Bye Bye Black Boards !

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I was in secondary 4 when I saw the first SMART board in one of my classes. I can remember that the teacher was not eased nor pleased to teach with this new tool. Few years went by since my secondary 4, but the popularity of SMART Boards is growing in schools and most of them are now equipped with those interactive boards. The SMART company assures that its products are innovative and evolving meaning that the products you use today will adapt and still be up-to-date in a few years.

The main advantage of the SMART board lie in the fact that they can do almost everything with the tip of your fingers. SMART boards are connected to computers, but the board itself acts as a computer too. From the big screen you can surf the web, watch videos, modify documents, and save them. It is also possible to share your presentation on other computers !

Beginners can write, erase, and draw on it. There are also applications and games that can be added to the SMART board software to make the teaching even more interesting and interactive. SMART boards are also useful because they replace television and projectors. Be sure to practice a little before using the SMART board for a presentation in class, so that you are familiar with all the features of the tool. I’m telling this from personal experience because the first time I worked with a SMART board during my practicum I almost panicked; I did not know how to scroll down the page !!

Now that I have worked with the SMART board a couple of time, I enjoy more this tool. I think it is fun to work with. Students can come in front of the class, write stuff, and participate in games. It makes the classroom a more interesting place for them to be when they know they can participate more actively. It can also be use to note down ideas from brainstorming sessions. Students then get a visual support for their own ideas.

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Amber Price, an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, suggest 10 ways to use the SMART board in a classroom. The last thing she suggests is to use the SMART board for PowerPoint presentation, but PowerPoint is only one of the thousand presentation tools available for teachers. (See my articles about Prezi, and ThingLink). It is certainly, the main reason why I will use the SMART board in my future classes. In this regard, you may want to download the SMART Notebook on your computer; it is a software to create SMART board presentation. The Notebook is essential when working with a SMART board, because it is this software that gives you access to the magic pens, and highlighters and stuff.

Now, Let you imagination go and find all possible ways to adapt the use of the SMART board to your style of teaching.

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Pretty Prezis

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Which one of us haven’t fall asleep in class while listening to a boring teacher reading notes from a PowerPoint ? I did! PowerPoints are certainly useful to present new materials, but they are common and they always come back to the same pattern: slide, slide, next slide, etc.

There are many tools that allow us, teachers (future teachers), to do presentation and that will certainly get our students’ attention. One of the tools I found the most interesting is Prezi. It is an on-line tool, it is simple, and it is possible to sign up for the basic version for free with any device (computer, portable, iPads etc.)!Prezi is a fun tool because it is interactive. When you create a Prezi you have to choose a background that will best reflect your ideas or begin with a blank Prezi. You can add frames, arrows, and themes to connect your ideas. During the presentation, just click the area you what to present and it will zoom in. To make it more interesting you can put links, videos, and pictures as well as pdf’s and even music !

One of the main advantage of Prezi over Microsoft PowerPoint is that Prezi is non-linear; I mean here that there are many ways to get from point A to point B.

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I will certainly use it in my classrooms to present new content and activities. Nice images, templates and colors will certainly be a support for keeping students’ attention. It is also possible to share Prezi presentations, which is an advantage of the tool; it will allow students to access the presentations of the previous classes from home for example. KunkleRobb talks about his experience with Prezi in a high school classroom. He says that ” Prezi seems more like a video show which is great for high school students with incredibly limited attentions spans.” This is what teachers should aim for: catching and keeping students’ attention.

I will also recommend it to my students for their oral presentations because it is simple and fun to use. They will feel that their presentation is more interesting because of the interactive background and hopefully they will be more confident. Some students will probably prefer PowerPoint because it is more structure, but some others will prefer the creative, non-linear path offered by Prezi as Michelle Leibel, a student supporting Prezi, suggests.

Take a look at this amazing Prezi presentation if you want to be convinced!

Facebook and Education: Really ?

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Internet is a fantastic tool. It gives access to any kind of information: videos, maps, books, etc. In this sense, Internet is a plus for education, because it benefits students as well as teachers, I recognize that. Many people ague that Facebook can be an important educational tool when it is used properly. Certainly, it can be a good tool. However, when I use my good sense it tell me that Facebook in education in general are not meant to be together. What is expressed here is an opinion and has no goal to convince you that Facebook is ”evil”. As a future English teacher, I was asked to take position regarding the use of Facebook in education, so here is my point:

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Cyberbullying
Mark Connolly, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, thinks that Facebook and social media in general encourages students to “engage with each other” and to share their creativity. In the contrary, I personally think that Facebook makes it easier for bullies to intimidate other students. Intimidation is a big issue and Facebook is an open door to it because literally everyone over 13 years-old can subscribe and add friends. This issue of “cyberbulllying” has also been by raised Jeffrey Fouts, from the Syracuse University but the matter is up to date with Quebec reality. For bullies in schools, any way to persecute another student will be a good way. Even if two people are not friends on Facebook, it is possible to send messages to anyone. I think it is too easy to contact other people on Facebook and, therefore, for bullies to bully other students. The blocking option is usefull of course, but the use of it often happens after the bad is done. You may also want to know that Facebook as a webpage for educators and teenage regarding the issue of bullying.

Distraction

Another issue that I see is the fact that Facebook can be endlessly distracting in class. According to Statistic Brain website, people spend an average of 18 minutes every time they connect to Facebook. Even if the teacher gives clear instructions according to the work that must be done, students have access to funny photographs, groups, games and discussions with their friends. Not only does Facebook momentarily distract students from their tasks or their teachers, but it seems, according to Connolly again that long term the use of Facebook could lead to degradation of concentration capacity. Students already have a number of ways to distract themselves in classrooms. I believe that if I use Facebook with my future classes I will literally shoot my self in the foot… Others will certainly argue that it is very useful to share documents and stuff, but most schools now have their own portals and websites created specifically for the purpose of sharing documents, handing in homework, etc.

Privacy
Finally, the issue of privacy here is significant too, because Facebook asks its users to share a certain number of private and personal information. Teacher cannot oblige students to use Facebook if they do not want to share their information with their classmates or the teacher. Using Facebook to share documents and as an educational tool can be problematic in this case. An option allowing anonymity would certainly would be a plus and not only with regard to privacy but also with regard to the “cyberbullying” issue. Knowing that Facebook counts over 1,310,000,000 monthly active users and over 81,000,000 fake accounts, it is not hard to understand that privacy is an issue.

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There are other reasons why I think Facebook should not be used in an educational context. For example, Facebook is clearly addictive. I’m the older sister of a 16-year old teenager, and I find that it is hard to have a conversation with her because she is always on Facebook with her cellphone. Do you really want your students to act like zombies because their brain is addicted to be constantly bombarded with news and pictures on Facebook ?… I don’t. I want my students to be interested and motivated when I talk with them !

Also, Facebook is one of the number one cause of procrastination for students. Unfortunatelly, I am not an exception to this rule. When working on my laptop, I often take “5-minute breaks” that turn out to become half hour breaks because I go on Facebook and forget about time because I was too concentrated looking at the updates on my newsfeed… In this regard, it is my problem, but this kind of problem does not have its place in a classroom. Students have plenty of time to do want they want at home.

There are no magic educational tools and Facebook has certainly advantages as a tool for teaching too. However, I personally judge that Facebook (or any other social networks) and school must be separated.

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