Tag Archives: educational technology

Ten Best “Must-Try” Free Tech Tools for 2017-2018

Welcome to the start of the 2017-2018 school year!  The new year brings with it a new opportunity to try new things to support learning for all students.  Here are my top ten “must-try” free tech tools for this year!

10. Flipgrid – The “flip” in “flipgrid” comes from the concept of a flipped classroom.  Ignite discussion by creating a “grid” where students make video of their thoughts and ideas on a topic you post.  Super Cool Hack: Use this in language classes (foreign language or ASL) to post source material and translations!

9. Seesaw – A digital portfolio system for your students.  Students can submit materials as typed documents, photos, drawings, video, or links.  New to Seesaw, students can log in with their G Suite for Education account instead of scanning a QR code, and students can submit material from their Google Drive!  A great solution for early elementary students who are not ready for a full-blown LMS!

8. Read&Write for Chrome – You have to be using Google Chrome for this one, but the benefits are so good!  The free version gives you high-quality text-to-speech within Google Docs and PDFs.  Teachers can submit their e-mail address to get a free one-year (renewable) subscription to all of the paid features as well.

7. Edublogs – Your students can write for a global audience.  That’s a scary thought to many teachers, but the potential benefits are too vast to ignore.  If we want students to reflect on their learning, become effective communicators, and create authentic products, blogging is a great way to reach all students.  Built on the popular and powerful WordPress system, Edublogs provides an easy way for a teacher to create a single class blog and invite students to become contributors.  The teacher retains ultimate control of what becomes public, and students learn digital citizenship alongside of the content they are creating.

6. Canva – Digital Publishing and Graphic Design calls us to merge our content knowledge with creative expression.  But, basic productivity tools still assume an 8½”×11″ (or A4) format, based on the tyranny of printed paper.  Canva gives you “Publisher” type templates to start from, but in Infographic or other formats that defy traditional size restrictions.  Smash the boundaries!

5. Feedbro – I have rediscovered the value of RSS feeds!  Yeah, I follow certain people on Twitter or other social media platforms, and I learn a lot from them.  But, I can still miss important posts from certain people or organizations, and I don’t want to have to remember to visit their pages every day/week/month to see if there are any updates.  Feedbro lets me enter the RSS feed address for my favorite feeds and keep track of updates in one convenient location.  Versions available for Chrome or Firefox.

4. Iorad – Creating step-by-step tutorials and screencasts can be a great way to familiarize people with a long series of steps to perform online tasks.  Trouble is, these tutorials and screencasts can be very time-consuming to create.  Enter Iorad.  Start Iorad, and perform your task.  Iorad keeps track of where you click and what you type, and produces both a step-by-step tutorial with screenshots, and a screencast of the procedure you just performed.  Turn hours of tutorial production into minutes!

3. Recap – Recap takes multimedia student interactivity to another level by shifting the focus away from the teacher’s questions and to the student’s questions.  Queues, Journeys, and Video Responses offer exceptional flexibility in using this tool to provide asynchronous communication opportunities, and promote deeper thinking by students who interact with the system.

2. Book Creator – Book Creator has long been one of my favorite tools for the iPad and Android tablets.  Giving students the ability to create their own multimedia e-books can ignite a passion for learning, to become “published authors” with expertise in their chosen content area.  Now, this capability has been extended to the Chrome browser with the release of the newest version of Book Creator! Anything from short, simple picture books, to comprehensive advanced math and science texts (with built-in video examples!) can be produced with Book Creator.  And, if you need a powerful ePub reader to view your completed eBooks, try Readium!

1. iCivics – Anyone else out there seeing a renewed interest in civics education and how government works?  Just me?  Okay, then….  The mission of iCivics.org is to provide students (and anyone else, really) with immersive simulations into how government works, across all branches, at all levels from local to federal.  With Constitution Day coming up on September 17, iCivics is releasing a brand new version of its most popular game, “Do I Have a Right?”  Infinitely playable and replayable, the simulations at iCivics are great for introducing students to the complex and complicated world of representative democracy!

Which of these have you tried?  Any others that you love for 2017-2018?

 

Advertisements

The Opposite of Tech Integration

“Technology Integration Specialist” is the title on my business card.  I like it.  It speaks directly to what the primary focus of my job is – how to use technology to intentionally increase achievement for all learners and close gaps for historically underserved subgroups.

Explaining what that looks like can be difficult.  It’s as difficult as explaining what “good teaching” really looks like, especially once you get beyond definitions that are all about compliance (“students are quiet”, “desks are in neat rows”, “assigned work is turned in on time”) and get to definitions that actually reflect learning (intellectual, emotional, and behavioral advances made by the students).

Sometimes, we can get a clearer picture of what something is by defining what it isn’t.  So, what would be the opposite of Tech Integration?

How about “Tech Segregation”?

“Tech Segregation” separates the technology from the learning process, or relegates it to its own learning path.  Learning to use technology becomes a separate subject, like English, math, social studies, or science.  Or maybe even more like a foreign language.  And anytime learning in one field helps a student make advances in another field, the effect is a happy accident instead of an intentional outcome.  We are misusing students’ time when students in a Technology class learn to create PowerPoint presentations about topics with no explicit connection to the curriculum, and then type or hand-write a book report for Language Arts.

“Tech Segregation” relegates technology to extension activities, only for students who have already achieved the day’s academic goal.  Or, the technology becomes a reward for compliance – something students get to do after they finish the stuff they don’t want to do.  In that system, students have to find a way to perform without the technology before they can use it.  It’s as senseless as making kids prove they can walk all the way to school before they’re allowed to get on a bus.

“Tech Segregation” makes kids achieve a standard or pre-qualify before they can have access.  Access to technology is seen as inherently motivational for students, but that attribute is used as the carrot on a stick to get kids to do things the old way, instead of transforming the way we teach to take fuller advantage of the way we learn.

“Tech Segregation” preserves the rank-and-sort, label-and-identify system that has resulted in significant gaps for students who don’t fit typical socio-economic and cultural norms.  Kids who are “good at school” get the bells and whistles.  Kids who don’t are told to try harder, while we turn away and suck our teeth at the sad state of their homes and families.

Conversely, Tech Integration acknowledges that quality tools in the hands of practiced learners makes amazing things possible.  When that position is paired with the belief that every student can learn, then it becomes unconscionable to keep those tools out of the hands of the very students who need the most support when it comes to accessing the general curriculum.

End Tech Segregation.