Category Archives: teacher category

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the awareness that comes when we pay attention to ourselves and to our surrounding in the present moment. We are not stuck to the past and have no previous thought on how we perceive a person, a situation or an activity. We are not stuck to the future either and worried about what it might bring of disasters. Contrary to what many may think, it is about NOT LIVING IN OUR THOUGHTS all the time.

Awareness means paying attention to where we are, what we are doing or who we are with. So it does not advocate for multitasking. It is being focused on one thing right here, right now. Mindfulness wakes us up in the moment. If we are not fully present in the moment, we may miss on happiness waiting for it to arrive to our life in the future. NOW is the most valuable moment in our lives.

Research has shown that practicing mindfulness has its great benefits:
1. Mindfulness quiets the mind when we are worried and reduces stress.
2. It boosts our ability to concentrate with clarity and improves listening ability.
3. It allows us to cope with life challenges and fast-paced lifestyle.
4. We are in better control of our emotions, words and actions and thus improves relationships in the family, community and at work.
5. When mindful, we can take criticism and objections positively.
6. Mindfulness improves our chances of success because it enhances creativity, memory and problem solving skills. It gives us the ability to make better decisions with clarity.
7. Mindfulness results in better health and better quality of life.

Mindfulness can be nurtured through attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and creation of positive mental habits. Mindfulness training has been embraced by companies and by a number of individuals, including surgeons, musicians, military personnel, lawyers, and financial advisors. Perhaps it is time to take it seriously in our life and profession.
In the fast-paced life of today how can we nurture mindfulness?
1. Practice breathing. All we need is to sit still and observe our breath as it goes in and out of our lungs, without changing our breathing. The breath reminds us to tune into our body for a few moments. This allows us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings with a greater degree of calmness and a smarter eye.
2. Mentally scan each part of the body as we take deep breath.
3. Slow down and spend time in nature.
4. Establish mindfulness triggers associated with any recurring events during our day.
5. Eliminate needless rush.

 

Personal Learning Environments

Modern technology provides us with so many tools to get information we want or need in many forms: text, video or audio, and online learning is spreading widely.  People are learning skills on their own or under a teacher’s supervision. If you follow the direction education is going in as a result of modern technology, you will not be surprised by the notion of ‘personal learning environments’ concept because it is a natural result of the modern digital revolution.

Many writers and thinkers have discussed ‘Personal Learning environments’ but most of them approach it from a technological point of view with focus on the ‘environment’ and little attention to the pedagogical element in learning. They see Web 3.0 arriving in the coming few years, with much more integrated approach to authoring, more easily indexing, and wider interaction between people in social groups.

A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience, along with the power of social learning, authentic audiences, and integrative contexts, has created not only promising changes in learning but also disruptive moments in teaching.” Randall Bass, 2012

PLE is a modern learning approach based on personal environments connected by a set of applications and tools an individual uses to create an environment fit for their interests, skills, needs and situation. This environment is comprised of formal and informal learning, personal experience, e-learning, peer groups, etc… Learning is not limited to the classroom anymore, or to a rigid curriculum or standard tests. The individual chooses their tools, content and audience to create an identity, brand or portfolio.

The technical question for learners creating their own personal learning environment is what tools to use to create a portfolio. Portfolios are unique for each learner. At the same time, there are too many tools and to choose which one that fits an individual is not easy and requires awareness of the self and knowledge of the technology.

The pedagogical question remains the content, approach and methodology of learning. 

“Our understanding of learning has expanded at a rate that has far outpaced our conceptions of teaching. A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience…has created not only promising changes but also disruptive moments in teaching.” Bass, 2012

The bases to developing a Personal learning Environment are: 

1. A virtual or real space where we can keep up with info on our interests, career, and skills.  In addition, we need to set time for the process of personal development and learning.

2.  Informal education will be as crucial and important, if not more than, formal education.   This informal education will be learned within a framework to form our identity and manage our skills.

3.  Ownership of learning: Learners choose what to learn, when to learn it and how to learn it. They also choose the situation in which to apply their learning.

4. The Instructor’s role has changed. The learner is the center of the learning and teaching model, and relies upon a variety of sources for learning. PLEs will require instructors to stay relevant in their field, and know how to use tools in education.

5. New technology is continually changing: Access to the Internet has changed how we teach and learn and will continue to do so. New tools, devices, and applications are changing the way we think and the values we have.  PLE is a natural product of the internet culture.

Developing a PLE is a dynamic process that changes continuously in response to new learning needs and goals. A person starts small and as he or she develops, their learning environment does.  It needs time with no rush or distraction. In addition, a person will use as many tools as he or she knows and feels comfortable with.

A personal learning environment is not a marginal concept but a trend that will reshape future curricula and teacher and educational management training.

Our brains on modern technology

 

Our brains on modern technology: The age of distraction

We are witnessing an explosion of digital tools that provide us access to overload of information. We use technology for long hours that make up most of our day for work, entertainment, communication, connecting to people, drawing, composing music, and all kinds of tasks. The impact of the digital revolution on our brains and the way we think is a hot topic, especially for parents and teachers who have a big responsibility towards their children and want to know more about it.

 

Young people born to this information revolution spend at least 8 hours every day using laptops, smart phones, I pads, etc…text messaging, tweeting and looking for information. They even keep these tools beside them when they sleep. The impact of these tools on young generation is underestimated.

 

Digital tools exploit a basic human instinct of social or intellectual nourishment. When an email, message, status or tweet arrives, people feel the urge to respond instantly because of the release of the same hormones released under stress. Under the constant influence of this hormone people develop an addiction to apps to an extent a digital diet is strongly needed. When the brain is always on, with no breaks to rest it, attention and concentration are compromised. Is it a coincidence the word “wired’ means both: connected to the internet, and unable to concentrate?

 

Young generation is continuously listening to music. Both parents and teachers agree that this has created an easily distracted generation with short attention span and very thin memory. When there is no access to a mobile technology, anxiety builds up. One high school student says he ‘feels naked without a cell phone.’

Adults too may suffer the impact of using digital tools for long hours. We lose the ability to concentrate and focus when reading because we get accustomed to scanning through lots of information on the Web.

Distraction and short attention span cause so many accidents. Beside car accidents, the simplest accident is bumping into another person or a piece of furniture. Young generation has developed mindlessness in eating, studying, and shopping as well as in building relationships.  Instantaneous devices have an impact on the thought processes, hindering deep thinking and understanding, and getting in the way of the formation of memories. “It makes learning more difficult and results in diminished information retaining ability and fails to connect experiences stored in memory, leaving thoughts thin and scattered,” according to Eric Schmidt, Chief executive of Google.

 

In many cases new technology makes our lives easier. I can not imagine living without the benefits of wireless communication or the ease of access to information on the Internet. We can not go back to a time without computers and cell phones, so we need to nurture a healthy balance when using technology by making smart decisions on how and how long we use it. This healthy balance is between the digital and the natural. The longer we use technology, the more we need to be in nature. We need to set limits for ourselves and our children, get downtime off computers to increase the ability to process information, sharpen memory, develop cognitive abilities, and reduce stress.

 

Share your thoughts and tips!

Future trends in Education- Flipped classroom

Modern technology and the information revolution are allowing for new teaching and learning models. These models fit the new generation’s way of thinking impacted by instant information anywhere anytime. Technologies also connect people together no matter their physical location whether near or far. One new pedagogical model developed on the principles of active learning, student engagement, blended learning, and communication and social media is ‘Flipped Classroom.’

In flipped classroom students learn new content, prepared by the teacher or third parties, online by watching lectures through videos, podcasts, websites, on DVDs and CDs, or any other form, usually at home. Then in the classroom, students apply the knowledge learned.  Application that used to be homework is now done in class. Class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions, with the teacher giving one-on-one or small group guidance. Students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands-on activities. During class sessions, teachers function as coaches or advisors encouraging students in inquiry and collaborative effort.

The flipped classroom constitutes a role change for teachers. Instead of lecturing, more time in class is given to interaction with students. Teachers lead in-class discussions or manage the classroom as a studio where students create, collaborate, and put into practice what they have learned from lectures they view outside class. Teachers suggest various approaches, clarify content, and monitor progress. They differentiate instruction by organizing students into workgroups to solve problems or study together.

Why flipped classroom

The flipped classroom has many advantages for the teacher and the student. It gives teachers a better opportunity to detect errors in student thinking and fix them. Teachers are more involved in students’ application of notions rather than on lecturing. It also allows teachers to give students as much time and attention as they need. Teachers spend less time on class management and more on guidance.

Flipped classroom allows for greater differentiation to meet student needs. Students who have the content at home on a digital tool are able to review and replay the instructional segments as many times as necessary.  It allows students to study at their own pace. As a result, students have greater ownership and control over their learning and enjoy what they are doing. Students become self-directed learners.

When to flip classroom

  • Flip your classroom instruction when the content is challenging or when the content needs greater depth of understanding. It can be one excellent model to solve complex problems and test student abilities.
  • Flip your instruction when students need greater differentiation, support, review, remediation, and engagement.
  • Flip your class when you know students understand the rules of interaction. Students get to apply, discuss, and make connections with the topic.
  • A growing number of higher education courses are being taught based on the flipped classroom model.

Caution

1. An effective flipped classroom requires careful preparation and more attention on behalf of the teacher.

2. The flipped classroom may not suit all topics or all students. Teachers need to be careful if they want to use it throughout the whole course. Some students may complain about the loss of face-to-face lectures; other may complain about getting bored of the same structure; some may misunderstand the value of the process and lose trust in the teacher.

3. A flipped classroom requires powerful mobile devices. It may put poorer communities at a disadvantage compared to rich ones and broadens the gap between them.