Advice, Education, Graduate Student, Technology

Ayesha Anas, Ed Tech for Teachers

A smiling young woman in business attire and a colorful headscarf
Ayesha Anas, NU Scholar and Future Educator, shares her insights and tips on educational technology for today’s classroom

Featured Educational Technology Apps for Pre-Service Teachers

By Ayesha A. Anas

Even though COVID-19 abruptly changed the classroom dynamic from in-classroom to distance learning, it has certainly not detached teachers from the usage of educational technology tools. As pre-service teachers anxiously prepare for student teaching, what advances them, is their knowledge and implementation of pedagogy-based technology tools. Enlighten yourself by reading more about three ground-breaking applications that will enhance your teaching!

Are you looking for cutting-edge educational technology applications to use? As a pre-service teacher, passionate about leveraging digital applications, I highly recommend that aspiring elementary school teachers learn how to integrate technology into the classroom. Technology integration involves the usage of technology in the classroom to empower students with their learning. Pre-service teachers must learn how to leverage technology to address the needs of the digital generation, referring to those who grew up in a technology-enriched society and are comfortable using technology.

I further recommend the following three educational enterprising tools for future elementary school teachers to utilize for successful, engaging teaching. I encourage pre-service teachers to consider my suggestions and to explore distinct ways to adapt these unique tools creatively for their personal use in the classroom. Out of the plethora of valuable educational technology applications, I chose these three as a starting point for pre-service teachers when beginning to learn about diverse tools to use. I further use unique techniques and tried-and-true methods to optimize my usage of these applications.

Number 1: Adobe Spark (spark.adobe.com)

Adobe spark screen shot

Adobe Spark is available for free and conveniently caters to educators. It was created by Adobe, one of the prevailing industry leaders in design software and publication. Furthermore, Adobe Spark is a suite of three fascinating content-creation tools: Spark Page, Spark Post, and Spark Video. Moreover, users can easily create stunning, magazine-style web pages with Spark Page, alluring graphics with Spark Post, and engaging videos with Spark Video. The paramount part about these three applications is that they barely require any professional design experience. Additionally, Adobe Spark caters to the creation of a variety of suitable educational content, from subject-matter videos with Spark Video (e.g., explaining the American Revolution to fifth-grade students in a social studies unit) to presentation slides with Spark Post that introduce vocabulary words.

The experience I gained while I was a private school teacher using Adobe Spark invoked me in creating compelling content. I used Adobe Spark to create appealing presentation graphics and stunning newsletters for parents with Spark Post and Spark Page, respectively. Additionally, I assigned projects for students to develop a captivating acrostic graphic of their names with Spark Post and About Me web pages with Spark Page. All these products ended up becoming academically beneficial and motivating, which is a metamorphosis to one’s teaching and enhances students’ learning.

For more information, I highly recommend that pre-service teachers  visit https://spark.adobe.com/edu/. This website contains examples of student work and information on using Adobe Spark’s free premium features for classroom teachers. Conveniently, Adobe Spark is also available on iOS devices.

 

Number 2: Classcraft (classcraft.com

classcraft screenshot

Classcraft is a gamification platform that is excellent for classroom management. It increases student engagement and motivation by harnessing the power of games to boost learning. With compelling features, Classcraft promotes positive learning experiences. Although the application encourages the use of games to enhance one’s teaching, it does not promote video-gaming. Classcraft does include video-gaming elements, such as gaining and losing points, as well as customizing characters. Additionally, it primarily focuses on behaviorist principles for behavior management by enabling the teacher to award or subtract points from students. This feature ends up encouraging constructive behaviors from students.

I used Classcraft with a variety of students from different grade levels, and they loved it. It motivated one at-risk student to achieve better grades and earn points for rewards. He ended up being accountable for his work and getting perfect scores on his exams. I was delighted and felt emotional of the positive learning outcomes. Overall, I could focus more on teaching rather than continually dealing with behavior issues. Classcraft enhanced my classroom management and helped to intimately bond with my students.

Although the paid version of this application has additional attractive features, the free version still has merit. Moreover, the free version includes gamified classroom management (e.g., with a point system), customizable characters that enhance personalization, and convenient parent features (e.g., parents implementing Classcraft at home to award their children with points, parent-teacher communication). Furthermore, the additional features from the paid version are worth investing in to increase classroom management. For example, teachers can create personalized learning quests and utilize useful tools (e.g., noise meter, formative assessment boss battles).

Furthermore, this application may be developmentally appropriate for third-grade students and higher. It may be feasible to implement with primary-grade students, as long as they are interested in fantasy genres (Wayne, Gavin, & Read, 2016). However, the point system might not be suitable for children under five years old because they do not understand the concepts of video-gaming.

For more information, watch this video: https://vimeo.com/285539484.

Number 3: Kahoot! (https://kahoot.com/)

Kahoot screenshot

Kahoot! is a valuable game-based learning platform that enables users to create quiz games effortlessly on any subject or topic. Teachers can create effective quizzes to introduce a unit, conduct pre-assessment, reinforce knowledge, and even gather formative assessment data to monitor students’ learning and inform future instruction.

Kahoot! is a dynamic application for students to play engaging games that measure their knowledge of a particular subject. Teachers can create a variety of multiple-choice quiz questions and add additional useful content, such as visuals and multimedia, for students to view that clarify the questions. Additionally, teachers can add wait times to provide students with extra time, which benefits English Language Learners (ELLs). Furthermore, the quizzes can even include interactive polls, which teachers can use to successfully gauge how students feel about their mastery of a subject.

Kahoot! further encourages collaboration and teamwork. Students can work in groups to correctly answer the questions.

I used Kahoot! with my sixth-grade students to reinforce and review their knowledge of Mesopotamia. My students worked in teams to answer questions accurately and quickly. I also collected data on which questions my students did not answer correctly, knowing what to reteach to clarify any concepts or reinforce the material that students learned. It was delightful noticing how excited my students were about gaining points and collaborating with each other.

Final Thoughts

Remember to never use technology for the sake of using and having it replace the curriculum that must be taught to students. All teachers should use technology wisely and purposefully to enhance student achievement of all learning outcomes. Teachers have the power to use these applications at their disposal. Even though COVID-19 has altered the educational landscape, it should not cause a learning pandemic. Keep on teaching and cheers to optimizing our students’ learning potential.

Clip art of smartphone, keyboard, and pen
“Remember to never use technology for the sake of using and having it replace the curriculum that must be taught to students. All teachers should use technology wisely and purposefully to enhance student achievement of all learning outcomes.”

References

Adobe Spark (2020). Adobe Spark across multiple devices [Screenshot]. https://spark.adobe.com

Kahoot!. (2016). Kahoot! image [Screenshot]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlXpKHH5kh0

LaFave, N. (2016). Classcraft across multiple devices [Picture]. Nick’s Picks for Educational Technology. http://edtechpicks.org/2016/06/50-free-tech-tools-21st-century-classroom-summer-2016/

 

 

 

Advice

Overcoming Anxiety: Self-Care, Sleep, Silvercloud

A smiling woman with red hair, in business attire, against a natural background
Julia Kraft, Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education student and NU Scholar, shares her tips on coping with anxiety

By Julie Kraft,

Bachelor of Arts, Early Childhood Education

NU Scholar

I’ve spent my adult life overcoming the grips of anxiety. From an outside perspective, people describe me as a real go-getter; a woman who knows what she wants and can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, someone who has defeated the odds and conquered adversity. While much of that is true, there is an internal battle taking place inside me. I have been able to hide the fact that my past has left me with some brutal scars that can bring me to tears in an instant. It has taken me years to figure out how to accept my past as part of who I am. When I am not mindful, my anxiety is quick to attack.

I share this while considering the stress and anxiety many have faced due to the COVID19 pandemic and escalating racial tension in our society. Many are facing a whirlwind of anxiety for the first time and it is overwhelming (to say the least). There have been a record number of job losses and those deemed essential are working in an unfamiliar, often eerie environment.

Anxiety is real, it is crippling, it can overtake your life if you let it and has become more common than I would have ever imagined. The trick is to take over the anxiety before it clamps down on you.

Many of us, who attend National University also have full-time jobs, a family to care for or both. Without the proper tools, it can become daunting and you may get overwhelmed by it all. In fact, there will be times you most definitely will be overwhelmed by it all. As long as you keep moving in the same direction, those feelings will pass. You will gain confidence where there was once doubt. Progress toward your goal will be made. Luckily, for the students at National University, there are a plethora of resources at our disposal, like Silvercloud. Silvercloud is an interactive website that offers tools to build skills and manage ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, or STRESSthey even recently added a special program focusing on coping with COVID-19. The COVID-19 specific program include coping with challenging times, sleep difficulties, relaxation, meditation, and grief & loss. Whatever program you choose, it is free for all NU students. When signing up, you can also choose to work with a coach, who will help guide you through the program or you can choose the self-help option (a coach is still available, should you change your mind)

silvercloud
Any NU community member can register for a free account at https://nu.silvercloudhealth.com/signup/

I hope to share some the techniques I have spent an adulthood practicing and perfecting. It is my hope that this information will be helpful to you, especially now…

Diet and exercise are EVERYTHING

Doctors have been touting this for years, right? I placed this in the first slot because it is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for yourself. How you feel on the inside will be reflected by how you appear on the outside. How do you think I hide my anxiety from those who don’t know me? I work out and I eat well. Diet, effects how you feel. Your body needs a BALANCED diet to function properly.  Eating empty calories will leave you feeling sluggish and tired. You brain needs nutrients (and carbs, believe it or not) to get through a long day of studying and work. Trust me, eat well and you’ll thank me later.

flat lay photography of vegetable salad on plate
There are so many great healthy recipes out there: Check out the Food Network’s top 50 healthy recipes here: https://tinyurl.com/y9kgsy67

Waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning after a night of studying takes some serious discipline. Yes, it is hard, but when you feel that rush of endorphins, when you meet or exceed a fitness goal, you let the warrior within you roar with power… I mean, who wouldn’t want to harness the power of a warrior? That discipline I mentioned, that is what is going to get you through school. Practice self-discipline and it will take you to where you are meant to go.

Practice the art of SELF-CARE

Self-care means something different to everyone. For me, it’s going for a hike or taking a morning stroll around the lake with my husband and daughter. At least once per week, I spend an extra 15 minutes on my bedtime routine; the use of a face mask replenishes my skin and my spirit. Nothing else is as refreshing as a cool, invigorating face mask. Light a candle. Take a bath. Read a good book. Unwind. Spend some time to pamper yourself. Show yourself some love! An extra 15 minutes a few times per week is all you need.

love romantic bath candlelight
Self-care is different for everyone, and doesn’t have to cost anything: Sipping a cup of your favorite tea, lighting a candle in the bath, admiring some flowers, or reading a book.  Speaking of free books, National University’s library is open for virtual resources during COVID- Go to https://library.nu.edu/ and chat with a librarian to find your perfect summer read!

BREATHE and count to ten

As simple as that may sound, it really works. I’m talking about deep full breaths. Breathing resets your body, it floods your brain with oxygen, stimulates your nervous system and promotes a sense of calm. Counting simply takes your mind off whatever it was you were about to freak out about. Do it with me, breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Can you feel it? Did that sense of clam wash over you and comfort you like a warm blanket? When you think about it, something as innate as breathing is pretty incredible. You are alive. You are incredible and you are about to accomplish something great. Breathe and be proud.

GIVE yourself some GRACE

As a perfectionist, this one is challenging for me. I really MUST be mindful here. The problem with being a perfectionist is that no one is perfect. I hate making mistakes or making a bad decision, but I do realize we all stumble and fall. What matters the most is getting back up and trying again. This is my 3rd attempt at completing college and getting my degree. I won’t go into detail about why it has taken me so long or why I have multiple failed attempts, but I will say, I needed to learn the lessons I learned after making mistakes. I needed to walk the tough path, so that I could appreciate how beautiful the journey is now. Giving yourself grace means forgiving yourself as you would your best friend. It means being understanding and kind to yourself, loving yourself. We are all human, making a mistake is inevitable. Don’t let the errors of your past prevent you from working toward a better future.

person in gray button up shirt holding flower
What does giving yourself grace look like, for you? How are you kind and loving to yourself?

SLEEP

I am a full-time student; I work full time and I have a toddler. At this point in my life, sleep sounds like a foreign word. However, when life gets overwhelming or when I’m feeling like I won’t make it another day, my husband comes to my rescue (this happens a lot). A full eight hours of sleep works wonders. Through this educational journey, I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for help. Build a support system by surrounding yourself with like-minded optimistic people. Negativity breeds negativity. There have been days when I was so exhausted, that I couldn’t form a proper sentence, let alone, write a coherent paper. At times when exhaustion takes over, I go to bed early – I’m talking 8 pm early – and wake up an hour or two earlier than normal to research or write. It is much easier to do homework after a night’s rest than it is after a long day at work.

Life’s journey is about finding your passion and having the courage to chase your dreams. I hope this helps you to manage your stress and anxiety, so that you can live your purpose.

Well, there ya have it. A few insights from an anxious survivor, may they serve you well and help you get through this trying time!

Athletic young woman of color sits in lotus position next to a dog
Yoga and other ways to stay active are time-tested stress reducers. Check out these free online classes from San Diego County YMCA: https://tinyurl.com/y84v5n8h
adult learner, Advice, Community College, Dreamer, English learner, First generation, nursing, Single Parent, Transfer

Si se puede! … The Story of an Adult Learner

Young smiling Latinx man in surgical scrubsBy Pedro Aguilar

NU Scholar Cohort January 2020, Bachelor of Science, Nursing – Los Angeles Region, CA.

My story can be told from many perspectives. I am a community college graduate who transferred to National University after having a change of heart. While I had wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work, my work in mental health led me to pursue a degree as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. The rightness of this decision came home for me when Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, asked nursing students and other healthcare professionals to join in the fight against Covid-19. I can still remember Newsom saying “if you are a nursing school student, we need you” as he pleaded for Californians to join the California Health Corps.

I am a first-generation college graduate, single parent, English Language Learner, and adult learner. When I say adult learner, I really mean that I took my education seriously only once I became an adult. While attending community college I held many jobs: grocery clerk, crane and forklift operator, warehouse worker, cook, and painter. I was not sure what I really wanted to become in life, especially because education was not fostered where I grew up. Some of my peers went into real-estate, while others became working professionals like their parents. I, on the other hand, was just trying to find myself and generate a plan for my future.

 

One day during sociology class my instructor shared her experience working with troubled youth. I clearly remember her saying, “One day they love you, another day they are trying to hurt you, but working with them is so rewarding.” What she said inspired me, so after class I asked if she would write me a letter of recommendation. Soon after I became a youth counselor and began my career in social services. This experience taught me that you can find inspiration and ideas from the most unlikely places or comments made by the people around you.

Young man in face mask participates in COVID-19 relief efforts
“Showing others the way” means giving back and letting others know that if you overcame these obstacles, they can too.

“Show others the way” were a few of the words written on my yearbook by my English high school professor, Mrs. Olivas. I did not follow the traditional pathway of going to school, getting a good job or career, getting married, having a family, and living happily ever after. My life took some sharp turns along the way – but after running a few stop signs, getting a few speeding tickets, and repairing a flat tire or two, it eventually brought me where I am today. If you have a familiar story, keep going, and remember that you are not just succeeding for yourself, but that you are showing others the way.

If I had given up when I was in high school, it would have been expected because children that come from broken homes and who are English learners have a higher rate of dropping out.

If I had given up when I was in community college, it would have been expected of me because adults who don’t have a strong support system and who must work through their education have a lower chance of completing a two-year degree.

Diverse group of nursing students and their instructor in hospital setting
Pedro and other passionate student nurses in Los Angeles Cohort 20 celebrate the completion of another class with Professor Patricia A. Bridewell.

If I had given up after graduating community college it would have been expected of me because I was already a part-time parent and full time mental health professional, and had taken a few years off from school. When I attempted to go back, I was told that if I wanted to switch my major, I had to wait in the back of the line because I had lost priority registration. My counselor even told me, “We get that a lot, people are afraid to finish.” I explained to her that she was wrong – I was not afraid to finish, I just knew what I wanted to do.

If I had given up, I would have had to sit down one day and explain to my daughter how I found a million excuses to give up along the way. The thought that she would see a defeated man as opposed to a role model is what keeps me in the fight. I would rather keep my dreams alive and be the light for other dreamers that have lost sight in their path to success. Don’t ever give up! Si se puede!

YoungSmiling Latinx father and daughter in formal attire against a natural backdrop
Pedro and his daughter – Celebrating life’s successes, and looking forward to conquering new challenges. Si se puede!