The Bow Tie Boys

The Bow Tie Boys

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Fear and Potential with Social Media

Social media is an important part of our society, functioning as almost universal communication between any and everyone. Social media has helped new ideas and developments spread like wildfire, and any voice can be heard. This great tool is often feared by many parents and teachers, because they fear that their children and students will misuse social media resulting in negative consequences.

In fairness, misuse of social media is common among many children, and can have negative effects on their futures. Like all things, kids need to learn how to use social media correctly if they are expected to use it in a positive way. Not everyone can just pick up a book and know how to read, there needs to be teaching if social media is to be used in both a private and academic setting.

Administrators and teachers at my school are still trying to find social media's place in the classroom. One thing that is acknowledged about social media is that students need to know how to use it without getting themselves in trouble. This is a very important part of getting students involved with social media. Teaching the dos and do nots are incredible helpful in creating positive use of social media. Even with all this advice and guidelines, social media has huge potential that isn't tapped into by many schools. Social media can be a students voice to the world, a place to share their opinions and ideas. In Language Arts, a very important idea is developing your writers voice. Social media is similar in the sense that people have a voice, and something to say. If students take the writers voice one step forward and share it with the world via social media, then they are leaving their mark.

Now, the term social media pertains to a lot more than Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social media is any website or app that allows people to communicate and connect. So websites like YouTube and Blogger are technically social media. Each website has its own uses and advantages. It would probably be better to share a three page paper on blogger compared to tweeting two lines at a time. If social media is to be used in the classroom, students will need to be educated on social media. Once this hurdle is crossed however, there is little resistance. When social media is used to display projects, students will take the time and effort to make sure their project is something they would want to show the world. I know personally that if I had to post a project on social media, I would want to make my project as good as possible. I also find it easier to see a clear purpose when writing one social media. I know that not all students are like me but I do know many students that would agree with me on this.

I would like to know what everyone reading my blog thinks about social media in the classroom. Comment down below and I will try to respond to as much as possible.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Physical Comfort in a Classroom

I would have to say that 90% of my classes have been physically characterized by rows of desks with some posters and a teachers desk in the corner. Obviously, this is very bland and boring. There are a few of my classes, that other 10%, that do something that make the classroom a better environment to learn. This can be very small things like a nice lamp, or even just a layout other than rows.

A current teacher of mine has a very comfortable room that is very welcoming. They have nice scented candles, that make the classroom smell good. I find this creates a soothing atmosphere. Also in the room are a few mushroom chairs, a lamp, a bistro table, and walls displaying student work. These improvements really shine through and create a classroom that provides physical comfort, so that mental and social comfort can occur. The class is one where there is little unorganized commotion, and students don't feel the need to get up and move around. The lamp in the room provides a nice touch, creating light that is a lot easier on the eyes compared to the white streaks produced by many school ceiling lights. The mushroom chairs are nice places to do in class reading and the bistro table not only serves that same purpose but doubles as a one on one meeting place.

In addition to the nice pieces of furniture, the desks are also constantly moved around. On testing days, the desks are put into rows, but every other day, the desks are either in groups or in a circle for discussions and such. There is also a great deal of mobility in class, if people need to move into groups of three, groups of three are made and the desks are rearranged. This in class movement is nice so that the students aren't just sitting through 90 straight minutes, but can have a bit of time to get up and move around a bit. The movement in this scenario is in a manner that is still beneficial to learning.

To create big changes in physical comfort of a classroom, there are only small things needed. A little goes a long way. Even a small lamp can make an important difference by creating a more warm, inviting atmosphere that enables students to learn in an environment where they want to learn. Changing up desk layout is another easy thing that can make a classroom a comfortable place. Moving away from the columns and rows of a standard classroom to groups can make a huge difference. Mixing up the layout of  a classroom keeps things new and fresh, while maintaining the old vibe.

Adding one or two of the things recommended above can excel the physical comfort of a classroom. I would encourage all teachers reading this to incorporate a few "extra" elements into their class to create a better environment to work in. Students not only notice this, but also are very appreciative of the action.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

SOLs

Most people are familiar with the saying, April showers bring May flowers. But for kids in Virginia, May means not only flowers, but also SOLs, the end of the year test required for many classes. Students spend May studying and practicing these SOLs, which are end of the year tests that are not required to go into the grade book but does determine whether or not the student gets credit for the course. As a student, I definitely stress out too much about SOLs. Even in classes I do very well in, I still get that gut feeling that I don't know something, and this causes too much stress, which in this case, isn't good. I also have seen in a majority of my classes, nothing is done after the SOLs, and we just watch movies, play games, etc. SOLs mark the end of the year in many classes, and the breakdown of the nurturing learning environment.

In SOLs, there is a year load of material jammed into one, 60ish question test. That is one whole year of curriculum students have to know and master. Oh, and students usually have 4 of these, usually concurrently happening. That is immense pressure on the student to study everything with such tenacity, that students become deprived of sleep, on a night where they probably need it the most. Students will also ignore other classes, just so they can have more time studying for these big tests. This is all because the test is so important to their academic future. Now, students should still study and prepare for their SOLs, but many do it to a extreme level that is unnecessary. Even worse, some teachers count the SOL as a grade, further increasing the importance of this test. Now, I personally think SOLs and tests like it should have a lowered importance, but they should still be important.

After SOLs, there is little learning that takes in many classes. For me, this is a combination of two reasons.  One, the SOL is seen as the final step in the year, with nothing proceeding it. Two, as stated earlier, SOLs drain students of their mental capacity and effort, resulting in many students not having the will to move on. Now, there should still be learning that occurs after SOLs, but with the toll they take on students, the learning should be at a slightly lower level than usual, and could maybe be a sort of introduction into the next course i.e. at the end of algebra, do a quick and simple geometry introduction.

As a teacher, one can take some of the stress of an SOL (or any other final) by spending the week leading up to the test reviewing so students aren't learning things last second. If new learning is done up to the SOL, that is tremendous stress as the student has to essentially master the new learning during the SOL instead of in a lower stakes classroom assessment. Luckily for me, in all of my classes with SOLs, we did in class review for about a week before the test. It was very reassuring and I was less stressed about the test than before. When there is less before and leading up to the SOL or final exam, students will be more willing to continue learning after the exam is complete.  By doing in class review, learning after the SOL becomes easier, and can help students get an early understanding of future courses and prepare them for the following school year.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ways my Teachers have Connected me to the World

In one of my first blogs, I discussed the importance of making learning connect and impact the real world. Looking back at it, I didn't cite a good example of this that I have participated in. So I thought for this blog to do just that, and show some of the projects and assignments that in my eyes, connected learning to the real world.

Runoff Project:
This was a quarter project in my science class where my teacher asked the class to pick a nearby tributary of the Potomac River, and to design an experiment that tests the effect of runoffs on stream condition. The Runoff project had us assemble into groups and carry out and design our experiment. After collecting data about the various particles in the water, the group had to write a report not only about the results, but how the local geography could have influenced the result. For example, if there was a giant chicken farm upstream, after a large rainstorm, it would be expected that the level of certain particles would go up. This project had students physically go out into the real world and undergo a measurement that many jobs actually have to perform. The Runoff Project also brought up the big issue of what runoff can do to a river system, which is a very serious problem in many areas, especially those in which industrialized farming is located. The topic was not only thoroughly examined in class, but also in the report.

TOSHIBA Explorivision Project:
The Toshiba project was another science project that I participated in. This project asked students to come up with a plan for a future technology in 10-20 years that will innovate the world. However, this is not only a project, but also a competition. This project is completed by thousands of K-12 students each year, so this wasn't unique to just my science class. The project got students thinking and researching about future technology underdevelopment today. My group did a project about exoskeletons, which are essentially robotic enhancements that are worn by the human body, like a shell. We had to first brainstorm an idea, research that idea, then compile our research into a concise paper. All of these skills are vital in many workplaces. Also, the research on a future and innovating topic provoked interest in said topic. This link is http://www.exploravision.org/

History Situational Essay:
In my final example, I had to write an essay that contemplated a theoretical scenario. The scenario was there was a small farming town that was home to an abandoned World War II airplane factory. There were a group of investors that wanted to repair the old factory and convert it into a museum and expand it, at the expense of the local farmland. My job was to respond to the problem and come up with a compromise. Although this required history knowledge, it also required a good sense of persuasion to convince both sides this compromise was good. The essay also brought up the important question of how we should go about preserving our history and how far we should and will take it.

I hope everyone reading this blog can be inspired to create authentic project that connect learning to the world in meaningful ways, even if i doesn't directly apply to their certain discipline.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Modern Trends in the Classroom

As a student, I see how much trends on the internet and TV can affect how my peers interact and compose themselves. However, these trends are almost always ignored in my classes and the energy and potential behind them aren't tapped into. To tap into these trends doesn't mean simply using the internet, but doing some of these trends in an academic setting.

In about three quarters of my classes, the internet and technology are utilized to enhance learning. However, in none of my classes, trends are used frequently. The only "trendy" thing I see in my classes are random gifs in notes. We don't create trends like memes and gifs, nor do we create things like websites or social media pages that extend learning outside the classroom using trends.

As a result of using these trends, students can not only relate to the assignment easier, but they also extend their learning outside the classroom if things like a blog or website is created. Although many memes and gifs have little relevance to education, they can still be used for educational purposes. The same thing is true with custom websites, social media, and blogs. To some, these may have little educational value, but they can certainly be used in an educational setting. In Teaching With the Tools Kids Really Use, Susan Brooks-Young describes that it is better to find positive uses for technology than to "fight what is ultimately a losing and unnecessary battle"(Teaching With the Tools Kids Really Use, 2010). Instead of throwing away the potential of these uses of technology, they should be utilized to use the energy and enthusiasm they hold for students. Students are excited about these trends, but only if they are incorporated in a meaningful and less "cringy" way.

If a teacher is going to use memes and gifs as a final product, they will have to be very well thought out as a gif is short video and memes are either a single picture or short video. Using memes and gifs would end up teaching conciseness in design and writing, which is a good skill to learn. Logos for example have to represent an entire company within one picture. There would also have to be a process of elimination of ideas, and then even narrowing ideas. Learning this processes of brainstorming and revision is a great one. This is something that is constantly done in the real world that has significant value in the classroom. A final way to use trends in the classroom is using the internet to share to the world students' work. This provides obvious meaning to the work at hand and students will try harder knowing that their work will be available for all to see. These trends have immense potential and if utilized correctly, help to greatly increase classroom interest and effort.

Works Cited:

Brooks-Young, Susan. Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010. Print.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Connecting Each Day in Meaningful Ways

As I sit on a beach in Florida, soaking up the sunlight, I watch the endless cycle of waves, as they form, crest, then retreat back into the ocean to reform. I think of another seemingly endless cycle. School. It's spring break so it is a one week grace period before we head into the final quarter of school. I think most students would agree with me on school being an endless cycle, punctuated by weekends and breaks. Every day should have a different flare, that separates it from everything else. With this however, everyday should also be able to feel connected in some way or another. The key is finding perfect balance between the two.

There is one class I am currently in that everyday seems like a repeat of the last. I discussed this in a previous blog, titled A Notes Based Classroom. To summarize the class, it is notes based. To quote the blog, "The class has this everyday structure, yet never strays far away from it, making each class feel like a repeat of last." (A Notes Based Classroom, bowtieboyjoe.blogspot.com ). The class although good in other aspects, just can't escape the feeling of an endless cycle.

It is vital to have an organizational pattern in a classroom, yet everyday, something needs vary in how the material is taught. This way, everyday doesn't feel like a repeat of the last. Having the same organization with the same kinds of activities everyday can be very disengaging, especially if the material isn't the students favorite. In the words of Susan Ohanian," I don’t know many adults who could sit quietly through even one day of the dusty confines of a typical school curriculum”. (Caught in the Middle, 2001) Repeating the exact same thing every single day can break a students attention in class, and can damage built up rapport. This creates the "dusty confines" Susan Ohanian describes.

One thing that can easily make everyday different are different activities. Spicing up the activities and varying them not only engage students more, but they are also a helpful study tool. Students can recall specific lessons and remember, oh yeah, I remember when we learned this because we did that one activity. In history this year, we did a reenactment of Aztec sacrifice. Although the demonstration was hilariously executed, the lesson stuck with me and my peers. Reenactments, songs, chants, poems, games and mini contests are just a few fun ways to mix up each day while still getting across the content. Just doing interesting activities that still convey important messages can help to not only create a feel of little repetition, but also one where students look forward to learning more.

Works Cited:

Ohanian, Susan. Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001. Print.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Building Good Relationships with Students

Almost everyone has been in a group with a member that has a weird grudge toward you. Working with that person could make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. As a result, the productivity of the group goes down, just because one group member has a grudge.

Now, translate this story into the classroom. There is almost always at least one kid in every class that just doesn't have respect for the teacher nor the class. They are the ones who are constantly disrupting learning, and slowing down the class. In some classes, there might be several of these kids, that just bog down the class in constant interruptions and distractions. In many cases, disruptive kids can definitely be a good student in ones class. One reason why kids may become disruptive comes down to rapport.

I have a teacher that has a positive relationship with almost every student in my class. I would be hard pressed to find a student in this class that didn't bond to my teacher. I have several hypothesizes for why this is the case. The first reason might be that he almost always takes the students opinion on matters into account. This makes us feel that we actually have an important role in our class. A second reason is that he actively knows what is going on outside school. He talks to us about our sports and other extra-curricular activities, in an interested, but not inappropriate manner. A third possible reason is that he talks to us as people, not as his subordinates. He will constantly have a normal conversation with students, while still tying everything back to the subject matter. These three reasons have stuck out to me as reasons I feel that I can connect to this teacher. These might not be the only three reasons, but they seemed to me as the most important.

The importance of building positive rapport is so great it can make or break a class. Knowing students, not just as a grade, or a face, but as a personality, or a back story, can further the effectiveness and efficiency of a classroom. In the words of Penny Kittle, "If I don’t know the kids before me, I don’t have a chance"(Write Beside Them, 2008). A teacher has to know their students as a person in order to have classroom success. In addition to knowing the students, the teacher has to treat them with trust and respect. If students feel equal to the teacher in the classroom, that respect will be two way between the student and teacher. Linda Rief wrote, "Trusting and respecting our students may be the best models we provide for them in creating culturally healthy environments in our schools"(Seeking Diversity, 1992). Having this two way trust in the classroom can propel learning as the students trusts the teacher to do their job well and the teacher trusts the students to be hardworking and efficient.


To build this good relationship, the main thing a teacher has to do is truly know the students. Talking to students about normal matters can make the students feel that teachers are much more than just teachers. Treating students as equals can help them feel more connected to the teacher, and respect their judgement more and more. Treating students with respect can cause respect back to the teacher. Talking to students about their more personal matters, and getting to know them as people, can make students feel that they are actually treated fairly and that they are treated in a manner as an equal. Doing this can propel classroom efficiency and learning.

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Write beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.