Can technology make a teacher more productive?

Sunday, December 26th, 2010 | technology | 2 Comments

What does it mean to be productive?  Some shy away from the word because it sounds too much like hard work.  Teachers complain: “How can it be expected of us to produce more?  The education department is overworking us as it is – and now you want us to do even more!”

Does greater productivity necessarily mean working harder?  If you’re not a hard worker then yes, it means you have to work harder.  But if you are already a hard worker it does not mean that you must become an even harder worker.  Think for a moment about the definition of productivity:

Productivity is the amount of output per unit of input, where input may be time, equipment or money – you’ll therefore be more productive if you manage to increase your output, while keeping your input the same.

This tells us that, with the same amount of input – the same time and effort – you can become a more productive teacher.  How?  By increasing the output.  Technology can help you to increase your output with the same amount of input in two ways:

Using tools such as a word processor and a spreadsheet – often called productivity tools – technology will make your admin work easier, quicker and more accurate.  You will be able to spend less time on admin, leaving you more time for other productive work.

In a classroom the output is the amount of learning taking place.  How much do the learners in your class learn?  You know that some teaching sessions may pass with hardly any learning happening while a session of the same duration could be highly productive with a lot of learning takes place.  Technology holds the attention of learners and encourages their involvement – since this increases the potential for learning, your lessons become more productive. 

Productivity means accomplishing more with fewer resources.  Technology may come at a price, but when you experience the ways in which it will help you to increase your output you’ll soon conclude that it is indeed a bargain.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Can an interactive whiteboard make me more productive?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010 | IWBs | 1 Comment

Some teachers may object to the mere suggestion that they should become more productive.  “How can we be expected to produce more?” they may ask.  “We are already overworked.  You can’t squeeze blood from a stone.”

This reaction is understandable. We know that teachers carry heavy loads.  But the concept of productivity is often misunderstood – it does not necessarily mean working longer hours.

What is productivity?

Productivity is defined as the amount of output per unit of input – where input may be time, equipment or money.  This means that you can raise productivity if you increase output with the same amount of input.

There are different ways of measuring productivity.  For example, in a manufacturing company productivity is measured based on the number of items manufactured per hour – the hour remains the same (input) while the number of items manufactured (output) determines if productivity is increased or decreased.  Sometimes an investment in equipment will speed up the manufacturing process, thereby raising productivity.

How do we measure productivity in the classroom?  What are the outputs?  While there are different views on how to assess and what metrics should apply in the classroom, the desired output is simple to define: the amount of learning taking place.

This means that productivity in the classroom can be increased if the amount of learning experienced by individual learners is increased within the same time period.  Teachers know that a lesson hour can pass with hardly any learning happening while a lesson of the same duration can be highly productive when a lot of learning takes place.

How much learners learn within a lesson period depends a lot on the teacher – but a small investment in equipment can help you to make the best use of teaching time.

An interactive whiteboard is such a productivity tool – it helps you to hold the attention of learners, makes learning more interesting, and promotes learner involvement through the interactive nature of the device.  Productivity increases since the amount of input (time) remains the same, while output (amount of learning) increases.  The cost of the tool is a small price to pay if you can achieve this!

An interactive whiteboard can make you a productivity powerhouse.  But the board is just a tool – enhanced productivity depends on how you use it.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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What do we do with goldbrickers and dead wood?

Monday, April 20th, 2009 | education | 3 Comments

Education is a noble and honorable enterprise — well-meaning, respectable, geared toward progress and success. For all its lofty intentions, though, we have a few glaring problems in education here in America. One of the most pernicious is the dark truth that the profession currently includes too many ineffective, lame, or even neglectful and abusive teachers. They make us all look bad, and, frankly, I’m ready to either clean house and get rid of them or find more assertive methods to remediate their training until they improve.

This is how Sharon Elin starts her blog posting under the heading: The best mirrors.  The article is worth reading in its entirety.  What amazes me is the similarity between America and South Africa on this matter.

The first step to solve the situation is to recognize, and then acknowledge, that we have a problem.  Sharon helps us to do just that. 

The article concludes with the sobering thought that we should “… weed out the goldbrickers“. 

I echo that by saying: “Prune out the dead wood.”

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Can a laptop ease my admin burden?

Monday, January 26th, 2009 | Computer Usage | 5 Comments

Administration – even the work is an unpleasant mouthful.  Perhaps that is why we try to soften it by calling it “admin”.

Admin is, without question, the least glamorous part of teaching.  The good news is that a laptop can help to ease your admin burden.  It can be particularly useful when dealing with repetitive and time consuming tasks.  Time saved in this way allows you to focus on the more enjoyable and rewarding aspects of teaching. 

Here are a few ways in which a laptop can cut your admin load.

A laptop can be used to prepare examination papers, test papers, worksheets, lesson plans and similar documents.  The documents you create can be saved for later use.  A laptop also makes it easier to share these documents with colleagues – by sharing resources, you are all able to work faster and smarter.

You can use your laptop to keep records of test results and class attendance.  A laptop includes tools that can calculate automatically, updating records as figures are changed.  This is a great time-saver and ensures accuracy.

A laptop makes a great filing cabinet!  All your lesson plans, notes, lists, reports and other documents can be filed and stored in one place.  This results in an orderly system and saves searching time.  It also saves a lot of space – with all your documents safely stored on your laptop, you can ditch all those bulky paper files.

If you take your laptop along to a meeting you will be able to take minutes while the meeting is in progress.  Just imagine how much time you could save if you prepare and issue the minutes on the spot!

A laptop can help you to automate routine tasks and take the slog out of admin.  When you start using your laptop you will discover more ways in which it will save you time and effort.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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Can a laptop make me more productive?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 | Computer Usage, laptops | 4 Comments

A laptop can make you a productivity powerhouse.

Some teachers may object to the mere suggestion that they should become more productive.

“How can we be expected to produce more?” they may ask.  “We are already overworked!  You can’t squeeze blood from a stone.”

This reaction is understandable. We all agree that teachers carry heavy loads.  But greater productivity does not necessarily mean working harder.

Let’s think about an analogy.

Imagine a rural area where there is no piped water.  A woman takes her family’s washing down to a river.  There she laboriously draws water with a bucket to wash and rinse the clothing.  When she is done, she hauls the wet washing back home to hang up to dry.  This process may take up most of her day.

If water were to be piped to her house, half of her work would be saved.  She would not have to trek down to the river, nor would she have to perform the backbreaking task of drawing water from the river with a bucket.  If running water were available from a tap she would have the flexibility to work in her own house, in her own time, at her own pace.

The time and energy spent walking to and from the river and drawing water could now be used for more meaningful tasks, such as earning extra money or spending the time with her family.

Think what it would mean to her if she were to get a washing machine!  She would have even more time for other productive activities.

This woman has now become more productive.  Does that mean that more burdens are put on her and that she has to work harder?  Not at all.  In fact, she gets more done in less time, with less effort.  This is a good example of working smarter, not harder.

The same principle applies to a teacher and a laptop.  A laptop can do for a teacher what running water and a washing machine can do for a housewife: it can help to get more work done in less time.

Any tool that can lighten the load of a teacher should be considered seriously.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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