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Tsisana Palmer | @TechTeacherCent

Tsisana Palmer | @TechTeacherCent

Tsisana Palmer holds an M.A. in Intercultural Communication and a Master's degree in Educational Technology (M.E.T.) Her professional background includes over 8 years of teaching English as a Second Language and Intercultural Communication to international students. In addition, her experience includes instructional design, online course design, curriculum alignment, material design, teacher training and professional development, technology integration, and teaching with social media. She blogs to continue her learning, support her teaching, explore new ideas, expand her level of expertise, serve and help others, leave the comfort zone, and grow as a person and educator.

Posted by on in Education Leadership

Last week I came up with a call to action for myself "changing teaching habits".  Then I thought that someone else might be interested in joining , so I called it Teachers Changing Habits Together (#tcht). The idea came to me while reading  a  book called "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. In essence, the book, based on extensive and fascinating research, explained how the actions we perform over and over again become habits. Once habits, they are done automatically, without  that  element of consciousness.  Another key point was that individuals are not the only ones who act based on a set of habits; institutions and organizations develop and operate on habits, too. Lastly, when individuals or organizations want to change or improve their performance, they need to look for one keystone habit;  once that habit is consciously modified or replaced, a whole set of other habits , and  therefore actions, change, too (for example, a new habit of  starting to exercise often changes eating and sleeping habits ). All that made me want to reflect on the habits I have developed as a teacher. I also wanted to critically look and identify the habits that should be modified or changed all together to make me a better educator. I am excited to be starting this journey, and here is my first new habit: 

Habit #1: Always Start with a "WHY?"

While asking "WHY?" may sound like a common sense question (after all,  why to do anything for no obvious reason, right?) we, humans, often do things we promise not to,  such as smoking, checking social media, eating ice-cream, etc. It's easy to fall into a habit, and teaching is not an exception. Maybe we have always done it this way, or maybe this is the only app we know how to use, or because everyone else is using it, or because this is in the book...

I admit, I have taught lessons guided by a textbook. Had I asked myself "Why am I going to teach this?", I would have never used those materials, because the answer would have clearly been "because it's in the textbook". Some units or chapters offer little value or relevancy, yet I feel I have to use them to simply justify their existence.

Here is one example of a lesson without a clear WHY.  Last week we had a unit about schools around the world. It sounded like an interesting topic, so I decided to use it. We did different activities, talked about different countries, and then got to the reading. The reading discussed schools in the U.S., Kenya, and France. Sounds exciting, right? Except for the fact that the only details my students learned from the text were at what time students start school in those countries, how many breaks they have between classes, and how long those breaks are. The most important details in each paragraph was that each school starts at 8 or 9, lessons last 45 or 60 min, and the school year lasts 270 days. As the students were reading the text, questions were popping up in my head: How is this interesting? How is this meaningful? Are these the only details my students can learn about schools in different countries? Why on earth am I using this unit? Yes, my students are beginners of English, and they don't have much vocabulary, but they are college level, and they can process information which is more meaningful, more useful, more relevant!

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

If someone asked me about my most frustrating teaching moments, I would not have to think twice; nothing can be more discouraging than a group of bored students, doing something only because they are told to do it. At the same time, if asked about my worst experience as a student, I get the same image of a boring lecture or activity, with my mind starting to wander elsewhere, thinking of what I will be doing after... In either case, personally, I strongly believe that it is the teacher who can work the magic and make the learning experience more exciting, engaging, and interesting. So, the question is:

Can motivation be embedded into the lesson plan?

Luckily, the answer is YES. Two years ago, while working on my final project for the "Instructional Design" course, I was introduced to Keller's ARCS model, and ever since then, Embedding Motivation into the Lesson Plan has been a magic tool in my teaching toolbox!

The ARCS stands for - Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.

According to Keller (2000), these four categories represent "sets of conditions that are necessary for a person to be fully motivated."

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Posted by on in Differentiated Instruction

I've been rethinking and reevaluating my role as a classroom teacher quite a bit lately, often by posing questions such as "Would I enjoy being a student in my own classroom?" or "Would I teach the same way if my own child was one of the students?" These questions, I must admit, allowed me to see my own classroom from a rather perspective unusual.

A couple of weeks ago, I got even a better question. It happened during a professional development meeting where  we were discussing a book on teaching grammar. In one of the chapters, the author posed this question: "What can I give my students that they cannot find on their own?" While the original question was asked in a different context, I immediately thought it would be a great question to ask about teaching in general. Certainly about my own!

"What can I give my students that they cannot find on their own?"

To a large extent, I feel that the answer is in what Will Richardson calls the "Age of Abundance". Honestly, with so much knowledge and information available to students 24/7/365 at their fingertips, what can I offer them that they would not be able to find online?

The answers I have come up with so far are - the guidance, vision, and practice that they won't easily find on the Internet, no matter what key words or phrases they use to search.

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Posted by on in Project-Based Learning

It was a graduate course called "Technology-Assisted Project Based Learning" where I learned this phrase - the Driving Question. But should a driving question exclusively belong to Project-Based Learning or should it be embedded into any kind of learning? And, if yes, perhaps there are even more components that can be "borrowed" as well?

Let's review Project-Based Learning first.

Question 1: Define Project-Based Learning

Answer: The key words for PBL are: innovative, intrinsic motivation, higher-order thinking, authentic learning, 21st century skills, problem solving, engagement, collaboration, effective communication, students' inquiry, student-driven, and teacher-facilitated. Music to teachers' ears! Describing briefly, PBL is an innovative approach to learning which allows students to identify a concept of interest, conduct the research, and critically analyze the findings. Thus, learning becomes student-driven, as opposed to teacher-driven, which, in turn, increases the level of students' motivation and engagement. Last but not least, PBL is not a "supplementary activity" to support learning; it is the curriculum concept taught through a project (Bell, 2010.)

Question 2: Describe the difference between Project-Based Learning and Problem-Based Learning.

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Posted by on in Professional Development

My EDTECH journey at Boise State University was an eye-opening and life-changing experience in too many ways to count. Blogging was one of the professional activities I got exposed to as a student; and, it is also one practice I want to continue as part of my teaching.

 In every EDTECH course, I was required to keep a digital learning log as a platform to post homework assignments, reflect on my learning and progress, showcase projects, ask for help, share a-ha moments, share resources, and, finally, organize artifacts for my M.E.T. portfolio. Right from the start, the whole concept of homework changed; there were no more papers written to be read by no one, the classmates’ homework was available for everyone to review and comment on, and, last but not least, this priceless library of resources built by the EDTECH cohorts to date is still under my fingertips!  

But is blogging only suitable for students? Would teachers, busy as they are, also benefit from blogging? Should every teacher engage in blogging and build her/his own teacher-centered blog?

 Absolutely! And here is the WHY part.   

  1. Share. Share your successful projects, ideas, resources, etc. Think of those brief, on-the-go encounters with fellow teachers by a microwave or coffee machine; don’t they often turn into helpful “how-to” sessions, where we exchange our best teaching practices, lesson ideas, or classroom management strategies? Expand that “kitchen space” and reach out to thousands of teachers worldwide. Blogging will enable you to share 24/7/365!   

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Tagged in: blogging edtech