How to ‘Green’ Your Lesson Plans

How to ‘Green’ Your Lesson Plans

When it comes to the environment, many schools’ curricula are already full of positive lessons about protecting the earth. Core topics such as recycling, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and the natural world contain important messages that children should learn as early as possible. At Modernize, we believe that teaching the next generation about caring for the environment is one of the best ways we can minimize the negative effects we have on the earth. Important topics like the ones mentioned above can never be repeated too often, so we’ve come up with a few creative ways to help bolster green lesson plans for all ages.

Recycling

Fortunately for educators, recycling is a topic that is well-rehearsed and fleshed out in most school curricula. Lesson plans tailored to a variety of ages are available from many online teaching sources and include the basic concepts of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. If you want to expand upon your current recycling curricula, modeling recycling and waste reduction in daily classroom activities is an excellent way of helping children understand these processes in a tangible way. Placing used classroom materials in a classroom recycling bin or reusing them in a creative way instead of throwing them away will give your students ownership over their behaviors. Take this daily lesson one step further by establishing a classroom—or school-wide—recycling team or committee with regular collection schedules. You can also try hosting a school-wide recycling competition to see who can recycle the most over a period of time.

Learning about recycling doesn’t have to end with the classroom, of course. Plan a field trip to a local recycling center and learn about the recycling process from start to finish. Set take-home activities in which students can log their household waste and recycling over the course of a week (or month, etc.), then tally up the results in class and discuss ways students and their families can change their at-home habits and the potential benefits of these changes. Finally, link your recycling lesson plans to local and national government lessons by discussing current recycling regulations and debating whether or not the government should mandate recycling.

Energy efficiency

While talking about energy efficiency during science lessons can help your students to understand the basic principles of energy consumption, pollution, and global warming, the best way to teach them its benefits is through your actions. Turning off lights, appliances, and classroom computers when not in use and making use of dimmer switches and timers is a fantastic first step to get your students thinking in a concrete way about conserving energy. If these features and recommendations are not already available or enforced at your school, consider having your class start a petition for them with evidence-based data and reasoning to back up their cause. Another way to get students thinking about the energy we consume on a daily basis is by monitoring usage through smart thermostats and energy meters.

Lessons about energy efficiency are not complete unless you discuss renewable energy sources, so make sure your energy lesson plans include plenty of conversations about wind, hydroelectric, and solar power. There are many interesting ways you can demonstrate the power of these renewable sources to your students, but solar power is especially important because of its highly technical specifications and the percentage of solar users throughout the United States. Incorporate solar learning into your curricula by studying solar panels in action (if possible), hosting professionals from a local solar company, or making your own solar cell or oven from a DIY kit.

Food waste reduction

As with all methods of green living, the best way to teach students about food waste reduction is by modeling positive behaviors in school on a regular basis. Using lesson plans, conversations with local municipal employees, or trips to local municipal waste plants, you and your students can discuss the basics of food waste collection, including what exactly is included in green waste and what happens to food waste after it is collected. If your school doesn’t already have one, request a green waste bin for your cafeteria and/or classroom.

Putting theory into practice for food waste reduction can seem difficult, but the process of composting is actually fairly straightforward and provides an excellent learning opportunity for students. If you want your students to understand exactly how the process of recycling food waste works, consider making your own compost bin and turning your school’s green waste into fertilizer for school flower beds and monitor the decomposition project as an ongoing earth science experiment. School kitchen gardens made from homemade compost provide another excellent way of connecting students to the earth, teaching them how to grow and cultivate their own produce—if your garden is successful, you can even use your harvest in school meals.

The natural world

While talking about energy efficiency, recycling, and waste reduction are essential parts of environmentalism, a connection with the natural world is perhaps the most important thing you can provide for students in their green learning journey. Speak frankly with your students about the importance of the natural world and how our energy use and actions affect the environments and ecosystems of plants and animals. Linking to Earth Day resources already in place in curricula, you can begin ongoing activities such as investigating your local ecosystems, experimenting with gardening, and creating an outdoor classroom. While outdoors, monitor and track the life cycles and behaviors of creatures from the natural world, including butterflies, worms, and other insects or larger animals in your school playground.

Bridge the gap between earth sciences and current affairs by opening discussions and debates about greenhouse gases, pollution, littering, and their effect on the natural world. Current environmental government policies, field trips to cities, areas directly affected by climate change, or a local veterinary surgery can give students a first-hand experience of the state of the natural world.

Lauren Pezzullo is a writer, editor, and musicophile who’s passionate about vegetarianism and sustainable eating. As an editor for Modernize, she writes about energy-efficient living in the home. She’s currently writing her debut novel.

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7 Ways Technology is Improving Education

7 Ways Technology is Improving Education

Over the years, technology has shown the potential to improve various sectors in society—and education is one of them. Teaching and learning are becoming a more interactive practice than what was the case a few decades ago. The need for tech literate individuals has also encouraged many schools to incorporate technology into their curricula. Various schools are converting their classrooms into tech hubs.

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However, unless we are ready to appreciate and make use of technology in the classroom, its potential cannot be fully realized. Prudent measures should be put in place to ensure that education is sufficiently promoted by using technology. This article discusses the top seven ways technology is improving education today.

1. Enhanced teaching

There are concepts in class that are well taught through illustration rather than mere theory. For instance, explaining the effect temperature has on molecules can be a little ambiguous, but thanks to digital simulators, such concepts are well understood by the student. Teaching using models is an effective way of illustrating significant changes in processes while ensuring that the students remember the idea for a long time.

Teaching is never complete without assessment. With the help of technology, testing the level of students’ understanding of a learned concept is done in real time. The teacher can use this information to help weaker students and move to the next topic after being satisfied that all the students are on the same page.

2. Improved communication

Education is founded on the effectiveness of communication among students and teachers. This way, flow of knowledge is enhanced at every level. The classroom has been made into a community where teachers quickly post assignments, and the students can ask questions for verifications. Moreover, they can communicate with peers on different relevant matters.

There are sites that allow a student to learn a particular language with native speakers. This is done through video conferencing. Other platforms that enable students from different countries to exchange notes and ideas are also available on the net.

3. Use of interactive textbooks

Gone are the days when a textbook was only using texts and images to present information. Technology has introduced the use of digital and interactive books with audio and video capabilities for enhanced reading. Using videos and animations while studying has been proven to be one of the best methods of grasping a new concept. Technology has allowed highlighting various ideas, setting reminders, and making improvements to the information in textbooks. This enables students to understand everything better.

Students no longer have to carry big textbooks around in their quest for learning. A student can now have multiple digital books on one device and compare the notes with a simple tap. Convenience in learning is taken to a completely new level.

4. Advanced Research

The use of the cloud to store information has allowed web-based research to become more efficient. Unlike before when one would have to sort through massive piles of books to find the desired pages, technology comes with efficient searching tools. You will agree that a lot of time is saved with technology that is used in internalizing the new information and ideas learned.

The ability to compare research results by researchers worldwide has made it possible for enhanced results and quicker acquisition of solutions. This is one of the most obvious advantages of technology in students’ life.

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5. Students can learn at their pace

It is true that different students have different abilities to grasp a concept. While others are quick learners, some are significantly slow learners. This has made it difficult for slow learners to cope with their peers in class. This is something that technology has come to change.

Such students can now go over learned concepts at their convenience and have time to consult their teachers privately for a deeper understanding.

6. Learning is more fun

The use of new technology has made students enjoy their studying more than ever. Keeping a student engaged in learning is also crucial in improving the retention rate of new concepts learned. Laptops and tablets used in class make a seemingly boring subject more enjoyable. Where a subject is not entirely understood, a student can find a live streaming video online for better understanding and a different approach to an idea.

7. Examination has gone online

Taking tests has never been more convenient. Many people are choosing to take online courses at their convenience and later sit online exams with accreditation. These examinations seem to be the main thing of the future. Everything is done in real time. For teachers, recording the scores of students and grading them is now done at great convenience. Furthermore, a teacher can identify students’ weak spots and make the necessary improvements for a better personal approach.

Ranking of different students from different schools is also made easy with technology. Additionally, taking international examinations online is becoming more and more common.

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It will be improper to end this article without mentioning what technology has done for students with special needs. On different devices, such as the iPad, students with special needs such as the autism spectrum have been given a chance to learn with convenience. Powerful studying tools enable them to study like other students and have the same opportunities in the job market. Students from less advanced countries who have access to technology are also given a platform to display their talents.

It is only fair to say that technology has a lot to offer when integrated in education. The advantages of new technology in classrooms cannot be overrated. One thing is certain, though; teachers will always have control over educational process even with the use of the best technology.

About the Author:

Crystal Roman is a blogger and freelance writer for Edubirdie. Her lifestyle credo is “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

5 Tips for Taking Care of Business AND the Family During the Holidays

5 Tips for Taking Care of Business AND the Family During the Holidays

 

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The holiday season brings all kinds of extra responsibilities for business owners and other professionals. Most companies are taking stock of the last year while simultaneously preparing for the next, which often means jam-packed working days and even a few late nights. But being successful shouldn’t mean giving up all your time with loved ones — and it doesn’t have to! Here are a few tips for striking the balance between work and leisure this holiday season:

Outsource tasks that don’t require you personally

If you had endless time and no holidays to consider, you might be able to accomplish everything on your own. Unfortunately, time isn’t on your side during the holidays, so establish which duties you can afford to delegate and assign them accordingly. There are likely at least a handful of responsibilities that you usually perform but don’t necessarily require you to be the executor, plus you’ll want to save your energy and focus for more urgent issues. Find ways to assign personal tasks as well. For example, if you don’t have time to run home on your break, hire a dog walker. No time (or patience) to assemble the playhouse you bought for your kids? You can even hire an assembler!

Give yourself a break — literally

When work is chaotic, many businesspeople have trouble justifying a break. But giving your brain a little time to rest, even if it’s only 15 minutes, can actually make you more productive. Try to get up and get moving if you can, perhaps taking a walk outside or even through your office space. Do some stretches, practice meditation, or sneak in a few chapters of the book you’re reading. Breaks are especially important in the busy season, so don’t be afraid to take them!

Divide and conquer tasks

In addition to delegating entire assignments, see if there are any large projects you can effectively break up and divide amongst yourself and your co-workers. Utilize your people according to their strengths — some workers might be better with numbers, others may be stronger with creative skills, for instance — and consider making some responsibilities a group effort. In addition to breaking your project down into more manageable steps, you’ll be able to come together as a team and present work that was truly a group effort. (And don’t forget to say thanks!)

Focus on one area at a time

You’re only human and can only handle so many things at once. Don’t let your mind wander to “everything else” while you’re trying to complete a task. It’s not going to shorten your to-do list, nor will it make the task at hand any easier — in fact, it’ll only add to your stress and potentially distract you from giving your current project your entire focus. Concentrate on what’s in front of you and don’t get distracted with trying to multitask. Your work (and your family time) deserves your full attention.

Do something special with your loved ones

It could be date night with your spouse, taking your children to a holiday festival, treating your mother to the ballet, or catching a basketball game with your sibling. Even better if you can surprise someone! Go to events you’ve been looking forward to and participate in activities you genuinely enjoy. Your hard work deserves to be rewarded, and your loved ones will appreciate special time with you even amid your chaotic work schedule.

It’s certainly a busy season, but the holidays can still be the most wonderful time of the year for business owners. Keep these tips in mind, and don’t forget to show appreciation every step of the way. Thank your workers for their continued hard work and your family for their understanding — by the end, you’ll come out as a stronger team both in the office and at home!

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison. Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts.

Three tips that will give your Voki a whole new sound

Three tips that will give your Voki a whole new sound

Being flexible is always a good thing when dealing with the unexpected, but if you can wield the upper hand in your favor, then be sure to save yourself the frustration of unwanted circumstances—and results.

Just like there are tricks to every trade, there are tips to every tool, including Voki. One of our best kept quasi-secrets is how to regulate the speed, pitch, and pause of your avatar’s voice. We’ve all been there: you just added some great text, only to realize that your Voki spews it out too fast when you press play. Or there’s that break you want in between words, but your Voki seems to accelerate full speed ahead (sigh!). And then there’s the absence of emotion in the language itself. We may not be chasing highs and lows in life, but it’s pretty handy when it concerns our Voki’s pitch. Don’t fret—we’re pros at this.  Below is the scoop on how to manipulate your Voki’s voice:

To control the Voice Rate, insert the following formula to your text:

<prosody rate=“-12%”>Halloween is at the end of October.</prosody>

The lower the number in brackets, the FASTER the Voki will speak. The higher the number, the SLOWER it will speak. To gauge your pace, we recommend setting “-12%” as a benchmark for a steady speed.

To control the Voice Pitch, insert the following formula to your text:

<prosody pitch=“high”>Oh dear me!</prosody>she cried.<prosody pitch=“high”>The sky is falling. I must go and tell the king!</prosody>

The prosody code should sandwich the word(s) you want the pitch to apply to. Alternatively, to lower the pitch of your Voki, type in “low” in between the quotes (as seen with the high pitch configuration).

To add a pause to your text, simply add a comma where you’d like a break.

We hope this helps. Stay tuned for our next #TipTuesday!

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

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If there’s any time to get creative during the calendar year, it’s Halloween. Be it the costumes, the carving, or the confections, this spooky holiday is brimming with opportunity.

From Coraline to Frankenstein, and with the psychological thriller Girl on the Train hitting theaters this weekend, let’s just say there’s plenty of suspense brewing in some of our favorite books.

To be fair, not all of us think in the macabre mindset, but we can certainly all think in the imaginative one. This Halloween season, writing activities are the perfect outlet to tap into the creative voices of your students.

It’s the common rite-of-passage for critically acclaimed novels to be adapted for film. We can’t offer you a budget to get your story to the big screen, but we have something else in mind.

It just so happens that Voki is well equipped to participate in the Halloween writing process with you. Voki avatars do the job in adding animation to your ideas—not to mention social media can get them visibility.

As for characters, Voki has all your usual spooky suspects: Dracula, Frankenstein, skeleton, witch, zombie, bat, jack-o-lantern. But if you steer clear of the haunted path, then we have over 200 characters too choose from that can meet your imagination’s needs.

Teachers can prompt their students to write about anything pertaining to Halloween, but we recommend something that gets them thinking in the spirit of the holiday, something out of the ordinary.

Students can write their essay, and then create a Voki avatar(s) to narrate it. Using Voki Presenter, they can upload images, backgrounds, and links to create scenes and settings for their stories. There’s choice in how you want the story to be told. You can upload audio, type in text and have one of the Voki automated voices recite for you, or record your own voice.

We know: this is starting to sound more and more like a movie, and the students more and more like screenwriters, producers and directors.

It’s Halloween—what better time to think box office big?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

 

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Today, October 5th , is World Teachers Day (WTD).

What exactly is WTD?  In 1994, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed WTD a global event.  The day was chosen to commemorate the special intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO in Paris concerning the Status of Teachers in 1966.

WTD has historically served as a day devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the lives of educators around the world.  The day also provides global citizens a special opportunity to address the issues pertaining to teachers across the world.

This year’s WTD marks the 50th anniversary of the original 1966 conference. It is also the first WTD to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.

In honor of this year’s WTD theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status,” the team here at Voki would like to take an opportunity to bring awareness to one important issue affecting the teaching community worldwide; namely, the concept of teacher retention and induction.

According to a 2003 study by Ingersoll & Perda, between 40% and 50% of new teachers are estimated to leave within the first five years of entry into teaching.

What’s more is that according to UNESCO, by 2030, an estimated 3.2 million more teachers will be required to achieve universal primary education and 5.1 million more in order to achieve universal lower secondary education.

This revolving door policy is often the result of insufficient resources, support and guidance for teachers as they begin their journey as an educator.

The process of acclimating teachers with their new job is known as “Induction” and the process has grown in recent years from relative obscurity to an important ideology within educational reform.

WTD encourages spreading awareness. We would like to have this piece initiate a dialogue and raise awareness. Please be sure to comment, share, like and or tweet this article with the hashtag #WorldTeachersDay to do your part in building a brighter future where education is a right not just a privilege…

About Voki:

Voki is free educational software that allows teachers to create awesome, customizable speaking avatars to better enhance learning and student engagement. Teachers record their voice and an animated talking avatar is exported.  A Voki can be used for debates, presentations, lessons, speeches, language studies and much, much more. Our character library includes cartoons, pets, historical figures, and cultural figures, just to name a few.

Our basic product is completely FREE because we believe all teachers deserve a chance to enhance their classroom no matter what their budget is. Voki is used in thousands of classes around the globe and is supported in over thirty languages.

Voki is truly a global tool made for educators by educators. Try it out for free today at www.voki.com.

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About the Author:

Michael Cassidy is the Product Manager of Voki. He is a digital marketer by background but also dedicates his time as an educator, philanthropist, coach, mentor and anti- bullying crusader. His book “The Skinny on Bullying, the Legend of Gretchen” is used around the world to help teach young students how to cope with bullying in a digital age.

External Resources:

Beginning Teacher Induction: What the Data Tell Us: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/kappan_ingersoll.h31.html

World Teacher Day (Official Site):

https://www.worldteachersday.org/map/

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

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This summer, we asked our Voki community to submit their stories on how Voki has changed their classroom experience. We’d like to share with you the story of Sheila Slawiak, our featured teacher winner, who transformed her students’ attitude, engagement level, and integrity in their work using Voki.

Last school year during Q4 I tried out Voki for the first time.  I teach inner city struggling urban middle school students at a Level 4 school and before Voki, no project impressed them!  Then I found Voki and tried it!  To my surprise, all of my students loved it (from special ed to honors); I had 100% student engagement; and I had a student focused class!  It was a huge WOW! For me and for my students.  Even my most  highly risk students produced their product using my project requirements.  Never did I hear, “this is too  much work!”

I do have to admit, I used a lesson plan from the Voki blog as an idea.  Our school requires monthly written essays that show “citing of evidence”.  I took the idea of writing a persuasive essay about the importance of healthy snacks.  I gave my students a text set of 3 articles regarding the pros and cons of healthy snacks so they could synthesize their essay.  I also told them that their audience were 5th graders so they could feel important sharing what they have learned about healthy snacks.

To my surprise, they were so involved with all the activities in order to produce a talking persuasive avatar.  For the first time, there were no moans or groans inundating the lab, or piercing eyes staring at me. For the first time, I was able to facilitate peer reviews where each student really took an interest in their partners’ work.  For the first time, each student wanted to present their findings. For the first time, each student either scored a 3 or a 4 on my rubric vs. 0-3s. And for the first time, I was rated with high evaluative scores from my principals!  We all won and I attribute these wins to Voki!  Next school year, I’ll invite parents!

Thank you Voki for being so imaginative and for not ever settling!

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Sheila is an Instructional Technology Teacher for grades 6-8. She is passionate about teaching educational technology to both her students and colleagues. Shelia has expressed this sentiment on teaching: “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you can encourage all students (no matter what their challenges are in learning) to express their thoughts by utilizing audio applications like Voki that allow students to imagine greatness!”