Monday, April 28, 2014

How can you be tech-forward without having much technology available?

Sigh. This is a challenging question to answer, and it actually has been on my mind more than once today. My ideal tech-forward classroom is nothing like a "traditional" classroom, just to make you aware. Actually, my ideal school is not like a "traditional" school, either; it would have a news recording studio (equipped with green screen) and radio station, supersize iPads mounted to the walls, and all kinds of portals to enhance communication with schools around the world (via Skype). Students would have their own Twitter accounts for educational purposes and learn code daily to make their own websites and apps. My ideal school would grant students the opportunities to communicate with individuals who are accomplished in their fields and work on projects that people on the other side of the world would benefit from. Students would thrive in a school where they would have numerous venues for impacting society while still focusing on the required curricular components as well.

There would be a museum with virtual and real displays. Students would be able to "rent" space by displaying their work on the massive flat-screen monitors, and then of course there would be hands-on projects they constructed as well (like a model home constructed to scale or a working science display). There would be a few massive workshops where students would have the opportunity to construct and keep their project components organized (with a safe of sorts they could also rent).

Students would also receive a list of standards that they are required to learn (when not engaging in regular assignments, which the school would offer for the first two-thirds of every day). They would then brainstorm projects that would correlate with those standards and set timelines with their academic advisers.

Perhaps on a wing and prayer, this school can one day be constructed. Yet for now, the technology available in many schools does not match my vision, and I have to think of how I can still be tech-forward without not having much available for my students.

I have two iPads as well as four computers available. I also have a set of clickers and an Elmo, which is basically what I had available in my last school (except that I had a laptop cart, which made interactive projects much easier to incorporate). Since this year was so much of a learning curve (being new to fifth grade as well as the gifted program), I have thought of how I can better incorporate technology next year with at least the same materials available. I have also brainstormed what I can do with students if I am able to start the science club I am envisioning, which would be for the middle school students (who are already quite tech-savvy and should have the opportunity to flourish, even being in a club once or twice a month).

Here are my suggestions for being tech-forward with your students (without much technology available in the classroom), which can extend beyond the hours of the school day--

  • Start an interactive website for your students-- or at least introduce collaborative tools to them. The purpose of my website construction this summer will be to create something that is immensely interactive and collaborative for both students and educators. Emphasize to your students that you have a vision you want to carry out. Perhaps incorporate a weblog through Blogspot or Edublogs where they can comment (in class or at home) on posts about what you are reviewing in class, create a Padlet page (that you can embed on your website), make thought processes visual with, Stixy, or GoVisually, or start a Twitter account for your class, featuring amazing links to articles, videos, and more. 
  • You can also communicate with families using a site like Class Messenger. Here is the explanation from their website-- "Class Messenger makes it effortless for teachers to send home important notes and updates about the day's learning experiences. They can even see exactly which parents have read each note. And whether via app, text, or email, communication through Class Messenger is always private." 
  • If you are able, incorporate Skype in your classroom. All you need is a laptop and projector as well as access to Skype. Perhaps you would like to become a NASA Explorer School. A few years ago, all fourth and fifth grade classes at my old school were given the opportunity to participate in the program. (Here is the newspaper article featuring my students from two years ago.) Of course, you can communicate with individuals on the other side of the world (Angela Bunyi) and host mystery Skype sessions as well (Krissy Venosdale). 
  • Have your students start their own weblogs. They can be updated at home and shared in class. You can link to all of them from your website. I brought this up in another post I wrote about having your students design websites and increase their Internet presence (safely). Students can start blogs featuring book reviews, scientific theories, and much more. As I stated, Kidblog is a tremendous option because the site was started with children and educators in mind. 
  • Students can also work on their own stories that they later enhance with technology. I have done the typical book publishing project where the students were given their own blank books. (I may talk about this more in-depth at another time, but here is another article for you about stories written six years ago). Even if you do not have much technology available, perhaps a student has an innovative idea-- which they may have the desire to research so they are historically accurate (or simply accurate in general). If you have the opportunity to bring students to a computer lab, too, you may want to introduce some digital storytelling websites to them. 
  • I also have used an eReader tool called Scholastic Storia. Scholastic Storia, if you do not have ample desktop computers, laptop computers, or iPads, can be projected on the large screen so your class can discuss the literature and use the interactive features together. Using Storia does not require the Internet-- you just need to make sure you have downloaded the book before you use it with your class. 
  • Teach your students about green screen technology. The technology may be available in your school's library (we have a recording studio for the middle school morning news show), but all you need is a smooth green surface to film your students against and the proper editing equipment. To garner more insight, my friend Angela Bunyi wrote a post about how easy green screen technology is at Scholastic in 2008. 
As you know, utilizing technology in your classroom has numerous benefits. I know I could include tons more ideas, but this was a fairly quick post. How do you utilize technology in your classroom, even when resources are not that readily available? Don't hesitate to share below. 

1 comment:

  1. After an hour on #edtechchat on Twitter, this sounds like it was written by a wuss now! There is so much more out there... but the best thing is to help people to get over their fears about technology and at least try it. Also, administrators need to get on board with tech initiatives and perhaps incorporate tech clubs in school. Learned a lot from my first-ever Twitter chat this evening!