Tech Integration

Stand out Tech Tools for the Classroom

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A typical week entails working with a wide variety of age groups ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade.  Emphasis is placed on creating standards aligned technology experiences that foster collaboration and creativity while cultivating important digital literacy skills. Listed below are stand out tools that I commonly use in the classroom. Not only do these tools represent multiple modes of learning, they have been student approved as engaging ways to demonstrate knowledge.

Productivity/organization

Microsoft Teams, a new interactive, chat based workspace for streamlined digital learning and teaching.

Assessment

Formative– Online tool allowing you to deliver assessments. Student assessment data is displayed in real time and feedback can be provided immediately.

Edpuzzle– Assess students using online videos. Select a video that aligns with your content, annotate the video using text or voiceover, and add a question set. Edpuzzle generates reports based on usage.

Presentation

Sway- Housed in our Office 365 set of applications, Sway allows students to create multimedia presentations.  Using simple drag and drop functions, Sway is appropriate for students in grades 1 and up.

Digital Storytelling

Story Bird– Create online storybooks using Story bird’s library of artwork. Students can collaborate on stories, share them via email, and provide feedback to their peers. Teachers can easily create assignments using Story bird’s planning tools.

Math

Prodigy Game– A curriculum aligned math game geared for students in grades 1-8.  Prodigy provides real time reporting along with embedded in-game formative, diagnostic, and summative assessments.

Cross Curricular

Kidblog– Blogging is being used across the district in all subject areas. Provide students with a platform to communicate, provide and receive feedback from peers, and connect with other classrooms.

Code.org– A full coding curriculum allowing students to practice computer science, math, reading, and science skills. Easy to implement and engaging for students.

Scratch.mit.edu- Allows students to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Creations can be easily shared with an online community.

Smart board

Smart Exchange– Ready to use lesson plans and resources for your Smart board.

Digital Skills

Email Exchange- Teach students how to tailor their writing to a target audience.

  • Students are writing to an authentic audience.
  • Students can practice focused writing skills.
  • Students are practicing a real word skill.

 

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A New Kind of Sharing

The word “share” has developed some different connotations.  I asked my six year old what it means to share and his answer was interesting.  He said, “like how you share pictures on Facebook?”

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The exchange of data and knowledge is simply a click away and has become second nature to our students. With the availability of Web 2.0 tools, students can instantaneously share web content.

Consider providing time in your classroom for students to share with their peers. This is an ideal accompaniment to the beginning of the year “getting to know you” activities. Students can research information that might be useful to  a classmate, and share it with them.

Aside from teaching how to share information, sharing lessons can also incorporate simple research techniques.

Students can share:

  • Information
  • Video clips
  • Websites
  • Self-created presentations

As we continue to challenge students to become producers of web content, rather than solely consumers, sharing content fosters open communication and the collaborative culture needed to become effective 21st century learners.

Formative

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When integrated into the teaching and learning process, formative assessment provides key data to adjust instruction and promotes an active, student centered learning environment.  With the implementation of Formative, a free online tool for ongoing assessment,  frequent checks for understanding are easy to implement.  Formative transforms the assessment and feedback cycle to a more sophisticated level where educators can gain deeper insight into student learning. A continuous feedback loop is essential to meeting learner needs. With Formative, not only can feedback be offered quickly, it is in a real time, interactive format that engages the technology driven student.

Avatars: Virtual Expression

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As educators search for effective uses of technology in the classroom, it is apparent that on many instances the answers are found within the students. As a one to one computing teacher, it is clear that avatars are popular among young people. An avatar is defined as a online manifestation of the student. This virtual representation can help students overcome challenges while providing instruction that appeals to a wide variety of learning styles.
Here are some simple ways to use avatars in your classroom:
  •  Use an avatar to deliver information to your students, define terms, give directions, or give praise.  Yes, allow the avatar to speak for you. It can sometimes be enjoyable for both you and your students to mix up the lecture.  www.voki.com is a free site where you can bring your avatar to life using text input or voice record.
  • Formative Assessment/varied assessment- Students can use an avatar to demonstrate understanding. 
  •  As a writing tool- Students can record what they want to write, and play it back as they transfer words onto the paper. This especially helps the struggling writer.
  •  Bring historical figures to life-Students can create a short narrative on notable people from history and present to the class. www.doppelme.com is a free site where students can personalize an avatar.
  •  Fluency- Allow students to record their read aloud and play it back to practice pronunciation and fluency.
  •  Beginning of the year icebreaker-Students can introduce themselves through their avatar. This may help alleviate the beginning of year nerves.
While Avatars are not meant to replace traditional classroom instruction, they can certainly help students build self confidence and overcome challenges while fostering a multimedia environment.

Infographics: Seeing Information in a New Light

Let’s be honest. Data can be both dry and uninteresting. Text representations of data can also be complicated and difficult to understand.  In an attempt to make complex data easier to digest, teachers are using infographics as an effective means of delivery. Information + graphics= infographic, a visual representation of information. Not new to media, infographics are commonly used on news broadcasts as well as in various periodicals. National Geographic employs beautiful inforgraphics that allows the reader a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

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Photo Credit: Retrieved from http://edutech4teachers.edublogs.org/

Infographics can effectively help our students conceptualize information. The visual nature of an infographic allows data to be conveyed quickly and efficiently while appealing to the students sense of creativity and design. Not only geared towards older children, educators can utilize infographics in the early elementary classroom as well. Allowing students to create simple infographics to represent concepts and text data can reach the visual learner while fostering 21st century skills in the classroom.

Integrating infographics can be rewarding for both students and educators alike. In order to be effective, educators must guide students in how to read and determine the main idea of the infographic. Guidance in creating an inforgraphic includes how to utilize creation tools and how to establish a general “flow” that will enable readers to grasp the concept. There are many tools to created infographics, but Glogster is most suited for the k-8 classroom. In the web 2.0 family, Glogster edu allows teachers to establish classes and monitor student work. “Glogs” can easily be shared using a variety of channels. Visual.ly can create more complex infographics for secondary students. Both Glogster and Visual.ly have extensive libraries where educators can browse pre-made infographics for lessons.

The uses of infographics are endless. Visual representations of numbers and statistics have emerged in all content areas. Social Studies teachers have turned migration and population data into visual data. Early elementary teachers assist students in creating visuals of concepts or word problems in math.  Let’s be innovative. Our visual students will benefit from our visual teaching.

For more tools to create infographics in the classroom, check out teachthougt’s 46 Tools to Make Infographics in the Classroom.

5 Tips For Teachers Who Struggle With Technology

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With technology becoming an integral part of education, many teachers are finding it difficult to successfully mesh technology into the existing curriculum.  As a technology resource specialist, I hear teachers saying that they are “not tech savvy”.  Despite fear of the unknown, technology can be simple to use in the classroom.

Here are five tips to assist teachers with tech integration:

1. Start small and simple- Despite the allure of immersing your students in a large scale technology project, simplicity is key. Begin with one relevant website or application and allow students ample time to explore the tool, develop meaningful questions, and achieve a strong comfort level.

2. Use your tech team- Integrating technology into your classroom can be a daunting task and should not be attempted alone. Determine who your support staff is, and use them! Aside from referring to your district’s tech team, do not forget your tech savvy colleagues, and most importantly your students! Our students prove to be an invaluable resource in helping “digital immigrants” move to more technology based lessons.

3. Learn to take risks- On many occasions, teachers who struggle with technology often find it difficult to take risks and allow for mistakes in the classroom. Using new technology in a lesson will entail challenges. Work through the issues, reflect on them, and most importantly learn from mistakes.

4. Be unstructured- Before completely disregarding this tip, allow me to defend it. Unstructured is a scary word for teachers, although sometimes less structure is more beneficial in introducing a new technology in the classroom.

I was recently asked to assist a teacher with introducing a new presentation tool to her students. We both decided that we would take a different approach. We set the students “free” by instructing them to figure it out, make mistakes, and discuss with their peers. As they explored the tool, we rotated to answer questions and offer advice.

The result was an engaged group of fifth graders who learned the basics of Prezi and could even offer their teacher some insight as to how best to use the tool in the classroom.

5. Make it relevant- Simply using tech tools as an add-on will not benefit your students. Truly integrating technology into the curriculum requires ensuring that technology is relevant. Working with your grade level team to create lesson plans that integrate technology at a genuine level will improve the teaching and learning process.

The Flipped Classroom: Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat

 

What is it?

When presented with the flipped classroom model, educators are somewhat apprehensive about making this pedagogical shift. In order to determine its place in the classroom and its potential effectiveness, it is essential to completely understand what the flipped classroom is and is not.

The flipped classroom does not only center on watching videos. While video learning is a component, the main focus of the flipped classroom is opening up instructional time for meaningful,  engaging, and differentiated learning experiences.

The Flipped Learning Network defines flipped Learning as a “pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

As part of the blended learning process, the flipped classroom challenges students to utilize a variety of multimedia formats to acquire and evaluate information, thus creating a constructionist learning environment.  In a recent study, 47 percent of students in grades 9-12, 39 percent of students in grade 6-8 and 25 percent of students in grades 3-5 responded that they wanted to learn online to control their own learning experience(eduviews). With this is in mind, the combination between traditional face to face learning and online learning components can provide students with the ideal environment to meet their learning goals. Tools that include digital content can contribute to a learning process that is current and meaningful. Educators that use blended learning have commented on the increased amount of available one on one instructional time when online components were used within the lesson. Furthermore, video learning is relevant. Our hyper connected digital natives now use online content as a primary resource when gathering information; making it an essential part of the learning process. “Cashing in” on our students propensity towards online content creates the engagement necessary to cultivate meaningful learning experiences.

What is looks like in practice.

Flipping your classroom includes choosing a lesson, seeking a video that supports the lesson, assigning the video for at home viewing, and using instructional time for activities other than direct lecture.  There are a wide gamut of online video sites such as Youtube, Brainpop, Khan Academy, and Ted ED that offer videos in nearly every content area. The gold standard for flipped classroom videos is Edpuzzle, a tool that allows you to search a wide database of educational videos and personalize them for delivery to your students. Capabilities include, cropping, voiceover, the addition of text annotations and questions. An added plus is the ability to monitor if students watched the video, how many times it was watched, and what sections were re-watched. Also included is the function allowing teachers to review student’s results in the embedded questions.

While creating videos may seem daunting to some educators, it is not necessary to flipping your classroom. There are perks to teacher created videos including personalization for students. Simply said, students enjoy watching teacher created content.  What do teacher created videos actually look like? Mr. Kilcran, an eighth grade science teacher has launched flipped learning in his classroom with much success. Not only are his  videos engaging to his students, he has opened up valuable instructional time for differentiated learning and hands on science activities.

Mr. Kilcran Science – Videos on middle school science topics and practical applications of flipping your classroom.

The educational arena has changed making it vital for educators to reflect on how to achieve effective learning. The shift from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” holds more weight now than ever before. The changing needs of our students are significant and adding the flipped learning model to the classroom can foster active engagement in the learning process.

Flipped learning is well worth the attempt.