Technology remains–still–a love-hate relationship between teachers and teaching. Yes, it enriches learning but at the price of too many problems, preparation required, and confusion. I like Felicia Zorn’s summary of how that go-nogo decision really has become ‘get with the program’.
Growing up, my generation did not use verbs like ‘Google’ or proper nouns such as ‘Siri’. We were the pioneers of the digital era. We played Oregon Trail, asked Jeeves questions for our research, and waited for hours while Napster downloaded our favorite songs. Now, children are digital natives. Children as young as two are utilizing tablets, exploring the apps on smartphones, and accessing knowledge via the internet. How do we as educators keep up with this trailblazing generation who can navigate technology at breakneck speeds? Or better yet, why should we integrate online learning into our classrooms? There are countless strategies and resources at your fingertips, but this article will spotlight the importance of digital teacher support for your blended learning environment.
Digital resources can save teachers innumerable hours of planning, grading, assigning, and assessing in the classroom. As online resources develop and create more curricula, teachers will transform classroom dynamics by devoting less time to lecturing and spending more time enriching and mentoring. Rigorous, standards-aligned content is uploaded daily to educational websites, apps, and test banks. Most online assignments are auto-graded and scores are sent directly to a digital gradebook for teachers. Assessments can be altered with settings to meet the needs of all students with a few short clicks.
Every teacher I know has virtual reality on their radar. It’s one of those short-listed disruptive technologies that kids want to be involved in and will change teaching for the better. I was thrilled when Amanda Ronan over at Teach.com suggested that she write a how-to for teachers on getting virtual reality started in their classrooms. I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts:
Suddenly, virtual reality is everywhere. The technology lets you experience worlds you’ve never dreamed of visiting. You’ve seen people drop their phones into what look like small cardboard boxes and suddenly they’re transported back in time or to the moon.
As an educator, you probably look at those devices and wonder if you need a degree in computer science to figure out how to use them, let alone how to incorporate the tech into your classroom. But, we’re excited to let you in on the secret: VR is super easy to get started with.
Get Started with VR
Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be the hippest teacher around. Not to mention, your students will be totally engaged in the world, both real and virtual, around them. Set an example, and you might even get the whole school on board. Talk about leadership material.
1. Pick Your Equipment.
To use virtual reality in the classroom, all you need is a smartphone capable of downloading the VR apps or videos (more on those in a second) and a headset. The VR headset provides different screens, and therefore different images, for each eye. They also include sound and motion-sensors, so when you move your head, the image moves, too.
If your school has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy, you can ask for student volunteers willing to download the apps or videos onto their phones. You’ll only need enough phones with the apps as you have headsets. Teachers just getting started with VR usually start out by having groups share a headset.
One of the best ways to start out is with the Google Cardboard headset. There are a bunch of different options, but they start are $7.00 each. This keeps the tech affordable. If you order a few for your classroom and find yourself using VR more than you thought you would, order a few more. Or, if your students love the experience, you can possibly convince your district to invest in an account with Nearpod, an educational company that offers everything you need to do VR right, from the headsets, to standards-aligned lesson plans, to the opportunity to make and produce VR lessons yourself. Being a tech ambassador is a great way to influence change in your school on an organizational level so get excited and let your enthusiasm be contagious!
Here’s a sneak peak:
I’ve stopped passing out worksheets to help my students prepare for finals. Instead, I like to push my students to collaborate with each other by using online tools. I’ve tried a number of methods that require students to evaluate information, think critically, and solve problems. Here are five methods to try with your students when they’re studying for finals.
Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, Karen Dikson, has put together a collection of online gamified sites that will help your students with their writing: You think the textbooks for today’s generations of students are way more interesting than the once you had? Ask your students. They still think the lessons are boring. If you don’t do anything to make the studying material more appealing, you can’t expect great engagement and results in your classroom.
One of the hottest topics in schools and an area of greatest need is STEM resources. Earth Networks has developed creative and compelling STEM curricula on a variety of weather topics. Any school with a weather unit or an onsite weather station will appreciate this site. I asked them to drop in and explain their education programs to the AATT community:
Why Teach STEM?
In the world of education, only a few things remain constant. The weather is not one of them. But people’s desire to learn and understand the factors that shape weather, and the desire to accurately predict it, certainly is a constant. Nearly every business in every industry is profoundly affected by the weather, and knowing how to read and understand the data that is presented to business leaders via WeatherSTEM platforms and weather data visualization software is invaluable. Making weather a part of your student’s curriculum will invariably help them throughout their lives, regardless of the paths they choose.
Using the cloud to store, share, and collaborate in the classroom is relatively new. A decade ago, accessing schoolwork from home was just about impossible. Now, it’s easy through sites like Google Drive and OneDrive.
Mary Davis, a guest writer for Ask a Tech Teacher, specializes in cloud computing. Here are her thoughts on how cloud computing is transforming today’s education:
Cloud computing technology is certainly having its moment these days. Growing in popularity and with no signs of slowing down, the cloud is said to be the “way of the future”. In short, the access to online storage and applications that today’s cloud technology provides us with is significantly easier, cheaper and more secure than any form of memory storage in the past. This is of a particular importance to the way educational institutions are run, as it allows for a streamlined experience that can be more easily maintained by the teacher, the student, and the IT department.
The collaborative properties of cloud computing are appealing to both students and teachers. Gone are the days where group projects require huddling around one computer with the slowest classmate typing. Students can now collaborate with other students and teachers in real time, without necessarily even having to be in the same room.
The end of the school year means graduation for seniors. If they aren’t going to college, they’re job hunting. Sara Stringer, Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, has several ideas on how to make that more efficient:
As a teacher, you’re fully aware of how much the world is advancing through technology. Undoubtedly, innovation has touched many aspects of how you teach. The Internet has made it easier to gather, evaluate, summarize and disseminate information. If for example, you’re a math teacher, you may refer students struggling to grasp the Pythagorean Theorem to view Khan Academy videos so that they can catch up with the rest of the class.
Since you have probably used the Internet to post your own resume, you know how powerful it can be and how important it is to make your online presence as professional as possible. You can also use your knowledge and experience in job hunting to guide those students who don’t plan on going on to college on how to get internships and entry-level jobs after graduation. Job searching has changed remarkably over the past few years, and if your students are to succeed in the real world, they will have to take a very different approach than your previous graduating classes.
Here are 3 tech tips you can use to point your graduating class in the right direction:
Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, Steven Wesley, has some great suggestions for using augmented reality:
Day by day, technology is becoming more and more present in our lives. As the time goes by, we tend to rely on technology more and more. A good example would be the kids nowadays. They are becoming tech-savvy from a very young age. Twenty years ago, kids were outside playing games from football to hide-and-seek, today’s kids are becoming too attached to their gadgets. They spend their time playing video games rather than hanging out with their friends.
Technology can be either a curse or a blessing, depending on how we use it. In good hands, it can be directed to the achievement of great purposes. Even so, if we use it in an unfavorable way, it can have a lot of malicious side effects.
Augmented reality is a technology that is gaining more and more popularity. Just remember what a huge hit Pokemon Go was this summer. Even though it’s a new technology, it doesn’t mean that it has to be very expensive. You don’t have to buy expensive glasses, you can just use your smartphone or a tablet for educational purposes.
Let’s take a look at three helpful reality apps. They can make your lessons exciting and beneficial for your students.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tyler, a fascinating and outgoing sophomore in Mitchell School District in Mitchell, South Dakota. He contacted me for help promoting his blog and I persuaded him to tell his story about the part technology has played in his education. I encourage all of you to read this, add your thoughts under comments, and then drop in on Tyler’s brand new blog to get him started.
Hello, everyone. My name is Tyler Wright, and I am a sophomore in high school. My website is thewrightread.com, where I write book reviews over inspiring, nonfiction books. After you read this, feel free to take a look there. Just stopping by and reading one review helps me more than you would think.
Throughout all of my education, I have been exposed technology.
I was first “officially introduced” to computers shortly after learning how to read. In order to judge our reading comprehension, my classmates and I would take “AR tests” over the books we read. These tests were taken on the computer, and I never found them to be very challenging. The program itself was set up in a simple way that allowed elementary students to use them easily. Another way I used computers was through a program called “CCC,” I don’t remember what CCC stood for. Every week I would go into the computer room with my class, where we would learn at our own pace, on our own computers. Sitting in a dark room and staring at a computer for an hour wasn’t the easiest thing for a child that young, as I am sure you can imagine. There was one time, while I was in CCC, that I really had to go pee and my teacher didn’t believe me. That was the only time I wet myself in school.