Technologies can transform; even simple technologies can make a significant impact. Here are eleven of the technologies that often affect classroom procedures and workflow. Use this checklist and infographic to make sure you've included the edtech essentials in your workflow this year.
1. Design Your Web Browser
Your start page and bookmark bar are strategic for both you and your students. Why waste it with standard Google Start Page?
Intentionally Select Your Start Page
Choose one of the four choices of start pages. Be intentional!
4 Choices for Start Pages:
- A personal dashboard: Start.me is a service that has both free personal pages and a free start.me for your class. Netvibes will also do this. You can start with a glance at your email, your list, the news, blogs you like, and more.
- A minimalist productivity start page. In Google Chrome, Momentum and Limitless have some cool features to help you focus. Momentum even has a simple list-building feature and link adding feature added.
- Links. Many teachers love Symbaloo, which gives cool icons and links. Some people like speed dial but most web browsers pull in links to pages people go to often.
- Graphic News Reader. Newsmap is a slick news summarizing service will show you a big picture of what is happening in the world. It indexes all of the Google news for your selected country and shows with a quick glance what works. (Read more about newsmap here.)
TIP: For those who say they need the google box in the middle of the page, please remember that the address box at the top of your browser can do this. It is now called an “omnibox” which means you can type a web address or search.
Organize Your Bookmarks
Also, edit your bookmark bar. The handy icons show along the top of your web browser when you turn on bookmarks. See my Chrome tutorial,
As you design your start page, you’re applying the mud puddle principle. Think of a toddler on the edge of a mud puddle – the closer they get to the brink, the more likely the toddler will jump in! By putting the things you want to do on your start page and bookmark, you increase your likelihood of doing them!
2. Mash up your textbook (or prepare to)
Lately, I have been using Shelfit software by EdTech Software. Shelfit is the future of textbooks today. As a teacher, we will soon all be mashing up our textbooks. We can add quizzes, videos, and materials right inside the textbook alongside with content. Imagine being able to add your handouts right onto the textbook page where students need them!
Understand Where Textbooks Are Going: Test eBook “Mashup” Software to See How It Works
So first, I do recommend that you test a textbook modification program so that you can understand what this technology means. Shelfit from EdTech Software has made it so you can check out their service now and it is one I recommend you share with your school IT departments too.
Be Strategic About How You Use Your Textbook This Year
After you test the software and understand where your textbooks are heading, be strategic and intentional about how you organize the textbooks you use this year.
I am keeping a copy of all resources, links, and materials on each page of the textbook and pasted in a Google Doc to make things easier to retrieve.
Procedure for link shortening and mobile sharing:
- Copy the hyperlink for the page or lesson that relates to a particular page in my textbook.
- Shorten the link using bit.ly. Bitly makes the link shorter (and your QR code smaller)
- Paste the link into Kaywa – a QR code generator to make a QR code. (Just click “static” and go with the free QR code.)
- Paste the QR code and link into Evernote or a Google Doc organized by page numbers. Print it and tape it onto the page in the textbook as well so it looks like the photo to the right.
Textbook customization is here now or just around the corner for most of us. Shelfit from EdTech Software is platform agnostic, which means that if I go in Shelfit and customize the textbook, my students can download the app and read and interact with the textbook on any device. It is available offline; everything but the YouTube videos and hyperlinks will work (those need the Internet), but all other text, comments, notes and PDF's are available.
3. Connect Devices to the Board
Every device in the classroom should easily be able to send their screen to your projector or interactive board. There are several ways to do this:
- Lightcast Sender. I have an InFocus Jboard, so my students use Lightcast Sender to transmit their screens to the board (it works with Chrome and Chromebooks to InFocus devices.) Many brand name projectors have such apps.
- Chromecast lets you mirror desktops and many devices to your television or projector. All you need is Google Chrome and the Google Cast extension. For phones, you'll want to install the Google Cast app.
- Airplay lets you stream Apple devices to your Apple TV.
- Miracast is called “HDMI over Wifi.” That isn't really accurate because you don't even need wifi. Many devices support Miracast, but Airplay and Chromecast do not support it. It is built right into many smart televisions., Android 4.2+ and Windows 8.1 and higher so you can connect Windows devices and Android smartphones to Miracast-compliant receivers. However, it just doesn't seem to be as easy as other options. You may be using a Miracast compliant device and not know it because many manufacturers name it something else!
4. Set Link Sharing Procedures
Hyperlinks fuel much of the work in the modern classroom. Teachers and students should be able to quickly and easily share them with one another. For example, if they are sharing their screen and want to give the hyperlink to the class, they should be able to follow the procedure included in point two for link shortening and mobile sharing.
5. Connect with Parents
Determine how you will communicate with parents. This is important because you probably don't want to share all of those pictures and videos on social media. And not all parents are on social media. As I've said before, I use Bloomz for this and I'm working to make sure that all of my classes are set up properly before school starts. I also include the link to parents in their letter home. There are other systems out there. Decide what works right for you!
6. Design Your Online Classroom
As I shared at ISTE this year at the Blended Learning Panel discussion, our classrooms are built from bricks and clicks. You have a face-to-face classroom and an online classroom.
We spend a lot of time arranging furniture and on your face to face workflow. We want our classroom to be friendly. Make sure your online classroom is friendly and has flow as well.
7. Set EdTech Class Procedures
Make sure you have the language in place use technology in your classroom.
Language for Device Use and Non-Use
- iPads: For example, some people who use iPads will say “apples up” when they want the students to put their screens face down on the desk.
- Chromebooks, Laptops and Tablets: Lids up or lids down
- Fly (Go in Airplane Mode): Sometimes you may want students to use an app or film video while not being online. Make sure students know how to put their devices in airplane mode for those times you need distraction-free filming and photography.
- In a Computer Lab. I'm in a computer lab, so I have something I call “teaching position.” Students turn their chairs towards me, point their knees towards me, and get their notebooks out and are ready to take notes.
A simple definition for a professional workstation
Clearly defining what a great looking workstation looks like is important. Teachers of younger kids often call this “a clean desk” but I really want to focus on what it looks like when they sit down to get to work.
8. Set Up Social Media
Determine how you will be connecting with the world this year. Will you have a class Twitter account? A class hashtag? A class Facebook page? A private Facebook group with your students? Will you have a class Instagram account?
What platforms will you choose?
Consider at least one way that you communicate and share with the world. (See See 10 Cool Ways Teachers Use Social media to Enhance Learning )
You may not think this is important, but I'll never forget the year I received some huge donations from a local person who watched what my class was doing on our class YouTube channel. It really does make a difference to communicate key things that are happening in your classroom.
How do you facilitate student sharing on classroom sites?
Make sure your photo policy fits with your school policy.
One way that many people like to determine what they're going to post on social media is to have an in-class Twitter board. Students write short updates of what they learned that day and stick it on the board with Post-It notes. They may sign their own handle or just put their initials.
If older students are connecting on social media, you could have a class hashtag for Instagram or Twitter.
At the end of the day, the teacher selects the best couple of tweets and shares them out over Twitter or Instagram or whatever account the class is using. This is a great way to see what people are learning and also communicate with the world and create engagement with the world. You can also appoint a class communicator to help capture and share.
9. Set Up Screencasting
Student and teachers should know how to capture both video and photos of screens with screenshots and screencast. This is something that should be second nature and easy to do. It is part of the five steps to Internet safety and is a basic safety mechanism, but it also just makes it easier to share and to communicate.
Simple Ways to Take Screenshots
- PC – Try the snipping tool or just press Alt+Ctrl+PrnSc and look in your picture folder.
- Mac – Try Command + Shift + 4 on the Mac
- Jing – A simple free tool that does screenshots and screencasts on PC's and Mac's.
- iPhone and iPad – Press the front button and power button to take a picture of your iPhone or iPad. The Apple watch is similar, just press both buttons.
- Learn how to take screenshots on Droids and Windows phones.
Simple Ways to Screencast (with video)
- Screencastify – Jon Bergmann demonstrated this one in our blended learning session at ISTE. Great tool for video!
- Snagit – I've been using Snagit but I haven't been able to find the extension any more on the Chrome store. (Share in the comments if you know what has happened.)
- Screencastomatic – This simple free tool is one I use with my students. (See How to Screencast in 3 Simple Steps.)
- Quicktime has tools built in for capturing iPhones and iPads or you can pay for a tool like Screenflow.
Students should be able to grab a picture or shoot a quick tutorial and turn it in quickly. If they have a problem with a website or on their phone, they should know how to take a picture and email it.
Sharing Video, Audio, and Photographs from Mobile Devices
If students film on personal devices, they should know how to send those files to other devices or publish them. For example, if you text or email from the mobile device, often the file is compressed and you lose quality. If a student is going to film on a drone or GoPro, I make sure they know how to download video before I allow them to use it to film. Familiarize yourself with instructions for sharing and grabbing video and photos.
10. Select Writing Tools
As I've shared before in 4 Writing Tips to Help the Writing Process, let technology do what it does best: proofread. Use tools like Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid and the Hemingway App to aid student writing. Help students who struggle with typing dictate in Google Docs or the microphone setting on your computer. (See the article here.)
11. Start with Student Strengths
I call my classroom the Wonder Lab. I tell them my room is a place where we wonder about things and where wonderful things happen. And my students are the most wonderful part of my classroom. So, we start the beginning of the year with a simple Play-Doh project I tweaked from one by my friend Dave Burgess. I asked students to model with a Play-Doh something that's wonderful about them that makes them unique.
Then, students take photos of that item and share it in our online classroom space. This technique does several things:
- We immediately have a conversation about something the student loves.
- Students take a photo.
- Students immediately turn in their first assignment in the online classroom.
- I have photos to share with parents demonstrating how we are talking about something they love.
Let's Do This!
So, there are lots of things that we can do to start our school here well. Here I just 11 action steps to be ready to use technology successfully this school year. What is missing? Please share in the comments.
Tips for minimizing teacher stress
- Discover 10 stress-busting secrets for healthy teachers. What simple routines will help you handle the stress?
- Simple advice for coping with stress at work.
- Learn tips to help you deal with difficult colleagues and students (even those who "hate" you -- yes it is possible!)