Evaluating New Technologies

Recently, I spoke with a colleague who is using new web-based technologies in her classroom.  Emily Thoms Daprano is a second grade teacher who is also going through the EDIM program with me.  We have taken different courses over the duration of the past year and compare notes regarding informational media and it’s applications in our classrooms.

While we were discussing how we choose and utilize new technologies to use in our classrooms, Emily’s ideas paralleled much of my own through and what is written in Untangling the Web by Steve Dembo and Adam Bellow.  To begin, it is important to her that sites don’t require an email address for students to sign in.  Using a passcode for students is infinitely easier than an email.  Plus, it usually will keep kids from accidentally erasing or altering another’s work.  Secondly, she likes sites that are free.  I agree that as educators, we look for resources that are free or are offered at a “freemium” (have both free use and upgraded uses.)  Although it is becoming more popular, there is still a little bit of hesitation to use our school resource funds for access to websites.

Emily mentioned something very important in our conversation:  She said that she wanted to make sure she was integrating technology into something that she’s already teaching.  She’s not interested in using a site that teaches technology use for technology’s sake.  Sites she use need to support her work teaching content.

Although she hasn’t been faced with too many roadblocks in implementing new technologies, she stresses that those looking to implement web-based programs in their classroom spend a little bit of time reaching out to those around them.  She shares ideas with her team and puts all resources on her websites.  If you look around, you’ll find that a lot of the “trial and error” research has been done by another teacher in a similar post as your own.  That being said, don’t be afraid to try something new.  If it works, great!  If not, keep looking for the site that will support you and your students’ learning.

As a kindergarten teacher, I agree with Emily’s sentiments.  One small difference is that I use websites that are both teaching and reinforcing content as well as opposed to sites that use collaboration to do the work around a topic.  Most of that is due to the fact that kinders aren’t quite literate enough to use true collaborative tools.  They’ll get there, but they’re not there yet.

You can find Emily’s classroom website here.

You can find more information about Untangling the Web here.

creative commons license

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at the different Creative Commons licenses even though I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted.  It was important to me that nobody profit from my work.  In our career, much of our advancement is built upon professional learning communities and the sharing of resources.  I feel that we should share openly – with a few exceptions.  I created a license where others could adapt my work to make it their own as long as it is stated that this work was altered.

The idea of others altering and redistributing my work caused me to pause and think.  Do I want my name attached to someone else’s interpretation of “bettering” my work?  What if they make something I created better?  What if they remix my video into something horrendous!? In the end, I decided that overall, I’d like people to be able to share alterations of my work as long as they share alike and provide original credit to me.  The share alike clause is an important one because, again, I didn’t want someone to make a slight alteration to my work and then share it commercially. One of the nice things about Creative Commons is that I can change the license for each item that I create and share.  If there is something I feel strongly shouldn’t be altered, I can create a different license specifically for that product.

You can create your own Creative Commons license at http://creativecommons.org/choose/

Handwriting Videos

Hello teacher friends!

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a flipped classroom and adding more technology into my room for some time now, but have been held back by two main problems.  For one, I didn’t have much technology to use.  Secondly, traditional flipped classrooms require students to watch videos and short lessons at home, complete some home task, and come to school ready to talk about it.  Due to the demographics of my classroom, my students don’t have much internet access at home.  So I started to think about ways to incorporate flipped learning in my classroom within the school day.

My school district recently adopted Lucy Calkins Units of Study as writing curriculum.  For all the great things it does to teach kids how to be authors, it does nothing for teaching handwriting and the formation of letters.  I was struggling to find a time to reach all kids in handwriting outside of our traditional writing time. It was driving me crazy to see kids write letters in such crazy ways but I couldn’t quite give them the attention it needed.

And so, out of two problems, one solution was born.  I started creating short (1-2 minute) handwriting tutorials for each letter of the alphabet.  I’m slowly creating them and adding them to my YouTube Channel. Now that I have a few iPads in my classroom, I can set up these videos as stations in my classroom, effectively going from having one teacher in the room to 5.  Kids can start by working through rotations and, later on when they know how to access the videos, choose which letters they need help on and work independently during free times.  If you have only one computer or one iPad in your room, you can still utilize this strategy.  Also, since the videos are public online, parents who do want to use them at home will have access.

These videos are short and to the point.  There are no bells and whistles; they are not sing-songy or cutesy.  They are created to teach, not to entertain.  They are, however, very prescribed.  I use many of the same words and phrases in each video.  I did this on purpose so that ELL and low-language students hear consistent verbiage and know when to tune in to the most important parts.  I’m not super comfortable in front of a camera (it’s a good thing I didn’t choose to become an actress) but I’m sure they’ll get better as I progress through the alphabet.  After I implement these for a little while, I’ll work on adding other videos for different subjects and skills.

Please feel free to use these videos.  They are public on YouTube and open-sourced so that anybody can use them.  The handwriting sheets you see in the videos are from Confessions of a Homeschooler and can be downloaded here.

Have fun!  If you end up using these in your classroom or with your kiddo at home, let me know how it goes!