Sunday, 27 September 2009

Week #1 - Welcome to DTT

Welcome to the Weekly version of -- due to shifts in my job it will be much easier for me to write once a week on a series of topics rather than uploading each day. That said, for a while at least I am going to try updating DTT with WTT materials if you prefer chunkier parts.

This week's DTT
  1. Student Handbooks
  2. Systems for homework
  3. Lego in the classroom: A playful learning tool
  4. Ten Top Tips for Using ICT in the classroom
  5. And finally: How do you stop students using ridiculously long and inappropriate words?

1. Student Handbooks

As an experienced teacher I know the best way for my classroom to function however the students I meet each year do not. After beginning with questionnaires, name and team games so that students can get to know each other it acn be very helpful to give your students an introductory handout or handbook (depending on their age and complexity of the course). I try to avoid too much of the 'rule' based stuff but I do give information on what the course is, why I like it, what students should do to achieve well and what they can expect from me. You can find examples here: Year 10 Citizenship, Year 12 SHD Diploma & Year 13 Psychology.

This year, for the first time, I printed extra so students could take an extra copy for their parents. I was amazed (and heartened) how many students took the extra copies and have since mentioned how helpful it was as their parents usually bug them relentlessly about the content of their school work.

2. Homework systems

Most schools make homework a compulsory part of the curriculum yet giving it out, collecting it in and then handing back after marking can take away valuable learning time. Try the following to clamber that time back:

- Print homework onto slips/sheets for students to take away. They only need write a short reminder in their planners of the deadline and avoids any confusion. Putting the homework on a specific brightly-coloured paper helps students keep track of where it is!

- Some teachers swear by giving homework at the beginning of the lesson. I struggle with this as I tend to want to get straight into learning however others think it is a magical solution to 'running out of time' at the end. Try it and see what workds for you.

- On homework collection days ask students to put the work on their desk at the beginning of the lesson. Even if you don't collect it in right then at least later you can scoot around and quickly gather.

- If you have a classroom, pin a large envelope to the board for each class and ask them to 'post' their homework in the envelope. This is quick, efficient and you can remove the envelopes to take home for marking!

- Often students start spouting excuses about homework; on these occassions I point them to my homework excuse notes. Usually I go around the whole class with my homework envelope and make everyone put something in there. If they do not have the work then they must write on an excuse note why not, this is then entered into the pack and means I can mark my register appropriately with their excuse rather than trying to remember why there is a gaping hole in my mark book!

3. Lego in the classroom: A learning tool

During half-term I am visiting an amazing fellow Masters student in Denmark to take part in a Lego 'Serious Play' conference. Businesses are now paying Lego for 'strategy kits' from which business leaders construct processes, metaphors for their organisations, and so on. This works as it is concrete and memorable. Lego can have a similar effect in the classroom. Have students use old Lego bricks (you can find cheap bags on ebay) to create items relevant to your subject - redo the Battle of Hastings, make a neural pathway or reinterpret a poem.

The process of 'play' is creative and knowledge-building for students, and the outcomes are both meaningful and visual causing them to transfer more easily into long-term memory.

For more info on this

4. Top Ten Tips for Teachers Who Want to Integrate Technology into their classrooms

The first ever guest post on WTT (or DTT) is below from Karen Schweitzer. She adds a much more coherent view of technology than I ever could!

1.There are new sites, apps, downloads, and learning tools created every day. You can stay up-to-date by conducting research online, reading education technology blogs, and listening to podcasts like TILT or The Teacher's Podcast.

2. Find out how other teachers are using technology. Talking with others can sometimes be the best way to get new ideas or explore unknown technological advances. There are several websites and social networks dedicated to providing a forum for teachers who want to discuss educational technology. A good site to try is Classroom 2.0.

3. Try the technology first. New technology (or technology that is new to you) can sometimes be problematic. It is best to test it out before you present it to a classroom full of students. Pre-testing will allow you to work out any bugs and customize the tech tool for your class.

4. Know the rules. There are some school systems that have very specific rules about integrating technology in the classroom. Most of these rules have to do with student privacy or security, and may require that you seek parental permission.

5. Speak to the headmaster or school administrator. Letting someone else know that you plan to integrate a new technology in the classroom is a good way to avoid problems later on. Principals and school administrators are sometimes more familiar with the rules and pending laws in the state. Speaking to them ahead of time protects you, your job, and the school you work for.

6. Start slowly. Once you have decided to integrate technology in the classroom it can be tempting to go wild and use it at every opportunity. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best approach. You may be better off introducing one new idea or tool at a time so that your students do not feel overwhelmed by too many changes.

7. Monitor students carefully. Although this probably goes without saying, it is important to remember that students can be vulnerable when they are online. It is essential that you monitor their work and their use of web technologies to ensure their privacy is being protected.

8. Track results. This will help you determine whether or not the new technology is working or taking away from the classroom experience. There are, of course, many different ways to track the results of your technology experiment. For example, you could measure success by excitement, skill improvement, or grade improvement.

9. Get feedback. One of the best ways to determine whether or not your technology experiments are successful is by asking students to provide you with feedback. You can ask for verbal responses or written responses. You can also gauge student opinion with an online survey or poll created on sites like and ProProfs.

10. Don't be afraid to make changes. If you find that a technology isn't working quite like you hoped, make changes to it. Many of the educational tools that can be found online are customizable. Those that aren’t can be replaced with something that works better for your classroom and teaching style.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online colleges and universities for

5. And finally: How do you stop students using ridiculously long and inappropriate words in UCAS personal statements?

You should them this wonderful slide and explain that this is what they sound like

That's it until next week....Enjoy!