There has been a big push in my school district for “21st Century Learning” throughout the past school year. Last year, teachers were required to take a course showing that we were “21st Century Certified”. Most of the classrooms in my school come equipped with Promethean Boards and projectors (either on carts or mounted to the ceiling) and the district has been encouraging us to use technology as much as possible to engage our students and provide them with authentic learning opportunities.
During my first year of teaching, I was hesitant to use technology. I was a traditionalist by definition. A lot of that had to do with my own personal style of learning. I learn best when I can read a textbook, write an outline, and take time to really digest and internalize the information. It’s not necessary for me to have an interactive presentation or an educational game to go along with the material. Well, needless to say, I quickly learned that my students come to me with a wide array of learning styles and my style of learning simply did not work for the majority of my students.
This was quite the dilemma. I knew that educational technology was out there, and even what some of this technology could do, but I had never used it before. Implementing the use of technology into my daily classroom practices seemed daunting. So, I decided to take it slow and try out just a couple of things at a time. Over the courses of the next couple of years I became familiar with a variety of educational technology tools and websites and slowly started learning about and using them on a regular basis.
Below I have provided links to some of the websites that I have found to be most useful with a brief description of what each can be used for.
Edmodo is a website that teachers can use to keep students informed and up-to-date about what is going on in the classroom day-to-day. It is set up to look like Facebook and is extremely user-friendly. Teachers and students must create their own accounts. As a teacher, you have the ability to set up classes and invite students to join them online. Once this is done, you have the ability to post notes, assignments, polls, links, quizzes, and even documents for your students to access online from home. Edmodo is great for helping students who are absent find out what they missed.
Planboard is basically an online lesson plan book. I have tried recording my lesson plans by handwriting them and using a template on Microsoft Word. Neither of these methods was efficient. It would take a long time to hand write my lesson plans and I found that I had to write the same thing over and over again (learning goals and performance tasks). This was extremely inefficient. It was also difficult to edit my plans if things changed. As for using Microsoft Word, this was easier and more efficient than hand writing my plans, but I had a lot of issues with formatting the template. As I would add text, the template would adjust and would sometimes be thrown out of whack.
Last summer I found Planboard while browsing Pinterest. Planboard allows you to create a template for your lesson plans and then copy that template onto each week day. It also allows you to add your standards to your lessons with the click of a button! (Gone are the days of handwriting or copy/pasting the same thing over and over again). One of the best features, however, is the ability to copy entire lessons from one day to another. That way, if your plans change, it is quick and easy to make the adjustment.
Kahoot! is a website that allows teachers to make interactive quizzes. When making a quiz (called a Kahoot!) teachers can write multiple choice or true/false questions. The quiz is played in class as a whole group. The teacher starts the quiz and projects the questions on the board. Students participate on their phones. They must “join” the quiz using a game code provided by the teacher. Once students have joined, the fun begins.
The teacher can set a time limit for each question (I usually give 20-30 seconds depending of the level of difficulty). The questions are projected on the board, and students answer on their phones. Students earn points for answering quickly and answering correctly. (I believe that the first student to answer correctly receives the most points). This game inspires friendly competition among students and keeps them engaged. Typically I will offer a few extra credit points to the top five students at the end of the entire quiz.
Kahoot! is great for test review or just as a check of student understanding at the end of a lesson.
If you are just getting your feet wet with using educational technology I definitely encourage to you to try out Edmodo, Planboard, and Kahoot! as your starting points.