“Integrating” Technology

What’s up folks?! It’s officially 2018 and educational technology is booming at an alarming rate. In other words, there are options available to teachers, students, and parents that didn’t exist just 10 years ago. Apps, web tools, and devices that are now becoming faster, smaller, and less expensive. Students no longer need to view a screen from 30 feet away to see the content being presented to them (Thank you Nearpod and Google Cast for EDU). Students can reflect on a topic or question from the privacy of their own home with their own personal device (Thank you Recap and Flipgrid). Peer collaboration and feedback can be done from any internet-enabled device from anywhere in the world (Thank you GSuite and PeerGrade). Anyone can create a professional video to be seen by a global audience with a Smartphone and free web tools (Thank you WeVideo, YouTube, and SoundTrap). Professional development is now at our fingertips on demand with podcasts (Thank you House of EdTech, The EdTech Take Out, Cult Of Pedagogy, and all other educational podcasters). With all of these tools at our disposal, if someone was to walk into a random classroom in any school district in any state, student devices would probably be used to consume and not focus on the 4 C’s.

Why is this? Is the term “Integrating” too broad? Do schools and districts not teach what these look like in the classroom? Do school district network block many of these tools because of what they can “possibly” bring? What are the “possibilities” that these tools can bring to a classroom? Authentic experiences. That’s what they can bring.

Sure, someone who wants to use these tools for the Dark Side will do so. That’s where classroom management comes into play but that’s another topic for another day.

Integrating technology means students are creating content for others to view, evaluate, and possibly augment. Integrating looks like students using classroom and personal devices to create videos to be used in student-created lessons for virtual presentations. Students are not in rows but in pods around the room. The teacher is not teaching whole group rather, facilitating and working with small groups to check progress. The class is a bit louder than a “stand and deliver” environment because students are engaging with each other, collaborating with others, and engaging in feedback. Students, for the most part, want to come to class because of the authentic experiences that occur and the ability to tap into their creative side they normally cannot do in the typical classroom setting. If this is what true integration looks like in a classroom, ask yourself this, what does YOUR classroom technology integration look like? If you’re not a teacher, what does your child’s classroom look like when you walk in? What do you want it to look like?

Teachers, if you’d like to truly integrate technology do something you haven’t done or are possibly scared of doing. Step out of the comfort zone and understand that you will be uncomfortable. That’s OK. There are many others feeling what you are feeling and more importantly, there are many people who can hold your hand along the way. Twitter is a PLN. Connect with teachers who can assist you with this virtually and in your building. Your district probably has coaches who are more than willing to help you and model integration for you. Start off by taking one day a week without handing out worksheets. #worksheetlesswednesday. This is an achievable task that can be done with minimal effort. After doing this for a couple of weeks, beef it up by aligning what you’re doing with one of the 4 C’s. Continue checking in on Twitter and collaborating with others in your building and possibly outside your building. Listen to podcasts (such as EdTech Bites) and build your knowledge during your commutes, walks, workouts, or while cooking (Thank you Amazon Echo and Google Home). These baby steps towards true technology integration will bring you closer to the classroom teacher you’ve always wanted to be. More importantly, will create authentic experiences for your students. After all #kidsdeserveit right?

 

New Year, New You!

Too many times, we tell ourselves, “Things are going to be different this year”. And that’s where it ends. Things can be different whenever you choose for them to be different. It doesn’t have to be on January 1st or your birthday. Better only comes when you make things better. Simple as that. Marinate in that for a bit and Happy 2018! It will be whatever you make it to be!

Flipgrid + Nearpod

Have you ever considered app smashing with Flipgrid. There are many different ways to do this but my go-to tool to do this with is Nearpod. To do this, make sure you have both a Nearpod and Flipgrid account. Once that is done, you’re one step closer. To see step-by-step instructions, check out my how-to video that walks you through the rest of the process. Enjoy!

 

Kahoot Name Generator

Let’s face it, it’s human nature to push the boundaries, students in particular. We’ve all had to kick someone out of a Kahoot because of a name that is questionable to use in class. Sometimes we are so worried about starting a Kahoot in time that we overlook the game settings. Well in these settings is a Name Generator. Click that bad boy on and now, students no longer have the ability to create their own display name because Kahoot will do it for them. That’s extra time on task and less time for those students to take forever getting into the game because they’re more worried about their display name more than anything else. Try it out for yourself. Buen Provecho!

Death By…

If your refrigerator was empty, your next step would probably be to make a list of groceries for your next shopping trip. Which items would make it on your list? Eggs, bread, butter, milk, cold cuts, etc. Most of us usually buy the same 100 or so items when shopping, that’s it. We don’t stray away from our comfort items and necessities. However, when we go out to a restaurant and order an item that has ingredients other than that in your shopping list, it tastes great and we suddenly say,

“We need to make this at home!”
“This is different, but delicious!”
“I could get used to this!”

The same goes for using digital tools in the classroom. Why are we “Kahooting” our students to death? In no way am I saying that Kahoot is not a great formative assessment tool in the classroom. What I’m saying is that it’s not the only one out there. We’ve all heard of “Death By PowerPoint” and I’m comfortable in saying that “Death By Kahoot” is not too far off. Think for a second to your classroom or classrooms that you’ve visited in your educational role. I’m pretty sure that you’ve probably seen some sort of “Death By …”. As educators, we get comfortable with what works for us and that comfortable recliner is one that is difficult to get out of. When we do learn of a new tool or resource, we usually like it and see its value but then get turned off by the fact that we now have to create content with that new tool from scratch. Let’s think of this from a student perspective.

Diego walks into his 1st period at EdTech Bites Middle School and sits through a 28 minute PowerPoint and then takes a quiz through Google Forms after. Once he completes the quiz, he begins gathering his items and waits for the bell to ring. His 2nd period teacher does the same thing, and so does his 3rd period teacher. By the end of the day, his only deviations from this were lunch and gym class. Would you like to have the same coffee and bagel everyday for breakfast? There’s nothing wrong with coffee and a bagel but wouldn’t it be nice to have a blueberry scone or a veggie omelette on occasion? Sure, that scone would take some work to prepare and bake.  On the other hand, your family would be grateful that you took the time and effort to change things up.

Variety is the spice of life. Sure there are things that we always like to count on but there are instances where variety has value and can give you a bit more insight. Our digital toolboxes are growing yet some of those tools needs to be dusted off and used more. By doing so, you’re changing things up for your students and exposing them to other means of presenting, taking a quiz, and giving input. Don’t they deserve it? I know my children do. Do yours?

Who Has The Time To Do That?

“Who has time to do that?”

Often times, this is the response I get from my audience while delivering some sort of professional development that deals with digital tools, infusing technology, or instructional strategies. It is true, many of these tools and strategies do require some work up front. That can be a daunting task to anyone who is unfamiliar with a new tool or way of doing something. Instead of thinking of it as a time consuming task, think of it as time invested in trying something that might just work better, faster, and more effectively. With this in mind, what can we do as leaders, coaches, mentors, and colleagues?

Instead of teaching and moving on, let’s present options. Make time during these training for attendees to explore the pre-made units, lessons, and examples that many of these tools have curated. Show them how to download these and tweak them to fit their specific classroom needs. In addition to this, we can also show them how these tools offer something that all teachers want more of, differentiation. By downloading and modifying a pre-made lesson, formative assessment, or unit, we have now showed them how simple it is to meet their students’ unique needs whether they be cognitive or linguistic. Why stop there? Having them get together with their teammates also gives them the ability to collaborate and truly begin to build a library of resources and lessons ready for them to use at a moment’s notice. If the 5th grade team gets together and builds one specific lesson or assessment each, they now have multiple lessons that they can build upon or modify. Instead of saying “Who has time to do that?” teachers will begin saying “How come we didn’t do this before?”

We all know that time is of the essence, especially in education. Keeping that in mind, working smart while working hard will ultimately give us more time to do a little bit more for ourselves. For you, it might be going to the gym, going home a bit earlier, or reading that book you’ve heard so much about. Try it. You and your students deserve it.