Technology for Educators Mr. Sapora's breakdown of what you need to know
Using technology in the classroom should serve two purposes:
Bringing up-to-date, rapidly accessible resources into the classroom for your students.
Streamlining tasks for you the teacher - so that you can focus more on your students and less on the myriad of peripheral tasks.
Listed below are links and quick reviews of technology resources that I found to be the most useful in and out of classroom. This is designed for the lay-person in the technology realm - and these are the tools I have found most useful day to day.
If you want to get really deep into the educational technology front, or just want to learn how to connect your projector - then Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything is your bag. I don't have the seven or eighteen lifetimes to fully get into it...so just take a look at her page. It is beyond comprehensive - video tutorials and all that.
Keeping current with educational technology can be an overwhelming and time consuming task. To keep up on the most relevant educational technology in the educational world there is one definitive resource - The New Media Consortium:
"The NMC (New Media Consortium) is an international community of experts in educational technology — from the practitioners who work with new technologies on campuses every day; to the visionaries who are shaping the future of learning at think tanks, labs, and research centers; to its staff and board of directors; to the advisory boards and others helping the NMC conduct cutting edge research."
Their comprehensive annual report outlines the newest educational technological inovations, citing the best links and resources in each area.
Teacher Websites Having your own website as a teacher is an extremely powerful tool - students, parents, faculty, and administrators can easily be kept informed as to what is going on in your class on a daily basis. It is also a great way for you - the teacher - to stay organized. Student's and their parent's will find it infinitely helpful - you can post all of our assignments, presentations, videos, handouts, due dates, etc. all in one easy to access place.
There are multiple online-based platforms for all-in-one building, publishing, hosting, and maintaining a website. Most are very easy to use and designed for the novice. The two that I have found to be most widely used by other educators, and that are free in both the cost and headache departments, are outlined below.
Weebly - education.weebly.com/ Weebly is what I have used to build this site - so you are already familiar with it! Go to their Education section, register as a Teacher for free, and you are are on your way. Pros: it is free, easy to set-up, has a variety of templates, allows you to embed HTML, upload and link files - PDFs, embed Youtube videos, insert photo galleries...there's lots of pros. Cons: for the average person there are none that I have found yet...this is pretty much the gold standard of online website building and hosting. Use it.
Presentation Tools Many out there are still using PowerPoint to build their classroom presentations, but the landscape here is changing towards more Cloud based applications. PowerPoint is still in wide use and many lessons and presentations available online are in this format - the only con is that you (and your students) need to purchase or own PowerPoint in order view presentations. Cloud-based options abound though. There are many online platforms that allow you to create, upload, edit, and share your presentations for free. Here are a few of the most user friendly and widely used....
SlideRocket - www.sliderocket.com SlideRocket is basically just an online version of PowerPoint (or Keynote for you Mac folk). You can not just upload your presentations you have already made - but you can build presentations using their online platform that is almost identical to PowerPoint in its layout - so it is easy to learn and transition to. The only drawback to building your presentations in SlideRocket - you cannot export them using the free version...so once they are there, they are locked in unless you pay. The free version (SlideRocket Lite) gives you 250mb of storage and allows you to upload/import PowerPoint presentations. I find it best to build my presentations using PowerPoint and then import them onto SlideRocket - this takes no time and then I have a backup/original copy on my computer. Click here to learn how to embed your presentations into another website (aka your teacher website). For examples of presentations I have embedded - go to my daily lesson plans under the For Students tab.
SlideShare - www.slideshare.net SlideShare lets you upload your presentations for free (you have to make them though on your own software - PowerPoint). Students and anyone else can then get a link to the presentation and view it online - or you can embed your presentation into a website. This is a bit quicker than SlideRocket if you just want to go from PowerPoint to the web and be done. You cannot edit your presentation online once it is uploaded though - so it must be the final version. Free and easy - I would recommend this at the minimum because it allows you and most importantly your audience to access your presentations anywhere and without having to download and open a software specific file. Also a good site to search for presentations on topics you might want to cover in class - who knows maybe the presentation you are about to spend hours putting together is already out there!
Google Docs - Presentation - https://drive.google.com Bare bones - super easy - free as a bird - BUT does not import or export Power Point presentations very well. There are also some issues with embedding it into sites other than Google. Google Presentations work great if all you want to do is show some very basic text and paste in a few images. If you plan on keeping it simple - then this will work great!
Prezi - www.prezi.com Prezi is quickly becoming the standard in Cloud-based presentational software. Why - because if used well - it is simply awesome. If used wrong - it can give you a seizure though - so model good practices if you use this please. "Prezi is a virtual whiteboard that transforms presentations from monologues into conversations: enabling people to see, understand, and remember ideas." You can embed into your website as well. Here is an example of a Prezi on evolution.
Use other's Prezis!!! Once you are logged into Prezi (it is free) - click on the top right tab that says explore - then either search or browse by category. There are thousands out there and some are totally amazing / why reinvent the wheel (there is probably a Prezi on this...yup, found it). Viewing other peoples Prezis is a great way to see how it is done (either good or bad) and helps to give you a feel for building your own.
Cloud Storage Cloud storage allows you store all your data online - documents, photos, videos, presentations...everything. The advantage of cloud storage is that you don't have to carry around jump drives or external hard drives. Many cloud storage services also offer the option for working off-line and storing on a device that automatically syncs when it is online but allows you access documents when you are offline as well. There are more and more popping up everyday but many of these have a strong profit-motive - so they are full of adds and other junk. Here are the two that I have found to be the most user friendly, widely used, and free of charge for their basic service.
Google Drive - http://drive.google.com This is the by far the easiest and most user friendly option out there. 5gb of FREE storage, a desktop managing component (so your docs can be worked on offline), and a whole ton of other features including mobile and tablet apps. Share and collaborate on projects as well using the Google Docs feature that is a part of it. For a full rundown check out this review.
DropBox Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website. I am slowly leaning towards DropBox and now use it for some things more than others - mainly SHARING documents. The power here is that you can very easily share a folder and it will simultaneously appear in both parties DropBox accounts (with a share symbol) - meaning someone can then dump a bunch of files into a folder that have access too and it even tells you when someone is doing this. This is an awesome way to collaborate on shared materials! I have a teacher friend who has been giving me heaps of lesson plans and resources and they just keep appearing in "Biology Shared" DropBox folder like mana from heaven. For those that are challenged in this regard (Uhh hem Brook), go to the rainbow symbol on the left of your DropBox screen ("Shared"), click on it, upper right screen has a blue folder with a smiley face and it says "New Shared Folder", click on it, ... the rest says it all.
JustCloud JustCloud uses a small desktop application to backup all of your computers files to the cloud. Your files are constantly backed up and you can access them at anytime from any device in the world by logging in to the JustCloud online control panel. Pretty much the same as DropBox but has unlimited backup and storage. It is not as strong on the file sync side of things - this is where DropBox shines.
Evernote At it's most basic level - Evernote is a note taking and storage application - and it is free. You can take notes in your Evernote account online by using their website or you can use their downloaded application on your desktop, laptop, iPad, or any other mobile device. Your notes will sync automatically. You can sort your notes in a number of different ways for easy organization. But is more than just note-taking made super easy and accessible - as one reviewer puts it: An Evernote note can be a picture, a video, a PDF document, an Excel spreadsheet, or even a piece of a web page that you’ve “clipped” to store away for future use. Consider Evernote to be a digital filing cabinet for anything and everything you may possibly need to reference at a later date. Yes it is all that. I have found that my life would not be the same without it...period. One of the features that I really enjoy is that I can take a picture in Evernote and it goes right onto the note I am typing. So if there is something I want to photograph and then take notes on, I can have it all in place! Here is a quick example of what I am talking about from a visit I made to see how a dermestid beetle colony is put together.
Pocket Informant I have not listed many (any) apps on here so far...but this is one you must have if you have a lot on your plate. This app helps you sync multiple Google Calendars to one place and will update them constantly. It has a great layout for a mobile device and apps for both iPhone and iPad. What really rocks about it though is the Task feature. It allows you keep a virtual To Do list that you can sort into folders or projects or just keep generic...but you can quickly add a task, give it a date or not, and also add a reminder. This will sync to your calendar and when you view it you can see both your calendar evens and your tasks all there in front of you. I use this app every day...simply rad.
YouTube for Teachers If you have never been in a classroom that has used a YouTube video - than you have not been in a classroom in quite a while. There are a few basic things to watch out for here though. 1) Set your safety settings so that if you do a search you avoid getting inappropriate hits displayed all over the screen. 2) Just avoid doing searches in front of your class - you should do these before and have it all bookmarked and ready to roll when class starts anyway. 3) Create a playlist and add the videos you want to show in class to the playlist - this way when you embed or share a link it will go from your playlist and when the video ends it will only show other videos on your playlist and not what YouTube suggests (often again inappropriate or unrelated).
Vimeo At first glance, there is not much difference between Vimeo and YouTube. Main difference is that Vimeo caters to artists - short films, etc. but it is rich with awesome content. It also has NO ADDS. You can create your own channel just like on YouTube. A great example of a channel with some excellent content, is that of my friend Thomas Dunklin - check out his channel to view his amazing underwater videos of migrating Salmon in the rivers of northern California and southern Oregon.
Watch Know Learn WatchKnowLearn has indexed over 33,000+ educational videos, placing them into a directory of over 3,000 categories. The videos are available without any registration or fees to teachers in the classroom and to students at home 24/7. Users can dive into our innovative directory or search for videos by subject and age level. Video titles, descriptions, age level information, and ratings are all edited for usefulness.
The Teaching Channel Get inspired and learn more!!! Need ideas about teaching practices but tired of reading articles... The Teaching Channel is a video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America's schools. We have a rapidly growing community of registered members who trade ideas and share inspiration from each other.
Open-Source Curriculum (OSC) is online based curriculum that is free to use and modify for your own instructional needs. Think online textbooks - but with a slew of additional resources: videos, worksheets, activities, lesson plans, interactive web tools, and even assessment resources. There are many developing and emerging resources out there, and this is basically the dawn of a brave new world when it comes to educational curriculum - printed and expensive text-books as the standard will soon become a thing of the past.
To quote Wikipedia: With these online repositories, a curriculum framework for a particular course is created by an instructional designer or author in conjunction with content experts. Learning objectives are clearly identified, and learning activities and instructional sequences and assessments are developed and offered to support the attainment of the objectives.
There are a vast amount of resources out there for you to use - but the main constraint at present is in making sure all your students have access to these resources. With tablets becoming the norm - this will soon change. CK12 also offers Flexbooks, where you can design and have your own textbooks printed for a nominal price. I could go on and on here but just check out the links I have listed below...
CK12 Covering all the bases when it comes to science and math - but also providing resources for history, english, and engineering - CK12 is the resource standard when it comes to OSC. In their own words: CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to high quality educational materials for K-12 students all over the world. We offer free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in the STEM subjects. By providing these free resources, CK-12 is working toward educational equity for all. An integrated set of tools for learning: digital textbooks, concept-based learning, SAT prep, and interactive Algebra curriculum (with additional math and science subjects in progress). All products can be customized to match the needs of the student, educator, or school.
Curriki Teacher contributed and vetted resources organized into collections by grade level and sortable by resource type: eTextbooks, units, lessons, activities, labs, student-led inquiry... You can sort your searches by a number of criteria that quickly streamline finding the resources you are after. You can also search by state standard!
Share My Lesson Share My Lesson is a place where educators can come together to create and share their very best teaching resources. Developed by teachers for teachers, this free platform gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other. Share My Lesson has a significant resource bank for Common Core State Standards, covering all aspects of the standards, from advice and guides to help with dedicated resources that support the standards.
Teachers' Domain Teachers' Domain is a free digital media service for educational use from public broadcasting and its partners. You’ll find thousands of media resources, support materials, and tools for classroom lessons, individualized learning programs, and teacher professional learning communities.
WikiBook Open Content Textbooks on a wide array of subjects - some can be very specific - so if you cannot find what you are looking for on the CK12 site, you might find it here. Again - the power of using resources like these over textbooks is that they are free to access (granted you have internet...but this is less and less of an issue with each passing day) and they are also current - so you will not have to explain to your social studies class that Yugoslavia and the USSR are not actually countries anymore despite what your outdated textbook says.
Science Net Links: AAAS Science NetLinks is a premier K-12 science education resource produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At Science NetLinks, you'll find teaching tools, interactives, podcasts, and hands-on activities, and all of it is free!
The Biology Corner The Biology Corner is a resource site for biology and science teachers. It contains a variety of lessons, quizzes, labs, web quests, and information on science topics. You can find lessons related to biology topics in the links listed under “topics” on the sidebar.
Science-Class.Net This site was designed initally as a resource for the students and parents & guardians of the students in my science classes. Over the years it has evolved into a teacher resource site as well.
Scitable Scitable is a free science library and personal learning tool brought to you by Nature Publishing Group, the world's leading publisher of science.
The Habitable Planet The Habitable Planet is a multimedia course for high school teachers and adult learners interested in studying environmental science. The Web site provides access to course content and activities developed by leading scientists and researchers in the field.
Exploring the Environment Welcome to Exploring the Environment® (ETE). The ETE online series, which features an integrated approach to environmental Earth science through modules and activities, is developed through the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future program. Featuring problem-based learning (PBL), the ETE series provides students with tools to investigate scientific, social, political, and cultural aspects of controversial, authentic environmental problems. Standard problem-solving models, online resources that include relevant satellite imagery, and recommendations for extended inquiry are available to students.
GLOBE The Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program.
Earth Guide Earthguide is dedicated to providing online materials for K-14 students, teachers, and the public that enhances lifelong learning and encourages positive action related to the management of the Earth, its living and natural resouces and society. We do this by building online content for individual projects and our home website that holds that content. Earthguide and Earthguide Online Classroom are our two primary home websites.
I am still learning how to use my iPad in the classroom, but have become proficient at a few key tricks. The all-time master (as far as I have seen) is Gary Laipply - a middle school social studies teacher who I observed one day and was blown away by! His website (click here) is set up specifically for his students to access with their classroom set of iPads on a daily basis - he uses a very basic and user-friendly Google Site.
How I have used my iPad thus far - is as a mobile touch-screen to operate my laptop, which I have connected to the overhead projector. I use Doceri for this (discussed below).
I highly suggest splurging and purchasing a fine-tip stylus if you are going to use your iPad for classroom instruction. It REALLY helps to have precision when you are trying to open tabs, windows, etc. or annotate on documents in front of the whole class. I have a Jot Pro and you can get them at most electronic departments or order online.
DOCERI Download the free version - it works just fine and I have yet to pay for the upgrade - you just have to deal with their watermark at the bottom of your screen...big whoop. You need to download this on your laptop or desktop and on your iPad as well and then follow the directions to pair the two up...pretty easy. Once you do that, this program allows you to use your iPad like a mobile touch-screen for your laptop; you are remotely controlling your laptop and you can then move about the classroom. Show a PowerPoint (Keynote whatever) and change slides from the middle of the classroom, search and scroll web pages, zoom in and out, you can even annotate (draw on top of) whatever you are viewing (webpages, images, presentations). You can also open and view PDF's and fill them out on the screen using your iPad.
COMING SOON I will be trying out a number of apps this next school year - Nearpod & Socrative - and will do a write-up on those once I have run them through the Mr. Sapora fires. I also plan on testing out a different apps for keeping track of student participation and tracking understanding and assignment progress...with the hope of finding something that will give me daily tracking data and finer relief in assessing individual student learning and progress. High hopes but we likes to dream.