Teaching: Optimized

I spent a lot of time trying to learn about new technology. Most teachers revile trying any new technologies because they might disrupt their “perfect” lessons or way of teaching. I prefer to continue finding new ones because I discover better and faster ways of doing things in the classroom. This year I am pioneering new things in the classroom (new to me at least, not necessarily to education). I borrowed an iPad from my school’s library last year and wanted to figure out ways to utilize it because my students have macbook pros and I thought it would allow me more freedom to work with them. There are certainly some cool things you can do with it and with computers that I want to share:

1. Dropbox: best way to work from multiple places and save it all to one place. Also, I have started using it this year to store my students documents. I can then access these from my iPad and grade.

2. Dropitto.me: an ancillary to using Dropbox because you can use this as a link so that students can send things to your Dropbox without actually having to register for the site. It’s proved to be so much easier because once the files are in my Dropbox I can access them everywhere and don’t need to tote papers back and forth. Also, this paperless shift is better for the environment!

3. ClassDojo: plenty of people have heard of this one and I think it works great in the elementary classroom for teaching behaviors. In high school, however, I use it for extra points and tracking other behaviors that my school promotes (Respect, Responsibility, Involvement — we hand out tickets to students who demonstrate these). Also, it has a random student chooser so now you can really be non-biased when you cold call!

4. Google Drive: I set up folders this year for each of my classes and I upload important documents there so that I have easy access to them. It means I can link them to sites for students and if I edit the documents then the link automatically changes and I don’t have to re-upload. Also, I share my folders with my colleagues so they have access and they in turn upload documents to me so we can collaborate from down the hall. I hear great appreciation from them already for this move.

5. Classtools.net: if you want to get students engaged use the timer app or the random name picker. I use it for bingo in my class and it’s hilarious to see how serious the students get watching it. It’s an easy way to liven up the class.

6. Keepvid.com: teachers always complain about internet connection failing when they want to show a video from Youtube or another website. If you use keepvid, you download the video to your computer and can save it with your files. It has saved me a lot of time and headache accessing the movie sites at school.

7. Moodle: if you have a 1-1 then hopefully you have some sort of site where you can create a class platform. Our school uses Moodle and this year I am trying to expand my uses of it. There are many features, but sometimes they are often bulky or awkward to use. Now that I am getting the hang out it, things are getting easier. This year I have started making quizzes with it, having students keep journals as wikis, and I link a lot of other useful things from online to this site. After a quick tutorial in using it, I can tell that my students are better at navigating its functions and using them effectively.

So these are just a few tools, but I can say that without them I think my classroom management and some of my teaching tasks would be much more cumbersome and tedious. For this reason, I read about and review many new tech apps and tricks that help me become more efficient and organized as a teacher. Now my job is to help convince other teachers at my school and bring them up to speed!

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