Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gateway Tech Tools for Tech Tentative Teachers

In every school community there are a handful of great teachers – the teachers who are passionate about their students, experts in their content, and beloved by the families they have served – who are also kind of scared of technology. Either they have little experience using tech in their personal lives and therefore do not see how it applies to the classroom, or they have been burned by bad technology rollouts and learned to rely on their tried-and-true non-tech strategies. No matter the reason, they are great teachers and there is a way to change their experience with technology to benefit both them and their students. Often it is up to the instructional technology coaching staff to help facilitate the transition. Here are a few tools and strategies that I've seen work, and that might work for you.

Traditional Teaching Strategy: Slide Decks
Gateway Technology Tool: Pear Deck

Especially at the secondary level, teachers have relied on slide decks to structure lesson instructions and content delivery for decades. Remember when Power Point was the latest in EdTech? Power Point has come a long way, but direct instruction is on it's way out. The tool that is helping some slide deck traditionalists make the shift to hands-on instruction is Pear Deck. Using the Pear Deck platform in a BYOD or 1-to-1 classroom, each student connects to the teacher presentation, answers interactive questions or challenges, and then learns from the resulting data from the peers in the classroom with them. A few teachers who have invested a lot of time in designing their slide decks over the years have started experimenting with Pear Deck and their students are the beneficiaries.



Traditional Teaching Strategy: Video Clips
Gateway Technology Tool: PlayPosit

Pulling quick but effective video clips from YouTube, Khan Academy, Vimeo, and other sites is a long-standing practice of teachers everywhere. Many have gone farther and have started using the simple cameras on their phones to create and share their own instructional videos. While having students watch a video is a good first step, it is not interactive or hands-on. PlayPosit allows teachers to import videos from any of the platforms I just mentioned (and more) and then add interactive elements like questions, reflective pauses, and hyperlinks to enrichment resources online.



Traditional Teaching Strategy: Writing Assignments
Gateway Technology Tool: Blogs

Alan November has been encouraging
teachers to help students publish their
work for years. Image source.
When student write for their teacher, they are invested in the writing process because of the grade they hope to earn. When they write for an audience that could include their parents, extended family, friends, or the world beyond they are invested in the writing process because they know an audience includes people they care about and people they don't even know yet. First impressions are important!

For G Suite schools with well-established digital citizenship programs that have prepared students for online publishing etiquette/responsibility, Blogger is a good solution. It integrates well with the programs that students and teachers are already using and the dashboard is consistent with other online publishing tools.

If your technology administrators want more control over hosting, safety, and security then it is worth considering CampusPress, from the same company that brought us EduBlogs and WordPress. Another option is GoEnnounce. It combines the ability to share student work with a digital citizenship curriculum to help students and teachers understand why online sharing is important.

The great thing about starting with blogs for publishing student writing is that blogs have the potential to help students publish so much more. They can embed photos, videos, simulations, and even the code they write themselves as they advance in their academic careers. Soon, their blog will be more than a record of their writing. It will be a full-on digital portfolio of their creations.

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If there are excellent teachers at your school who need a little nudge to unleash their teacher-power with edtech, one of these three strategies and tools might be the key that unlocks their potential.