to be made aware that we live in a heavily-surveilled society – everyone has a portable camera and microphone at-hand these days. All it takes is one emotional flare-up recorded on a smartphone to cause a person to lose everything – and most of us cannot recover easily from such a loss. In fact, most people may never fully recover from such an extreme deterioration in personal circumstances.

What’s also interesting to me is the emotional responses we see from Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith in the limited footage we have:

  • Chris didn’t swear back at Will, and didn’t hit him back. He remained calm, attempted to brush it off and tried to keep the audience entertained. In this, Chris demonstrated excellent self-control and should be commended for his resolve and professionalism, in my opinion.
  • Jada seemed quiet and resolute throughout, although it was pretty obvious that she wasn’t happy with Chris’s joke (which, of course, is understandable).

Perhaps this whole Will Smith vs. Chris Rock incident would serve to be a great case study to feature in school textbooks on mindfulness and self-discipline: children could, certainly, learn a lot about the reputational consequences of not monitoring one’s emotions, and the fallout that can happen when we act by reflex-action, rather than by enlightened self-interest.

Lesson #2: Marriage often involves a power-dynamic, and comes with legal entanglements (and children should be taught about that)

Will’s almost immediate change of character from a laughing, happy audience member to an aggressive protagonist: prompted, it seems, by the look on his wife’s face when the joke didn’t quite resonate, really set alarm bells off in my mind. It seemed to me as though Will Smith was more afraid of facing the wrath and scorn of his wife when he got home (for not standing up for her), than face the consequences of an abusive physical and verbal tantrum for all and sundry to see at the Academy Awards that night.

This points to an apparent power-dynamic that’s in-play within Will and Jada’s marriage, and most analysts would agree that it is not Will who holds the role of leader in the relationship. This appears to be backed up by events that ran prior to Sunday’s debacle:

  • 1997: Will and Jada got married, with Jada apparently admitting in a 2019 People Cover Story that she didn’t really want to tie-the-knot in the first place – she stated that “I never wanted to get married. But my mother was like, ‘You have to get married’ — she’s so old-school — and Will wanted a family. So I said, ‘All right, maybe it’s something I should do.’”. Jada was pregnant with their first child, Jaden, and seemingly felt under tremendous pressure to get married at that time.
  • 2020: The famous Red Table Talk happened, in which Jada confirmed that she had had a relationship with August Alsina, claiming that she was separated from Will Smith at the time. Will Smith seemingly sits through the talk looking like a deer in headlights, which subsequently becomes a viral meme. Jada described her situation with August as an ‘entanglement’.

We’ll never know the full details of what Jada and Will are going through, nor have been through in the past – that’s personal to them. However, as public figures, they automatically act as role-models for young people and as teachers we should address some key takeaways.

Children should be taught about what marriage actually is – from both a legislative and religious standpoint. Children need to know what the legal consequences of marriage and divorce are, particularly:

  • What alimony is, and why it is paid
  • The fact that mothers overwhelmingly receive majority child custody in the case of a divorce
  • What the law says about adultery – some countries and regions are harsher than others
  • What the law says about cohabitation
  • How marriage affects immigration status
  • How assets may be divided in the case of a divorce
  • What a pre-nuptial agreement is

Many men and women feel trapped in their marriages because the consequences of divorce can be terrifying to contemplate. Does Will Smith feel trapped in his marriage – unable to leave a miserable situation because the financial and emotional fallout would be too great? We’ll never know. However, what is true is that most children leave school knowing NOTHING about family law as it pertains to marriage.

Not knowing this information is surely a massive disadvantage. How can any young adult perform a cost/benefit analysis of matrimony if he or she doesn’t know all of the facts beforehand? Around 50% of marriages end in divorce, for example. Would you jump out of an airplane if you knew that the parachute only had a 50% chance of opening?

Another aspect is the reasoning one uses to enter a marriage in the first place. Is Jada’s justification – feeling under pressure and being pregnant at the same time – a good excuse for getting married? How do we approach that with children and young adults? What are the consequences when we enter into life-contracts out of fear of upsetting our friends and family?

Lesson #3: Sometimes ‘sorry’ just isn’t enough to bail you out of trouble

Will Smith did eventually apologise for his actions in an Instagram post, stating that “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,”.

Will Smith has a net worth of around $350 million at the time of writing. He can afford to move on after a brief apology. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

Our students need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Will and Chris’s exchange was a freak incident – an altercation between two famous, rich people. For our students, an assault may not be forgiven by a simple apology. Most of our students will be destroyed financially by a criminal record – unlike Will Smith, who would have walked away just as rich, perhaps richer due to the publicity, had Chris Rock had pressed charges through the LAPD.

The bottom-line

Our consensus as teachers has to be that what Will Smith did was completely unacceptable. Violence is never the correct way to respond to people who offend us.

Recommended further reading

What Should Schools Teach?

Can Sympathy and Empathy Be Taught?

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5 Awesome Live Quiz Apps You Can Use in The Classroom

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback). This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

Children love competition – be that through sports, online gaming, traditional learning games, puzzles or even the drive to acquire more house points/plus points than their peers. Quiz-based apps, however, are unique in that they have finally allowed teachers to bring a healthy level of technology-driven rivalry into the remote, hybrid and traditional classrooms.

One big positive that we can attribute to these apps is that they have become very easy to use, and quick to set up – often requiring the students to simply type in a code on a website to begin the game. For the teacher, there’s the added benefit that games created by other teachers from around the world are often freely available to use on these platforms – saving you tons of preparation time.

What follows next is a list of the top five apps that I use on a regular basis with my students in my high school science classes. They are fun, easy to use and are great for reviewing prior knowledge.

#1: Blooket

I’ve only recently discovered Blooket but, I have to tell you: I’m already hooked!

Blooket distinguishes itself from other quiz-based apps in that there are actually ten types of game that you can play with the students (at the time of writing), all based on the much-loved multiple-choice quiz format. My personal favorites are:

  • Crypto Hack: With a dark theme and Bitcoin-centric atmosphere, Crypto Hack is one of the students’ favorites. After answering a series of questions correctly the students are then able to guess fellow students’ passwords (passwords are chosen from a pre-determined list that the game provides). A correct guess allows the player to hack the other player and steal imaginary crypto currency from them.
  • Fishing Frenzy: This one’s a bit crazy – hilariously so! Students, again, answer multiple choice questions but this time they cast a virtual fishing line into the water after answering correctly. What they pull out are usually different types of fish, but they can pull out junk and other crazy objects too. Players are ranked by the weight of fish they pull out of the water. Players can also ‘plunder’ other players’ fish and steal their poundage. It gets very competitive and you can expect to hear a lot of laughter in the classroom as this gets going!
  • Tower Defense: According to Blooket themselves, this is their most popular game. In this mode, the students answer multiple choice questions and are then presented with a map. On this map, the students must place towers in strategic positions to shoot enemies that appear on-screen. In this sense, Tower Defense is more similar to the kind of computer games that children are playing in their free time than all of the other game modes provided.

The main reason why Blooket is number one on my list is that you can replay the same multiple choice questions with the students but in different game modes. This can cause excellent knowledge recall and understanding to take place, especially after three or four attempts. This could be done in quick succession within a lesson (most of the game modes are exactly seven minutes long) or you could even play the same questions but in different game modes over a series of lessons. As with most quiz-based systems, there’s a searchable database of quizzes that other teachers have made – saving you tons of preparation time.

To summarise: I love Blooket.

#2: Quizlet Live

Hidden within Quizlet‘s excellent flash card system is a little-known activity called Quizlet Live. When the teacher selects this, the students in your classroom join the game (by entering a code on their devices) and are then placed into random teams. Once the game begins, all of the players in each team are given different questions to answer, so they MUST help each other (usually) if they want to win. The first team to pass twelve rounds of questions is the winner, and the teacher’s screen shows the real-time position of each team (1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place and so on).

Quizlet Live has two features which I believe make it a very unique learning tool:

  1. Students can read through the flash cards for the game as they’re waiting for other students to join. This, I believe, gives Quizlet Live a big advantage over many other quiz-based systems as students are not sitting around doing nothing as they’re waiting.
  2. Quizlet Live provides each team member with a different question, making the game more thorough/rigorous than some other quiz-based systems. Every member of the team has to answer their question correctly before the team can move to the next round.

The only disadvantage I’ve found with Quizlet Live is that it doesn’t lend itself very well to hybrid/remote teaching, as the students have to physically be next to each other in teams in order to interact quickly. I guess it could be feasible to put students into Google Meet Breakout rooms, or even hangout groups, to do the Quizlet Lives. However, I’ve tried this and have found it to be quite problematic and difficult to execute in real time (not least because you, the teacher, has to manually put the Quizlet Live teams (chosen at random) into Hangout/Breakout Rooms, and even then interaction between team members tends to be poor.

Quizlet has an immense database of flash cards created by other educators from all over the world, so it’s highly likely that you’ll find a question set that is suitable for your topic. If not, then you can make a set yourself.

#3: Quizziz

Quizizz is a simple but very effective multiple choice question system. Students log in with a code and answer questions – that’s it really. However, there are a few bells and whistles, such as excellent graphics, good music, power-up tools available for students on winning-streaks and a real-time leaderboard display that the teacher can present to the class.

One unique feature of Quizizz, which could be seen as either a disadvantage or an advantage, is that the game only ends when every person has answered every question (the teacher can set time limits for each question of between 30s and 5 mins). I quite like this feature of Quizizz, because as soon as one student is finished I ask him or her to go and help a student who isn’t finished. This can be a great way to build a sense of community within the classroom, and reinforce any work you’ve been doing on sympathy/empathy with your students.

Quizizz has many cool integration options with Google Classroom and even MS Excel. Read this excellent overview by TeachersFirst for a more in-depth analysis of how Quizizz could be utilised in your classroom. Of course, Quizizz has a large, searchable database of ready-made games that will allow you to set up a suitable quiz in seconds.

#4: Mentimeter

This is another simple and effective system that is somewhat similar to Kahoot! (number 5 on my list) but with a higher-quality user-interface, in my opinion. One interesting feature of Mentimeter is that it supports multiple question types (not just standard MCQs) such as ranking, scales, grids and open-ended questions.

Mentimeter is well-worth a try if you’re looking for something different.

#5: Kahoot!

Kahoot! is the original behemoth in the EdTech Hall of Fame, and we cannot ignore the influence it has had on the classroom app-development landscape. Kahoot! is simple, but very effective, and took the teaching world by storm when it first came out in 2013. Almost all modern live quiz-based systems have been inspired by Kahoot‘s innovative approach to game-based learning, and that’s why I wrote about Kahoot! in my award-winning book for teachers: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. Kahoot‘s can be set as homework, or self-paced tasks too, which is handy if you want to help individual students in real-time.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to put Kahoot! at number five on my list as the system hasn’t really evolved much since 2013. Let me be clear: it’s awesome, but the other apps I’ve described today have additional features that make them somewhat more special than Kahoot! (in my humble opinion).

Conclusion

Use these game-based systems: it’s that simple! Students love them, and can gain a lot from their implementation when we plan their use carefully. They act as great starters, plenaries or even ‘chunks’ of lessons.

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How to Become a Leader in the Classroom

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know.

Teachers are expected to demonstrate high competency in a range of skill areas. Some skills that may come to mind are personal organisation, classroom management, behaviour management and confidence in the use of educational technology. One skill that may not immediately come to mind, however, is leadership: yet this is vital, as teachers are required to be good leaders of their students (and, sometimes, other teachers). Today, I’ve invited Mitch from Destination TEFL, Bangkok, to to share his tips on how to be a good leader in the classroom.

This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Truly great teachers must also be leaders. By devoting time and energy towards developing leadership skills, along with technical teaching skills, teachers can make a profound impact on their students that transcends the information they teach.

Leadership seems to be a bit of a buzzword these days, but maybe there’s a reason for that.

Just take a look around. In government, the corporate world, and yes, in education too, our world seems to be suffering from a lack of leadership. We have a surplus of bosses, managers, and influencers, but not enough true leaders.

But together we’re going to change that.

The classroom is your domain, one place in the world where you truly can make a difference. You may not be able to fix the government, or even the overall culture at your school (toxic bosses tend not to take feedback well), but you can absolutely change your classroom and, in so doing, your students’ lives.

Here’s how to do it.

What is true leadership?

In order to become great leaders in the classroom, we need to really nail down what leadership actually is. And more importantly, what it isn’t.

Good leadership is NOT:

  • Being right all the time
  • Never making mistakes
  • Making all of the decisions
  • Always being strong, confident, and outgoing

Surprising, right? Many of the usual stereotypes we have about leadership (ones that many leaders today try a bit too hard to represent) aren’t actually what leadership is about at all.

True leadership, especially in a classroom full of students, is much more nuanced and, honestly, more accessible than many are led to believe.

In contrast to the list above, true leadership in the classroom looks a lot more like:

  • Being human, and acknowledging mistakes
  • Letting your students make decisions, and teaching them to make the right ones
  • Being the best version of yourself, not fitting into boxes
  • Focusing on empathy and emotional intelligence

Real leadership is about putting others first, and doing your best to help them become the best versions of themselves they can be. As teachers, this is something that probably sounds familiar to us!

So now that we know what leadership is, how do we grow in these areas and incorporate them into our classroom?

Becoming a leader in the classroom

The first step in becoming a better leader is to know that you can!

People are conditioned to believe that you are either born with leadership qualities or not, and this is true for something like being naturally outgoing. But that’s not what great leaders are really made of.

“An AMAZING book for teachers!”

Emotional intelligence is something you can work on. Taking responsibility and acknowledging mistakes is something you can work on. Becoming the best version of yourself is something you can work on. 

Real leadership is accessible, and it’s accessible to you.

All becoming a leader in the classroom takes is recognizing areas you want to grow in as a leader, focusing on developing yourself in those areas, and (most importantly) finding opportunities to implement what you’re working on in the classroom.

Maybe you want to work on developing your emotional intelligence. So you take the first step and start reading articles about improving your EQ.

You listen to their advice and start doing things like labeling your emotions, practicing empathy, and opening yourself up to feedback. The more you do this, the more you notice your sensitivity to other people’s emotions increasing.

Now it’s time for the most important step: bringing it into the classroom!

What better group of people to practice empathy and emotional intelligence with than your students? You start looking for root causes of misbehavior, and the emotions that underlie them. You teach your students to become aware of their own emotions, and the emotions of their classmates. Most importantly, you provide an example of how to do this.

Congratulations, you have not only become a better teacher, but you’ve also become a true leader. You are now impacting your students not only through what you teach them, but how you teach them.

You’re no longer just teaching them about English, now you’re teaching them about life.

Final thoughts

Becoming a great leader, and a great teacher, takes time. It isn’t something that can be done in one semester: it’s an ongoing process of self-discovery and self-improvement.

However, as people teaching abroad, we’re no strangers to this process. Living and working abroad is a journey of self-discovery, finding new and exciting pieces of yourself in different contexts and cultures, growing in ways you never thought possible.

Leadership in the classroom is another one of those ways, and it’s an area of self-improvement that will end up changing not only your own life but the lives of others.

At the end of the day, that’s what teaching is all about!

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