Recently, I have done a lot of thinking about teachers, school districts, and technology as I work on my graduate courses for my Ed Tech degree. I have come up with a term to describe a goal for teachers: teacher technology independence. Many districts around the country will be cutting budgets again this year. And if technology does not go out with the budget, support for technology most likely will. Schools and teachers want great tech tools for their students, but districts cannot always deliver on those tools or the necessary training for effective implementation. Even when the money is there, decision makers at the district level do not always know what tools will be best for your classroom. Teachers can benefit from being independent of all that, by learning what free tools are out there, and understanding how technology works and how student learning is affected. Teachers know what is best for their own classroom and what will work for their students. We cannot always rely on our districts for technology support. In the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, here is part 2 of my series of Tips for Teacher Technology Independence:
What Teachers Can Do
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Teachers are constantly learning new things to become better at what they do. Sometimes it is difficult to teach yourself about technology. Below, you will find some websites and blogs that are extremely helpful in learning about free web tools and how to use them in education, as well as links to massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Believe it or not, social networks are some of the best places to learn about technology in education. Twitter can be used to follow educators that share resources and knowledge, or to engage in topical discussions. Google+ hosts many different groups and learning communities that are free and open to join. YouTube is the best place to find free tutorials and short lessons. You can also subscribe to learning channels that regularly publish free learning resources.
Free Technology for Teachers is one of the best sites available for learning about new technology tools and how to use them. Richard Byrne moderates the site/blog and provides concise, clear descriptions of tools and suggestions for how to use them. He specializes in free web tools and using Google’s many services for education.
The K-12 Online Conference is a free, annual online conference that allows teachers to attend presentations online and view archives of past sessions. Educators from all over the country give presentations about teaching and technology. This event aims to capture the spirit of an education conference with the benefits of being free and flexible.
Although resources and events from ISTE are not always free, the International Society for Technology in Education is a wonderful resource for learning about technology and connecting with like-minded educators. They publish informative, practical books and courses about using technology in the classroom. You can follow them on social networks like Twitter, and LinkedIn to view resources and news, or attend their annual conference.
MOOC stands for massive open online course. Besides being a popular buzzword, MOOCs are fantastic resources for learning about teaching and technology (or any other subject for that matter). Just like online college courses, you can enroll in MOOCs to learn and build your credentials. The main difference is that they are completely free. Although they are springing up everywhere, these are two of the big, centralized providers, and worth checking out:
You can also find many free college courses at http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/