6 Things College-Bound Students Need to Do NOW

Busy High School Juniors and Seniors can get tied up in the fun spring activities—prom planning, graduation pictures, sports—and procrastinate on a few very important items that they should do sooner rather than later, if they’re planning to attend college after graduation.

To help guide them on the right path, here’s just a few quick points to touch on with your college-bound student(s):

  • Visit a College Campus (or Several)
    Picking a college is a big step. One way to help determine if a school is right for you is to visit—virtually or in-person. Online tours are great if expense or distance is an issue, but keep in mind that video tours are edited to show the campus at its best. If visiting in-person, it’s often recommended to do so during the school year to get an accurate idea of what the campus would be like as a student.

    Related resource: What Should I Look for on a Campus Visit?
     
  • Put Thought Into Your College Major
    With the rising cost of college, it’s not very cost-effective to go in without a focused area of study. And, with a future career-path in mind, students can look into whether or not a college offers the desired course of study. While transferring to another college later is always an option, it’s important to note that not all courses transfer and such an option could delay completion of a degree and increase costs.

    Related resource: How Do I Choose a Major?
     
  • Apply to College(s) of Choice
    While application deadlines vary quite a bit, most seem to expect completed applications for new students in before February. If students have a specific school, or even a short list of schools, in mind, they need to consider any upcoming deadlines. (Coming in late isn’t a good way to get your college career off on the right foot.) Even if a school’s deadline is later than most, applying early may create a buffer to apply at an alternative school if a first choice doesn’t work out.

    Related resource: How Do I Pick the Right College?

5 Tough Questions to Ask When Implementing 1:1 or BYOD

Has your school gone 1:1? Or are headed that way? Often, with technology comes a great deal of change, a fair amount of resistance, and an abundance of questions. However, when done right, a 1:1 is well worth the effort.

To help ensure your school or district is set up for success from the start, we’ve compiled a few quick tips to set expectations and minimize potential pitfalls.

  1. What’s the Goal of the Initiative?
    We’re big fans of educational technology, but the addition of technology as a standalone isn’t enough. It’s important to set a goal for your devices that is focused on learning. In the words of Andrew Marcinek, a school CIO and former Director of Technology, in a recent Edutopia article:

    “A 1:1 environment should be the goal of every learning institution; however, this is not about devices, it's about access. I imagine every school superintendent, principal, and teacher would agree that it is in their best interest to provide their students with the best access to the most current, scholarly information available.”

    Without a focus on learning, a 1:1 initiative has the potential to be underutilized as well as fail to ultimately impact student success. If you haven’t already set such a goal, take a hard look at the technology in your district, 1:1 initiative or not, and see where changes can be made.

  2. How Will You Ensure Devices are Used?
    As with any initiative or project, there is a learning curve. Keep this in mind, and support your teachers’ success with professional development opportunities and time to integrate new tools into their lessons. It’s also important to not demand that the devices be used at all times, while still encouraging use when appropriate.

    Setting up expectations, supporting teachers with needed training, and checking in with them on how it’s going and any further professional development needs can make all the difference.

    Related Resource: How Do We Plan with Purpose? A Look at Effective PD
     
  3. What is the Devices’ Role in the Classroom?
    A device is no replacement for a quality teacher, and it shouldn’t be treated as one. A device is a tool, just like an old chalkboard, not-quite-as-old whiteboard, or a calculator. Work with teachers to make them feel comfortable with the device, understand the benefits the available technology provides, and provide practical ideas that show how the device can be successfully used in the classroom.

    Related resource: Evaluating Technology Resources

4 Hesitations Teachers Have About Tech Integration

Change is hard. And for many, it can also be scary, whether it involves technology or not. People, as a rule, tend to be creatures of habit, and even those that consider themselves to be forward-thinkers may be among those most hesitant to adopt change.

When it comes to teachers, they’ve invested considerable time in their lessons and projects, have established rubrics, and gathered concrete evidence that lessons have successfully communicated a topic to students. Because of this, they may be more resistant to change than other individuals.

To help overcome this resistance, it’s important to take the time to understand their hesitations. To help, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the most common phrases heard from teachers who are questioning if technology integration is right for their classroom:

  1. Why should I?
    While this question may be delivered in a variety of ways, it’s often fueled out of fear. Sharing the logic behind the need for technology integration, as well as supporting teachers with any necessary professional development, can provide hesitant teachers the nudge they need to take the first steps.

    An easy way to start the conversation on the need for technology integration is by focusing on the importance of ensuring students are college- and career-ready, of which technology plays a critical role. Digital technologies have become commonplace in both college and in the workplace.

3 Simple Ways to Personalize Professional Development

While schools and districts offer formal professional development, all too often such opportunities are focused on a topic that doesn’t quite fit individual teachers’ needs, or is too basic or advanced to be effective.

And, while teachers themselves also have the opportunity to learn on their own, some struggle to find the time in their busy schedules to participate in self-driven learning.

One option that you hear more about every day is personalized professional development, a term for taking charge of your own professional growth by seeking out anytime, anywhere learning experiences that meet YOUR individual professional needs.

For those looking for a place to start, we’ve gathered together three quick tips to get you started personalizing your personal development right away:

  1. Watch and/or Participate in a Twitter Chat
    Twitter chats can be great learning opportunities that provide up-to-date (even up-to-the-minute) information from fellow educators experiencing the same things you are. There’s a chat for nearly every education topic you can think of, you can participate from your couch, a soccer game or anywhere you have internet access, AND IT’S FREE.

    You can check out this education twitter chat calendar, and we’d also like to suggest @JaimeDonally’s chat on Wednesdays at 8pm CST focused on augmented and virtual reality—check it out at #ARVRinEDU.
     
  2. Join or Start a PLC (Professional Learning Community)
    PLC’s are an excellent opportunity for creating your own professional development, hone skills, and improve student outcomes through action research. There’s a ton of great information in this PLC-focused course on Atomic Learning to find out more.

    Looking for ideas on what others are doing? The educators at one of Oklahoma City Public Schools collaborated as a group to take their recent 1:1 initiative even further. They utilized the school's existing PLC page on Facebook to openly collaborate and easily share tips and resources they found interesting—including Atomic Learning’s courses on Classroom Management in 1:1 Classrooms, Supporting Gifted and Talented Learners, and others.

2 Insights for Leaders on Connecting with the School Community

This blog post is based off on an upcoming online course called “Connecting Through Vulnerability” by Dr. Matthew Arau, that will soon be available on Atomic Learning. Dr. Arau is an Assistant Professor at Lawrence University and has a background in student leadership. (More about Dr. Arau)

Have you had a teacher or college professor in the past that was a wealth of knowledge, but seemed unable to connect to the students? Because of that lack of connection, the students in that course were most likely disengaged or mentally checked out. On the flip side, there are also those instructors that are able to truly connect what they know with their students and engage in the learning process.

We all have had those teachers or instructors from the past that fit both scenarios. But, what’s the difference? That is what Dr. Matthew Arau calls “the missing link”, and he believes it is often connection and vulnerability.


Why Connecting?

In his online course, Dr. Arau tells a story of when he was teaching high school several years ago. Specifically, how he was able to easily develop friendships with his students, and had no problems having great conversations with them. However, the moment he took the podium, that connection seems to dissipate.

It wasn’t until a colleague mentioned how differently he carried himself when he was up in front of the class that he realized he was trying to be someone he wasn’t and it was negatively effecting his connection with the students.

The solution: He simply needed to be himself and be authentic.

That realization helped him understand the importance of connection.  When we connect, we can both increase learning and enjoyment of learning.

Dr. Arau’s story could also be true of school administrators, fellow teachers, and staff members. By being authentic and yourself, you can help create connections that will build and strengthen the greater school community.
 

Why Vulnerability?

Have you ever noticed that when you share a personal story–maybe even something slightly embarrassing– it opens a connection with the person you were speaking with? By sharing, you open the door for others to feel welcome to share something a little vulnerable about themselves.

The more vulnerable you are, the more connected you can feel with your audience. Sharing personal stories of struggles and real life can have a profound effect. When we as humans see somebody being vulnerable and speaking about their fears, hopes, or frustrations, we see them as being courageous.  

The more vulnerable you are with your intended audience, the greater the connection.
 

Some Strategies to Try:

While these things may sound overly simple, or perhaps even silly, they can have a big impact on first impressions and connections. Whether you are connecting with teachers, students, parents, or other stakeholders, be aware of the following:

  • When someone walks into your office or classroom, greet them at the door and learn their name as fast as possible. Everyone wants to be acknowledged by name.

1 Word Can Change Everything: “Yet”

Every educator can tell you the importance of feedback. And, while it’s easy enough to offer praise for a job well done, what can be done to encourage quick learners to reach higher while simultaneously encouraging those students who haven’t quite gotten it yet?

Recently, Dr. Matthew Arau, a college professor and student leadership expert, created an online course for Atomic Learning focused on Unlocking Potential: The Impact of Mindset of Success. In the course, Dr Arau cites the work of Dr. Carol Dweck—a well-known researcher in the field of motivation and a Psychology Professor at Stanford who certainly knows her stuff.

In her TEDx Talk on the topic, Dr. Dweck states that teachers must “praise wisely.” Instead of simply praising the right answer, teachers need to praise students’ effort, the use of strategies, and documented improvement to ultimately foster a growth mindset.

FIXED MINDSET
Many people have what is referred to as a fixed mindset. As Dr. Arau explains: “Someone with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence, talent, and ability are fixed or static. If you are talented, things come easily to you; if you have to put effort into an endeavor, you must not be talented.”

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