Friday 31 January 2014

Managing behaviour in the digital age

If you ask most teachers, especially newly trained ones, what one of the biggest challenges of teaching is, they would probably say managing student behaviour. Especially as class sizes grow and more students are bringing along potentially distracting digital devices, making sure you are keeping students on task is becoming ever more important. If this is something that concerns you, then read on.

ClassCharts could be the solution to your problem. ClassCharts is a digital management tool which can help you, your students and their parents to track and improve student behaviour across the whole school.

Using ClassCharts you can set up seating charts for every room in your school and create a profile for each student. Teachers can then use ClassCharts to monitor and reward positive behaviour as well as track negative behaviour. As the teacher builds up data across classes they can start to understand how different seating arrangements and student pairing and grouping can impact on behaviour, then generate seating charts for students that group them in ways that help them to work more efficiently and harmoniously.

So how does it work?

Well one of the first things to do is to add seating plans of your rooms. This is easy to do and you can drag the virtual desks around into whatever configuration you have in your classroom.

Then you also need to upload your students. What I really like about ClassCharts is that you can also upload a photograph of each one, and this can be really useful if you have large classes and lots of students names to remember, especially when it comes to writing reports.

You can then either manually assign seats or generate a random seating chart. During the class you can use ClassCharts acknowledge a range of positive and negative behaviours. These behaviours are all customisable so you can create your own or use the default ones.

ClassCharts uses html 5 so should run in any modern browser whether it’s a laptop, iPad or Android tablet, so the teacher can use an tablet during the class to instantly update behaviours.

Either before or during the class the teacher can also shuffle the class seating depending on a number of criteria from things like attainment targets to gender or previous behaviour.

One of the real time-savers of ClassCharts though is when it comes to report writing time. Each students’ behaviour has been tracked through their various classes and teachers can get a detailed report, including dates when different behaviours were recorded.

Both students and parents can also access live reports and monitor progress throughout the term, so students and parents know how they are doing and parents don’t have to wait until the end of term to find out what’s been going on with their child.

This helps to share responsibility and makes it much easier to get parents involved in dealing with any negative behaviour at the earliest possible date.

Although ClassCharts is free and has been designed so that a single teacher can set it up to track their own classes independently, the real power of the platform is its ability to work across the school and track student behaviour in every class. To make this easier ClassCharts also interconnects with a range of other educational management software systems, from simple tools like Edmodo to more complex ones like SIMS and PowerSchool.

What I like about ClassCharts
  • I’m really impressed by the fact that such a powerful and well designed tool is free.
  • It’s great that a system like this and the data it collects can be applied and shared across a whole school.
  • I really like that you can see the student and access a range of information about them from targets, to behaviour and even a little about their background.
  • Great to get parents involved and students monitoring their own progress.

What I’m not so sure about
  • This is quite a complex tool and creates a lot of data, so I think it’s going to take a bit of getting used to for teachers and perhaps a bit of training too.
  • It does produce a lot of data and you can easily get a bit too tied up in this and forget about the person.

Well I hope you find ClassCharts useful and give it a try.

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Nik Peachey

Thursday 9 January 2014

Publishing 3.0 - A new model for independent educational publishing

My New Years resolution this year was to start work on a series of ebooks for iPads, e-readers and other digital devices. This has been my ambition since I published my first book Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers back in 2009, but I’ve never felt that the time, the technology or the market was at the right place.

Significant changes over the last couple of years though have led me to believe that now is the time to look at a new model of ELT publishing, at least for the realm of teacher development books.

The changes I mention above include
  • A proliferation of increasingly low cost e-reading devices and tablets.
  • The development of powerful free software and applications such as iBooks Author for the development of media rich ebooks.
  • The combination of these applications with secure and reliable marketing platforms, such as Lulu and iBookStore.
  • The development of crowd-funding platforms such as KickStarter and Indigogo.

I believe that the combination of these developments is now enabling individual teachers to write develop and launch their own products to the market on a commercially competitive basis with established publishers.

So why is this a good thing?
Well anyone who has ever approached a publisher with an idea for a book will know how difficult it can be to get it accepted. The established publishers are, by necessity, cautious about taking on new, innovative or risky projects. Producing and distributing paper-based books is a hugely expensive endeavor and in the case of teacher development books, the returns are likely to be small for both the publisher and the writer.

The changes I mention above, however, have the potential to liberate writers from the established publishing process and give them the freedom to develop their own projects and products independently.

  • The proliferation of low cost mobile devices such as e-readers, tablets and iPads provides a really useful and accessible medium on which to publish teacher development materials. Instead of having your books at home on the bookshelf you can now carry them around with you on your device so they are on hand at the moment of need.
  • These devices and the applications used to develop content for them are capable of providing a media rich experience with colour interactive images, audio, video and a range of interactive learning apps, none of which is possible in a traditional paper-based book.
  • The combination of these applications with established secure marketing platforms means that writers with the commitment to see their projects through to completion can easily market them internationally and actually get a reasonable financial return on the work they put in.
  • Crowd-funding platforms like KickStarter and Indigogo enable writers to raise the funds they need to develop good quality professional products that the market wants.

I’ve put the crowd-funding platform at the end of my list, but really it should be at the beginning, because crowd-funding doesn’t just supply the money to launch the product, it also acts as a market research tool to see if there really is a market for the product. If the people for whom the product is intended aren’t willing to invest in it to get it created, then it’s likely that there isn’t really a viable market for this product.

So this brings me back to where I started with my New Years resolution. I have launched my own crowd-funding project to try to create the first in a series of ebooks in a series that I intend to call The Digital Classroom. The first of these will focus on the use of online video as a tool for learning.

You can find out more about this project by following this link Digital Classrooms - Online Video or watching the video below.

If you think this is a product you would be interested in having them please do support it buy either buying and advance copy of the book or by sharing the link with others you think may be interested.

You can also get an idea of the kind of content the book will cover and even contribute your ideas for what the book should contain, using the crowd-sourcing questionnaire below. Just add your ideas and vote for the things you would most like included in the book. That way you can ensure that I produce the book that you need to help support and develop your teaching.

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You can also follow the project on Facebook by going to The Digital Classroom and clicking on 'Like'.

I hope you find the project interesting and that this post gets you started thinking about how you can produce your own book too.

Nik Peachey

My eBooks and Lesson Plans