Ironically, nothing feels worse than a day when the Wi-Fi is down or our dedicated laptop cart hasn’t been charged over night. A decade ago, I worked without technology completely and now I can’t live without it.
Technology has become an integral part of learning in our shared spaces and despite early adoption challenges, progress has been exponential like the technology itself.
I’m not a “digital native” as many have suggested my students are, but I’ve fearlessly jumped into the pool of possibility and refuse to get out.
Here are some ways that tech has forever changed the way learning happens in my spaces:
Google Educational Suite: Being a Google school has its perks. Every child has his or her own email address associated with a Google Drive, which provides access to an amazing world of collaboration. This collaboration has changed the chain of command. Students draft, revise and peer conference on the document in real time or at home and seamlessly develop before my eyes through the revision history.
Students maintain their portfolios in their Drives and learn how to organize and develop reflective skills through the feedback I can provide using the comments on Google Docs or conferencing data collected through Google Forms.
Voxer: In combination with Google Docs or slides or sheets, Voxer, a voice app allows me to talk to students about their learning when written feedback won’t do the trick. It’s a free app, so the students who have decided to download it can hear me providing specific detailed comments on their work in a way that doesn’t invoke the fear or discomfort of reading many comments on a page or seeing them in green ink. Voxer has also been awesome for maintaining class conversation in my absence, I can listen to class discussions and provide questions on Twitter to be involved.
Blogging apps and tools: Personally, I use WordPress for my blog and so does the student media, WJPSnews.com. Students have taken their written, collaborative work from Google docs, shared it and scheduled the posts on the calendar and then post it to their website. Our student webmaster has become adept at selecting plugins to develop widgits to make the site more interactive and user friendly. Students also use Blogger to develop their writing and reading voices through literature blogs, no longer writing for an audience of one, but for their community of readers sharing ideas. This has been an amazing way to teach kids about digital citizenship in a real way, providing excellent and constructive feedback on their peer’s literary discussions.
Twitter and other social media networks: My students never knew that so much learning could be done on social media until I showed them the academic possibilities. In AP Lit, my students back channel class discussion and ideas using the hashtag #WJPSaplit and in #PFWJPS, we do weekly Twitter chats to discuss informational texts that support learning in the class. The best part of it that the conversation spans three classrooms and my PLN who jump in to support the kids whenever they can. This is also a way to teach students about social branding and developing a presence online that also supports digital citizenship.
Periscope has also changed the collaborative efforts in my class. Streaming live classes allows me to share with the world the great things my students are doing. Viewers can watch and ask questions and listen to students share their ideas. Other streaming apps like Meerkat do the same thing. This is a great way to share ideas in real time. Just think of how awesome this could be for when a teacher is absence. She can watch and ask questions in real time if available.
Screencasting and iMovie: Students can make beautiful synthesis assignments by taking their learning and create tutorials or movies to show what they know through an original creation. Students develop technology skills and deepen their storytelling ability.
Technology is a necessary part of the 21st century. Teachers and students need to experiment until they find the tech that works for them. There’s so much out there and it can even done from handheld devices.
What technology do you love using and how has it changed the learning in your space?
Starr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, N.Y., as a high-school English and journalism teacher. She is the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective and Blogging for Educators . She blogs for Education Week Teacher on “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog StarrSackstein.com where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #jerdchat and #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education, throwing out grades and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Follow her @MsSackstein on Twitter.
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