To say that I love technology would be a huge understatement. I am pretty sure I don’t know how to operate my classroom without it. I love the endless possibilities, teachable moments, and 21st century applications that technology provides. Social media alone has allowed collaboration and the sharing of ideas to go beyond the 4 walls of my classroom. I am most thankful for a district and administrator that supports and allows the use of technology because as I said before, I don’t know how to operate my classroom without it. Would I make it work? Absolutely. But would I be granting my students digital citizenship and 21st century learning opportunities? Not so much.
That being said I feel there are 6 tech tools that all educators MUST have or go and get immediately:
- Twitter: Hands down the best PD and resource out there. Who doesn’t like the to hear the words: free, 24 hours a day, millions of people, never leaving your house, and wearing PJs all while growing professionally?! Can it be daunting at first, yes but anything new is. To be honest, I use to think Twitter was ridiculous. Why do I need to tell people what I’m eating for dinner and what do you mean I only get 140 characters? Then I happened upon an article entitled 60 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom and I thought….why not? I started with a classroom account and used it as a way to communicate with parents the happenings of second grade. Then my own account was born where I used it to reflect and summarize educator books I was reading. It was thanks to the book Teach Like a Pirate and #tlap that I discovered hashtags and chats. I feel Twitter almost needs its very own post at this point. However, I have loved how my classroom has been able to share out their learning, summarize their thoughts, organize topics using hashtags and publish writing pieces on a global level. Sign up and you will find yourself wondering what took you so long!
- Edublogs (or any type of blog): Blogging has done wonders for strengthening the home school connection. My first 7 years as an educator, I distributed a paper newsletter. My first 4 years this was done in Microsoft Word and was written in narrative form. Then thanks to grad school, I came to the realization that no one was reading that. So I started using Microsoft Publisher and turning each section into something that was easier to read. Then I started working with Kelsie and she inspired me to start a classroom blog. That was 3 years ago and I haven’t looked back. It has become the main communication hub for my classroom. Everything is posted there! Now instead of printing a newsletter every week, I just have it be a post. I also try to post the happenings of second grade, share published student work, assignments and important documents. It has also given me the opportunity to create flipped learning opportunities for families. I love the ability to type of posts from the comfort of my living room, connect with families at home, and comment back to students who are sharing their learning! I highly encourage you to start a blog for you classroom. I personally love Edublogs but there are several platforms you can choose from. Just choose the one that you are most comfortable with and can maintain. Please feel free to visit us: https://sososeussey.edublogs.org/
- Remind: This used to be called Remind101 but it is a must have tool in terms of communication with parents. Parents can sign up to receive text message and or email alerts and no numbers are shared. I used to communicate homework, field trips, special event reminders, and dress up days. This year I started adding talking points they can ask their child. These will hopefully spark conversations about the learning taking place at school and will encourage families to continue the learning at home. At back to school night, it is a slide and I have every parent pull out their phone and sign up right then and there.
- Educreations: This is a perfect app for your iPad that is a vital piece in the journey through the wonderful world that is flipping your classroom. I love the simplicity of the app and how user friendly it is. You can insert pictures and or draw items while recording your voice at the same time. My teaching partner and I primarily started using it as a way to flip our cursive. Students have a week to watch the video with the letters of the week and then at school we can focus more on practicing and actually writing more. We had such great success and feedback from our cursive videos that it gave us the momentum to flip math lessons too. We have found this to be a much needed part of our math instruction especially with common core. Creating these videos has not only has been helpful for our students, but for our families. The family gets to hear the language and the explanation which then in turn gives them what they need to help their child be successful.
- SeeSaw: http://web.seesaw.me/ This is an amazing online digital portfolio. It is an app for iPad, Android, and a website. This app allows you to upload student work in the form of a photo, drawing, note, video, and or a link. There is an even an option for students to do a voice over to explain their thinking. I discovered this app while on a mission to figure out a better way to manage student data binders. A kindergarten teacher in our district shared this simple and easy management tool. I heard the words technology and paperless and was hooked. This portfolio was the missing piece to student led conferences. During the conference, students shared their portfolio along with glows and grows. After the conference, parents then were granted access and can now check on their child’s progress whenever they want. SeeSaw sends them alerts whenever a new item is posted and they can leave comments. Students can also log in and upload their own work. To ensure proper rules are being followed, teachers can select to approve each item. I love how easy this has made managing all of my student’s work. Instead of making multiple copies, hole punching them, and helping students get them into a binder, I simply take a picture and upload it to that student’s account. I no longer have to cart as many papers home now. I just upload the pictures from my phone right into SeeSaw. I love how this company sends emails with tips and suggestions as well as provides excellent ideas on Twitter. I can’t wait to continue expanding on ways to showcase my student’s work.
- YouTube: Thanks to Learn Like a Pirate by: Paul Solarz, my eyes were opened to using YouTube in the classroom. I created a classroom page at first to have one main place to store videos we made. I wanted a bigger venue then Vimeo and something that gave me more options. After learning the ropes on my own page, I learned you can create playlists. This has been a game changer in terms of time management and smooth transitions in the classroom. Normally when I wanted to pull up a video, I would either go to my longs list of favorites or search. Then I would have to find the right one that was the right length and by then I had lost the momentum of the lesson. Now I created a playlist that saves the videos I want all in one place. For example, I love using videos/songs to teach Grammar. I created a Grammar playlist that now houses all the grammar videos I have used. These are videos I know will play all the way through and have the best quality. If I have a substitute, instead of them trying to navigate my lists and direction to find brain breaks they just pull up the playlist and hit play. When one video is completed it will automatically go to the next video in your playlist. I also love this for parents to who are looking for ways to encourage learning at home. They can access my playlists too. I no longer have to search and loose precious instructional time to find a video I need! Feel free to visit us: Seussville’s YouTube Channel
Phew! These are my must have tech tools for educators. They have allowed me to work smarter not harder and have opened up endless doors of possibilities. Creating lifelong learners is a goal of any educator and these tools will have you well on your way to reaching that goal.