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Top 10 Technology Tips for New Teachers

Yet another article that I wrote for http://theapple.com This article has been a popular one, it had the most views EVER on TheApple in one day! I wrote these tips for new teachers but the tips are valid for those of us who have been teaching for years as well. Enjoy! Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com Being a first year teacher can be overwhelming to say the least. There is new curriculum to learn, unfamiliar school policies, classroom management challenges, and new teammates. Technology can help to ease some of these first year growing pains. 1. Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter. Twitter is an excellent place for new teachers to connect, collaborate, share ideas, and struggles with educators around the world. When joining Twitter, make sure to fill out your profile with information related to education. This will help others in education find you. Visit http://twitter.com to create an account. Visit http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com to find other educators that teach in the same content area(s). Be sure to add your Twitter name to the appropriate list so that other educators can find you. 2. Keep students engaged. Always have engaging activities on hand to keep your students on task and learning. Students will misbehave if they have nothing to do, don’t give them the opportunity to be bored. Technology is a great way to fill those extra minutes with critical thinking and problem solving activities. Keep a list or bookmark folder full of great online logic puzzle and problem solving websites for students to refer to when they have extra minutes. List ideas on 3×5 notecards that are kept next to the classroom computers. Students can select a card for an engaging activity any time they have a few extra minutes. Here are some suggestions for great engaging websites: Fantastic Contraption- http://fantasticcontraption.com/ Super Thinkers- http://www.enlightenme.com/enlightenme/superthinkers/pages/index.html Toy Theater- http://www.toytheater.com/index.php Science Museum Launch Ball- http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/launchpad/launchball/ I Know That Thinking Games- http://iknowthat.com Zoops Games that make you think- http://www.zoopz.com/zoopz/zoopz2.html Light Up Your Brain- http://lightupyourbrain.com/ 3. Take charge of professional development. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that you are finished learning. A good teacher is continually learning. Technology makes it easy to extend your learning by offering professional development on demand. Professional development will keep your teaching fresh, current, and will remind you of what it is like to learn something new. Teachers who are continually learning make empathetic teachers, they understand how frustrating it can be to learn something for the first time. These are great places to continue your learning: Learner.org – http://learner.org Thinkfinity- http://thinkfinity.org Tapped in- http://tappedin.com/tappedin Teacher Tap- http://eduscapes.com/tap Edutopia Instructional Modules- http://www.edutopia.org/instructional-modules 4. Involve parents by creating a link between home and school. It is essential to build a strong connection between what happens at school with what happens at home. Students shouldn’t stop learning when they leave your classroom. Keep parents informed so they can be advocates for their kids education at home. There are a few ways to keep parents involved and informed: Build a simple website to share classroom policies, unit overviews, homework, newsletters, calendars, and links to helpful websites. These websites are as easy as 1-2-3 to create and will keep your parents in the know. Check out the following free website creators: Wix www.wix.com Weebly www.weebly.com Bloust www.bloust.com Yola www.yola.com Lunar Pages http://wiki.lunarpages.com/Free_Education_Account Create a classroom Twitter account (http://twitter.com) and invite parents to follow the class on Twitter. Throughout the class day invite students to post short updates about learning on the classroom Twitter account. Examples would be: “Yikes, about to take a pop math quiz!” or “Reading chapter 3 of Wayside School, can’t wait to hear what happens next.” This keeps parents updated with exactly what is happening in your classroom throughout the school day. When students get home parents can ask about specific activities that happened throughout the school day instead of getting the standard “nothing” answer when they ask what they did that day. This is also a great place to post homework. It is fast and gets students and teachers thinking about and reflecting on the learning of the day. 5. Keep yourself organized. During the first year of teaching you will find a lot of new great resources, keep track of all these great finds in one easy to manage location. Delicious.com is a bookmarking website that allows you to bookmark and organize websites and webtools as you find them. Bookmarks can be collected and shared with others educators through Delicious. Be sure to install the Internet browser plugin so that you can easily bookmark a site with the click of a button. 6. Find educational blogs to discover new ideas, encouragement, and educational news. I have found some educational blogs written by other educators that make me laugh, keep me current, and encourage me on tough days of teaching. Below are some of my favorite blogs, you can find other great blogs by clicking on the links in each bloggers ‘blog roll’. These are the blogs that the blogger is reading. NCS-Tech- http://www.ncs-tech.org Three Old Farts- http://threeoldfarts.com/ Cal Teacher Blog- http://calteacherblog.blogspot.com/ Always Learning- http://mscofino.edublogs.org/ Once Upon a Teacher- http://onceuponateacher.blogspot.com/ Regurgitated Alpha Bits- http://regurgitatedalphabits.blogspot.com/ Smart Education 1 to 1- http://smart1to1.blogspot.com/ The Cornerstone Blog- http://thecornerstoneforteachers.blogspot.com/ The Strength of Weak Ties- http://strengthofweakties.org/ Bestest PE- http://bestestpe.blogspot.com/ Confident Teacher- http://confidentteacher.blogspot.com/ iLearn Technology- http://ilearntechnology.com 7. Get to know your students. Nothing means more to a child than getting to know them individually. Find out about their likes, dislikes, family, pets, friends, and hobbies. Technology can make it easier to get to know your students. Sign up for a classroom http://think.com account. Each student will get a protected web space. Here they can create school related web pages, and interact with you and other students in the form of debates, votes, blog posts, and online collaborative projects. Pose questions on your think.com space for students to answer. In my experience, even shy students are willing to share with you in this type of environment. 8. Work smarter not harder. Use websites like Scholastic’s Book Wizard that will help you work smart and maximize your time. Scholastic Book Wizard helps you to find just the right books for your students. Level your books, find booktalks, author information and lesson plans. Search books by level, author, title or keywords, or find similar books at the reading level you need. http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/homePage.do?ESP=TBW/ib/20081222/eng/tbw_logo///thlp/img//// 9. Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are a number of free lesson plans available online for every topic and grade level. These can be excellent, creative supplements for school curriculum. Scholastic Lesson Plans- http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/lessonplans.jsp LessonPlanz- http://www.lessonplanz.com/ Hot Chalk’s Lesson Plans Page- http://www.lessonplanspage.com/ Teachers.net – http://teachers.net/lessons/ Lesson Plan Central – http://lessonplancentral.com/ teach-nology- http://www.teach-nology.com/teachers/lesson_plans/ A to Z Teacher Stuff- http://atozteacherstuff.com 10. Always be prepared. Plan out lessons, and keep them organized. Discovery School has a great online lesson planner where you can create and store your lesson plans. Lesson Planner lets you edit, print or download your lesson plans while linking to puzzles, worksheets, and quizzes that you have created with the teacher tools on DiscoverySchool.com. http://school.discoveryeducation.com/teachingtools/lessonplanner/index.html

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My iPad Journey

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, collaboration, education reform, inspiration, iPod, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 29-07-2010

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The story above is meant to be an illustration of the school/learning experience.  The first explorer’s journey represents the traditional school model.  Here, students are given set tools and led in one direction down a river of scripted curriculum and standardized tests.  Some wonderful things are learned along the way, but there is little freedom to stop and explore more.  This is further limited by the tools provided that allow for little or no discovery.  On this journey there is a single goal in mind: graduation.

The second explorer represents a rich learning experience made available when the proper tools and experiences are made available.  In this model, there is still a destination and objective, but the journey is one of discovery, adventure, and opportunity.  On this journey, students are given the resources that will allow them to explore and learn at their own pace, deepening the learning experience and passion for  a life of learning.  While there are many resources that could enrich the learning experience and help students on this journey of discovery, the tool I am recommending is the iPad.

I choose the iPad over other devices (such as netbooks) because it is an intuitive device (particularly for the elementary level) that puts the focus on the journey unfolding.  Other devices may be cheaper, or offer Flash, or allow multi-tasking but these devices get in the way of the journey because they must be learned before the journey can even begin.  These type of devices can end up being THE journey because there is a learning curve for using the device.  The iPad is brilliant in its simplicity.  Students can pick it up and immediately understand how to navigate and use the device with little guidance.  The iPad offers portability not available in other devices.  It is the go-anywhere, all day learning device that allows students to explore, communicate, and collaborate at their own pace and in their own way.

In the current school system, students aren’t afforded the luxury of having the teacher to themselves all day.  The iPad can fill some of this void by guiding learning, offering instant feedback, giving the ability to pause-rewind-replay learning, and allowing students to learn collaboratively.  This frees the teacher to spend more time guiding students individually on their individual learning journey.

As I have written previously, one device may not make sense in every school, in every classroom.  In another demographic, the cellphone may be the best portable learning device.  I am proposing an iPad study pilot program because for my students at my school, the iPad is the right tool for the journey.  I have had an average of 400 students each year.  I know every one of them by name.  I know many of their families.  I know their hobbies, interests, fears, and passions.  Being a computer has afforded me the opportunity to teach these kids every week of their elementary school lives.  I know these kids. The iPad is the device that would make the second explorer’s journey possible for them.

Before the school year was over, an idea formed to start a 1-to-1 iPad pilot program in first and fifth grade (180 students).  I decided to make this program a formal research study to find out what affect the device really had on student learning and achievement.  I wanted the results of this program to be farther reaching than my school and my students.  It is my hope that by turning this into a research study, not only would my students be given the best, but others could benefit from the results.  Perhaps we could provide the road map of how to implement a 1-to-1 iPad program.  I wrote out my proposal and immediately sent out a tweet asking if there were any research professors or graduate students who might be interested in something like this. Many from my PLN responded positively with help, Jason Schmidt was the one I chose.  Then, I got the wild idea to take the study to another level and sent my proposal to Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering.  They agreed to partner with us on research!  The problem?  We are still working out a way to fund this project.

Below is a pared down version of my proposal:

Objective/Purpose of Study
The purpose of this pilot program is to examine the effectiveness of the Apple iPad multi-touch, mobile device on student achievement and learning in a 1-to-1 environment.  The iPad mobile device will be used to augment instruction, differentiation, inquiry learning, and innovative classroom practice with a focus on reading/English language arts and Math.  Reading/English language arts and math are the primary focus of the study since these are the two subjects that all states have been required to develop assessments under the No Child Left Behind Act.1   The study will also seek to determine if instructional practices are influenced by the use of iPad mobile devices in the classroom.

Goals
The goal of this pilot program is to provide a 1 to 1 mobile device learning environment which will:

  • Provide consistent access to technology for a fully integrated learning experience by providing each student with an iPad mobile learning device for use inside and outside the classroom.
  • Make provisions for on demand learning opportunities which will expand the reach of the classroom with the iPad learn-anywhere platform (applications, podcasts, video, e-books all selected for individual learning needs).
  • Allow for customized, individualized content to meet each student’s unique learning needs.4
  • Increase student motivation and engagement in learning.5
  • Increase collaboration among students and teachers resulting in improved achievement.6
  • Provide students with student-focused instruction that is multi-level (for different student abilities), multi-sensory (for different learning styles), and individualized.7
  • Provides students with immediate feedback on learning.8
  • Provides teachers with the ability for immediate and individualized learning assessments.

Questions to Address

  • How can the iPad mobile learning device influence student achievement?
  • How can use of the iPad improve student motivation, attitude, and interest in learning?
  • How can the iPad mobile learning device be introduced into curriculum and instruction effectively?
  • What learning strategies are most effective in instructional applications of the iPad?
  • How can the iPad be used to extend learning beyond the classroom and school day?
  • In what ways can implementation of the iPad be a catalyst for a restructuring of school?
  • What are effective ways of evaluating the impact of mobile learning devices on teaching and learning?
  • Will there be an increase in student ability to use classroom or computer lab computers?
  • Will there be a change in the way teachers think about the use of mobile technologies?
  • Will there be a change in the process of learning from being largely teacher centered, to student centered as a result of the introducing the iPad?
  • Will there be a greater sense of student ownership, responsibility, and empowerment in their own learning (how does this differ in 1st grade to 5th grade)?
  • Will students use technology more purposefully to complete a task or discover new information?
  • Will there be a change of teacher’s philosophy, pedagogy, or approach to the learning process?

Conclusion
The iPad pilot program offers something innovative in the classroom.  It provides the potential to empower and uplift students in their learning.  To maximize effectiveness, education in the 21st century has to be active, engaged, and customized for students.  Students must have universal access to mobile technologies that will enable critical thinking, differentiation, and problem solving.  It is our belief that the technology in Apple’s iPad meets these needs and more.

I tell you all of this because we are still searching for funding.  We have applied for grants, talked with individuals, entered contests, emailed Steve Jobs, etc., etc., etc.  I am stubborn.  I refuse to believe that money is going to be the thing to stop us in our tracks.  I refuse to believe that in all of my PLN, Twitter, and Facebook connections that there isn’t an answer.  Surely Twitter shrinks the six degrees of separation between me and someone who can help get this moving.  Surely someone knows someone, who knows someone who can make this happen.

So here is my plea:

I am convinced that with your help I can get this program started and that our ripples will be felt throughout the education community.

Comments (13)

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I’m a 2/3 multiage teacher, and this is fantastic. I will spread the word. I’d love to help out in any way I can!

I really like the idea of using an ipad in the classroom, as it certainly has its uses and great potential, but for me the killer is the lack of flash. I realize that there are a lot of great apps to use, but when there are so many great free resources on the web that use flash, not to mention flash video players, it just seems to be missing a key component for me just now, especially when the internet is so reliant on Flash right now. In the future I am sure that will change with HTML5, and if the ipad takes off then a lot more sites will make themselves ipad friendly, but until then…

This sounds very interesting! I help Red River Press build language learning apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, and now iPad. We’ll do our best to spread the word. Looking forward to hearing more about your project.

I think this is a neat study that will interest a lot of people. To make it a truly authentic study though, you’ll need a control group (a similar group that has netbooks or one that stays with what you currently have). Otherwise, you won’t know if gains (or losses) were due to the tool, the instruction, or the group of students using them.

I look forward to hearing more about it.

This is wonderful stuff – focused on the learner, forward-thinking, creative. I hope teachers become excited about it, because certainly the kids will!
Best of luck with the funding — surely that won’t be the big obstacle!

Thank you Stephen! I hope that it won’t be the big obstacle too!

I agree Mike, we will need a control. We have been discussing some different ways to do this. Right now we are seriously considering single subject design so that we can be our own control.
If we can’t get the full project funded, we could always pilot in one classroom at each grade level and use the other two classrooms as the control. It will all depend on if we can get the funding!
I hope that there is much more to tell about it in the near future 🙂

Thank you Tara, I would really appreciate it! I’m excited to take a look at Red River Press and see what you all do!

The lack of flash could be an obstacle, particularly in the elementary setting where you have resources like http://starfall.com. The iPad may lack flash as a built in feature, but it doesn’t mean that flash isn’t available on the iPad. Cloud Browse is an application that allows you to view and interact with Flash sites on the iPad. It works really well! I know there are a few others and now that it is legal to “jailbreak” the devices, I suspect that no Flash won’t be an issue for long.

Thank you Shannon! I really appreciate the help and passing the idea on!

Hey there,

I’m a math teacher and am really interested in the iPad as a lecture device. Right now I project my lessons onto a big screen using a laptop and an LCD projector. I use a wireless graphics tablet to write on my slides as I wander around the room. The problem with my setup is that you have to look at the big screen as you write, and it takes quite a bit of practice. I’d like to be able to hand my students the tablet and have them do problems, but when I do they spend so much time giggling about how hard it is and how they’re writing like kindergarteners that it’s not really worth the hassle. If I had an iPad, it would be much more intuitive for them. My admins have even said they’ll buy me an iPad if I can figure out how to make this work!!!

Here’s my challenge: I need to project the image on the big screen, and I really want a wireless solution. Otherwise I might as well just stand at the front and use the document camera. I tried a VNC app, so that I was writing on my computer screen using the iPad. Unfortunately, VNC is so inefficient that I can’t write at anything even approximating normal speed 🙁 I don’t care whether I’m using an app on the computer or on the iPad, as long as I can draw on the iPad and have it show up on the big screen (and I need to be able to save the completed images/slides to post on my webpage for absent students). Does anyone have a solution to my puzzle???

Meg, I’ll keep my eyes open, I don’t know anything that does this yet (was going to suggest VNC but had not tried it that way yet). Anyone else aware of something that would work?

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