How the Cricut Expression Can Help Teachers in the Classroom

For many teachers, the Cricut Expression die cut machine tops their back-to-school wish list of classroom tools. This die cut machine by manufacturer Provo Craft, typically used by scrapbookers and other crafters, has many features and add-on accessories, including the Classmate line of educational cartridges, which will not only make the job of teaching easier, but over time, will also save schools money.

The most obvious example is the classroom bulletin board. In the past, teachers either had to purchase expensive die cuts to decorate their classroom bulletin board, or would have to painstakingly cut out letters and pictures by hand, in order to create a display that caught the attention and interest of their students. The Cricut Expression has the capability of cutting letters and other shapes in a variety of sizes, spanning from a quarter of an inch to almost twenty-four inches in size. Using this tool, educators are able to create an appealing bulletin board with nothing more than a small stack of card stock or other colored paper.

Although the Expression is great for cutting basic lettering and shapes, Provo Craft is specifically targeting those in the education field with its line of Classmate cartridges, which are designed for use in the classroom. This line of Cricut cartridges for early childhood educators and elementary school teachers can be used for teaching several subjects, including language, phonics, social studies, and even cursive.

Using the 50 States cartridge, for example, teachers can create a cutout of each state. In addition to being used for displays, these die cuts can be pieced together by students to form a puzzle of the United States, making it a useful tool for social studies and geography lessons.

Also part of the Classmate line, the Word Builders cartridge series is designed to help elementary students with their language, phonetic, and spelling skills. Using the Word Builders cartridges, educators can make puzzle-type cutouts of letters and groups of letters. These die cuts, when pieced together in the correct combinations by students, form words.

This is just a couple of the many ways that these types of die cuts can be used directly for instructing students. Whether it’s making puzzles, or creating their own educational version of popular children’s games, such as “Go Fish”, or even making bookmarks and stickers to reward students for their work, teachers can use the Cricut Expression countless ways in the classroom.

Your Kids Need Modern Teacher-Educators, Not Teacher-Dictators (10 Distinguishing Traits)

In a separate article, titled “Is Your Child Learning For School Or For Life?”, I explain why I believe every parent needs to emphasize for his/her child, the acquisition of knowledge/skills that will enhance the child’s ability to succeed in the real world, OVER mere academic ability.

The traditional educational institutions of old (which were mainly geared towards feeding industries with employees), had teachers concentrate on “moulding” learners to meet employers’ requirements.

Teaching methods were generally rigid and rote learning was emphasized – with dire consequences for learners who did not have the “stomach” for it. One notable example which proved the inefficacy of that approach was Albert Einstein, whose failure to demonstrate “learning” competently via memorization made teachers call him “dull-witted”. How ironic, considering that today, the same person is regarded as one of the greatest minds that ever lived.

Incidentally, Einstein did have a few things to say himself about the “Old School” teaching method. Reports have it that once, when asked the question “What is the speed of sound?” by a reporter, Einstein replied: “I don’t know. I don’t carry information in my mind that is readily available in books“. THAT answer in my opinion effectively makes the case for exploration/use of other learning methods outside rote memorization etc.

Some Of Today’s Teachers Still Use “Old School” Methods

Thankfully, over the years educationists gradually realised that the instincts of learners needed to be allowed to play a more influential/leading role in the learning process. Schools consequently adopted new approaches (like Montessori etc) which allowed children freedom to explore and learn by discovery, experimentation through play etc. This change in approach has generally resulted in more long lasting and qualitative learning experiences.

However, despite all the progress that has been made, and the awareness created/reforms adopted, some (presumably) modern day teachers with us today, continue to employ obsolete and inefficient teaching methods from the past in their classes. In the process, their learners are being short-changed on a daily basis.

The difference between old, traditional methods and the modern approaches being advocated has to do mainly with the style of teaching employed by the teacher. To put it another way, the type of teacher determines the type of teaching/learning situation that is created.

Differentiating Between A “Teacher-Educator” And A “Teacher-Dictator”

In my assessment, the foregoing make it important to identify the characteristics of the two main types of “teachers'” I have referred to. This is so as to guide parents/decision makers and even teachers to ensure the RIGHT teaching behaviour is employed at all times. This will ultimately help to create the right learning situation, thereby producing the desired learning output.

Below I offer bullet point descriptions of what I consider distinguishing attributes of the “Teacher-Dictator” (or Traditional Old School Style Teacher) as compared to those of the Modern Teacher who I like to call a “Teacher-Educator”.

Important: Please note that even though I have used these two broad categories/groupings of teacher “types”, in real-life there will be cases of individuals who exhibit traits from BOTH sides of the divide. What is essential is that a person involved in teaching in today’s world be encouraged, to strive to exhibit MORE “Teacher-Educator” traits. This “style” has greater potential to EMPOWER learners to derive life-long benefits from their formal learning experiences.

Acronyms: For convenience/ease of comparison, I have used an acronym to reprensent each teaching style, so that the contrasting traits can be reviewed side by side.

a. The Traditional/”Old School” Style Teacher(Teacher Dictator) = TOSST

b. The 21st Century or MODERN “Teacher-Educator” = MODTE

TOSST – Trait 1. Very often TELLS (but seldom SHOWS practically) the learner how to do something.

MODTE – Trait 1. Frequently helps the learner to “Learn By Discovery” (guiding by example as necessary). Encourages use of natural learning instincts.

TOSST – Trait 2. Is often more concerned about presenting him/herself as the final authority/source of knowledge to the learners.

MODTE – Trait 2. Typically offers him/herself as a guide/coach/mentor who will point out possible directions for the learner to follow on the path to self-discovery.

TOSST – Trait 3. Frequently inadvertently makes (or wants!) leaner to remain dependent on him/her.

MODTE – Trait 3. Will be “popular” for empowering learners to be independent in thinking/actions from him/her.

TOSST – Trait 4. Sometimes recycles teaching aids/materials used, to the point that learners sometimes correctly predict likely “content” to be delivered.

MODTE – Trait 4. Continually exploring new areas of thinking/development as they occur, with a view to discovering better ways to achieve the results desired by his/her learners. There’s always something new/refreshing to learn from him/her.

TOSST – Trait 5. Not inclined towards formal self-development efforts to improve his/her competence. Often feels what s/he already knows will always be more than enough for the learners.

MODTE – Trait 5. Vigorously pursues Self-Development opportunities to acquire new/useful additional KAS (i.e. Knowledge, Attitudes & Skills) to deliver better value to learners.

TOSST – Trait 6. Often more concerned about being part of a teacher-group, and expressing similar ideas to its members.

MODTE – Trait 6. Values his/her independence in deciding what to do to help the learners – even as s/he abides by set rules/seeks input from colleagues to improve quality of learning delivered. Places emphasis on freedom to express his/her own ideas/convictions, and pursue them.

TOSST – Trait 7. Often not comfortable with learners who demonstrate keen desire to explore beyond what s/he has taught or is prepared to teach.

MODTE – Trait 7. Derives great satisfaction from seeing learners demonstrate improved competence based on “discovered” learning achieved via self-directed efforts in their spare time.

TOSST – Trait 8. Tends to emphasise theoretical concepts and classroom based situations. Spares little thought for showing learners how the what they learn can be usefully applied in the real world.

MODTE – Trait 8. Keen to make learning real-world relevant. Helps learners relate knowledge acquired to its application in the real world (E.g. What can we use an understanding of compound interest for in life? How does the nitrogen cycle sustain aquatic life?). This way, learners are better prepared to apply their knowledge PROFITABLY to productive purposes in life.

TOSST – Trait 9. Generally believes that his/her job ends in the classroom and that whatever the learners do outside of it is unlikely to require his/her attention or action.

MODTE – Trait 9. Demonstrates passion for “educating” others around (colleagues, parents etc) about how they can contribute to improving the learning experience for his/her pupils/students etc.

TOSST – Trait 10. Products(learners) turned out often display undue penchant for “rote” learning, with seeming aversion for independent self-expression, and creative thinking.

MODTE – Trait 10.Products(learners) turned out tend to be creative, and independent-minded thinkers – often expressing original ideas with passion, and pursuing self-improvement with enthusiasm.

Summary

Decision makers in educational institutions – especially those engaged in provision of early education for young children – in my opinion need to ensure their teachers employ the “Teacher-Educator” style as frequently as possible, if not at all times. The benefits (outlined above) accruable to the children, and the school itself (in terms of quality of learning performances the kids deliver ) strongly suggest there is wisdom in doing this.

Parents will also want to regularly discuss “school/class work” with their kids and possibly make out time to interact with their kids’ teachers to get a feel for the teaching style favoured by the latter. If necessary, they could then gently request needed modifications in the teacher’s approach or work with the kids at home to make up for any shortcomings they identify.

What is most crucial is that learning experiences be made as pleasurable/rewarding as possible for our kids. When they find joy in learning, their desire to continually seek new learning as they grow into adulthood will never diminish. They will, as a result, be able to explore/discover their full potentials over time to the ultimate benefit of the larger society.

FINAL WORDS: It goes without saying that all I have advocated in the article is my personal opinion, and you would be well advised to seek the counsel of competent persons in deciding what line of action to pursue.

Consequences – When Education Is Biased

Although a noble concept education does not serve all the purposes it was meant to serve. The issue at hand, the fact that education tends to reaffirm existing inequalities, is not easy to explain since the ideal behind education in everyone’s mind is the exact opposite. We tend to think that since almost everyone in the western world has access to all levels of education and thus a chance to improve him/herself that person can accomplish something better in life than he or she already has. But the facts show that we do not all have the same opportunities and in the long run the present system of education sustains the existing “order” of society.

One of the largest scaled researches on this issue was conducted for the US government in 1964 by a sociologist named James Coleman. His research showed that academic achievement depends largely on the socioeconomic background of the students rather than school facilities or other factors as he originally expected. Rutter another sociologist who did research on this issue found that school conditions (student-teacher relationship, proper motivation, etc”) could actually improve the academic achievement of children who were of low social and economic background and were otherwise expected to perform poorly. But how can something like this be explained? Three theories seem to explain the reasons why adequately.

According to Basil Bernstein “children while growing up acquire a certain linguistic code depending on the social position of their family, something which later on affects their performance at school”. This difference in language does not concern vocabulary or other linguistic skills it is the difference in the use of language according to Bernstein that makes the difference. A child that grew up in a working class family is used to what is called a restricted code of language, a code that includes a lot of unstated assumptions which is more suited for everyday life rather than academic use. On the other hand a child that grew up in a middle or upper class family is accustomed to an elaborate code with which he/she is able to discuss and express more abstract ideas and is able to suit many kinds of social settings, especially that of the academic world. Such a difference is sure to influence a child’s educational chances.

There are probably many other reasons that explain why education expresses and reaffirms existing inequalities, reasons that have to do with the race, gender or ethnic and religious background of students in different countries. But there are also many things that can be done in order to improve the system and give equal chances to all for a better and more prosperous life. It depends on all of us to abolish inequalities but unfortunately history has shown that people fight for changes only when they have nothing to lose and those who design our lives have made us believe that we have lots to lose if we try to make any change.