Friday, April 13, 2012

No Wait Time!

"Welcome to the place where imagination is the destination. For young and old, big and small — it's the happiest place on earth!"

True, our kids were pretty persuaded by this repeated anthem as seen through the countless Disney Movies and commercials they've watched, but we wanted to ensure our experience was going to be happy as well.  Trying to be the devoted parent and a planner by nature, I reached out to some friends who had taken their children to Disneyland and Disneyworld. I'll be honest, I  instantly become overwhelmed. The character dining, the right height for rollercoasters, the meal plans, lodging, activities, fast passes....the list went on. The Disneyland website and others we saw were saturated with information as well. I acknowledge seeking out information is imperative when planning an important day, but we were initially thinking of being a little bit more low key. So, my husband and I decided to be prepared for being unprepared. Our plan consisted of one goal: walk around and guide the kids to the appropriate areas for them and see what happens.

Well, it certainly left quite a bit to the imagination! I gave in (a little bit) and found the "Disneylad MouseWait" app and "Free Disneyland Maps" app. Both of which I downloaded to my phone on the trip there to research (no I was not driving). These were exactly what we needed and very simple to use with brief tips.  It was wonderful because these apps were constantly  updated  every few minutes to reflect if wait times increased, or there was an area which closed, where to find the characters and when. Very similar to having Mickey Mouse himself walking around telling you where to head to next! It helped us plan what we wanted to do on the spot. This was great for our two oldest children (who are still young: 5 and 6), as they changed their minds as fast as you can say "It's a Small World".

This also got me thinking about how wonderful these types of apps can be for teaching. Using these simple informational apps for field trips: whether teachers or students want to research about a museum or other site before heading out there. Also, having an app at your fingertips that can alert if you if an area of the field trip is new, has been closed or not accessible.

I did some digging and this is what I found related to typical field trip educational outings such as museums:
I hope wherever you travel ends up being the happiest place on earth as well. Go ahead and download a useful app, WHY WAIT?

Monday, April 2, 2012

What Do We Learn From Our Students?

Last Friday, March 31st, over 60 students from Center High School visited Rockhurst Campus through a program called PREP-KC. PREP-KC was organized in 2005 to promote college readiness with high school students from surrounding urban school districts. The RU Department of Education was one of many departments who had the pleasure of meeting and talking with students from Center HS. I was humbled by the fact the students came in and were genuinely engaged and interested in what we were presenting and asking them to share. It made me miss teaching in K-12 schools!

During a six short 30 minutes sessions, we had about 10-12 students in each group who wanted to learn more about the career of teaching and our Department. Being true to our philosophy of modeling the teaching practices we wish for our education students to implement, we started with a 'Think, Pair Share'. Students were placed in small groups and we asked them "What characteristics make a good teacher? What about about the opposite?". We learned that many students want what would seem like basic qualities in a teacher: compassionate, understanding, caring, not too friendly, but not rude, good listeners, and so on.

One of the more interesting activities we then proceeded to engage them with was a cooperative learning exercise. Each student has a role: Leader, Recorder, Presenter. We explained effective teaching happens when learning occurs. Then, we asked THEM, to finish the statements: Learning occurs when....Learning is not occurring when.... They were asked to discuss first, then write down the main learning activities they experience or do not experience in the classroom. We asked them to focus on, how do THEY learn best.

From the photo above you can see one a few group's feedback. Again, this is exactly what the DOE at RU teaches our pre-service teachers. We instill and educate our future educators on these very practices which K-12 students want to feel and see in the classroom.

Here is a list of their answers in their own words from the question: Learning occurs when...
  • No distractions
  • Interactions with each student
  • Different types of teaching
  • Using information in real world connections
  • Challenge each other
  • Peer teaching
  • Repetition
  • Rewards
  • Ask questions
  • Give specific details
  • Stands ground, good classroom management
  • Smaller lectures
  • Hands on work
  • Students being more involved in the discussion
Learning is not occurring when...
  • Students take over
  • Overloading homework
  • When teachers only give negative feedback on returned work
  • Yells
  • Embarrasses student
  • Only does lectures
  • Don't make personalized contact with student
Again, these are practices many teachers do on a daily basis (both sides). But if we continue to ask our students how THEY learn, we will confirm the best teaching practices we as teachers know how to do. Teaching can be challenging, but what an incredibly rewarding profession for those who care about the students FIRST.

I applaud many of you out there who love and respect your students on a daily basis. Because as true educators know: we learn from our students just as much as they learn from us.

Learn more about PREP-KC at: