Saturday, September 13, 2014

Reflective Teacher Day 13: My top edtech tools......

     I use technology a lot in my life so why wouldn't I adopt it into my classroom? One of the impediments to teachers using tech in their classroom is they don't use it on their own in their daily lives. I understand that everyone has a their own comfort level when it comes to tech, but students need to know how to use tech, no matter what form it comes in and no matter what their comfort level is too. This is the world that we live in and if we are not preparing students for their future and the world they are going into, then who will? But remember, not all students are as comfortable and familiar as I am (or you are, constant reader!) so you have to be flexible and willing to work around problems or issues. So, if a student wants a hard copy of something digital, print one. This is no different than teaching without tech. Be ready for anything!!

So, here are my top tech tools that I use in descending order:

Twitter: I started using this tool last year not only as a PD tool (Best. Idea. Ever!) but also a way to engage students with the world around them. I tweet news stories, this blog too, S/O to students for doing good things, and class reminders. Students can ask questions and get help. I love to take events like the State of the Union address and live tweet it with some humor so students become engaged, but learn at the same time. This is how I approach my class as a whole. But now, students are doing this at home or where ever they are at that moment. It's simple and does not really take a lot of time (140 characters!). Once you start using Twitter and see the value for both you and your students, the phrase "I don't have time for that" won't be in your vocabulary at all. #maketime My goal this year is for my students to use Twitter to reach out to the world beyond them and connect to someone or something that is related to the classroom. Tweet the president? A CEO of Google? Why not?

Chromebooks: For what I use them for, these wonderful tech tools are amazing! Research, sharing stuff on Google Drive* (*See next point!) I started using these last year and since the district bought more sets, I use them every single day. Yes there are days where we blend stuff: students using paper and books and the Chromebooks, but we use them. With the growing amount of tools available on line (not all of them are good, tread carefully) and with the ever expanding Google into education, the Chromebooks are just a natural progression into my class. The district applied for and received a grant which in part gives every student a MacBook next year. While these laptops are slightly different than what I am using this year, it is a great leap for my classroom. Now if a student forgets their MacBook (it will happen) I have a back up plan: grab a Chromebook from the cart. I just have to adjust to the OS of Mac and what is available. I can still use Drive, but finding all of the great stuff that Apple has to offer is a good problem to have.

Google Drive: There is nothing that I have come across in the last 10 years that has impacted my teaching more than using Google Drive. The organization. The sharing with both students and teachers (even those outside my building). The Apps. Oh the Apps! I have not even really searched the full range of what is out there in terms of Apps. I discover new ones every day! And now.....Google has upped their game with creating the new Google Classroom. It synches with your Drive account, you can add classes based on your groups (in your contacts), you can assign work on the classroom site and students can turn in and have it graded. This is the best thing ever. Not only does it make a copy for each student, but probably the best feature is how you grade it. You can customize the points and students see their assignment. Here's the best part: they can re-do the assignments based on the comments that you can not only put on the document, but also on the assignment on their "Stream" on the classroom site. It shows up on your drive as being redone. If you are looking to use standards based grading or you want to have your students master assignments, this is perfect! The great thing is Google is always looking for feedback and is constantly reinventing things and adding new features so what the future holds is exciting to think about. 

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