Monday, April 8, 2013

Continue Your Professional Learning

This past weekend our district hosted the 2nd Annual DPS Technology Conference at Hope Academy. The 5 geek gals had been working furiously to host the conference and I think all of our hard work paid off. Thank you so much to all of the volunteers, vendors, presenters, and attendees for making this conference as great as it was.
When I reflect on this weekend's conference I can't help but think about how important continuing our education is. As educators we should be constantly learning about the best research based approaches and ways to engage students. The use of technology in the classroom is a great way to accomplish this. As I was sifting though my twitter this evening a read that teachers as a whole stop their learning after college graduation more often than any other profession. That is disheartening. I know that I feel the most inspired after a conference or reading blogs. Continuing our learning at conferences like ours this weekend is so important. Kudos to all you educators who have a commitment to your professional learning. Reading blogs, attending conference, or even just talking with others in the faculty room can really help to light the fire and further your professional development.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Addicted to Aquiring Apps?

One of the best things about technology is that things are constantly updating, constantly changing, and evolving.  That can be one of the most frustrating things as well.  I know many teacher some to me with the feeling of exhaustion because it feels like as soon as they master one thing, the next new must have tech is out and should be in their classroom.  Apps are one of the worst offenders of this.
Working at a District with over 1000 iPads out student hands it can be very tempting/overwhelming for teachers to develop an addiction to acquiring apps.  Its really because they don't want students to miss out on an opportunity to experience all that the iPads and apps have to offer!  In all my experiences visiting successful school districts where a 1:1 program have been successful there have been key variables.  One being, that there is a core expectation of 3 or 4 apps that all teachers must use and master.  Beyond that enter at your own risk.  This gives the students to also have a sense of familiarity from room to room.  All teachers use the same program to explain work, all teachers use the same programs to submit work.  When a student goes from Mrs. Smith, to Mr. Jefferson they do not have to worry about how to work a program, just want to put into the program. 
When I think of the MUST HAVES of apps, and technology I think of the purposes first.  You need to have a way for students to know what to do, submit work, and receive feedback, a workflow.  I recommend an app/web based program like Edmodo or Schoology.  Both allow for workflow to become a true possibility.  Even in a non-1:1 environment this help to give students direction, and focus when in the computer lab. 
Another purpose you may need technology is creation.  Students' full potential is accessed when you allow them to create.  Apps that are drill and kill do nothing more than flash, buzz, and help with rote memorization.  A few FREE creation apps that I recommend are Educreations, and Splice.
Educreations is an interactive white board.  There is an app, and a web based program.   Students can type, draw, import pictures, and record their voices to demonstrate different concepts.  On the web version there are also teacher made presentations that students could watch to learn a skill.  Flipping your classroom?  You need to check out that site. 
Splice is a few video editing program.  Its an app on the iPad, be careful when you search it is listed as an iPhone app.  The reason I like this software is that it is a no frills way for students and teachers to put together pictures and video to create a finished film.  Sometimes I see students spending a ton of time on iMovies.  That software is great, but it is not free and can be overwhelming.  If you want a quick movie to put together Splice is the way to go. 
Both apps are very easy to export and submit as well. 
I hope I have convinced you to not worry so much about having a different app for each grade, subject, topic, and skill.  Slow down a little bit, get good at a few and use those in the classroom.  Student do well with consistency and routines.  Set these up with those few apps and students will soar.   See you next week!