What is the best part of being an educator?

Chris Lehmann says:

The coolest thing about being an educator is and should be that you get to spend your life with amazing young people every single day. And if you do it right, you get to view the world through their eyes and listen as they explain their views of the world to you and to their classmates.

When we do that, we learn about how many different views on the world there are, and that, no matter how smart you may think you are as a teacher, the kids bring ideas and intelligences and experiences that are every bit as powerful and important — and smart — as your own. And when we listen with an open mind, an open heart, and a true excitement for those ideas and experiences, we model social learning in the best possible way – by learning from our students.

Read the full post here at the Practical Theory blog.

Rethinking Ed Tech? MIT Blossoms story at Slate

Ed-tech enthusiasts who think they can do an end run around teachers will find that teachers are still the ultimate arbiters of what’s welcome in their classrooms: Witness the interactive “Smart Boards” introduced with such fanfare into America’s schools, now functioning as so many expensive bulletin boards.

Ed-tech proponents who think that technology can “disrupt” or “transform” education on its own would do well to take a lesson from the creators of Blossoms, who call their program’s blend of computers and people a “teaching duet.” Their enthusiasm for the possibilities of technology is matched by an awareness of the limits of human nature.

Read the whole article at Slate.

Educational and Addicting Geography Puzzle Games for iPad

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There is a fun series of free geography puzzle games called Enjoy Learning that I find simple, stable, and addictive. I tried the two apps most relevant to me: Enjoy Learning World Map Puzzle, and Enjoy Learning US Map Puzzle. Each game is based on the same premise: locate states, regions, and countries and slide the cut outs on to the map. Each map starts blank and you drag and drop pieces of fill in the puzzle.

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There are different levels of difficultly which would be great for differentiating among students. Also, every game is timed, so there is significant replay value as you try to beat your (and other students’) best scores. That repetition would be great for reinforcing student learning.

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I could see using this as a short transition activity, game break, or maybe even a reward activity. With a small group, I could imagine developing a larger competitive game around the puzzle.

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There is some banner advertising at the bottom of the menu pages, but not the game, which is much less intrusive than so many free games. I recommend these apps for any age group in school, or even for adults just to pass a few minutes doing a brain activity. Without hints on large world maps, the puzzle can be quite challenging.

Enjoy Learning World Map Puzzle (Free) Minimal advertising

Enjoy Learning US Map Puzzle (Free) Minimal advertising

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Tips for Teacher Technology Independence – Part 4

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 4 of my series of Tips for Teacher Technology Independence:

As school districts cut costs, they may cut support for certain technology tools. This could come in different forms. Instructional technology specialists may be let go or never hired in the first place. Course management and digital media tools may be abandoned to save money. District technology trainings may become less frequent. If you find yourself in a similar situation, and you want to learn about using technology, take a look at the following suggestions.

What Teachers Can Do

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 Photo License: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Joe Thorn

Try free apps that will extend the reach of your technology use.

If you have a smart phone or tablet, apps like Remote Mouse and Splashtop give you the ability to control your computer while circulating the classroom.

Evernote is one of the most popular notetaking and information management services available. And it is completely free. Students (and teachers) can use any device to take notes, save webpages, scan images and text, or draw visual notes, and organize them with virtual notebooks and tags. This is one of the most powerful tools on the internet and is just beginning to be used in schools.

Voicethread has a unique approach to online discussion that has become very popular in education. Create or import presentation slides into Voicethread and students will be able to comment at any point in the presentation through video, voice, text and drawing.

Padlet allows you to create a virtual wall where students can post notes, videos, images, or sounds using any device. This tool is free and simple to use. This can be used to display any type of work that students are doing.

Thinglink is similar to Padlet, but lets you take an image and insert pop up links to any other content on the web. This can be used by the teacher to create interactive images to explore, or for students to create projects display their research and understanding.

SoundCloud will allow students to record and post audio from a computer or mobile device. Then other students can enter comments throughout the recording. This can be used for podcasts or theatrical performances.

WeVideo is one of the best online video editors. Students can upload video from a camera or phone and edit in the cloud through a web browser. It does not require any installation on a computer and is simple to use.

Previous Posts in the Series

Tips for Teacher Technology Independence Part 1

Tips for Teacher Technology Independence Part 2

Tips for Teacher Technology Independence Part 3

Tips for Teacher Technology Independence – Part 3

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 3 of my series of Tips for Teacher Technology Independence:

As school districts cut costs, they may cut support for certain technology tools. This could come in different forms. Instructional technology specialists may be let go or never hired in the first place. Course management and digital media tools may be abandoned to save money. District technology trainings may become less frequent. If you find yourself in a similar situation, and you want to learn about using technology, take a look at the following suggestions.

What Teachers Can Do

Look into free or lower cost options for online tools.

If you end up using something that works well, let the technology department in your school district know that these options are there for teachers to use. Maybe they will be able to integrate the free tools and save money in the process.

Google Apps for Education can be used to replace Blackboard or other course management software. This suite of free apps includes document management and creation, sharing, email, calendar, and discussion tools like Google Groups. Many of the collaborative apps also have discussion and commenting features embedded in them.

Edmodo could also be used to replace Blackboard. The service offers much of what Blackboard offers with more social elements included. You can create assignments, calendars, and manage documents. It offers many features for discussion and interaction via computers and mobile devices. The best part about Edmodo is that using it is so easy and is modeled after social networks, rather than course management tools.

Do more with what you already have.

It is likely that your school and district have online and software tools available that you have not heard about. Ask your technology support staff about what types of tools are available. After all, the software is there for you to use! You can also explore some of the tools that you have already used. Find out what other features are included. Reflect on different ways you can use the software. Practice using it more effectively, and ask others for help in figuring out how to do that.

If your district is not offering training, ask for one. Sometimes technology specialists who do not even work at your school will travel there if enough people are interested. Ask your colleagues for help and create your own informal training session. Search the web for helpful resources. It is amazing how many people offer their expertise online for free! For more information on training and professional development, see item #6, above.

Previous Posts in the Series

Tips for Teacher Technology Independence Part 1

Tips for Teacher Technology Independence Part 2