Monday, July 29, 2013

It's about... time. Three examples of how to make personal connections with students.

The most important commodity of life is something that is intangible-time. We all wish we had more time. Time to get work done, time to relax, time to sleep, time to spend with friends and family, time to connect with people. Unfortunately, most of us put off the last four items for the sake of the first one.

As a teacher for fourteen years now, I have been successful in one area of my instruction without a doubt, making personal connections with my students. I have had other colleagues ask me: how do I make such great connections with my students, how do I get my students to complete work on time, how do I get my students to be respectful, how do I get them to open up and tell me so much about their lives? The easy answer is, time. The best way any of us can show we care about someone is to take time to listen.

Here are three easy ways to take time to make personal connections with your students:

1. Start of each day or even one day a week telling a story about yourself.
I always begin every Monday with asking students about their weekends, where did they go, what did they do? I ask them if any of them saw a new movie, had a sporting event, etc. In the beginning of the year I model this by asking these questions, but knowing they most likely will not answer, so I tell them about my weekend. Invariably, one of the students will speak up and share something and then another. It takes five minutes or sometimes more, but the dividends pay off in the long run. The students will know you care about them simply by taking the time to ask them about their lives and not only focusing on what they know about the course content. Once they tell you about what their interest are it is easier to make connections. Taking the time to do this is easy and a fun start to the week.

2. Brief conversations while checking off homework
I check off homework one to three times a week and use these opportunities for brief conversations with students. I do not speak to every student, every time or for very long, but these are still conversations that matter. I make comments about their soccer jersey, their hair, their shoes, the t-shirt with of their favorite band they are wearing. It is simply noticing people and making them the focus of the conversation. Of course, I notice their work and am I sure to mention when I see improvement in their work and genuinely convey my happiness in their work. To be honest, they care more that I notice them than their work, and in doing so, they begin to care more about their work.

3. Pay attention to the little things
When students walk in the room I focus on noticing any changes, slight or overt and making it a point to talk to the student about it at some time. I had a male student this past year who wore the same handful of shirts all year. When he came to class after Winter break with some new clothes I made sure to talk to him about them and tell them how great they looked. I had a student that wore automobile t-shirts and used his shirts as a conversation starter. When we began 20% time with technology projects every chapter he moved his passion for cars into his education( I will have more on my experience with 20% time in a future blog). When a female student made a significant change to her hair style by having a pixie cut (yes, I looked up what to call that type of haircut on a female as to not offend her), I told her in front of the class that "I like your hair." This small gesture helped her to open up and talk more in class from them on. When you take the time to notice people, they will appreciate the attention and give it back in your classroom.

The best way to make connections to your students is to be open, honest and genuine. Your students want to know you are a real person, with friends and family members. I enjoy sharing my life outside of school with my students and I find it even more enjoyable to know more about them. When each of us think back to  our favorite teachers, they were the ones who cared about us, shared at least a little bit about their personal lives, but most of all, they took the time to care and listen.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Doceri helped me flip my class

Doceri is a  free Ipad app that transformed my classroom this past school year. Doceri is amazing because through WiFi, you can control your computer via your Ipad.

When I was given my Ipad I was unsure how I was going to utilize this resources in my classroom. I began to look for whiteboard apps and experimented with a few different options. What I was looking for was a basic whiteboard to write on. What I found far exceeded my original goal. Most whiteboard apps are just that, only a whiteboard. You can write on your Ipad screen and only you can view the work. Doceri is a whiteboard app that allows you to choose any background and have the image able to be seen by all in your classroom (or anywhere you have a LCD projector and a surface). Through Doceri I am able to control my classroom computer PowerPoint presentations, make notes on the slides in real-time, screen cast any image on find on the internet to my Smartboard and much more.

In years past I would find interesting resources, news articles, etc and bring them into the classroom and pass them around for all students to see. I would usually begin by walking around the room holding up the item, discussing the connection to our class topic and then passing the item(s) around the room. With Doceri and my Ipad I now take pictures of the item and screen cast them to my Smartboard for all to see and discuss. Due to everyone having access to the information at the same time we are all able to disucss in real-time instead of a delayed response as the item makes it way around the room.

Near the end of the year, during a current events discussion the topic of "soft-skills" future employers are looking for came up and I found an article in the local paper. I took a picture of the article using my Ipad and then used Doceri to screencast the image to my Smartboard for a brief class discussion. Using Doceri I was able to highlight some key parts of the article.
Another use of Doceri came to me when a student brought in an original WWII newspaper that was not in the best shape. My student offered to pass the paper around but instead I took some pictures of the newspaper, added some questions to the end and made an on-the-fly presentation to use in 10 minutes. 
 I used Doceri to make a custom presentation when I met with  parents and students for the 2013-14 school year. I made over 30 custom slides and presented in a large meeting room where I was able to walk around the room while I discussed the material. 

Before Holiday break I wanted to make a card I could "give" to my students in our paperless classroom and again Doceri was the answer. I used the custom made card from Doceri, added my text (and even sound) and then posted the card to my Edmodo page and scheduled the send time to be the end of the day.

What you read above was a small sample of the ways I have used Doceri in my classroom. If you have an Ipad, a LCD projector/Smartboard or even a wall, Doceri will allow you virtually limitless ways for you and your students to share content and present ideas.

To see how I use Doceri as a coach click here:

Follow me on twitter @kennybosch for more edtech ideas.