Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Implications of Distance Learning on Teaching: a Conversation

As part of my course on paperless classrooms and social media at Hopkins, the students and I discuss the pedagogy of distance teaching/learning and the implications of distance learning on the teaching profession. This semester, I am opening up the conversation on Wiziq; you are invited to join us at 6:45PM EST tomorrow, Oct 28th, for great conversation and debate.

Go to to sign up. It's free.

Please tag #jhusmed on Twitter with questions/comments on the conversation.

We look forward to chatting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tech and International Students

PD today on the topic of working with a growing population of international students.

Would love to get some ideas here in relation to how you all are using tech to engage and empower these students. In my own classes, some of the things we do include letting international students use browsers in their primary language, encouraging them to use Google Translate to read the Web in their primary language (easiest to run through Chrome), and using primary and target languages on Google Maps. We also use all of the different language versions of Wikipedia, regularly translate and read news media in different languages, and use search engines from the 'country of origin'.

Another thing that I've found really enlightening is allowing international students to turn in work in their primary language. It's easy enough to use Translate to, well, translate. So let students turn in essays written in German, Korean, Urdu, or whathaveyou; of course the translation is not perfect, but it sure gives you a better idea of what's going on in a student's head than trying to make guesses based on the trouble they have writing in a target language.

This doesn't mean that English-language instruction in a US school isn't important -- of course it is for all sorts of practical reasons; all I'm saying is that we don't have to let language skills always get in the way of a student's ability to express understanding.

Getting past that language issue allows students to demonstrate their understanding of and engagement with content and concepts. And in most classes -- particularly in high school -- that's what we're going for. Furthermore, sharing primary language documents between students can help break down a lot of preconceptions students may have of one another based on language differences.

Would love to hear more ideas from all of you.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Advising the Advisor

This is the first year we're using an advisory system. Basically, instead of teachers having a morning homeroom, we meet later in the day with a small group of about a dozen students. The advisory groups are made up of students from ninth through twelfth grade. We meet to talk about school, classes, grades, and life in general. I've taken my kids out to exercise and @schickbob and I organized a tug-of-war between our groups which was covered by the yearbook photographers.

So, now I'm looking for things to do on a daily basis. Just today we began a TED-talk series. Right now, we're watching Pranav Mistry's recent talk about augmented reality. And we're actively taking suggestions on what you all think are the best TED-talks.

We also see this as a potential chance to reach out to classrooms in other parts of the world. And so, I would like to invite teachers from -- well, everywhere really -- who'd like to share classroom experiences via Skype to get in touch. I think it would be an excellent opportunity to spend a few minutes each day engaging with the classrooms beyond our classroom.

So I'm turning to all of you to advise this advisor. What sort of things would you do if you and your students had ten minutes a day to engage with the world however you liked?