Educational Technology: What We Use Today

When Free Technology for Teachers founder, Richard Byrne, sent a shout out for guest bloggers, I needed to reply. Byrne is an amazing resource in my 4th grade classroom and I’ve sent more than a few colleagues his way.

For me, Educational Technology has changed everything. I am constantly striving to improve a bit each day. Ed Tech helps me go forward in my career. I’m pretty convinced that education rituals will continue to radically change in the next five years or so. Specifically, online or distance learning will grow exponentially, I believe. Master teacher-leaders will be compensated well, I imagine.

Hopefully, this will shift schools’ leadership arrangement. Perhaps, excellent teachers will bypass the political firestorms and create online versions of “schools” on their own. That said, most teachers are still confined to brick and mortar institutions.

The following is a body of thought upon my current practices with educational technology. Everything that I  highlight  is used now in my classroom. I want to share what I am using to exemplify that Ed Tech is constantly evolving and the fact that today’s master teacher needs to constantly evolve, as well.

TodaysMeet.com is used for my reflections of learning. I use a visualizer to so that students can see their thoughts published on a giant screen. This tool really helps with developing a community of learners and gives hesitant speakers a voice.
Garageband: Garageband is used primarily for my podcast interviews. Soon my children will be creating book trailers.
Instagram: Used to promote exemplar thinking in my classroom. I instantly send photos of student work to teacher friends around the planet.
Twitter: Simply, the best professional development for educators.
WordPress: An amazing tool. Its software actually improves my writing by highlighting my many passive verbs and complex expressions.
Brainpop: The kids love the animated videos. I love that each is habitually excellent and end with a touch of humor.
Evernote: Great cloud device for saving URLs of note. Very user-friendly.
Confer: I am hoping to use this soon along with Dragon Dictation to save conversation notes with my student readers and writers.
iPhone: Incredible for documenting evidence of learning.
Keynote and Keynote Remote: Stylish, easy to make presentations. I embed exemplar writings and student thinking. I routinely embed excellence using iPhone videos.
Skype: Great for connecting with experts. I have used them also for connecting with students that have moved overseas.
Stickies: I have over thirty “virtual stickies” reminding me of things to do.
Bamboo Web Tablet: Used for creating online tutorials in mathematics. Helps to increase the math conversations outside of the classroom.
Smartboard Notebook: Simplifies my day-to-day math lessons. Smartboard took me a very long time to master. I had given up on Smartboard a numerous amount of times.
Excel: Used to organize my blizzard of Everyday Math Assessment data.
Google search (safety mode) Teach the kids to use advanced search only and to search smartly.
Pages: Not as easy to use as WordDocuments but it helps me create a more stylish document.
Google Drive: My students love that they can collaborate online using GD. I hope to use this as my primary teaching tool for Writers’ Workshop. Sadly, no more anchor charts will be posted in my classroom. Student and teacher thinking will be documented and posted primarily on-line thanks to the good people of Google.
Screencastomatic: Super easy, free tool that helps me create online tutorials.
WolframAlpha: An unbelievable resource that is perhaps, over my students’ heads. Still, I try to promote this site when possible.
Citationmachine: Helps my kids learn the habit of citing research at a very early age. I am hearing Easybib is a pretty good resource as well.
Google Alerts: Great for staying updated on trends in education. I now receive news from around the world about start-up online education companies.
Poetryfoundation.org: I use this site for they have a children’s poem of the day. I hyperlink a poem each day and my students analyze a new poem each day after daily devotions.
Google Sites: Easy access to homework announcements and storing PDFs for students to have access to HW. No more excuses need for forgotten homework, although I normally do not care if students choose to avoid homework worksheets.
Polleverywhere: Teacher friendly site that makes for a quick resource bank of student thoughts.
Google forms: Outstanding data gathering tool for the classroom.
Gmail: I send useful hyperlinks easily using my student Gmail addresses.
Google presentations: Does not work as well as Keynote but is great for the kids can collaborate outside of the classroom. Students love its usefulness.
YouTube and Vimeo: I regularly show relevant Bill Nye the Science Guy on Friday afternoons before holidays.
ted.com: Inspirational and thoughtful talks that keep me hopeful.

I welcome your comments, thoughts and help in allowing me to grow as a fourth grade teacher. Feel free to contact me @ merninbar@gmail.com

Take care, have fun and good luck!

Surviving your Teacher Evaluation Year

 

Having recently completed my international school‘s rigorous teacher evaluation assessment process, I have decided to jot down a few bits of advice for fellow teachers. This year, I have had more than twenty formal, informal and unscheduled “walk through” observations of my teaching. My school’s administrators have provided written and verbal feedback throughout the year and have assigned a score. My salary was determined by my score.The purpose of this posting is to promote learning and to help teachers reflect upon their own teaching practices.

I hope it helps.

Avoid negative people and stay positive

This year, I needed to focus solely on my craft. I did my best to avoid negativity both inside and outside of the school. I stated at the start of the year that I would not utter a negative word about the evaluation process and for the most part, I was able to live up to that promise.I studied meditation exercises and practiced relaxation techniques. Unfortunately, I was not able to hike, nor exercise as much as I normally do.

Plan, organize and invest

I strongly recommend that you arrive early each morning. Most of my day’s work was finished before fellow teachers had arrived at school. This helped me complete whatever needed to get done. I planned each day to the minute and made sure that I was ready for the surprise visits from my evaluators. I had special lessons planned, and on hand, in each subject area, if needed.

Much of my success is due to the hard work I put in August. My classroom organization and classroom management routines were instilled early and from that I was able to reap the benefits later in the year. I tell everyone who will listen that a productive August is crucial to a successful learning year.

For further ideas on classroom management, listen to this podcast.

Finally, invest in a smartphone. The money spent on one will pay off in saved time and an eventual higher salary. My iPhone helped me document evidence of learning, check up on emails,record literacy one on one conferences, update websites.

Differentiate and let your assessments guide your teaching

This year I made a concerted effort to “maniacally” differentiate for all lessons. Each unit began with a pre-assessment of some sort that helped me find “just right” learning approaches for each student. Essentially, I was able to produce an individualized educational plan for each of my 22 students. I made sure to document all of my data using Evernote.

Communicate with parents

My students’ parents this year were amazingly supportive of my work. This  was due to my reputation and to respectful, individualized and positive communication throughout the school year. I never had a regular newsletter. I find them tedious to write and not a good use of my time. Rather, I would email parents occasionally when I had something inspired to post. I oftentimes attached a few photos or videos of student work and would include an educational journal of some sort.

Parents appreciated the fact that I set protocols, return emails promptly and that I made myself available for Skype conferences on most Saturday mornings.

Class Meetings

My students benefitted greatly from regular, weekly class meetings. The students conducted all aspects of the meetings from setting the agenda to developing solutions to problems. This helped me foster a positive, safe learning environment and allowed the students opportunities to develop leadership skills.

I also provided student feedback forms for students to fill out if they had problems that they rather not share with the entire class.

Pace yourself and finish strong

My wife told me often that this year would be a marathon. She was so very right. She constantly reminded me to rest, recharge and relax, so that I could “run through the tape.” It was very important to me that I finish my year strong so that I could support future participants.

Are you going through a contract year?

If you are an educator, I wish you all the best. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LarryHermanHK.

Good Luck!