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Tech in Education

Technology is everywhere, and we all know that the classroom is no exception. We have teaching standards on teaching 21st century skills! At every first building and district meeting, we are reminded that we are preparing our students for jobs that haven’t even been created yet. To some, this may seem a little exaggerated, but look at the jobs we have created in the last 5, 10 years. Social Media Director. App Designer. Online teacher. I’m not even 28 yet, and I remember using a card catalog in the library and encyclopedias to start research projects. Technology is ever advancing, evolving, and becoming more and more of our day-to-day world.

Integrating technology in the classroom can be overwhelming. After you get over the hurdle of getting access to it, you have to decide how to use it. A lot of times in a regular classroom the extent of technology use is research, typing, possibly watching some clips, and maybe making a PowerPoint. Whether you have a computer lab or Smart Board and one-to-one technology, there are plenty of great ideas that can get your kids thinking creatively, critically thinking, collaborating, and communicating. Below are a few of my favorite tech uses in a classroom.

Housing Resources - Until college I had never seen this idea. My first interaction was in a literary analysis class taught by the head of the English department. He had his own website! On this website was everything we could ever need; his syllabus, the outline he wanted us to use, resources, schedules. It was so nice to have access to all of that online. It felt like a treasure trove of resources. This wouldn’t need to be done on a website though. Google docs is also a great way to house resources that students can have access to whether they are in class working on their projects or on a family vacation trying not to get behind.

NewsELA – This website is so fantastic for social studies and language arts. You get access to a myriad of text including current events and even famous speeches. They also offer texts in Spanish. You can assign specific texts to your class (we had our students vote between 2 or 3 we had picked beforehand), and then students can select the reading lexile that works best for them. The entire class is reading the same text, but at each individual student’s level. How can you not love that? Students can also annotate the text digitally, take a short multiple-choice quiz, and even respond to writing prompts. All of their progress is charted and as the teacher, you can check on the class and individual student’s progress and work. All of my students would ask if they could work on another article if they finished early. They really loved it!

Blogging – We have a giant month long project called The Bloguments. It is a self-chosen and researched project that culminates in students getting to publish their own blog about a controversial issue they feel strongly about. Along with credible resources, researching, and Toulmin writing, students also learn a little coding and digital citizenship. Teachers can have as much or as little control as they want and the blogs can be as private or public as you are comfortable with. My class’s blog was a one-shot deal, though some teachers have had blogs their students are expected to maintain throughout the year, ranging from formal research and argument to creative writing. Blogging is always high interest to students and it can often light a fire you might have had trouble finding in some students.

Show what you Know – PowerPoints will always be a way for students to show what they know; however, there are many other options that could be considered. Piktochart allows people to create infographics. Prezi allows students to make much prettier versions of a PowerPoint. Imovie allows students to create and edit their own movies. Even Minecraft could be used to have your students show you what they know. Keep an open mind and think of different ways students could present information or show understanding.

Minecraft – This one took some convincing for me. It’s just a popular sandbox game. How could you ever use that in class? My mind started to change when a student said he had a Minecraft project in mind for a book. He showed me a sketch of what he thought ‘The Giant’s Drink’ from Ender’s Game should look like and he wanted to create it in Minecraft. I decided to let him give it a shot. I had a student bringing in butterbeer for the class and dressing up as Harry Potter for a class Q&A session, so why not? The entire class was blown away when we saw what he created. He even sited passages on signs in the game to backup his choices.

Students could use Minecraft to build things to show reading comprehension. Minecraft Edu is a wealth of resources from existing worlds that were created based off of books or historical places as well as lesson plans and existing worlds for different lessons. I found worlds based on math, building Rube Goldberg machines for physics, team building, storytelling, critical thinking. I feel that Minecraft is a source that is often overlooked that could be a wealth of inspiration.

A quick Google or Pinterest search for ‘tech in the classroom’ will produce more results than you’d ever have time for! Keep an open mind and think about how you can use technology to light a fire in your students. How do you use technology in your classroom? Do you have any favorite websites or tools you use? I would love to hear about them!

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