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Posts Tagged ‘ed tech’

Do you know what technology your school has that is at your immediate disposal? I am guessing that there may be more than you think.

There is a lot of money floating around today for technology in schools, more than most realize, and schools are using the money. One of the problems is keeping up with what is being purchased and shelved, much of which teachers never use.

Many teachers kind of get hung up on having a computer for every student to use everyday. I’ll be the first to admit that is is certainly the ideal situation, and I can’t wait until this becomes a reality in my own classroom. However, until then, I am going to use whatever else I can get my hands on, or even better, whatever I can get the student’s hands on.

The first place to look for unused technology is the computer lab. I have worked in several different schools now, and it seems that for teachers that want it, there is time available to get students on computers. Granted, they can’t be used every day. The labs are usually shared with the whole school. Despite this, I am always amazed at how many hours go by without any students tapping the keyboards. A computer lab not being used every hour of the day amounts to a lot of money that is being wasted. Find out how many computers are available in the school, find out how to get access to them, and use them.

Like I said earlier, computers are not the only technology. More and more, teachers have an interactive whiteboard mounted in the front of the classroom that is used for nothing more than a projector screen. While these boards do not always live up to the hype that is often associated with them, they are still a great technology for enhancing instruction, when used properly. The key here is to learn how to use the thing. Take some time when students are not in the room and figure out a way to incorporate some of the boards functions into classroom instruction.

Another great place to look for technology is the school library. Oftentimes, there is a wealth of technology just sitting on shelves in the library collecting dust. Libraries usually have money to work with that allows for new and innovative learning tools like document cameras, clickers, iPods, e-readers, and more. All you have to do is ask.

One other place to look for technology is other teachers. I don’t know how many times I have talked to teachers to learn that they have a set of clickers, or a tablet, or a class set of cameras. These are often acquired through mini grants, and after being used once or twice start taking on dust as a shelf ornament.

Oftentimes, the problem is not that we don’t have any technology to use, it’s that we’re not using the technology we already have.

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Since my blog post last April, I have run across a few more templates that will be useful for fake Facebook projects with students.
While I really like the web based applications, as I have discussed before, they are not always reliable, so these templates are both a little more stable and more user friendly.

Google Docs Template: This template was originally posted on Google Docs by Meghen Ehrich. The new improved version of the template has an added page for more wall posts. It also has an additional page for comments attached at the end. This page can be duplicated as many times as necessary to add posts to the wall. To do this click on the page in the cue on the left of the screen, click on “Slide” at the top of the page, and then click on “duplicate slide.” This will allow for Facebook projects that have several pages of wall posts. I have had students do this project and produce over 20 pages of wall posts! To make replies to posts, just slide over the picture box and the text box. This makes the pages look realistic when they are finished.

Revised PowerPoint Template for 2010: This link will take you to Lindsay Cesari’s blog, No Shhing Here. She has taken the PowerPoint template that has been floating around for awhile and updated it to look more realistic. However, as often as Facebook is changing their interface, this “new” template is probably already out of date. It doesn’t matter. The general look is still great, and this template will work produce nice looking pages.

 

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The internet is supposed to make us more connected. For most people, it is definitely a tool to keep on top of what is happening. The email is checked several times a day, along with Facebook walls and twitter feeds.

We (I am included in this) are great consumers. However, when was the last time you contributed to the conversation? As much as being a mass consumer, it is equally important to be a participant, sharing knowledge, insight and thoughts with others.

Here’s a few places to start:

1. Start a blog

2. Email the link to a cool article to colleagues

3. Share a video with your friends on Facebook (instead of just watching what others are doing).

4. Leave a comment on a blog

5. Make a Youtube video giving your thoughts on education

Those who benefit the most from the internet are those who have become active participants.

 

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Most teachers agree that it is time to start using technology in the classroom. However, using technology in the classroom looks quite different from teacher to teacher, and it’s possible that many are using in the wrong way.

I was reading Scott McLeod’s blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, and his latest post features a list of actions that Connecticut school leaders are proposing will transform the way students learn. Of all the changes listed, one caught my eye, and I have been thinking about it all day:

Typical current practice: Technology used to make teaching more efficient.

Proposed transformative practice: Technology used to transform teaching and learning.

Technology is often seen as a means of making teaching easier. Grading, writing, and communicating can all be greatly improved and streamlined using technology in the classroom. Finding information and sharing it with students can be done with few clicks.

The problem is that many of the old teaching practices are still being used. It’s just a lot easier to do now. This is great, but we can do better. Technology can be used to totally change the way teachers teach and the way students learn. This will require work. This will require learning, especially on the part of the teacher. This may require educating parents as well as students on what learning looks like. Once this is done, then the real learning can begin.

Only after technology is used to transform our current teaching practices will we see great dividends in the education of students.

 

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Currently, I teach an 8th grade class that focuses solely on research, and my two Senior classes writing research papers. For the last several days, I have listened to students complain that they can’t find enough information for their papers. I have explained that there are books written on many of the topics they have chosen. The problem is not a lack of information. It’s just knowing how to find it.

With Google, Yahoo, Bing, and all the other search engines out there, finding information should be easy. Really, compared to the way research was done 15 or 20 years ago, it is easier. Let me rephrase that; it is a whole lot easier, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that it is “easy.”

Research is hard work, even with all the tools that the Web provides. Take a service that searches database archives such as Ebsco Host. Finding good information still takes time, patience, and a certain amount of skill. I am yet to discover a means of finding good information on the Web without work, and this doesn’t only apply to scholarly study. All sorts of information that will help me live a more productive and fulfilling life sits at my fingertips.

Last year, Amber Case gave a TED talk titled “We are all Cyborgs now.” In her talk, she explains how the technology we use, specifically computers and smartphones, become an extension of our brains. While there is some harsh criticism on her ideas, I think she is right in the sense that I no longer have to remember every important fact that I hear and read. I just have to have a means of getting back to that information when I need it in the future. In other words, I have to know how to find it.

The cool thing is that I also have instant access to all sorts of facts and information that I have never heard before. I see the Web as an extension of our brain that is connected to everyone’s brain who uses the internet as depository for what they have learned or even thought and imagined.

It is this thinking and imagining thing that makes research hard. There is so much information packed into this “extension” of our brain, that we have to learn to discern what is good and what is bad. Doing this can make our real brain hurt at times!

Students (and teachers) need to realize that finding good information is hard work. There is no easy way to do it. However, the effort and discipline is worth it and necessary because after wading through the junk, there is a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge to be accessed.

Just think of the advantage a person has who possesses the knowledge of how to find information using the Web.

 

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Tonight, I was working on some fake Facebook resources and clicked on My Fake Wall, a resource that I have used in the past. The link took me to a page that said the site was offline. There was no indication of when it would be up and running again. There is a chance that it never will be. I was glad that using this site was not in the plans for class tomorrow!

This reminded me that no matter how well prepared you think you are, when using technology, there is always a chance of failure. The batteries in the camera die. The computer crashes. A website is down at the precise time that your classroom of thirty students is trying to log on. Believe me, this has happened to me more than once.

The web is unpredictable in this way, and I imagine it always will be. Maybe I should also say that the web is predictable in this way. At some point, it is going to let you down.

Having a decent backup plan is a must.

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Been thinking of doing a video project, but not sure where to get cameras for the students to use? I’d be willing to bet that you already have a bunch of cameras in the classroom. They are in the pockets of most students that walk through the doors of the school.

More and more students come to school with a phone that is equipped with a camera that will both take pictures and record video. If they don’t have a phone on them, there is a good chance that they will have an iPod. Whether it be a phone or an iPod, both will take excellent video footage for student video projects.

Some teachers may worry about students using their own equipment in case it gets lost or stolen. Remember, the students are already bringing it to school, and don’t be fooled, they are already using it, probably in your classrom. You might as well put it to good use.

Before you have students go out and film a project on their own device, make sure that there is a means of capturing the video and transferring it to the computer for editing. This is the one drawback in using several different kinds of devices, but I think that more and more, companies are formatting the video so it can easily be downloaded to a computer. Honestly, I have had more problems trying to get video off cam-corders that students bring than I have downloading video from mobile devices.

Having students use their devices for school work definitely gets students engaged in the work. They see that that thing they carry around in their pocket all day can be used for more than social interaction. It is a tool for learning and sharing.

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