As a part of our school’s weekly staff meeting, I was asked to share some technology tools that I use in my classroom. After teaching in a one to one computing classroom for the past 7 or 8 years, I have collected a good bit of ideas, and experience., and since so many teachers are getting iPads and netbooks this year, I am excited about the opportunity to share.
In this first edition of tips, I wanted to focus on how technology can help educators get better organized, and maybe make life just a bit easier.
Since so much of what I have learned about educational technology is simply recycled from the folks that are a part of PLN (Personal Learning Network), I decided to start by sharing how I use Google Reader to follow other educators and learn about what they do. Since our school district has moved to Google Docs and Gmail a year ago, there was no setup up process for our faculty. The first step was showing folks where to find it. For some reason, when you login to your Google account, the service is hidden under the “More” drop down menu at the top right.
For me, Reader is one of the most under used services that Google simply gives away for free. Reader is a syndication service that subscribes the user to a website, and basically allows you to “follow” a blog. Reader does all the work. It tracks new posts and keeps the information stored and ready for when the “Reader”, or user is ready for it. Reader organizes, simplifies and speeds up what would take me hours to do on my own.
After finding how to open up Reader inside your Google Account, the next big step is learning to add the websites you want to follow. This can be done by searching or pasting an exact web address. Both of these actions can be done by clicking the “Subscribe” button. Believe it or not, that’s it. Reader will do the rest. Just look on the left hand column to check in on the blogs you follow. The text will turn bold when there is something new to read.
There is more that can be done with this tool. My favorite part is being able to sync the service with other sites and apps. I use an app called “Reeder” on my iPhone to follow the blogs collected by Reader, and there is a cool app for the iPad called “Flipboard” that does the same much with a more a visual interface.
To help you get started following blogs here is a list of some of my favorites:
The Thinking Stick, Ideas and Thoughts, The Innovative Educator, Edmodo Blog, Educational Technology Guy, Free Technology 4 Teachers, Hack Education, History Tech, I.N.K – Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids, iLearn Technology, The CyberCafe Blog, and The Whiteboard Blog
I have been using Reader for about 3-4 years now, and have been collecting blogs I find interesting and useful. I hope this selection helps others get a start. Often I get asked where I find out about different technology sites, apps or tools. The simple answer is… usually from one of these blogs. That’s the secret.
The next tool I wanted to share is a service called “Remind 101.” I am always looking out for ways to communicate with parents in an easy and fast way, and this site helps out. Basically what this site does is allow parents to sign up for text messages sent from the teacher. The site is free, and it takes less than 5 minutes to sign up. There is even a set of personalize directions that can be printed off and sent home with newsletter showing parents how to join the service.
I have found that so many parents already have text messaging, and use it often that this is quickly becoming a preferred way to communicate! And what makes this tool especially nice is that it only sends information from the teacher to those that have joined the service. Teachers do not have to worry about getting responses back. As of right now I have 75 percent of my families recieved my classroom texts. And I see no reason why my students could not join in on the service in the near future.
Another neat feature I discovered after joining is the “Schedule for later” button. This has allowed me to set all my texts in advance on a Sunday for the whole week. I cannot tell you how much my parents have enjoyed this feature already this year. I use it in so many different ways. I actually find it a fun challenge to send a text at the exact time I think parents could use a reminder for something that will be happening at school.
Please take the time to comment back on this blog if you find any of these tips useful. I’d like to know if this helps you out, or if there is something that just doesn’t make sense.
Up Next: How I use Evernote to coordinate all the great ideas I steal from Reader!