Tag: tools (page 1 of 6)

The Bottom 5

Everybody loves a list, or so I’ve heard. Most are happy, top of the charts list. Slipping into my devil’s advocate outfit for a bit, I would like to take the opposite route today and give you my Bottom 5 list of educational technologies. All of these, incidentally, are extremely popular and have made their respective companies more money than some countries. For each, however, I would assert that there are better, wiser, or less expensive alternatives. The list:

5. Microsoft Office. I really do consider myself an Office fan, at least for my own, personal use. I love the bells and the whistles and all that comes with Office. However, the question needs to be asked, “Do our teachers and students need all of those bells and whistles at that price?” Office licenses can cost schools and districts easily tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for each new adoption. Free alternatives such as Open Office or Libre Office get more Office-like with each new release. Google Apps for Education, also free, has significantly fewer features, but the core tools are there, it can be accessed anywhere a computer meets an internet connection, and it is a collaboration godsend. The more we look at how our teachers and students use these productivity apps, the harder it is to justify the expense of full-blown Office. (Note: I understand that moving to a free alternative incurs some initial costs, particularly related to professional development on the new tools. Long-term, though, it pales by comparison.)

Source: http://oldcomputers.net/pet4032.html

Source: http://oldcomputers.net/pet4032.html

4.Desktop Computers. In the past, desktops were the most common and attractive classroom computer option. This was largely due to the very significant expense associated with laptops. Today, however, there are very affordable laptop and tablet devices all over the market. Not only do thse give students and teachers largely the same capabilities, they can move with the student. This promotes a modern learning environment, where students can engage in projects and problem solving in flexible arrangements that are determined by the demands of the task, not the location of the desk/table. They are also much easier to take home in a backpack.

3. Document Cameras. I know teachers whose document cameras are easily the most cherished piece of technology they’ve ever had. Many of them say the cameras, teamed with their digital projectors, of course, have revolutionized the way they teach. I could get into the generally VERY teacher-centric practices I’ve witnessed involving teaching with document cameras, and probably should. However, I’ll just offer for now that there are better alternatives that accomplish the same things and much more. A teacher equipped with an iPad, display software such as Reflector, and an iPad display stand, such as a Juststand, can use their device as a document camera. They can easily record, show websites, display apps, and more. And, of course, they can disconnect the iPad from the stand and take it across the campus, out of the building, or place it into a student’s hands. All of this is possible at a price generally less than most document cameras models out there.

iwb

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/virtuallearningcenter/2839193301

2. Interactive Whiteboards. IWB critics are not hard to find. One of the most vocal, Gary Stager, famously describes IWBs as “a terrible investment that breathes new life into medieval educational practices.” He criticized the boards for their support of a teacher-focused teaching style and IWB curriculum that centers “on low-level repetition, memorization, and discrete skills devoid of any meaningful content.” His main argument, though, and the one that I have come to appreciate most, is that these devices are insanely pricy and take away dollars that could (and should) be used in a way that directly benefits students, such as the purchase of student laptops. When we focus on student needs over teacher needs (wants, in this case), IWBs cannot be the choice.

clicker

Original image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/acroamatic/370925701

1. Student Response Systems. Perhaps no other device offers as little power and educational value for the dollar as the student response system, or “clicker”. Clickers save teachers from the arduous, tedious tasks of counting raised hands or actually listening to student thoughts and responses. They provide detailed insights into almost exclusively superficial questions and low-level understanding.  Meanwhile, they set back campuses thousands of dollars per classroom set. As alternatives, schools might consider investing in tablets such as iPads and feedback apps like Socrative, Nearpod, even the Forms tool in Google Drive. They’d be able to get the outcomes they wanted from the clickers but also have the potential to use the devices for endless, more powerful applications. Of course, feedback could come via direct observation or conversations with students, but that’s probably just crazy talk.

What are your thoughts? Am I way off? Are there other technologies that deserve less respect and less money?

The Classroom Tech Food Chain

This is a Prezi I created for a presentation on classroom technology use and levels of rigor. It incorporates ideas from Dr. Bernajean Porter’s Technology and Learning Spectrum and the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, and I’ve listed technology resources that could be used at the various levels. It is vital to understand that the key component is not the technology tool being used, but the manner in which it is applied. Many of the tools listed could be used at multiple levels of complexity, depending upon their application in instruction.

 

5 Most Impactful Technologies of 2010-2011

As the 2010-2011 school year comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on the technologies that have had the biggest impact on teaching and learning this year in our district. Some are primarily teaching tools, while others have had a huge impact on the way kids learn and demonstrate their learning. In no particular order…

  • iPad &  iPod Touch. I’ve owned an iPod Touch for sometime now (1st generation), and I love the device. Still, the first time I got my hands onipad aniPad, I was somewhat, but not overly impressed. It was shiny and from Apple, something I am admittedly susceptible to as an official cult member. However, the earliest apps I tried were somewhat less than dazzling. What turned my opinion quickly 180° was what I observed when I took the iPad home and put it in the hands of my then 6- and 9-year old children. The little digital natives snatched it eagerly and set off to exploring, needing no instructions from their digital immigrant father. They navigated, opened, and mastered apps with incredible ease and enthusiasm. A similar experience has occurred in an increasing number of classrooms in Birdville, and schools are using Title 1 and grant funds to add the powerful tools as viable solutions in an economic climate that makes traditional computers (and their pricy software, especially) less so. As an elementary computer, especially, there is nothing out there as perfectly suited. As an example, my first grade teacher wife uses 2 iPads in her literacy program. Students read along with interactive Dr. Suess books (and others), practice writing words and constructing sentences, test their spelling knowledge, and create stories. Her only lament is that she has just the two, and she has plans to add more as soon as possible. Oh, and I should mention that the apps have become more amazing, as developers have figured out the best ways to take advantage of the iDevices’ capabilities.
  • Interactive Whiteboards. Some in the educational technology world lament (even loath) the use of IWBs as being too teacher-centric, proposing that money would be better spent on student devices. While they make strong points in support of their case, such an argument stems from the misguided belief that the teacher should never be the central focal point of the classroom. Reality is quite different, and there is a vital role for teachers to play, at times, as the “expert” sharing knowledge. It also fails to recognize the ways IWBs can be used by students as active participants in lessons, simulations, games, etc. In Birdville, the numbers of IWBs is currently fairly small but growing, with at least 4 elementary schools now having them in every classroom, and numerous other campuses making plans for similar implementation. Teachers frequently say that the boards have increased attention and engagement, and that they have become critical tools used every school day.
  • Cellphones. This technology continues to be controversial, but it’s impact in many classrooms is beyond debate.ipower Teachers are taking advantage of the ever-increasing numbers of students coming to school equipped with pocket-sized computers more powerful than what was on our desktops just a few years ago. They are already Internet-capable and have text-messaging abilities, offering another tool for communication. And, as an added benefit, today’s phones have still and video cameras that exceed most of the available cameras from only a few years back. These features make cellphones useful for information gathering, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The knock on cellphones in our district continues to be their role as a disruptive force, as students in many cases have yet to discern what appropriate, educational use looks like. Because of that, many teachers still ban their appearance in their classrooms. Still, the numbers of teachers embracing their use is steadily growing. For more information on our efforts, visit our mobile devices blog.
  • Blended Classrooms/Online Learning. Birdville has had online courses for several years now. These were typically the traditional, 100% online type, however. More recently, we are experiencing a steady growth in the numbers of teachers who are finding ways to take traditional, campus-based courses into the online world. Tools being used range from district-hosted Moodle servers to online resources such as Edmodo and Facebook. Students engage in discussions, download notes and assignments, view teacher-created videos or playlists, and more.
  • web20croppedWeb 2.0. This overlaps a little with the category above, but it is much broader. The biggest distinction here is the way that our students’ use of Web 2.0 has enabled them to created endless amounts of content on the Internet. Students are telling stories, using tools like Storybird, VoiceThread, and Animoto. They are collaborating using tools such as Wallwisher, Todaysmeet, and Google Docs. Wikis and blogs are giving students the opportunity to share their knowledge and their writing skills with an authentic audience, adding meaningfulness and motivation to their learning. YouTube is being embraced as a tool for creativity, sharing classroom/campus events, and knowledge-gathering. What is truly exciting is that such tools are really no longer seen as novelties. Rather, they are becoming as commonplace as pencils or textbooks in many of our classrooms.

Web 2.0 Introduction & Workshop: Lumberton, TX

I’ve updated my introduction to Web 2.0 handout and wanted to share it here. Feel free to download, modify, and use it as you see fit.

Web 2.0 Handout 2010

Still Just Searching? 20 Google Tools to Test Drive

Google is almost universally known for its powerful search tool (Okay, I realize some intelligent life in another galaxy may not know about Google yet, but I’m sure they are working on that.). And it’s fair to say that the numbers of users of Google Maps, Reader, and Gmail is certainly vast and continues to grow. However, if you have never taken the time to explore beyond these wonderful tools, however, it is certainly worth the time. Google continues to innovate, and there is an incredible array of tools that have potential for the curriculum. The following is a sampling of Google resources that are a good place to start your exploration.

  1. Image Search.  Not a new tool, but there is an important feature that many educators may not be aware of. Utilizing the advanced search feature, users can find images that are licensed for various types of use, meaning students can access images without worrying about copyright issues.googleimage
  2. Knol. Somewhat similar to Wikipedia, Knol lets users create articles, called Knols, based upon topics of their choice. Knols can be individual or may allow different levels of collaboration. Images, documents, and other content can be included.
  3. Groups. Similar to Ning, Groups lets users create sites around a particular topic or interest. Host discussions, share resources, add images or video, create a custom appearance, or browse and join an existing group.
  4. Picasa. Google continues to add features to its popular photo editing tool. Users can geotag images using Google Maps, create collaborative galleries, and, with the most recent feature, identify and tag images using face recognition technology. Picasa identifies all of the photos in a collection with the same person’s face, allowing for easy identification and organization.
  5. Sites. Essentially a wiki tool from Google. Users can create collaborative websites about whatever topic they choose. Choose from a variety of templates, embed external features, add Google Maps, documents, images, and more.
  6. Building Maker. Uses images and Google SketchUp to allow users to create photo-realistic, 3D models of actual buildings. Approved models can be added to Google Earth. A bit challenging at first, but could be a great tool for older students.
  7. Translate. Translates text into any of 52 languages. If you click on the Tools and Resources link, there is an embeddable widget that allows visitors to translate your website with a single click. Great tool for teachers of students with families of languages other than English.
  8. Public Data Explorer. Just released this week, this tool from Google Labs allows data sets to be visualized in an interactive format, allowing users to view changes over time.
    public data
  9. Moderator. Lets a user post topics or questions, and group members can vote for or against posts, or enter responses or questions. Might serve as a potentially valuable tool for formative assessment or determining topics of interest for discussion.
  10. Voice. Free voicemail from Google. Users get a local number, which can be set to ring to any other number (Mine is (817) 601-5850–feel free to call!). Also, users get a text version of the message (albeit a bit rough, but, hey, still pretty amazing!). You’ll need an invitation, which can be requested through the site. Responses may take a few days.
  11. Mars. Really cool site that allows users to view infrared, elevation, and visible maps of Mars, and to focus on different types of geographic features, such as mountains, valleys, plains, etc.
    Google Mars
  12. Custom Search. Handy tool for creating a customized Google search bar that can be added to any website. One of the most useful features is that it allows teachers (or, even better, students) to select the specific sites from which the search results will be taken, eliminating the confusion that can result when results come from the entire Web.
  13. Alerts. Simple tool that will send an email message when websites publish new information about a chosen topic. Great tool for keeping up with news or current events topics.
  14. Life Magazine Photo Archive. Galleries of images from the pages of Life magazine dating to the 1750s, available for student projects.
  15. Fast Flip. Search and find news from a wide range of sources in a quick-access, visual format. Additional results can be accessed by…you guessed it…flipping through the page (clicking-and-dragging).
    Google Fast Flip
  16. Squared. Experimental search tool that returns results in a table format similar to a spreadsheet. Breaks results down into useful sub-categories. For instance, the search for Haiti pictured below resulted in categories such as currency, languages, ethnic groups, etc. Results can also be exported into Google Docs or in an Excel-compatible, .csv format.
    Google Squared
  17. Archive Search. View authentic archival resources such as newspaper articles with this search tool. Although most archives have a cost associated with their use, many are free. The example below is from a 1948 edition of the Palm Beach Post.
    Google News Archive Search
  18. Image Swirl. Experimental image search tool that returns results as an interactive web of interrelated results. I can see some potential for visual learners or younger students, particularly.
    Google Image Swirl
  19. City Tours. Google Maps tool that suggests walking tours of various locations. Most interestingly from an educator perspective, students can create their own custom tours using the My Maps feature of Google Maps. I can imagine tours of neighborhoods, cities, local historical landmarks, etc.
  20. Transliteration. Not to be confused with Translate, Tranliteration converts Roman characters into phonetic spellings in 19 different languages. In other words, it gives users the pronunciation of words in their own written languages. This is how Google Transliteration sees this sentence in Greek. (There is a joke here, but it’s too obvious, even for me.)
    Google Transliteration

TCEA Areas 10/11 Conference Links

Thanks to all who participated in my sessions/workshop today at the area TCEA conference. As promised, here are the links to the resources that were shared and a few more. Let me know if I can provide anything else! Also, if you attended either my own session on Voicethread or another on the tool, please add your implementation ideas to the Voicethread Wallwisher wall below. Thanks again!

Workshop: Collaborative Storytelling with Voicethread

Image collections

Not Again! Presentation Tools That Aren’t Just Another PowerPoint

PowerPoint sharing/collaboration/tools

Alternatives to PowerPoint

Spread the Word: Generating School or Classroom Buzz with Web 2.0

Microblogging

Social Networks

Video Sites for Creating Your Own Channel

Streaming Video Channels

Examples

21st Century Skills Resources

    Two New Tools Poised for Big Impact in BISD

    Much of my existence at work at the moment is preoccupied with the implementation of two new tools. The first is a subscription-based school website service, Schoolwires. The second is a new student email service from Microsoft, Live@Edu. Both tools hold a great deal of promise for facilitating and enhancing communication within the district and beyond. The task for my own department at the moment is to provide support and training for the implementation of each and to provide guidance for the most effective use of both tools. I’ll be sharing more about the latter topic in the weeks ahead, undoubtedly.

    For those unfamiliar with these tools, a brief synopsis is in order. I’ll begin with Schoolwires, as it has been my primary focus for the past month or so. At its most basic level, Schoolwires is providing our district with an online website-construction platform. Our users can login from any Internet-connected computer and edit their designated sites. The interface is relatively simple to learn, with many of the familiar, Windows-esque icons found in typical Office applications. Teachers can easily add text, links, images, videos, etc. Feedback has been almost universally positive, particularly from a convenience standpoint. In addition to basic content, what has me most excited about the service is that teachers can easily incorporate several Web 2.0 tools in their sites. Schoolwires has a tool for creating blog pages, for instance. This tool is very simple and streamlined, and includes capabilities to moderate discussions or to allow only specific categories of users to view posts (teachers, parents, students, etc.). Additionally, teachers can very quickly and easily add podcasts to a dedicated page, complete with buttons to subscribe via RSS or iTunes. RSS icons appear on other pages, as well, such as assignments pages and class calendars. Using these types of tools has been much more labor-intensive or required using sites outside of the classroom pages previously used in the district, so the potential is there for much greater implementation and impact.

    Microsoft’s Live@Edu is a relatively new, free (yes, free…from Microsoft!) service from the company. Although I referred to it as a student email service, that really sells the product short. In addition to email, Live@Edu provides students with online versions of Office applications, which can be used collaboratively, similar to Google Docs or Zoho. Also, students each have 26 gigs of online storage, eliminating the need for thumb drives or burning work to CDs. Files may be private, public, or shared. These features hold great promise for making learning collaborative and anytime, anywhere experiences. It should be mentioned that Live@Edu works with our existing Microsoft Exchange service, meaning that updating accounts will be faster and easier than with previous tools we’ve tried. We will be continuing to refine our district standards for the use of the tools, and I will share these refinements as they come about. At the moment, we will be focusing on equipping teachers and students to utilize the Live@Edu tools in the most effective ways possible. Suggestions are, as always, very welcome!

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