I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m taking a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: Organizing your classroom
18 webinars (more added as they become available), approx. 30 minutes each, show how to set up your classroom to be tech-infused.
BloomBoard is a professional development website for teachers and administrators. On the teacher side, educators learn, share, and discuss teaching ideas. The resources–including over 10,000 articles, videos, lesson plans, and more–are clear, easy-to-navigate, and user-friendly, with opportunities to collaborate with other teachers. What truly makes this educator-oriented site unique is that teachers can earn topical micro-credentials that can be used by their school district or state credentialing agencies (depending upon the circumstance). To earn these, teachers view the required materials, answer a set of questions, and then submit evidence of impact on practice such as lesson plans, instructional materials, and videos.
On the administrator side, BloomBoard offers the ability to look at reports and recommend resources for professional development. Analytics provide insight into which professional development resources and topics are most popular.
Alongside BloomBoard’s free content are premium pieces such as tools to collaborate with colleagues, private spaces for virtual discussions and document sharing, a dashboard to monitor the most widely-used district-wide collections and micro-credentials, the ability to create unique micro-credentials, and dedicated support from BloomBoard instructional practitioners. Within a district hub, admins can also create programs around particular topics such as ELL and special education that enable them to set shared goals, resources, and opportunities for collaboration and conversation.
- sign up for a free account
- fill out a profile with your interests and goals
- start reviewing recommended materials or browse the resources
- The problem often with professional development isn’t a lack of resources; it’s identifying the ones that fit specific needs. BloomBoard does this for educators.
- Resources are recommended that fit teacher grade level, subject area, and teaching interests.
- BloomBoard tracks the progress of each teacher’s professional development and chronicles how they hone their skills.
- One piece I always seek out on educator websites is an active forum where I can ask questions of colleagues and work through problems. While BloomBoard does offer this (a great plus), it’s too new to be robust. I look forward to what it will grow into over time.
- Another feature that really isn’t a con, simply on a wishlist: Teachers and administrators can curate collections, but not load their own material. On the plus side: The reason is that BloomBoard wants to review the material and ensure its quality before making it available.
Here are six ways to integrate BloomBoard into your professional development:
- provide a curation of quality, tested resources organized by topic so teachers have a one-stop shop for informing themselves on topics of interest.
- track teacher professional learning for credentialing or recertification (or salary schedules).
- quickly find out who’s knowledgeable on a particular education subject (by reviewing earned micro-credentials).
- engage in group study of a topic to promote grade-level or school goals.
- extend learning using the BloomBoard recommendations, based on teacher profiles.
- stay up-to-date on education pedagogy with easy-to-access and reliable resources.
Most educators–and parents–focus technology benefits on how it helps academically, but efriend Joe Peters reminded me the other day that there’s more to it than that. Joe’s not only a parent, but a freelance journalist and tech enthusiast, so I asked him to explain that to me and to my readers. Here’s his article on how edtech fosters a child’s social-emotional development:
As technology has become mainstreamed in modern education, learners are able to enjoy many key advantages. These include acquiring 21st-century skills, stronger peer relationships, and a greater motivation to learn. Technology also helps to prepare students for the future and improves the retention rate of information.
A child’s emotional well-being and self-confidence is essential to social and intellectual development. A worldwide survey conducted by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group confirmed that the use of educational technology fosters collaboration, problem-solving, teamwork and interpersonal communications. These benefits can help children build important social and emotional skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
Importance of Social-Emotional Development
Every person experiences a broad array of emotions on a daily basis. These feelings are not right or wrong nor good or bad, but there are good and not so good ways to handle those feelings. Kids who are shown ways to identify, express and cope with their feelings will be able to handle tough situations later in life.
Parents and educators should avoid negating a child’s strong emotions. Dismissing child’s feelings may cause resentment, shame and confusion, and could make the child afraid to share similar feelings in the future. These negative emotions can also interfere with the learning process. Many parents and teachers do not fully understand social and emotional learning (SEL). They might see it as a way to get kids to behave rather than as a way to achieve improved academic, economic and social outcomes for their students.
If you haven’t yet made the decision to join me at Summer PD: Tech-infused Teacher for three-weeks of high-intensity tech integration, here are the Top Ten Reasons for signing up:
10. Tech in ed is a change agent. You like change.
9. You’ll have a bunch of tech ed skills you can now say ‘I know how to do that’. Like TwitterChats. And Google Hangouts. And screencasts.
8. Your school will pay for it of you promise to teach colleagues–or show the videos.
7. It’s fun.
6. You want to meet new people.
5. You’re technophobic, but lately feel like teaching without technology is like looking at a landscape through a straw. You want to change that.
4. Richard Sloma said, “Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” You want your tech problems lined up in single file.
3. Technology in education is the greatest show on earth. Well, at least in the classroom. You want to be part of it.
2. Ashton Kutcher told teens, “Opportunity looks a lot like work.” You agree. Learning tech ed this summer is an opportunity you’re ready for.
1. Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Education’s fix requires technology. You’re ready for a new level of thinking.
For more information, click here.
This is a question I get often from teachers: Technology is always an extra layer of work in my classroom. How can I blend it into what I already do without taking time I don’t have? When I first addressed this issue fifteen years ago, it was all about replacing traditional classroom tools with one on a computer. For example, book reports were typed on the computer instead of handwritten, or math facts were practiced with a math game instead of flash cards. But that quickly became cumbersome. Teachers didn’t know how to use the digital tools and there was never enough training to untip that balance. At the end of the day, paper-and-pencil was easier, faster, and perfectly understood. Soon, even the most stalwart tech-infused teachers discovered it was just as effective to use traditional tools and pull out the tech stuff for special occasions.
What happened? How did such a good idea go so wrong? The problem was four-fold:
- students didn’t have the technology foundation to smoothly incorporate digital tools into projects. Too often, the effort to provide evidence of learning suffered as students (and teachers) became mired in efforts to get the technology to work. Where is the tool? How do you do **? Why is the program not working?
- teachers didn’t have training in the tools. Even schools that made herculean efforts to train teachers in technology found themselves flailing. Even teachers who understood the tool would struggle with the inadequate infrastructure, the undependability of the technology itself, and the non-intuitive nature of so many of the programs they wanted to use. As a result, they used tools they understood rather than those best-suited for the project and learning.
- projects always–really, always–took longer using technology than the traditional low-tech approach.
- school infrastructure often struggled to support the exciting plans that tech-savvy teachers wanted to try. Computers froze or the network became over-burdened or the internet went down just as students required them the most. The money required to fix these problems was measured in the thousands of dollars–tens of thousands. Too many schools just didn’t have that budget.
This is a question I get often from teachers: How do I teach my state/national/international curriculum using technology? When I first addressed this issue about fifteen years ago, there weren’t any tools to make this happen. In fact, I ended up writing my own project-based technology curriculum (now in its fifth edition). I wanted a curriculum that scaffolded learning year-to-year, blended into the school academic program, could be re-formed to apply to any academic topic, differentiated for varied student learning style, and was age-appropriate for the needs of the digital natives populating my classroom. Everything I found through traditional sources was skills-based, undifferentiated, and relied on programs that have always been around rather than the ones that incited student passion.
The most difficult part was convincing colleagues that 2nd graders couldn’t write a book report in MS Word until they understood toolbars, keyboarding basics, enough digital citizenship to research effectively online, and how to solve the never-ending-but-repetitive tech problems they surely would face during their work.
Overall, it took a year to curate teacher needs, evaluate what skills were required to accomplish them, and then blend them into a tech program that optimized learning for the particular age group.
Before I disclose my secret formula, let’s assess where you are–right now–in your technology integration efforts. Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed the popular SAMR model as a way for teachers to evaluate how they are incorporating technology into their instructional practice. Here’s how it works:
Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change.
This is a great starting point. Look at what you’re doing in your lesson plans and consider what tech tools could replace what you currently use. For example, if you make posters to discuss great inventors, could you use an online tech tool like Glogster or Canva?
Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement.
Because I teach graduate classes for educators, I talk to lots of teachers all over the country. It’s become clear to me that for most of them, adding technology to their lessons means layering more work on top of their already overburdened lesson plans. Despite the claims of tech gurus that technology makes the job of teaching easier, few educators see it that way. Even the ones who love it put in lots of extra time to do one or more of the following:
- learn tech tools and then teach their students
- learn tech tools only to discover it’s not what they need
- learn a tech tool they love only to have it either disappear or switch to a fee-based program
- rework existing lesson plans in the school’s mandated digital program that too often, changes every year. This means they have to re-enter the lesson plan in a new format for a new LMS
- find a tool they love, but no one else in their teaching team agrees, understands it, or cares
- the tool won’t work on the Big Day of the lesson and nothing will bring it back to life
- the digital devices–computer or Chromebooks or iPads–won’t work on the Big Day
But the biggest reason is this: Students don’t know the technology, so their projects become rudimentary displays of their knowledge rather than anything resembling the higher order thinking we teachers aspire to. I’d put it at S- in the SAMR Model (if you don’t know what that is, click to get a brief primer).
If you don’t have children, you may not have noticed the massive changes going on in the local schoolhouse. Those geeky tech tools that we adults like to avoid are taking over the classroom. Every year, students face new iPads, apps, online grading systems, webtools, digital devices, LMSs, cloud-based homework, digital portfolios, and more. As a teacher for twenty five years (the last fifteen in technology), it has my head spinning.
But–this may surprise you–students don’t mind a wit. They’re ready for tech, wondering what’s taking us so long to adopt the tools they can’t get enough of at home. Technology is in their DNA where we adults–it’s like bringing out the fine china for a special guest.
This year, make tech your everyday china. Use it often, dynamically, bravely, and with a smile. Here are the top 22 digital tools your colleagues are using in their classrooms:
- annotation tool
- backchannel devices
- class calendar
- class Internet start page
- class Twitter account
- class website
- digital devices
- digital note-taking
- digital portfolios
- flipped classroom
- Google Apps
- online quizzes
- screenshots and screencasts
- video channel
- virtual meetings
- vocabulary decoding tools
Each brief description includes the appropriate grade level, whether the tool is critical/important/optional, a ranking from 1-5 scale for how intuitive it is, and popular examples.
K-8, Critical, 3/5
Digital devices include PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, laptops, iPads, and Surface Tablets. They might be packed into a cart that’s rolled from class-to-class, collected in a lab, or offered as a 1:1 program that puts a device in every child’s hand. But one thing all programs have in common: They’re popular with students because they’re how kids want to learn. Because they blend rigor with passion, they should be part of every educator’s toolkit.
K-8, important, 4
A digital annotation tool allows students to take notes in class PDFs. If you use books or resources in this digital, portable format, you likely also have this tool. With it, students can take notes in their books, fill in online rubrics and quizzes, and automatically link to additional resources without having to retype URLs.
Knowledge is meant to be shared. That’s what writing is about–taking what you know and putting it out there for all to see. When students hear the word “writing”, most think paper-and-pencil, maybe word processing, but that’s the vehicle, not the goal. According to state and national standards (even international), writing is expected to “provide evidence in support of opinions”, “examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately”, and/or “communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose”. Nowhere do standards dictate a specific tool be used to accomplish the goals.
In fact, the tool students select to share knowledge will depend upon their specific learning style. Imagine if you–the artist who never got beyond stick figures–had to draw a picture that explained the nobility inherent in the Civil War. Would you feel stifled? Would you give up? Now put yourself in the shoes of the student who is dyslexic or challenged by prose as they try to share their knowledge.
When you first bring this up in your class, don’t be surprised if kids have no idea what you’re talking about. Many students think learning starts with the teacher talking and ends with a quiz. Have them take the following surveys:
Both are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner’s iconic model for mapping out learning modalities such as linguistic, hands-on, kinesthetic, math, verbal, and art. Understanding how they learn explains why they remember more when they write something down or read their notes rather than listening to a lecture. If they learn logically (math), a spreadsheet is a good idea. If they are spatial (art) learners, a drawing program is a better choice.
Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Christy:
I love your site – holy buckets of information! I was looking for examples of great classroom blog sites – I do marketing for our school and we had set up “classroom” blog pages for the teachers to control and be able to put up information – i.e. links to great sites relevant to their kids, their bio, hot reference sheets (memory work schedule, etc.) –
We are updating our website and the principal wants to take the blogs down so that it is not so much work for the teachers and they don’t have to take the time to update.
This is not surprising as our teachers are not great at keeping themselves tech savvy – so it is not like they are excited to have a blog page and are mostly just using it to “post” a periotic classroom update vs. making it a rich parent resource page.
I am curious with your tech wisdom – is this a trend for strong schools that teachers have a page for parents – does it help the school or classes stand out in a parents mind? Does it help with the marketing of the school and the value it offers in and out of the classroom? (we are a private school)
Is it worth me outlining a case to keep the blog and how to take them to a higher useful level or drop it – as it doesn’t matter and is not really a trend in classrooms today anyway?
I’m sad to hear that your principal wants to remove the teacher blog pages. It may solve the problem of out-of-date and non-relevant information, but the unintended consequences will be worse. Parents expect teachers to connect to them on a tech level, to offer 24/7 access via an online site like a blog (or a wiki, website, or any number of other albeit more complicated forums). They expect to be able to find homework help, links, resources, school materials at 7 at night while organizing the next school day with their child. Removing that access because teachers have difficulty keeping it up-to-date will solve one problem while causing many more.
Let’s back up a moment: Do you know why teachers aren’t keeping blogs up-to-date? Maybe:
- they don’t know how–a training session or 1:1 help might get them over this hump
- they think it takes too long–maybe a template with simple fill-ins, add-tos, or tweaks would make it faster. Truly, all teachers really need to start with is weekly lesson plans–resources, dates, reminders, newsletters. Fancy and involved can come later.
- they don’t think they are techie enough–recurring tech training might be necessary. Kids are baptized in iPads and smartphones. We can’t meet them where they are ready to learn if we’re afraid to enter that geeky room. Kids love learning with blogs, iPads, apps, online webtools–that sort.