Ryan

Ryan

About Me

I am a freshman at Riverside High School. In my free time, I enjoy playing soccer and designing buildings. As a student, I always feel that the stuff we learn won't help me in the long run and I lose interest. I work to change the way students are taught. Instead of a one size fits all program, I want a system that promotes learning based on interests and life skills. As a member of the #BowTieBoys, we work to make school a place of effective learning that students want to attend.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Learning Through Campus and Community


           When kids zone out in class, they are normally thinking about something in these three general topics: Drama, food, and the real world. Teens especially have a lot of drama going on in school and this weaves its way into everything. Teens also are constantly thinking about food and are constantly hungry. However, real world news always dominates thoughts. For example, during this recent election, kids of most ages were constantly thinking and talking about the candidates and global issues. Real world news and information can dramatically effect students. This is why it is very important to use all of the resources that the school and community have to offer.

            Schools main purpose is to prepare students for the real world. However, students are confined to the school for the day then confined to classrooms. There are some classes where classroom work is required, but taking ventures outside when possible is a great way to make connections and engage the students by incorporating nature into the lesson. Engaging students is getting harder and harder in this era of technology, so finding ways both inside and outside of the school is a critical part of learning. “Learning is becoming an anytime, anyplace activity, more woven into all the parts of everyday life.” (21st Century Skills, 2009). What better way to encourage that weaving than making the world a classroom? This connection to the outside world will also subtly encourage self-learning by showing the real-world connections.



            The way that campus is used in grade school can be dramatically changed to benefit High schools normally have fairly large campuses and some outdoor space. The same goes for middle school just on a smaller scale. Utilizing this space could greatly boost student engagement and understanding as well as relieving some stress. A great time for students to use this space would be during study hall or, as my middle school called it, resource. This time for students to keep up with their work is highly limited. In most cases, students are confined to the classroom for the whole block unless they have a note from another teacher. As a student, I can tell you that it gets boring being cooped up in a school all day and would love some outdoor time for a change of scenery and the relaxation factor. If there was a designated outdoor space, like a courtyard or a patio, dedicated as a hangout for study hall students, it would allow for stress to be relieved and focus to increase. Another great way to use outdoor space is during lessons. Taking the class outside for some would be very beneficial to the kids. Using nature to connect the lesson to the world is a great way to get students to think about what else the material applies to. For example, if an English class is reading a poem that uses a leaf symbolically, then pick up a leaf and lead it through the journey it goes on as the poem is read. This is just one example. The outdoors allow for connections and less stress.

Colleges use campus very differently than grade school. While in college, students have more interactions outside of the school. For example, students have the opportunity for internships. These internships prepare the students for the real world by giving them the opportunity to test their knowledge in an environment similar to where they could possibly work. Internships also allow students to see how things work in the job and if it is something they want pursue or if they want to look at other options. This idea should be incorporated into grade school. Students are not getting the hands on experience or the application to the real world with how they are learning now. The opportunity for an internship at a company should at least be an option that students can explore if they want. This would also allow for students to find out if they actually enjoy the occupation and want to pursue it. Students could also save a lot of money if they figure out what they want to do before they spend a ton of money on college classes that won’t help them in the long run. The way to prepare students for the rest of their life is not only in classroom. Explore outside of the classroom and even out of the school to best prepare them.

            The benefits of having an opportunity to relax and learn outside has a lot of benefits. These include relief of stress, increased focus and engagement, and an increase in student connections. “The educational content is not the problem. It is the delivery method and the setting.” (Rewired, 2010). Combining a study hall with the option of being outside and a lesson outdoors into a school day creates a very versatile and exciting day. The opportunity for internships have endless benefits for students. If all outdoors and community opportunities are utilized, students will be less stressed, more focused, and have a better perspective on their futures.





Rosen, Larry D. Rewired: Understanding the Generation and the Way They Learn. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.







Trilling, Bernie, and Charles Fadel. 21. Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.



             

             

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Class Environment

       As I enter the dismal, dark abyss known as English class, a feeling of dread washes over me. Laziness and desire to sleep rush through every cell of my body as I long to be anywhere but here.  I sit in my assigned seat in the stifling rows, downcast because I don’t have an opportunity to talk to my friends at all. The “question of the day” is up on the Promethean board, which if giving of a dreary glow, almost inviting me to sleep. I feel as if all my creativity and desire to learn is being swallowed by the shadows covering the room from the limited light from the narrow window in the door. Silence covers the room like a blanket, giving way to only the sounds of pencil on paper. The scent of paper coats the inside of my nostrils as my pencil moves in the form of letters that I am barely aware of writing. The silence, boring scent, and lack of creativity put me in a trance for the rest of class. As I leave, I realize I have learned nothing.
       As I enter the cheerful, bright haven known as English class, a feeling of ease washes over me. Eagerness and alertness rush through every cell of my body as I long for the class to start. I sit in a seat next to my friends, talking about our days. A thought provoking quick write is on the promethean board, which is in the perfect light due to all the open windows, and countless ideas of what to write about flood into my head. I feel as if my creativity and desire to learn are being fed by the natural light and conversation with my friends. The sound of students talking to each other covers the room like a blanket, only giving way if the teacher needs to say something. Multiple scents of nature, air fresheners, and coffee coat the inside of my nostrils, making me even more aware of my surroundings. The chatter, wonderful scents, and amount of creativity make me want to learn. As I leave, I realize I learned more in this class than any other.
       Having a productive classroom environment is just as important as the way that material is learned. If the classroom is bare and dark, the class will not want to get involved. On the other side of the spectrum, if the classroom is colorful and bright, the class will be more inclined to participate. “IGeners reign supreme in their belief that they can juggle more tasks at than once thought humanly possible.” (Rewired, 2010). The classroom should be versatile and allow for multitasking while also being a comfortable place for the students to be.
       It is not always easy to give off a welcoming and thought provoking environment. Natural light is a big plus in classes. If all the light is coming from standard recess lighting, students are more likely to zone out then if the windows are letting in sunlight. Sunlight also helps boost creativity, which is an important skill. The scent of the room is also very important. If the room smells like paper and pencils, the students automatically think “boring”. Instead, using air fresheners, home-like smells (ex. Coffee), or the outdoors. Noise is a very controversial aspect for a classroom. Many students like at least a soft noise in the background while they work. I am one of these students. Opening a window would allow the noises of nature to be a background. Allowing student conversation while it is not necessary for them all to be listening is great as well because it allows them to share thoughts on the material or serve as a small break. It also promotes collaboration. Classroom set up plays a key role in having a good classroom environment. The standard rows or desk may have worked in the past but they aren’t working now. Students get bored with them very easily. My dream classroom would have many different desk setups around it. In one corner, there would be a few desks together around a white board. In the middle of the room, there would be no desks but a medium sized circle of chairs to have discussions. The far side of the room would have couches and large bean-bags to sit on and either do assigned research, additional research, or reading. The front of the room would be set up for instruction. An electronic board would be mounted on the wall and a semicircle of desks would be around it. This setup would allow for multiple things to be going on to increase productivity while also giving a more relaxed feel. The walls of the classroom should not be bare either. The bland grey of cinder blocks is not very good for creativity. Instead, have colorful posters on the wall that have ties to the material while still being interesting. The overall feel of the class should be welcoming and homey. This would allow students to feel more comfortable and creative.
       The way a classroom looks and feels has a major effect how well the students process and understand the material. If the room itself engages the kids, the material will be easier to teach. It is very important to have a good atmosphere for the students so that they can flourish. “A flexible ‘learning studio’ approach that can be reconfigured when needed will be an important part of the blueprint for 21st century learning. (21st Century Learning, 2009). The room must be versatile with places for different activities and should be easily moveable. It is imperative that the classroom be comfortable for the students.


Bernie Trilling. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times(9780470475386). N.p.: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.

Rosen, Larry D. Rewired: Understanding the Generation and the Way They Learn. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lessons

Every day it’s the same. Walk into class, get out my binder, search for a pencil, and get ready for notes. The teacher drones as we, the students, fill in the blanks on our notes packets. Then, we watch videos on the exact same things we took notes on.  This goes on for a few classes, then we spend one class doing a packet of review. The teachers classify this packet as an “engaging project”.  Meanwhile, another class is gradually filling in the notes. They take a page of notes a day then mix in activities to keep the students engaged and learning.

            Lesson structure is a very important part of an effective learning environment. To the students, lesson planning is significant. If the lesson only consists of notes and a video, then students tend to zone out and not take in any of the information. All kids learn differently and while it is important to have notes so information can be gathered, that mostly benefits the visual learners. Hands-on learners benefit from activities, as do all other students. Activities are a very good way for students to further investigate and understand the material. “…students did most of the mental work of the project – researching, planning, analyzing, collaborating, experimenting, evaluating, and communicating.” (21st Century Skills, 2009). In order for students to learn the best they can, good lesson planning is critical.

             Students lose focus very easily. They have so much going on outside of school as well as the drama in it that concentrating on the lesson is not a high priority in their minds. If the lesson doesn’t engage them, they will zone out. Planning a lesson that keeps the students’ attention is very difficult. The layout of the class is very important. As I said before, a class of straight notes, while sometimes necessary, will not hold the students focus. Instead, A lesson involving notes, individual activities, and collaborative activities all mixed in will keep the students engaged.

1.     For example, start off with an individual activity, like a quick write about the general idea of the lesson. This will get the students thinking and ready to learn. The brain takes in more information if the material is reinforced right away. That is why notes should have activities mixed in.
2.     2. After the individual activity, some notes would be taken. Not a copious amount, just one major point. It is imperative that the notes be organized by major learning points so those points could be taught one by one, giving the opportunity to go deeper during activities.
3.     Then a break would be taken from the notes and either a class discussion or a collaborative activity would be done. Class discussions are great ways to promote debate between students while also giving the students opportunities to learn from each other’s comments. The teacher would put out a controversial question on the material or a question that applies to a problem in the world and tie in the material. A different collaborative activity that could be done would be a time for research. For example, writing a creative research paper on a problem and how to solve it. This would give the students a platform to express creativity, connect to the world, and better understand the material. Also, allowing the students to dig deeper and discover things for themselves is important. Time should be given so the students could further research an aspect of the material that interests them and learn more about that. For example, I would research how the material that I am learning relates to architecture or the being an architect because that is what I am interested in. This would allow students to delve deeper into what they are interested in as well as gather a better understanding of the material.
4.     Breaks in class can be beneficial as well. At my school, we have four blocks per day, each an hour in a half. If I have a class that is heavy in notes, my focus will slip along with the focus of my peers. A small break, 5 minutes per say, would allow the students to get collected again. This break would end up helping the students get engaged because when taking notes and focus slips, most likely thoughts go to what is going on in the students life. A time to just talk to peers would get those thoughts out and will let the students pay more attention to the lesson. These breaks do not need to be in every class but when there is a lot of lecture and notes, a break is often welcome.

The way that lessons are laid out strongly influence the amount of student engagement of a class. Notes are sometimes unavoidable but students are not big fans of having a class of just notes all the time. Interactive activities are great ways to get students involved while still having them learn. “We must apply both thinking and tinkering.” (21st Century Skills, 2009). This means that the creativity toward design is an effective way to go about project design. Worksheets, though easy to assign, do not benefit students as much as a thought out activity. “From what was written on the blackboard, the class was working on an assignment translating a passage from English to Spanish…nearly half the students clearly doing something else.” (Rewired, 2010). This is a result of worksheets. If notes and lectures are mixed in with fun, engaging activities then students will be more focused and learn more effectively.




Bernie Trilling. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times(9780470475386). N.p.: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.

Rosen, Larry D. Rewired: Understanding the Generation and the Way They Learn. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.




Monday, February 13, 2017

Technology In The Classroom


I walk into class and deposit my phone in its designated cubby. Students aren’t allowed to use phones in this class. I then walk to my desk, take out my pencil, and start drearily copying the notes down. The teacher walks up to the board and starts on her usual lecture for our notes. As I look around, I notice around half the class is asleep and the other half is staring off into space. After the notes, we get a worksheet to work on for the rest of class. All the students occasionally look at the clock in hopes of the class will soon be over. As the bell chimes, it’s a mad rush to grab our phones and get out of the class. Soon, I am in my next class, talking with my friends while checking what the weather will be like later in the day for my soccer practice. As the teacher calls us to attention, we sit down, put our phones down, and take out our computers. In this class, most of the instruction ties in technology. The teacher then says it is time for notes. We all open up a blank page on our computer and get ready to type. No one is sleeping in this class. Everyone is giving all their attention to the front of the room. Then, when the notes are complete, we all open a new tab and work on our websites that we made. No one looks at the clock once.

Technology can help with a lot of a lot of classroom problems, such as students not being engaged, introducing new ways to do activities, and new ways to organize. However, putting technology into a classroom ineffectively, for example writing a blog instead of a paper, just to say that it is used does not help students. If it is used to create interesting activities and increase the productivity of student organization, then it could be the best tool. The way students are taught has changed surprisingly little despite the innovations in technology. Students are now more savvy and more interested in technology so using it effectively as a teaching tool is very important. “It is not that they don’t want to learn. They just learn differently.” (Rewired, 2010).

There are so many apps and websites out there that can help students in all areas. Sometimes, it is hard know which ones are the most productive. I have found some of the apps and websites that I think very helpful in different subjects. In English, creativity flourishes. The most beneficial way for the students to apply the material in English class is to use it to create something. Here are some great websites and apps:

Weebly is a free website creator that lets students make their very own website safely and easily. This website could be about basically anything that has writing, reading, or speaking tied in. Social media, blogging, and sharing are a huge part of the workplace now while also being a great platform for students to share their work with other students and teachers. This would allow students to make their own websites which is both interactive and fun. One topic idea would be for the students to make the website about their career interest. I went into detail about this in my previous blog.

Twitter is a wonderful app/website for this but is not completely censored and safe. Students would have to be vigilant about who they follow and what they view. Twiducate would be a safer alternative to Twitter. Twiducate lets teachers make a class and choose who is in the online class. They can also control the posts in the group. Either of these can be used in a way to promote healthy interaction and collaboration in and out of the classroom. If used properly, both could be forums for innovation and great ways to practice critical writing. These platforms allow students to communicate and share their work with other students and teachers while also building their digital footprint.  An activity that these could be used for would be a Twitter (or Twiducate) chat. Students would pick a topic then express their opinions with other students in a constructive way. This would let students share their thoughts while practicing their critical writing skills.

IMovie is a great program that allows students to make a well polished video. This app could be used to create videos that show students fluency in speech while bringing in material and creativity. An example of an engaging activity using IMovie would have students making a public service announcement about a current problem in the world. The PSA would be a fun activity for students to express themselves creatively while working on their speaking skills.

Organization is a very difficult aspect of school, only getting harder as people get older. The Homework app is a great way to help students keep track of the work that they need to do for classes. It also helps them balance the school work with extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs.

All of these apps and websites are beneficial ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. They could all be used to make all aspects of English. The key to using them in a helpful way would be to understand the way to use the technology.

Technology can be incorporated into all subjects in school, weather it is math or music. The key is to implement it in away that helps students comprehend and understand the material. For example, a good app for learning guitar would be Yousician. It takes you through daily lessons that include songs and techniques. PHet is a great website for science. It has a lot of labs and hands on activities that would get everyone involved. Immune Attack is a great website for biology. It is a slightly fictional game that is scientifically correct and a fun way to get students involved. If students are struggling with math, Get The Math is a website that shows how math is applied in real world scenarios. This shows the students that what they are learning will be can be used in the real world. Kahoot is a fun review game for all subjects. Personally, I find it very helpful and extremely fun to play. All of these websites and apps are free and very helpful for students.

“But there is more to it than their heightened ability to multitask, search the Web, listen to music, update their blogs, create Web sites, make movies, play video games, and text friends on their cell phones. These young people are the first generation in history to know more about the most powerful tools for change in our society – digital information and communication technologies – than their elders: their parents and teachers.” ( 21st Century Learning, 2009). This generation is very tech-savvy and can use technology with ease. This is why technology helps them learn so much. Students like to be on their phone or a computer. This is the new “hands on learning” method. Technology gets students interested and helps them learn.

                                                                                                                                             





PHet – PHet can be found at the address https://phet.colorado.edu/ .

Homework app- This app can be downloaded from the App Store. If the students do not have Apple products, an alternative would be myHomework Student Planner which is on the Google Play store.

Kahoot- To create a Kahoot, the address is https://getkahoot.com/?utm_name=controller_app&utm_source=web_app&utm_medium=link but for the students to access it, the address is https://kahoot.it/#/ . Students can also play from the app can be downloaded from the App Store and the Google Play store.


Immune Attack – Immune Attack needs to be downloaded onto a computer to play. It is available for download at http://immuneattack.org/ .

Get The Math – Get the math can be found at the address http://www.thirteen.org/get-the-math/ .

Twiducate – Twiducate can be found at https://www.livelingua.com/twiducate/   

Twitter – Twitter can be found at https://twitter.com/ .Twitter also has an app that can be downloaded both from the App Store and the Google Play store.

Imovie- Imovie can only be downloaded from the App Store but an alternative would be to film using a phone camera then downloading a video editing app.



Rosen, Larry D. Rewired: Understanding the Generation and the Way They Learn. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.



Trilling, Bernie, and Charles Fadel. 21. Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Specialized Learning


As a teacher, I bet you have heard the question “When will we use this?” As a student I can confirm that this goes through many of our minds. Students always want to know when the material they are taught in school will help them later in life. I aspire to be an architect when I grow up and have been dreaming up ways teachers could help me and other students achieve their goals. Specialized learning is a very good way to do this. Specialized learning zeros in on the interests of students and sneaks the material in with activities.

 Since I know this as a freshman, if I study my classes while incorporating things about architecture, I would know even more about it for when I grow up. Many people end up not liking or being good at their choices in college. Specialized learning would let people figure this out before they spend big money to take a college course that didn’t contribute to what they were trying to do.

Specialization of learning is learning based on interests, careers for example. The curriculum would be based around the students interests so the students could learn the material while simultaneously finding out more about the job that they are interested in. For example, my obsession with architecture. All the work I would do would contain direct ties to architecture. For instance, instead of reading the generic high school books, I would read books like Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor and Architecture: A World History by Daniel Borden, Jerzy Ezlanowski, and Joni Taylor. It can also be incorporated into writing. General questioned essays allow students to take a path most suited to them. For teaching speaking, have conversations with students about their interests. This will develop good speaking skills. This is great because it allows students to learn more about what they want to be while still learning what is required. Teachers should still be teaching material. “A reasonable goal…might be 50 percent time for inquiry, design, and collaborative project learning and 50 percent for more traditional and direct methods of instruction.”  (21st Century Learning, 2009). This split would still allow the material to be received by the students while giving them the opportunity to use it while learning about concepts that will help them long term and that they are interested in.

In the English classroom, specialization of learning could be tied in to all the standards. An example that is already being used are quick writes. Providing thought provoking questions while allowing the students to dive deep into it allows them to practice writing while writing about their interests. However, these are just a quick start for the class and not normally the focus. This led to the idea of students having their own websites where they put information about what they want to be when they grow up. Using a website builder like Weebly, students would create and personalize the site to their liking. The pictures and overall feel of the website should show both the personality and career choice.  On the first page, they would put up an “about me” where they would write a summary of themselves. This should include explanations of their personalities, interests, and facts about themselves. Also on that page, the students would put a section dedicated to explaining the occupation and summarize what they do. This description should include briefly hitting on what the main goal of the job is, how the job is important to society, and if the job is popular. This should be completed and very well written by the end of the first week. Students could then go back and change different aspects of the writings as interests and focuses change. The second page would be a space for the facts of the job. Some aspects that should be on this page would include the average working time, the average wage, a more in depth description of the job, the schooling required, and more. The set up for this page could vary. Personally, I would have a main paragraph going through the basics. I would also have a bullet point list of more in depth facts. These should be facts that would help the students in the occupation. This should be worked on and added to over time. The third page would be dedicated to creativity. Depending on the job, this page could contain many different aspects. Since I want to be an architect, I would put some of the designs I drew on this page. I also would explain why I put specific components in the design and why they were effective and attractive. But this page would also allow other jobs that don’t involve design. If the students do not have a job where design is prominent, like accounting, then they will need to be creative with this page. For example, student ideas for innovating the spreadsheet, the way money flow is tracked, et cetera. Or for a teacher, the students could make creative lesson plans from the point of view of the student. As students start designing and creating, amazing innovations could arise at a young age, leading to a more productive future. There should be a post containing the creative idea and explanation every week. The fourth page would consist of a writing space for assignments. Let the students be creative with the topics and writing on this page. The last page would be a page of choice for the students. Let them innovate and find different ideas to put up. This will, in a way, force students to innovate and create using new ideas. Some students are not sure what they want to be when they grow up. In this case, talk with them and help them reach a conclusion. In later blog posts, I hope to go in to detail on how this works in a ninth grade classroom as my English teacher has allowed me to pilot this in fourth quarter.

This website would allow students to learn English and more about their job choice at the same time. Also, this teaches real life skills. “Surrounded by digital media and media choices, 21st century students need to understand how to best apply the media resources available for learning and to use media creation tools to create compelling and effective communication products such as videos, audio podcasts, and Web sites.” (21st Century Skills). The website will contribute to learning how to best use websites and the internet. Most students do not like to write at all. “Perhaps it is not the writing that they are reticent about, but the vehicle for that writing.” (Rewired, 2010).  Students use social media and anything online for writing and posting. The website gives the platform for them. Students are going to know how to do effective analytical writing and how to write casually. Both of these forms can be taught and used on the website.







Rosen, Larry D., Mark L. Carrier, and Nancy A. Cheever. Rewired: Understanding the IGeneration and the Way They Learn. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.

Trilling, Bernie, and Charles Fadel. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.