I have a meeting Monday to talk about what new stuff we want to buy for next year. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. We did a needs (really a wants) survey with the staff earlier this year and we had a lot of teachers ask for interactive white boards or iPad carts. I have one colleague, who, even though she houses an iPad cart, is lobbying heavily for her own that she doesn’t ever have to share. If we bought everything people asked for (not including repairing, replacing or upgrading, including upgrading our OS including servers), it would be pretty close to 200K. That’s a lot of money.
I will admit that I work for a school that really wants to remain cutting edge. In fact, I’ve been known to admit that I’ve never had a reasonable technology request denied.
That’s why I’m recommending that we buy very little of what my colleagues want for next year.
In my fifteen years of working with ed tech, I’ve never heard anyone say “I wish we’d bought x a year earlier.”
I’ve never said it. Have you?
I don’t want to buy classroom carts. I don’t want to jump into one-to-one.
Right now we have thirteen carts of devices that are distributed throughout the building, mostly in classrooms, and two labs. That’s plenty for our school judging from the data (which, admittedly, isn’t completely accurate because I don’t think people who house carts are really good at reserving them). I realize sharing can be a pain, but I’m not seeing much of a justification for buying more stuff. Learn how to share, people.
What I want is to plan, share outcomes and reflect. The stuff money can’t buy.
I want to meet regularly with the teachers who have IWBs and figure out how they’re using them and how they want to use them. I REALLY don’t want to buy more without seeing where they’re making a difference NOW.
I want to meet with the teachers who want to use iPads in their classrooms and figure out how they want to use them for authentic learning experiences, not just for the bells and whistles.
Most of all, I want to figure out how we determine if these awesome tools are, well, actually doing anything other than increase student (and, maybe, teacher) engagement. You know…are the kids learning more because they’re swiping, not typing? I want systematic, allocated time for planning and reflection. I’m no fan of all data all the time, but I would like to figure out how we’ll measure success.
I do want to buy every teacher an iPad for his or own use in and out of the classroom. Some of them haven’t even held tablets yet. I want to spend next year exploring them with the staff – using them for our own productivity and sharing, modeling their use at faculty meetings and professional development.
Then, once we’ve taken a full school year to explore how we’re using them, I’ll talk about putting more into our kids’ hands.
We shall see.
PowToon is a great way to create an animation – whether you’re creating one for your class or if you’d like a great web-based tool for your students to create one. Sign up for your free account! Here’s how one teacher used it to introduce a new unit to her class:
I’m a big fan of PBS.org’s website. I especially like their timeline on 200 years of literary history of The American Novel
Isn’t it fascinating how people interact with screens? Think of all the screens we stare at: TV, computer, iPad, iPhone… British artist Robbie Cooper wants to document our faces while immersed in screen interaction. He’s got a new project that he’s trying to get funded (using the awesome crowdfunding resource Kickstarter) called The Immersion Project. It will be easy to participate – agree to have your computer webcam take a photo every couple minutes while you’re playing a game or otherwise entranced by technology. Robbie envisions a website, exhibition, book and documentary on the topic. Can you imagine a display of our students’ faces while they’re engaged in tech?
I know many of you are already using and loving Socrative as a way to have your students electronically answer quizzes. Another resource is InfuseLearning. It’s free and your students can use it with any Internet-connected device. You set up a classroom and your students join – it’s as simple as that! You can run quizzes, have your students complete exit slips, or you can push a web link out to your students’ devices. I love it!
My colleague Carol and Lynn’s discovery projects have sixth graders traveling all over the web to research and present some fascinating information! In particular, some of their students have really fallen in love with Prezi to organize and present their projects. Kids like it cause it’s slick and, since it’s in the cloud, they can work on their presentations at school or at home. I know I’ve mentioned Prezi before, but if you haven’t checked it out in a while, pop over there – they’ve changed the interface quite a bit and made it much easier to use (and now it feels much more like PowerPoint or Keynote, which makes it especially attractive to our students).
Sometimes, especially this time of year, we get so stressed out trying to get so many things accomplished that we forget one of the things we teachers tend to value: creativity. We Are Teachers has a lovely article on 40 ways to integrate creativity into your lessons. Mason jar dioramas – I love it!
Finally…you are aware, aren’t you, that Pesach is just around the corner? Check out a crowdsourced resource on creative seders and other resources that can enrich your Pesach celebration. And feel free to add anything you like to the Google doc!
Infographics are everywhere – they’re great for displaying a lot of information on a screen or in a poster. For an easy way to create them, visit Easel.ly. Pick a theme, drop in your information and go!
LibriVox is a great website with free audiobooks from the public domain. You can listen online or download them.
If you’d like to record a 30-second audio clip, or have your students record one, visit Croak.it. Like similar audio recording websites, it’s easy to use and pretty intuitive. Unlike other websites, however, Croak.it stores your audio clip on its own web server and gives you a URL where you can find it later. Very nice! It’s limited to 30 seconds, though, so you (or your students) need to be concise! There are also free iOS and Android apps.
Haiku Deck is a nice easy-to-use app that creates slide show presentations. Here’s a good article about Haiku Deck and its possibilities.
A number of my colleagues and I attended a terrific workshop last week on Burley School’s iPad program, given by first grade teacher Kristin Ziemke. Kristin blogs about Burley’s iPad journey – it’s a great resource!
ThingLink is a website where you can upload an image and add video and audio. Think of it as a tool to turn a static image into an interactive graphic. There’s a great toolkit to explore how to use it as a teaching tool and a slide show that explains more. I love it!
Here’s a terrific article at TeachThought about how to promote student self-direction in your classroom.
Yeshiva University has created a useful network for Jewish educators using technology in the classroom called YU2.0. There are blogs, forums and groups for special interest such as Apps in education, connecting with Israel via technology and SMART Boards in the classroom.
What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial? I don’t watch the game, but I have to say that Amy Poehler’s Best Buy commercial, in which she says “dongle” several times, made me laugh.
Check out an amazing video that shows images of what’s called the Extreme Deep Field (EDF). These images represent the farthest we (humans) have ever seen into the Universe. The very end of the video pans back from the EDF to help provide a better perspective on the actual vastness of the Universe.
Here’s another one of those great aggregate sites with links to places on the web where you can find educational games and simulations just perfect for interactive white boards.
Succeeding with Science is a great resource “designed to nurture an enthusiasm for science, engineering, technology and mathematics in young people.” You can search for special topics or browse by age group.
The Innovative Learning Environments Project studied how young people learn and which conditions and dynamics contribute to learning success. You can read about the project at their website. There’s a great article referencing it at Mindshift.
Buy a couple iPad stands. Once you have them you’ll find dozens of ways to use them. For our yearbook this year we took iPad photos of the graduates’ baby photos rather than scanning them. It was much faster and the quality was great. My teachers use them in class as document cameras, too. We bought the Justand brand – they’re really durable and versatile.
Here’s a video from the company:
Check out this Google spreadsheet - lots of apps for Jewish educators. Nicely done!
Check out SMART Board Smarty for downloadable lessons and Notebook files for the SMART Board. Games, jigsaw puzzles, tutorials and more!
Digital storytelling is one of ed tech’s buzzwords about, well, using technology to tell stories. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning (which, by the way, is a great website in itself) has a nice article about digital storytelling and free tools you can use.
If you’re searching the web for specific information, NoodleTools can be a great resource. Identify what you’re looking for, whether it needs to be current or not, and what categories your results should come from, and NoodleTools will do the rest.
Storybird is a beautiful way to create a story with your students. It’s kind of “flipped” storytelling – you choose the illustration and then create the story. The illustrations are simply lovely – please take a look at them.
Educaplay is a site where you can create your own multimedia learning activities or search for ones that have been created by others. You need to sign up to use the site, but membership is free. Use the site to create vocabulary activities, crossword puzzles, matching games, etc. that can be used on a SMART Board.
We’re fortunate enough to have a number of iPads, which are centrally managed by our IT department. That’s great, except for when we have special projects that require the students to access specific websites. It’s too time consuming to have our IT department add web links for a short project (and, let’s face it, it’s entirely likely that we need those links available pretty quickly – too quickly to go through IT). Rather than worry about getting the web links on the iPads, we just generate QR codes for them and have the kids use the QR code reader on the iPad to get to the site. It seems obvious, now that I’ve written it out, but it, um, took us a while to figure that out.
There are a few good websites to use if you want to create a timeline, but one of the nicest is Preceden. A basic account is free, but you should know that timelines are viewable by the public. Timelines are interactive and can include media.
And now… math in action (literally). Mindshift has a great article about how one fifth grade teacher blended math and dancing to teach about patterns.
Proving that you can find beauty in anything, Professor Gary Greenberg invented high-definition, three-dimensional light microscopes that he uses to take unbelievable photographs of the most mundane of subjects…sand. Viewed – and photographed – through Dr. Greenberg’s invention, sand becomes a real work of art. View his gallery here.
Happy Tu B’shevat! Per the Open Siddur Project, The first ever published seder for Tu Bishvat — Pri Etz Hadar (The Fruit of the Majestic Tree) — can be found in a kabbalistic text, first published as a pamphlet in Venice in 1728. The first three sections have been translated. Go hug a tree!