September is an exciting time in education. I always feel lucky to be in a profession where we get a fresh start every year. After a relaxing break, we get to come back to our classes refreshed, excited, and ready to try out new lessons, strategies, and tools. It is the perfect time to set a goal to try out some new technology too! There are so many terrific tools out there that it should be easy to find something that will integrate well with whatever you are planning to cover in your classroom.
Some people are so excited to try out new tools that they pick a long list and set a goal to use them all in the first term. I usually recommend scaling this list back a bit. This is a busy time of year, and it is important to set small, attainable goals and not completely overwhelm ourselves. My advice is to pick one or two new tech tools that you will find the most useful right away, and get to know them really well. Develop your confidence, scaffold your learning, and when you are feeling confident with that tool, try out a new one!
Here are a few of my favorite tools that you might be interested in testing out this fall:
SMART Notebook Software
Over the past couple years, more and more schools in our district have purchased SMARTboards. Notebook software is fabulous, interactive, and a great way to spice up lessons in ways that help with differentiation and engagement. The best way to get inspiration and see some great ways to use Notebook software effectively is to visit the SMART Exchange website and view the lessons shared there by SMART and other educators around the world. I will also be hosting numerous workshops and pro-d events over the course of the year to help people learn more about using the software in their classrooms. Check our new Coordinators’ Professional Learning site for dates/times of upcoming workshops!
I have written previously about my fondness for Google apps. The entire Google suite of tools is pretty amazing, but I especially LOVE Google Docs. Create documents, forms (including quizzes/surveys), spreadsheets, presentations and more, all in a collaborative format where there can be many people editing, in real time and at the same time! I also find it very handy that all the docs I create are stored “on the cloud” so I can access them anywhere I have an Internet connection, on any computer, and even on my iPhone. Want your students to become Google Docs Ninjas? Ask me how!
I have been playing with Voicethread for a number of years, and it still remains one of my favorite web-based tools. I love that they have free accounts for educators, and that the tool can be used for everything from digital storytelling, to Mathcasts, to virtual Science labs and everything in between and with every age/grade level. It is amazingly versatile and super easy to use. Watch “What is a Voicethread” to find out more!
If you’re tired of “Death by Powerpoint” and want a fresh, interesting way to present information, check out Prezi! Pan and zoom, embed media, come up with creative “paths” to your information, build on “Prezi’s” that others have already started and collaborate with others on presentations. Use Prezi for everything from content delivery to having Sr. students create their online “Prezume“. It takes a little getting used to, but once you and your students figure it out, you’ll find yourself using it for more and more!
Symbaloo is a phenomenal tool for helping organize the web for use with your students. It functions much like a social bookmarking tool, only it is far more visual. It would be a great way to put together web-based resources for a particular unit of study, as an online learning commons for the Library program, or as a classroom repository of great resources for use at school and at home. There is a Symbaloo app for iPhones/Android, and when you visit the site on your iPad it is mobile-optimized. You can search for “mixes” that other people have created and find many terrific resources by browsing what is already there! Check out some blog posts about how other teachers are using Symbaloo and get inspired!
If you are interested in trying any of these out in your SD73 classrooms, let me know how I can support you! There are many, many, many more tools and programs available that I would love to help you with as well – hopefully I will have time to share in upcoming posts!