Posted in reflection

How Technology Found Its Place

Every one of my grad school classes has professed the need for tech tools in the classroom. I have left each one with a list of websites, apps, and resources to use in my own class, mostly written off as I never saw the importance. What could be better than good ol’ Ticonderoga and composition notebook? That is, until I had my own students. Growing up we always were given books. We never had smartboards. We never had laptops or ipads. We were given paper, pencil, and told to take notes from the overhead projector. I say this, not to flaunt my age, but because that is how classes were led only 5-10 years ago. And, while this was my experience, this was my expectation of how to lead my students.

As I began my lesson plans, however, the tech tools still called to me as if they were sirens from a far off land. I longed for iPads so we could integrate the many iOS apps available to classrooms. I searched for videos and TedED talks to assist my students’ visual understanding of abstract concepts. I fell for the trap. My love of paper and pencil gave way to a newfound understanding that technology can help today’s learners grasp material in a more concrete way than before.

I have now created my own list of what tools are useful in the classroom. This list is based on the resources available in my district, what is beneficial and interesting to my students, and complementary to the curriculum. Most everything is free, or has a free version (what is better than free, right?)  I will certainly be adding to this list throughout the years, and have already started making a list of tech tools to check into for next year. My biggest goal for next year is to start a classroom website or Google Classroom. My students need a place where all of their resources are available and where I can keep their information organized. This will also serve as a communication tool for families with helpful dates, classroom procedures, additional handouts (ie: weekly vocab words), and upcoming events. I want my classroom to be completely transparent, and a classroom website is an easy way to do that.

My top classroom resources are:

  1. Spotify – This is the only app that I paid for personally this year, and it was WELL worth it. Music makes everything more fun. I love my Spotify premium account because there are no dreaded ads and you can make and listen to playlists. There are many classroom friendly playlists that my students love including Jazz, instrumental pop songs, and Classical.
  2. Google Slides – Our school uses Google apps, so all students have a Google email account with access to Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides, the works. I used Google Slides in a variety of ways in my classroom this year including introducing topics to my students (just like a power point). My students also created many Google Slides presentations to show understanding of concepts, research projects, group work, etc. A colleague has created Jeopardy games through Slides, a goal of mine for next year.

    Screenshot (30)
    Using Google Slides allows me to incorporate relevant examples -with images – beyond the stories we have read in class.
  3. Google Docs (next year Google Classroom) – Most, if not all, of my students’ assignments were written on a Google Doc. This past year, students turned these in via email. This process became tedious when searching for student papers, resulting in several misplaced assignments. To ease this process, I am planning to use Google Classroom next year which will allow for all assignments to be turned in through the portal. Because my classroom did not have a SmartBoard, Google Docs has also allowed me to take notes on the board and then keep them for the next day or future reflection.
  4. Prezi – Toward the end of the year I began making more Prezis. Prezi is similar to Google Slides in that you can introduce content in a presentation, mostly linearly. Prezi is more flexible, however, with its visual formatting.

    Screenshot (29)
    My 6th Graders love seeing the theme of the Prezi of the week. Prezi’s are also very easy to share via email, remind, or website.
  5. ReadTheory – ReadTheory is a great individualized reading tool. Students take an assessment, and the site gives assignements based on level. Each assignment consists of a reading and 5 questions. Students receive points for their efforts and move up or down levels based on questions correct. The best thing about this site is that it gives students an explanation of correct answers. You can also print off grade level passages each week to work through with your class.
  6. NewsELA – Real news stories with quizzes to help students on informational text. There are so many stories to choose from, that every student can find something they like. The best part about this site is the variety of stories based on level. I do wish, however, that students received feedback as to WHY their answers were incorrect.
  7. NoRedInk – NoRedInk is a great tool for interactive grammar. We used it mostly as a whole class exercise, but you can create individual student accounts and assign students problems to work. You can also assign pre and post assessments and assign lessons based on that data. This past year I used this as a supplemental review, but next year I plan to use it more extensively. This tool also has a free and pay version.
  8. Remind – My parents LOVED that I used Remind (previously Remind101) to communicate. They received a text or email with every message sent and could reply directly to me. It was so simple to get info out and receive responses back. Because I would schedule tests and papers a unit at a time, I loved that I could schedule posts to be sent to parents ahead of time. This way, the communication was taken care of, and I only had to worry about adding minor adjustments.
  9. Flocabulary – If we had extra time at the end of a day, or just needed a break, I would show a Flocabulary video. Flocabulary does have a pay option, but many of their videos are available on YouTube. My personal favorite is the Figurative Language video.
  10. Quizlet – Quizlet allows you to sets of digital flashcards. Students can access these by creating their own accounts. We used this for vocabulary review. Students have access to play games with the words, take a pretest, or study words as flash cards. Teachers can also create and use the online tests if you wish.
  11. Kahoot.it – My kids LIVED for Kahoot. If you haven’t heard of Kahoot, do yourself a favor and look it up now. It is by far the best game platform for the classroom that exists (or at least, that I have found). In order to play, your students need access to a computer or phone. You create a multiple choice quiz and the students compete to see who can answer the questions correctly the quickest. There are also countless  public kahoots that you can borrow for your class. The best part – you can download their data to use for remediation, reteaching, quiz scores, etc.
  12. Kidblog.org – I like the idea of having a class newsletter written by my students (see transparency, written above) Coming 2016-2017 or future
  13. GoNoodle – Coming 2016-2017
  14. ThinkCERCA – Coming 2016-2017
  15. Glogster – Coming 2016-2017
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Author:

I'm currently teaching middle school English and loving every minute of it. My favorite moments in the classroom are overhearing my students discussing their most recent library find. My current "to-read" list is a mile long, and I'm am working my way through it. There are so many great YA books out there! Next up is either Book Thief or 5th Wave, both [highly] recommended my my kiddos. Happy reading!!

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