Being a technology teacher, I try to look for tools that engage my students. Some of these tools lend themselves very well to being the foundation of a project, while others serve as brain breaks or class activities. Regardless of what context they’re used for, they all serve the same purpose: student engagement within the classroom. I’ve compiled a list of my top five favorite tech tools for the classroom. Although I teach at the high school level, most of these can be used with elementary and middle grade students as well.
Being a technology teacher, I am always looking for new projects for my students. I’m all over anything that can both engage them and teach them new content.
For this blog post, I’ve come up with my Top 5 favorite technology projects that my students have done. These projects aren’t tied to a specific content area and can be used across a wide range of grade levels. The examples here were done by high school students, but you can scale them back or forward to best fit your students’ needs and grade level.
Being a teacher in the 21st century means that there is a wealth of resources and educational technology available for you to use in your classroom—much more than even five years ago. Having all of these tools available to you greatly opens up the resources you have to enhance your content and make it readily accessible and engaging for your students.
student Photoshop projectOne of my favorite things to do in my classroom is transform it into a blended learning environment, where students are accessing new content and material on their own through the use of technology. At left is an example of a student's work using Photoshop to redesign a logo to fit with an education conference's theme of being "thrown together with tape and cardboard."
Despite having only been teaching for seven years, which compared to some is barely any time at all, I feel that I have settled into a good routine and teaching style/strategy in my classroom. Because, like I’ve said before in a previous blog post, you own your classroom and what goes on inside its walls.
One of the things I have seen time and time again that seems to bring out not only successes in students, but also evidence of high-quality work, is when students are given a choice to complete a given task, assignment, or project. I call these “Menu” projects, because students essentially are choosing from a menu of project optiokidschoosingfoodns what they want to complete in order to demonstrate that they know and understand a topic.
Now, there is a catch to the “Menu” project option: the teacher has to come up with not one but multiple ways to complete the task, assignment, or project, as well as multiple rubrics and grading components. Given this, the “Menu” project may not be an option for every single task, assignment, or project in your class. However, for larger projects or summative assessments, this type of model might be just the right fit.
The title says it all: going Google has indeed changed the way I teach and my approach to education. Being in the technology education field lends itself very well to “going Google”; however, I haven’t always been where I am now. Not long ago I was just your run-of-the-mill middle school social studies teacher. My embrace of Google in a general education classroom has definitely paved the way for where I am today.
There’s this nifty little app you can get on your phone called Timehop, which syncs all of your social networks and gives you a “day in history” report for the past several years with everything you’ve posted on that date—a walk down memory lane each day. Recently on my Timehop I noticed I posted four years ago this Facebook status update: “New goal: Google Certified Teacher. Stay tuned, friends.” Without Timehop I don’t think I’d ever remember posting that, but as soon as I saw it, it came back to me: in 2011 I was doing some research for a technology course I was taking for my master’s program, and I came across the Google Teacher Academy and becoming a Google Certified Teacher. The school I was teaching at used Google for a lot of things, but the more I researched about the Academy and Google in Education, the more interested I became in the doors certification would open both inside and outside my classroom.
I present at a number of (mostly technology) conferences throughout the year, and someone in my session inevitably says, “My school can’t afford this technology” or “How am I supposed to do this in my classroom when I don’t have any resources?”
My heart goes out to them. I’ve been fortunate enough in most of my teaching career to be in schools where technology is highly looked upon and sought out. However, I have been on the flip side of that as well, where technology was on the back burner and other, more pressing issues took priority. What I always tell these commenters at my session is, “This may sound harsh, but those are merely excuses. Don’t let your school’s limited budget stop you from using technology—any kind you want—in your classroom.”
The mere mention of technology in the classroom gets me so excited. I love talking classroom tech with teachers, no matter how novice or advanced their skills are. I love the advances being made in technology, and the opportunities that are opening up for our students across the nation and the world. Technology is merely a tool, but it is a powerful tool that can open a whole new set of doors that previously remained closed for some learners.
Since I started teaching, towards the conclusion of every single summer, I get excited, anxious, nervous, and giddy…all at the same time. Another school year is about to start and I have a whirlwind of emotions, sentiments, and feelings swirling around that simple fact.
It doesn’t matter if I’m returning to the same school I’ve been at for several years or starting at a brand new school; I experience the same feelings. As long as I’m still teaching, I doubt the excitement will ever dwindle. The impending dawn of a new academic year brings a tornado of feelings that just can’t be ignored for many in the teaching profession. But, that’s what’s fantastic, amazing and incredible about the job we do; the rush of emotion, anxiety, and excitement reoccurs at the start of each new school year. I don’t know of many jobs where you get to relive these types of good feelings over and over again.
As a teacher, I look for anything and everything I can use to connect to my students, and get them excited about the learning that is going on in my classroom. I am not afraid to take risks, especially if my students will benefit from them.
A few years ago, a colleague and I decided to take a risk for our middle school’s monthly “Club Day.” We were going to host “Dog Club,” where we would bring in our dogs (and have some of our colleagues bring theirs in too) and spend the day teaching the students about dog behaviors, training, maintenance, walking techniques, and much more. We had never brought our pets into school, and we weren’t even sure we were allowed to do so. After a discussion with our principal about the benefits of Dog Club, we got the green light.
When I was little, like many others out there, I kept a journal. Having read books like The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata’s Diary, I too wanted to write down my thoughts. It was mostly the ramblings of my 10-year-old self, which segued into the drama that was my middle school years. To me, writing was therapeutic; when I wrote something down, I felt better.
It was great to be able to look back upon my entries and see exactly what I was thinking or feeling at that age. Fast-forward to now: I still am “journaling,” but in today’s terms this is called “blogging.”
I’m going to make a bold statement, but one I believe needs to be said: educators need to write, or journal, or blog. Education is quite a different profession than most; it is ever-changing—new methods and techniques are evolving while others are dying out, and it is constantly in the limelight. Given these conditions, teachers need to document what’s going on in their own teaching worlds.