- Biggest concern/challenge with technology
When working with technology, one of the biggest challenges in the past has been the access to the computer lab or the ipad cart. The computer lab has assigned times during the week, and if I am lucky, I have two 45 minute blocks per week to use with my class. As I am a generalist, teaching grade 6/7, it means often I can only use technology on one project at a time. This means I’m needing to prioritize what projects should be infused with technology and which need to wait until later in the year to be completed or be skipped over this year. Additionally, due to having minimal technology time, my class misses out on opportunities of collaboration with those from outside of their small town.
Although I do have some technology in my school, I often struggle with how to integrate it authentically in my classroom. Just because it can be done on a computer or a tablet, does that mean that it should be? I am always looking for ways to make learning meaningful and I try and apply as much as possible to the real world, as often I am asked why do we need to learn this? Computers are a part of our future, but I want the learning that occurs on them to be meaningful, just as all other non-tech lessons have a purpose.
- Why bother with technology?
It saves you time
I’ve always liked paper – my agenda was my lifeline through to university. If I needed to get something done – reading for next week’s class, birthday wishes, doctor’s appointment or show up to work – it needed to be written down. Nothing has changed – things are still written down but now in the digital age, everything goes into my phone which syncs with my computer and my tablet ensuring that all those important dates are recorded. Although now, I also can include hundreds of other things – my daughter’s first steps on video, pictures of our honeymoon, a name selector for my classroom, my favourite music to listen to while driving to work, the list goes on and on. It also has meant that I no longer need to remember that certain piece of paper to complete my lesson that day. I am slowly moving toward creating assignments digitally so that each year I can easily find that lesson which is perfect for the topic at hand or can more easily be shared with a colleague.
Technology has also allowed for extensive collaboration. I am fortunate to have six professional development days throughout the school year, which allow for some connection with colleagues. However, with technology I have been able to take these connections to a whole new level. We are in the process of rolling out a brand new curriculum, that is very different from anything most of us have taught before. On one of our professional development days, a group of five of us began to create a document to share our thoughts and lesson plan ideas. Later, this document was easily shared with many others. Additionally, I frequently share documents with my sister, who is also a teacher, and despite living on different continents, we are able to collaborate as each of us is able to add our ideas when it is convenient.
- Two tools that interest me
Edmodo – In the past I have used blogger to help share what we are doing in the classroom. It is where I post all homework, so it is easy for students to know what is happening when they are away. I know that it sometimes gets used, but it lacks the interaction. I think it would be neat to increase the school-home connection so that parents are more aware of what their children are learning in the classroom. I could also post larger assignments so that families can see what we are working on and help provide support at home.
StudyBlue – Study tools are important and often not something I have found that is taught. You are just sort of expected to know how to study and learn information for a test. I think this tool could help my students learn how to create an effective flashcard, and to use a variety of strategies (pictures, text and voice) to help learn the information. This would be one way to help a student learn information for a test, project or presentation.
- Two tips that are important for technology
Do test runs
I always try and be prepared for situations in my classroom, but some lessons are best learned when you fall hard in front of your students. Over the years, I have learned that you need to check the internet connection to ensure that it can handle running what a classroom full of students might throw at it. Also it is best to use the technology that the students will be using, because some things are not tablet compatible or how you fix a problem is different on a Mac computer as compared to a PC. By doing at least one test run before setting your students loose, it helps you to prepare for a variety of problems.
Find the video tutorial
There are so many aspects to each device that we use, it is a monumental task to know how to fix each issue that may arise. Instead to be continuously learning as we go, and adapting to any system upgrades that arise over the lifespan of a device means that we can use the device right now and not need to read the full manual before getting started. There are so many people who share their learning online, and not just for tech things. I have learned how to jumpstart a car (red to dead!), learned a dance to teach to my grade sevens, and figured out the best way to wash my daughter’s carseat. This style of learning has been very successful for me, so why wouldn’t I also find a video on how to use a specific app?
- The Q&A session
VolunteerSpot sounds like it could be a very helpful tool and would minimize a LOT of paperwork. I am required to host and organize parent teacher interviews twice a year. Currently, I send home a notice with parents indicating their top three preferred time slots. I then respond in their child’s agenda or send an email home to indicate when their interview time will be. I also help with a children’s choir and each spring, we audition over 60 students. Currently, parents arrange the audition time with me individually via email. It sounds like this app would eliminate the need for me to spend extensive time on email and/or notices.
- The two tool categories
The two categories that I am most interested in are the mind mapping and the assessment. I find I often get bogged down in marking, because I don’t want to spend class time marking an assignment with my students, and I try to keep myself available to them while they are learning. I would like to have different tools to speed up a process and give my students quicker feedback.
I believe mind mapping can be helpful to engage more students with different senses. As a generalist I like tools and strategies to help my students throughout the curriculum. For some, they may find this tool more helpful in recording their thoughts and ideas.