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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Dark Side of Tech in Education: Caveats For Introducing Tech In Your School or Classroom.

It's true that technology in the classroom can be a helpful thing. There are numerous reasons to use it in the classroom. And, when used properly and to its fullest potential, tech in the classroom can be a downright exciting and fun experience. But, there can be a dark side to tech in the classroom. 

In an effort to improve education, many school districts have turned to technology as a solution. Technology is thrown into classrooms while the school administrators sit back and wait for the high test scores to roll in. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sure, there are a couple of obvious things that most are aware of when implementing tech, like the cost and maintenance of the technology. But, there are a few more specific things to be aware of before implementing tech into your classroom.

1. Students may not be interested in activities that don’t use technology.

After being exposed to exercises using technology, namely computers, students may be hard to motivate in terms of doing the same work without technology. For example, students write an essay using a Chromebook. The entire process is done on the laptop, from draft, to editing, to final draft, everything is completed on the computer. They even turn it in by emailing it to the teacher or through such classroom management applications like Google Classroom. The following week the students are asked to write an essay, but this time, without the Chromebook (for whatever reason, the computers are not available that week). The first question out of their mouths is “why can't we do the assignment on the computer?" They'll be hard to motivate to complete the assignment without the technology for the simple fact that they much prefer to use the computer than doing it the old fashioned way.

2. Teachers in-service training is generally needed when introducing new technology--another workshop or staff development they don’t have time for.

Teaching is much like many professions in that you may have people that have been in the teaching profession for a long time. Herein lies the problem. Technology wasn't as advanced 20 or 30 years ago as it is today. Therefore, there are teachers who have been teaching the content in much the same way for the last 30 years and its worked fine for them. 

Getting veteran teachers to try a new teaching method, let alone something they have to take time and learn, can be something of a chore. And, as teachers know, it means training. Introducing technology into a school requires that teachers are shown how to use it, otherwise there isn't much point. That means taking time from teachers that they really don't have.

Teachers spend six or seven hours in a classroom but as most teachers know, a lot of their teaching time is dedicated to preparation. After all, someone has to put together those Powerpoints and worksheets as well as enter student work into their grade book. Attending training on something entirely new will take them away from their necessary tasks.

3. Technology could prove to be a distraction for students. 
Instead of using their phones for research, students are tempted to text each other or use social media.

It seems silly to have these powerful computers in their pockets and not be able to conduct research on a project that they’re working on in class. But, although they are powerful research tools, the smart phones can prove to be a distraction. Sure, the student might access needed information for an assignment. But, once they've completed the research, oh what a tempting device their phone is. The phone is on, it's in their hands staring back at them, why not check email or send a quick text? And, they can't stop at just one text because they’ll get a return text, and they most certainly have to reply. Or, perhaps they have to reply to that email they just received. And that new game they’ve downloaded, it hasn’t even played yet, what could it hurt to open it and check it out. Before you know it, the student is spending more time on their phone for recreational purposes than on the research as was originally intended.

4. Teachers use it because “they” like using it, with little concern for the students.

This one is a call for teachers to police themselves. So here's the scenario: A teacher has bought a shiny new laptop over the weekend with some brand new presentation software. Loving their new computer, the teacher spends all weekend putting together new presentations because they love their new computer and software. Come Monday, the teacher shows off the new computer by giving a presentation of the material at hand. On the surface, this is not such a terrible thing. But now, we're in week 2 of the new presentations with the new computer, then week 3. The teacher can fall into the trap of loving to use his technology so much that he neglects the students. Sure, he's giving them the material. But, as teachers know, he has to change up his lesson planning a little bit.

So, before implementing technology in your classroom or introducing it to your teachers as an administrator, be aware that there are caveats. If used properly, tech in education can fabulous tool for learning.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Edpuzzle: Videos At Your Own Speed

The days of printing out a worksheet for the students to complete while watching a video are over. Edpuzzle is interacitve video viewing at its best.

Whether its a trip to the computer lab or if you're lucky enough for each of your students to have access to a computer in the classroom, you must implement Edpuzzle into your classroom.
Edpuzzle is a video service that allows a teacher to insert questions for a student to answer while watching a video. Be forewarned, on the day the students are assigned a video, make sure they have headphones or earbuds, otherwise, you'll get the sounds of the video playing at various times--it can sound chaotic.

While the students watch the video, the teacher can monitor their progress. After the students have completed the video, the teacher can go back and review each students answers for later discussion.
Edpuzzle works well with Google Classroom. Edpuzzle provides you with the option to upload your Google Classroom rosters. And, when you make assignments in Edpuzzle, you're asked if you would like to make it an assignment in Google Classroom as well. Once you've created your classes, you can use Edpuzzle to search for a particular video based on your topic from various resources such as YouTube, Khan Academy, and Crash Course (to name a few).

After choosing a particular video, you can insert your own questions at various points where you want students to focus. During the video, the questions pop up at your prescribed point while the video pauses. Once the student answers it, the video continues. If a student doesn't remember the answer to a question, they can simply replay that segment until they get the answer.
Edpuzzle is a great way to individualize the viewing of a classroom video. It keeps the students engaged while constantly checking for understanding. Edpuzzle is another tool every teacher should have in their toolbox.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pear Deck: Interactive Goodness

Pear Deck is interactive goodness that every teacher with access to technology should have in their teaching arsenal.

I was introduced to Pear Deck recently at a Google Summit. Those of you not familiar with what a Google Summit is all about, it's essentially a geek fest for educators. It showcases various ways to expand your teaching through the use of Google for Education services or other online tools that help promote student learning. One of the sessions I attended was on an online service called Pear Deck.

I like to think of Pear Deck as PowerPoint on steroids. Pear Deck is online presentation software where you don't really need a projector or screen to share your Pear Deck with your students. You see, Pear Deck is interactive. Students don't simply sit there and stare at a presentation jotting down a few notes. No, quit the contrary, students are busy interacting with the deck, answering essay questions, choosing multiple choice answers, drawing, and labeling things in the presentation.

Gone are the days where a teacher tries to make the material interesting by spending hours creating flashy presentations, hoping to keep the students attention while relaying the course content. Instead, students are using devices such as Chromebooks, a PC, a tablet, or even a phone to participate in the presentation. Also, participation is no longer dominated by those few students that are constantly raising their hands while the timid few are afraid to answer a question. And when you do call on those that rarely raise their hands, the "I don't know" answer won't work.

Pear Deck demands participation by reviewing student answers anonymously. That's right! When reviewing student answers, it's done anonymously, erasing the fear that some students have by giving the wrong answer. Students want to participate if, for no other reason, they want to see their answer projected on the screen for all to see. Oftentimes, when I was using Pear Deck, I could hear students say "that's my drawing" or "that's my answer!"

If you so choose, you can project the deck on a screen, reviewing student answers with each question. Students particularly get a kick out of the questions that ask them to draw something. Showing their work on the screen along with their classmates will usually elicit a giggle not only from the students, but from the teacher as well.

Pear Deck also excels in that it works nicely with Google Drive, so all of your student decks are saved where you have easy access to them. At the end of the session, you can send each student a copy of their deck, called takeaways. A takeaway is not only a copy of the deck, but a copy of the answers the student provided. It serves as a great way to provide a study guide for an upcoming quiz. Speaking of quiz, you can take Pear Deck to the next level by coupling it with Flubaroo. Use Pear Deck as a quiz and then export student answers to a Google Sheet, and have Flubaroo correct it. Students will not only have taken a teacher led quiz, but have their results right away.

Pear Deck has many possibilities. It is indeed interactive goodness for the classroom.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Chromecast in the Classroom

If your in need of a projection solution for your classroom, consider using a Chromecast. A Chromecast is a great solution for not only projecting the contents of your Chromebook on a screen for all to see, but if you're using a tablet such as a Nexus 9 or Nexus 7, a Chromecast may be the way to go.

Connected to a projector, the Chromecast can project everything from a Youtube video you want to show to a Google Slides presentation. And, since it's wireless, the Chromecast allows you to be on the other side of the room with your Chromebook. If you're using a tablet, it allows you mobility. You can move about the room while the contents of your tablet are displayed. 

The Chromecast is easy to set up. Provided your projector has an HDMI port, simply plug the Chromecast into your projector and then into a power outlet. If your projector doesn't have an HDMI port, you'll need an adapter to plug the Chromecast into as well as the VGA cable into. Furthermore, if you go the adapter route, make sure and get an adapter with audio jack so you can plug in any speakers you wish.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The iPad in the Classroom

The iPad, especially the iPad Air 2 because of its power, lightness, and beautiful screen , could be the only computer a teacher uses during the day. With the large availability of apps, the iPad can be an invaluable tool for a teacher. With that said, here's an example of a day in the life of an iPad in the classroom:

7:00 a.m. Open up "Calendar" to see if I have any meetings scheduled for the day.
7:15 a.m. Check school email by using "Safari" to navigate to the school's webmail server.
7:30 a.m. Open "Fantastical 2" and add any newly scheduled meetings found in email.
7:45 a.m. Open "Reminders" and add any email requested duties that need to be attended to.
8:00 a.m. Open "Keynote" and edit todays lecture.
8:30 a.m. Use "Pages" to create a worksheet for the students.
9:00 a.m. Classes begin. Use "Safari" to access the schools server and take attendance. Use "Keynote" to present lecture. Use the "YouTube" app to show a short video about World War II.
12:00 p.m. Lunch. Create a review crossword for the students puzzle using the "Puzzles" app.
3:00 p.m. School is out, but my day is hardly over. Post todays "Keynote" to the class website using the "Assigner" app.
3:01 p.m. Use "Twitter" to remind students of tomorrow's quiz.
3:15 p.m. Use the "ZipGrade" app to correct today's quiz.
3:45 p.m Review school email and add meetings to "Fantastical 2" and to-do's to the "Reminder" app.
4:00 p.m. Create tomorrow's lecture using "Keynote."
4:30 p.m. Homeward bound.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Google Classroom

First, let me get my true feelings out of the way. Google Classroom is fabulous! In a sense, it has reinvigorating my teaching.

Let’s take a step back. It’s very easy to fall into a rut as a teacher. I mean, you could be saying the same thing over and over, day in and day out, year after year. So, it’s easy to see that it’s fairly easy to get bored, and even burned out. Let me take you aside for a moment and tell you that I was in the sinking ship. I was stuck in the quicksand. I was trudging in the snow. I was…You get my drift (no pun intended). After almost 15 years of teaching, I needing to find new avenues of delivering the content I’ve been working with for years. So far, I think I’ve found it with Google Classroom.
What is Google Classroom you ask? It’s a revolutionary education tool designed for the 21st Century. Now, before I go on, let me tell you, I had heard of Google Classroom but never pursued looking into it. There was one thing that led me to investigate Google Classroom—paper. Yes, paper. You see, I like to keep the students engaged with a project or some other class exercise. Often times, these projects or class work involve drawing or something creative using blank sheets of paper. Needless to say, I go through a lot of paper. Plus, I’m not one to have them copy questions from the projection screen. To me, it’s too time consuming to have kids copy 20 questions. And, by the way, not all kids copy things down at the same speed (Google Classroom will address this as I will describe later). So, I was in the practice of photocopying the questions for them to either complete in class or take home. That’s lots o’ paper right there. Then, the other various things they would do include creating comic strips, pamphlets, flyers, magazines—all involve using copy paper. And I was all to happy to provide that for them. As you can probably see, I went through a lot of paper. It was the need to eliminate the use of paper that I turned to Classroom.
Google Classroom is the paperless environment that those teachers seeking to simplify their paperwork are looking for. Not only that, but it all but eliminates passing back papers. That’s right, no longer does a teacher need to take time just to pass back papers, and, heaven help you if you let papers that need to be passed back stack up. It could turn out to be a class period of passing back papers. You can send papers back with Classroom after you grade them. Student work can be sent back to their Google Drive. And, if giving a test using Google Forms (a part of Google Classroom), with a simple add on to Google Sheets, students can receive immediate feedback as tests are graded and returned back to their Google Drive. The other cool thing about the immediate test grading is that not only does Classroom give them their score, but informs the student which questions they missed and what the correct answers are. Awesome right?!
So what are the features of Google Classroom? After setting up your classes, you simply invite students to join your class. You can either email them a link or direct them to Google Classroom and provide them with a code to log in. Google Classroom features what they call the “stream”. The stream is the main area of Classroom where students can view and turn in assignments and view announcements that the teacher has made.
Google Classroom is a true jewel. If your schools has a Google apps account, I truly recommend checking out Google Classroom.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Life of a Teacher Using Technology

Here I am, joining the blogging community!  I thought it would be a good idea to write about my school day while reflecting on my teaching.  I was inspired to blog through attending the Google for Education Summit.  I attended one of the sessions that talked not only about getting your students to blog about the class subject at hand, but why you, the teacher, should blog as well.
I thought what a great idea!  I should take up blogging about the trials and tribulations of being a secondary educator.  All the while, I could share what I'm doing in the classroom and hopefully get feedback.
So let's get started, shall we?

First off, as I said earlier, I recently attended a two day Google for Education Summit.  It was great to not only get around fellow educators who were eager to learn about technology and education, but to be around a bunch of fellow tech geeks.  I found the summit to be a great experience.  I picked up a couple of ideas that I look forward to implementing in my classroom, or should I say, the computer lab (more on that later).

One of those things that I'm excited to try out is called Pear Deck.  Pear Deck is essentially an interactive PowerPoint.  Students respond to questions or activities posed on the Pear Deck through their device.  Students can use a tablet, a phone, or a computer.  I think it's a great alternative to the lecture/taking notes thing.

I mentioned the computer lab.  Unfortunately, I don't have a classroom full of computers let alone Chromebooks.  So, what I have to do, as I'm sure many teachers out there have to do, is fight for a computer lab.  If I'm lucky, I can get in a lab a couple of times a week.  It's kinda frustrating because I would love to use Google resources much more often.

I'm a certified Google instructor.  That said, I'm eager to try out new internet technologies.  I really like Google Classroom for the students.  And, I'm saving tons of paper in the process.  I think the students are more engaged and apt to participate if they have a computer in front of them.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed to get a classroom set of Chromebooks in the near future, it sure would make my job more interesting for me and engaging for the students.