Why do you use technology in your class?

I have just finished reading Liz Kolb’s new book, Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons. It is an excellent read, in fact I could not put it down! Essentially, Kolb examines how to effectively implement technology in your class by identifying learning goals first and then considering what type of technology you should use to support the learning goals. Too often we hear about new tech devices or programs and go full steam ahead in using them, with our learning goals as an after thought. I too am guilty of the attraction that a sleek new device or brand new programs offer without necessarily considering the effectiveness first.

Kolb’s book offers teachers a framework to use to measure the effectiveness of technology. The Triple E Framework consists of 3 components:

Engagement – the technology allows students to focus, motivates learning and increases active social learning

Enhancement – the technology allows students to develop a more sophisticated understanding, scaffolds concepts or ideas and demonstrates an understanding of the learning goals

Extensions – the technology allows students to learn outside of their typical school day, creates a bridge between school learning and everyday life and to grow as learners in a lifelong way

Using these three components of learning, Kolb created a Measurement Tool (also available online at tripleframework.com) to assist teachers in scoring their lessons that use technology.

Green Light Lessons (13 – 18 points) – meets all 3 components of the Framework

Yellow Light Lessons (7 – 12 points) – meets 2 of the 3 components of the Framework

Red Light Lessons (0 – 6 points) – meets 1 level of the 3 components of the Framework

Kolb offers sound advice and an effective framework for teachers wanting to use technology in their classrooms. Additionally, she offers many examples of lessons containing technology at many different grade levels and how they would be scored using the Triple E Framework. In my opinion, it is excellent guide that supports teachers in putting learning goals first and engaging in reflective practice when considering which technology to use.

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What’s the chatter about video chats?

Using video chats in the classroom is an excellent way to broaden the audience your students have access to. Years ago when video chats (aka video conferencing) first became available, you needed to be a tech savvy wizard to operate it and you need to keep your fingers crossed that the connection wouldn’t fail. Nowadays, video chats are easily accessible to everyone. In fact many students have programs or apps on their phones that allow them to video chat effortlessly at the push of a button or tap of a touch screen. In this week’s blog, I am going to discuss the video chat programs/apps I prefer and outline the many benefits to using these in your classroom.

There are lots of ways to video chat but I prefer the following:

1. Skype

  • An instant messaging app that provides online text message and video message services
  • Users may transmit both text and video messaging and may exchange digital documents such as images, text, and video
  • Skype allows video conference calls

I prefer using Skype for video conference calls because you can see all participants on one screen. However, once you get more than four participants some individuals are not able to view others. This can make conversations difficult.

2. Google Hangouts

  • A communication platform developed by Google which includes instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP features
  • Includes several Easter eggs to surprise users
  • Google Hangouts allows for conservation between two or more users
  • Allows for Livestreaming through YouTube
  • On April 25, 2017 Google Hangouts will shutdown
  • Hangout Meet (for video conference) and Hangout Chats (for instant messaging) will evolve

If you are using a Chrome based system in your class, then Google Hangouts is the program for you. The user interface is incredibly user friendly and easy for students to learn. One downside to the program is that only the person speaking is visible on the screen. Therefore in a group conversation the screen is constantly changing to display the speaker. However, I do find the connection for Google hangouts a lot better than the connection for Skype.

3. FaceTime

  • Apple’s video and audio calling service
  • A phone that uses your Wi-Fi or cellular data connection instead of traditional phone lines
  • You can use it from any iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac, to call anyone else using any one of those devices

This is a great option if you are trying to video call another person that also has FaceTime. It is very easy to use and it has a very strong connection. The one downside to FaceTime is that it can’t be used for video conferencing.

How can you use Video Chats in the classroom?

  • collaborative learning with other schools
  • frequent guest speakers
  • high profile guest speakers
  • virtual field trips
  • connecting with parents
  • teacher vlogging
  • playing Mystery Skype
  • engage in live learning activities with experts
  • international collaborative learning opportunities

 

There are endless ways to use video chats in your classroom. The following is a list of resources to help you get started:

 

Learning with Linoit

Linoit is a great collaborative tool to use with students. Essentially, it is an online bulletin board that allows students to post sticky notes that may include their thoughts, photos, videos or files. You can use it for students to collaborate as a whole class or in groups. It could also be used to display one student’s work and then have other students post sticky notes to comment from peer to peer.

Linoit’s interface is quite user friendly. Once you have set up an account, you will be asked to create a canvas. You can then choose a name, a background and the level of privacy you would prefer. From there you can begin posting your sticky notes. This a great example of the type of collaboration you could use in your classroom:

Once you have begun creating a canvas you will notice in the top right corner there is an i button to click to gather information on links and embed codes. By using one of these links, you can have students gain direct access and start posting sticky notes without having to sign up for an account. It is as simple as that to get students collaborating and using technology in the classroom!

Resources for Linoit:

 

Linoit Tutorial  – a quick reference guide with labeled screenshots

tech and teach Linoit Sticky Notes Online

50 Intergration Ideas of Linoit

Linoit for Collaborative Learning

Prodigy’s Potential

For a number of years now, I have been using Prodigy in my class as part of my Math program. Prodigy is a free game that has students practice Ontario (or common core) math skills. Students get to role play a wizard and challenge other wizards in the game to battles using magic spells. The math learning is embedded in these battles and therefore is an excellent example of gamification and the reason why so many students enjoy playing Prodigy. As a teacher, there are many features of Prodigy that I really appreciate:

  • I can choose specific tasks for students to complete that align with my units
  • I can choose modified tasks for students that are on modified programs
  • I can track when and how much time is spent by each student on the game
  • I can track what questions were answered correctly and incorrectly
  • I can access incorrect responses to find out where students are struggling and how to support them
  • If I don’t assign tasks or activities, the game will default to the students learning level and adjust accordingly by providing a variety of math questions
  • Students can access the game from anywhere as long as they have internet access

My students really enjoy Prodigy and they especially love when they can battle other students in the class. They are very motivated to practice and review math skills because the Prodigy game has a lot of fun features to explore and play: new worlds, decorating their homes, having pets, creating new outfits… It has become increasingly popular and has definitely put some excitement into my Math program!

The following are some resources about Prodigy

Website Review: ProdigyGame.com

Learning Math Made Fun with Prodigy

SMARTeacher’s Prodigy Math Program Review

 

 

Tell me about Tellagami

Do you have students that are nervous about getting up in front of their peers to present? Do you have students who struggle in areas with speech? Do you want to introduce a new and fun way for students or yourself to present information? Tellagami is the answer! Tellagami is an iPad App that allows you to create and share quick animated videos using an avatar. In 3 quick steps you can complete a Tellagami video:

Step 1 – customize your character (avatar) and choose your background

Step 2 – record your voice or type a message for your character to say

Step 3 – share your video on Facebook, Twitter, via text or email

What I love most about this technology is that it is user friendly for primary students while also holding its appeal to older students or even teachers themselves. There are many ways to incorporate the use of this app in your classroom:

  • presentations
  • commercials
  • how to activities
  • introduce characters, famous historical figures
  • newscasts

 

The following are a list of resources to help you get started

A Handful of Ideas for Using Tellagami

10 Ways to Use Tellagami Across the Content

Technology in the Classroom – Tellagami App

 

Hopefully this is enough to get you creating and experimenting with Tellagami. This app also offers a lot of app smashing  abilities, but I will save that for a later date.

What’s this thing called Thinglink?

This past fall, while I was completing my Tech Specialist course, I was introduced to a really interesting program called Thinglink. I had made a promise to myself during this course that I would try to think outside the box and use as many different programs as I could to complete written assignments. I wanted to embrace my new “risk taking” ways in technology and continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone. What better way to do this, than to actually start using programs for my own assignments that I dreamed of implementing in my classroom!

Thinglink was so different than any other program I had used and this is what intrigued me and motivated me to begin using it. Thinglink is essentially an interactive image that contains “links” to a variety of different things on your given topic. Check out the Thinglink I created to outline the positive and negative aspects of hacking.

There are so many activities or assignments you could have students complete using Thinglink. Here are just a few examples you may consider:

  • Use the cover of a novel to have students create a reading summary
  • Use an image of a famous historical figure highlight important facts and accomplishments of the individual
  • Have students use an image of themselves to create an autobiography
  • Use a map of your school to create links that highlight each area of the school or teachers in each classroom

 

I have found a plethora of resources that highlight classroom uses of Thinglink. Take some time to peruse them and really begin to see the variety of uses for your classroom:

65 Ways to use thinglink in your classroom

10 Ways to Use Thinglink

20 Ways to Use Thinglink in Education

Ways to Use Thinglink in the Classroom

Tweeting about Twitter

I can’t get enough of Twitter! I first started using Twitter about 5 years ago. I had attended the Reading for the Love of it conference in Toronto and I attended a session on how to incorporate more technology into my classes. The presenter (alas, her name escapes me) talked about how she used Twitter as a way to communicate with parents on a daily basis. I jumped on board right away and was eager to get back into my own class to try it out.

Classroom Twitter Account Facts and Realities

  • I maintain a private account that only parents of current students are able to follow
  • I tweet daily about events, activities, conversations, projects, reminders and basically anything that happens in our school and class
  • I take full advantage of tweeting while on Field Trips, parents who are unable to volunteer really appreciate this
  • When posting work examples, I ensure to never include a student’s name
  • I refer to my students as the Wolf Pack (our school mascot is a wolf)
  • I refer to individual students as Wolf Pack members and not by name
  • I refer to younger students from other classes (ie: our reading buddies) as Wolf Cubs
  • By spring every year, I have two students take on the responsibility of sending out a daily tweet, they are known as the Media Relations Team for the day
  • By allowing students to tweet, I am able to teach about responsible digital citizenship using an authentic yet safe learning opportunity
  • By tweeting daily (usually multiple times a day), I have created a pedagogical archive of my entire school year
  • I find tweeting much easier and less time consuming than setting up and maintaining a class website
  • Teach Hub has compiled a list of great ideas and ways to use Twitter in the classroom

As each year goes by, I have more and more parents joining up to view daily tweets. This year I am proud to say that I have over 75% participation! Since I have received a lot of positive feedback from both parents and students, Twitter will continue to be my definite go to resource for daily communication with families.

I also have a professional Twitter account that is completely separate from my classroom account. I use this account to follow edutweeters, teachers, principals and departments in my board and to stay current with the trends in education. It took me a while to sort through who I wanted to follow and to create a list of people to follow that was manageable. In fact, my Twitter use has closely followed the Seven Degrees of Connectedness that Rodd Lucier and Zoe Branigan-Pipe developed. I definitely started out as a Lurker and now depending on which professional relationship I am looking at I am in any of the stages from 4 – 7. The point is, Twitter has been excellent way for me to build a PLN and stay current. If you have been thinking about joining Twitter, my advice would be, stop thinking about and get tweeting!