Bringing Technology Into Your Classroom

Worth Checking Out

One of the great things about following or being friends of other educators on social networks, is you are always learning new things.  Here are some additional resources that go with some of my recent posts.  I learned about these on Twitter and Plurk.

Xtra Math is another website where students can practice basic facts:  https://www.xtramath.org/

If you’re ready to learn about Twitter, @Cybraryman is the man to follow.  He has resources on every subject and he shares them generously.  Check out his Twitter for Beginners resources and advice:  http://cybraryman.com/twitterforbeginners.html

Here are some Great Websites for Kids, sorted by grade level:  http://askatechteacher.wordpress.com/great-websites-for-kids/

What are some of your latest discoveries, and favorite resources for technology?

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My class just started using a website for math practice called Ten Marks.  You can find it at http://tenmarks.com.  It was mentioned by several people in the 4thchat on Twitter last Monday.  I had looked at the website before, but I hadn’t really ventured past the home page.  That was a mistake, because the website has a lot to offer.

A big plus for me, is that students can use the iPads for this website.  Another advantage, is that it is free to teachers.   It was easy to set it up for my entire class, and you can easily tailor assignments to meet the needs of students.  It’s a great way for my students to get additional practice, and it is aligned with state core standards.  It has curriculum for grades 2 through 8, including algebra and geometry.  You can meet the specific needs of students by including skills from other grade levels.

One of the things I like about it is that each question contains hints for students to use, as well as videos that give step by step instruction.  So even though students are working independently, they have many tools at their finger tips.

Each student has their own ID and password, so they can continue to work on exercises from home.  There is the potential to include parent e-mail addresses and to include them in messages to students about assignments.

As students progress through the problems, they can have immediate feedback by clicking on the solution.  When they end their session, they are notified immediately about their score and progress.

This is a very teacher friendly website.  There are several videos to assist you in setting things up for your class.  Management and assessment are made easy for the teacher because the website includes in-depth graphs and charts that enable you to see how many problems each student attempted and answered successfully.

So check it out!  This might be just the right website for you and your class.

This is a duplicate post of one I made on my Day In the Classroom blog.  

This post is a repeat of a previous post  on my blog, Day In the Classroom.

Most of what I know about using technology in the classroom, I learned from people on Twitter.  It has changed my teaching.  I have developed new friendships because of Twitter, and it has recharged my enthusiasm for teaching.  I even have a new dog, because of someone I met via Twitter.

When you are a Twitter regular, you forget how intimidating it can be at first.  When I first joined Twitter, I thought the whole idea of “following” people sounded like stalking.  I couldn’t figure out how things worked and I thought the whole thing was ridiculous.  And of course if you don’t have anyone to follow, there is nothing to see.  It wasn’t until about four months later, when I was taking a professional development class called “Using the Internet in the Classroom,” that I got back on Twitter.

With just a few exceptions, I follow only educators.  I found the first people to follow by going to Twitter4Teachers.  Once you have a few people to follow, you can observe who they follow, and begin following those people yourself.  Many people post names of people they follow.  On Fridays you will see a hashtag #FF and Twitter names.  FF stands for Follow Friday.  This is a good way to find new people with important things to share.

I have found a lot of people that I have things in common with, and that I can learn from by following the chats.  A chat is when people schedule a time to hold a discussion on a topic via Twitter.  My favorite chats are the grade level chats.  For me the grade level chats are great because people talk about ideas and resources that can be used immediately in my classroom.  During the week leading up to the chat, interested people vote on a topic to be discussed.

Kyle Pace (@KylePace) wrote a great blog post on getting started on Twitter and following the chats.  You can read it here.

The chat for fourth grade is held every Monday from 7 to 8 PM.  This is an opportunity to talk with 4th grade teachers from across the country and around the world about the things they are doing in their classrooms.  You can learn more about #4thchat by visiting the 4thchat wiki.  Weekly chats are also archived here, so if you miss one, you can find out what went on,

There are also chats for other grades and specialties.  Jerry Blumengarten (@Cybraryman) is a great person to follow on Twitter.  Here is his page of Educational Chats on Twitter.

The best way to follow a chat is to install Tweetdeck or Hootsuite on your computer.  Here is a great video by Shell Terrell (@ShellTerrell) explaining how to use Tweetdeck to follow chats and other hash tags.  I learned several things from this video that I did not know before, even though I’ve been using Tweetdeck for a couple of years now.

So give it a try.  Get on Twitter and meet other educators from around the world.  You will be amazed by the possibilities.

Dive In and Begin Blogging!

After reading professional and classroom blogs, it’s time to dive in and begin blogging.  Blogs are easy to set up.  There are many places that you can set up a blog, but I think one of the easiest is Blogger.  Take a minute to watch this Youtube video which will guide you step-by-step through the process.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once.  You can change the look of your blog and customize it further to meet your needs at any time in the future.  If you prefer to set up your blog somewhere else, you can find other tutorials for WordPress or Edublogger as well.  If you’re interested in setting up a WordPress blog, you can find tutorials here at http://wordpress.tv/flavor/wordpresscom/.

Writing Your First Post:  My classroom blog has changed a lot over the three years that I have had it.  So far this year, I have been using it to communicate with parents.  Other times I have used it to post student writing.  Your blog will be a living thing, so it’s okay if you still aren’t sure how you will use it.  You can begin by posting a short announcement for parents, or you can have the kids help you with that first post.  Take a look at the changes that my classroom blog has undergone over the years: http://msdayatphillips.blogspot.com/

Widgets and Other Fun Things:  Many people add calendars, tag clouds, videos, and lots of other features to the sidebars of their blogs.  These are called widgets and gadgets.  When you feel ready, you can add and make changes to the sidebar of your blog.  The following video will be helpful in learning how.

So dive into the world of blogging.  You’ll have lots of fun with it, and your students will too.

Using a Classroom Blog

My first venture into technology was to create a classroom blog.  I learned about them from one of  my colleagues, who had used a blog with her students.  In my previous post, I talked about reading blogs and learning from other educators.  Most of the blogs we looked at were professional blogs written by educators for educators.  Now we will take time to look at the ways teachers use their classroom blogs.

My classroom blog has undergone quite a transformation in the three years I have had it.  Initially I used it to display some student writing.  The post would be my question or introduction to a topic.  The student writing would appear as the comments.  Our very first blog post was about our field trip to Living History Farms.

The following year, students began to take turns as the guest blogger.  Then I discovered Kidblogs, and they began to have their own blogs.  Last year students served as class photographer.  They took pictures around our school, posted the photos and wrote about it.   So far this year, I have been using the classroom blog as a way of communicating with parents.  Here is a link to Ms. Day’s Class Blog.

To write this post, I asked for help from members of my PLN.  Of the teachers responding to my poll, half of them use their classroom blog to display student writing.  Others mentioned using it as a conversation with students, the teacher writes the post, the kids the comments.  Still others use it to communicate with parents.

I asked, “What are some of your favorite ways to use your class blog?”  Here are some of the comments made by teachers:

“I have used Kidblogs to showcase the students’ work, but I also use it to post videos that the students respond to in the comment area for a grade.  I post the videos we make in class for parents to watch and get comments from all over the world”

“To publish work.  I find it motivating to students.  The quality of their work increases when they know they will get to post it for others to read.”

“My favorite way is to host videos that we’ve created in class.  Ot allows work we’re doing to be shared with parents and the rest of the world.”

“We use it as part of our learning and reflecting, and to connect with others globally.”

There are lots of places you can set up a blog.  Most of the teachers that helped me with this survey use Blogger, Kidblogs, Edublogs or Weebly for Education.  The best way to learn about classroom blogs is to visit a few.  Click on the links below.

A Kindergarten class in Ohio:  http://mrstahlkindergarten.blogspot.com/

A first/second grade class from Canada:  http://avivadunsiger.blogspot.com/

Check out a second grade blog from New Zealand: http://www.openthedoortob4.blogspot.com/

A second grade blog from Nebraska:  http://kidblog.org/MrsPeters2ndGrade/

A third grade class from California:  http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/

A fourth grade blog from Wisconsin:  http://mskreul.edublogs.org/

A fifth grade class in Iowa:  http://kidblog.org/2011-12Class/

Grades 6-8 in Canada:  http://swelbergen.weebly.com/our-classroom-blog.html

Grades 6-8 in Massachussetts:  http://mravery.edublogs.org/

This teacher has several blogs that she uses for different purposes:  http://wltechntalk.blogspot.com/

There are so many different ways to use a classroom blog.  Teachers from Twitter collaborated on this Google Document called Ideas for Classroom Blogs to list some of their ideas and share links to their blogs.

There isn’t one right or wrong way to use a classroom blog.  As you can see there are a multitude of possibilities.  What ideas do you have for using your blog?

Next time we will talk about setting up a blog, and adding widgets and other features to make it more interesting.

What Is a PLN?

At your fingertips, you have the means to connect with teachers from around the world.  You can talk to them, learn from them, visit their classrooms, share information, and have a good time with them, and you never need to leave home.  Most of what I have learned about using technology in the classroom, I have learned from people I met via the internet.  These people, along with educators in my own school and community are my PLN, my Personal Learning Network.

I was able to connect with these people by following them on Twitter, Plurk, or Pinterest, liking a page on Facebook, or reading their blogs.  To gain a thorough understanding of an issue, or how to implement something, blogs are your best bet. Unlike other forms of social networking, when it comes to reading blogs you never have to say anything to the author, if you don’t want to.   As someone who writes several blogs, let me tell you that we really really want you to talk to us, but if you are at all nervous or uncomfortable about Twitter or Facebook, reading blogs is the place to start.

There are millions of blogs out there. The word blog is actually the words “web log” combined.  A blog is basically an on-line journal.  It is a website or part of a website and it can be written by individuals or groups.  Most blogs post so the most recent article is at the top.  Blogs are written about every subject imaginable.  When it comes to education, there are blogs about every aspect and every topic.  When I started reading blogs, I was most interested in those about using technology, but more recently I’ve been reading lots of grade level blogs about things teachers are doing in their classrooms.

Setting Up a Google Reader

With so many blogs out there, it can seem overwhelming to try to find them and keep up with them.  I use Google Reader to help me do that.  Take a look at the video below to learn how to set up a Google Reader account for yourself.

Practice by adding the web address for this blog to your Google Reader.  As you visit other blogs, add those to your Google Reader as well.  The next video will explain more about using your Google Reader.

Fantastic Blogs to Follow

Now it’s time to become familiar with a few blogs that are out there.  According to Hat Trick Associates, there are about 450 million English language blogs out there on a multitude of subjects, so where do you begin?  Members of my PLN on Twitter and Plurk helped me to assemble the following list of education related blogs.  Click on the links to visit the blog.  If it is something you find interesting, add the blog to your Google Reader, so you can be notified of future posts.  Check out the side bars of the blogs.  Many bloggers list favorite blogs, so you can find many additional blogs this way.   Visit blogs from other grade levels as well as your own.  You may find lots of useful ideas.

Preschool & Kindergarten

  1. Aloha Kindergarten!

First Grade

  1. Little Voices, Little Scholars,
  2. Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits
  3. First Grader At Last
  4. A Primary Blog for the 21st Century
  5. Kids With a View
  6. Room 6 + 6 Kind Kids
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade
Fine Arts
Reading
Special Education
Library
Principals
A few of these are class blogs, but most are professional blogs written by educators for other educators.  Do you know of other fantastic blogs for educators?  If so, please write a comment and share the blog with us.  Next time we will take a look at classroom blogs.  You will be amazed by all the great ways that teachers use their classroom blog.

Becoming a Techie Teacher

There’s no doubt about it, I consider myself to be a Techie Teacher.  Using technology to enhance learning for my students has become a passion.  It all started two years ago when a colleague showed me how to set up my first blog.  Soon after that I enrolled in an on-line class called Using the Internet in the Classroom.  From that point on, I was hooked.

Entering the world of technology has been life changing for me, and I have tried to share some of my passion with other teachers.  For the past two years I have presented professional development to teachers in my building.  Among other things we have learned about Google Docs, my students attended one meeting to introduce teachers to blogging, and teachers have created their own blogs.  We have new iPads in our building, and we have devoted time to learning ways to utilize them to support instruction.

At a meeting last week we were discussing the purchase of more iPads and laptops, and the need for additional training.   One of my colleagues asked if we could go back and talk about some of those things we had already worked on.  That is when I got the idea for this blog.

There are many blogs written about technology in the classroom.  To be honest, some of them are way over my head.  They assume a working knowledge that is beyond my experience.  The goal of this blog is to begin at the beginning.  It will present ideas for using technology to enhance learning in the elementary classroom.  I also want it to be a link to other blogs and resources.  I want to share ways to shape your own tech journey; through blogs, social networking, or conferences.

Ideally a blog post should begin a conversation.  If I leave out a step, or fail to answer a question, please write a comment asking for clarification.  If you have a better idea, please share it.  A blog post should be just the beginning.

While I have created this blog with my colleagues at school in mind, I invite everyone to participate.  Ask questions!  Share experiences!  Give feedback!  If I don’t know the answer, I will ask people who do.  And that is step 1 to becoming a Techie Teacher.