Sunday, October 2, 2011

Two Great Note-Taking Apps for Educators

Personal Note using Noteshelf
Last year all of the principals, assistant principals and instructional specialists in our school division received iPads to assist with modeling use of technology, monitoring instructional best practice and finding instructional applications for students and teachers.  While some may argue that only students should use iPads in schools, I believe if we want teachers to integrate technology, administrators have to model it.  I must say our iPads for administrator’s initiative is going quite well. 

There are several apps that our administrators use regularly. I must say that one of my favorite apps to use is a handwriting, note-taking app.  Here are two that I find work well: 

Noteshelf  (my favorite).  Our administrators use it to take notes during meetings and to send personal notes to teachers after conducting walkthroughs.  It has smooth writing, wrist protection, great pen colors, highlighters and several different notebook papers.  The notebooks are also easy to navigate through and organize.

Muji Notebook  is an inexpensive note taking app that offers handwriting recognition and the ability to write on documents that are imported as PDFs. 


Friday, August 5, 2011

Five Web 2.0 Tools Principals Can’t Live Without

If principals want teachers to integrate technology into instruction, they need to model using technology with instructional leadership.

In an effort to scale up technology integration in our schools, we implemented a Principal’s Digital Playground (PDP). Once a month we invited principals to come to the School Board Office to play with various technology devices and web 2.0 tools for a couple of hours. The idea was to give principals a non-threatening venue to experience some of the very tools that we want teachers and kids to use on a daily basis.


At each “play date”, we spent about 15 minutes giving principals basic instruction on tools such as, Twitter and Glogster. During the rest of the time, principals just played with the tools and identified ways that they could use them for instructional leadership purposes. As a result of my own experiences as a former principal and our PDP, I have identified five web 2.0 tools that principals can use to model use of technology.

1. Twitter- Is great for obtaining the latest and greatest instructional strategies and tools to share with teachers. Some great tweeters to follow: @web20classroom @bhsprincipal @Angelamaiers @snewco @ewilliams65. Some great hash tags to view: #edtech #edchat #CPchat (connected principals chat).

2. Today’s Meet- This is perfect for a staff meeting or a professional development meeting. Teachers can bring their laptops and all contribute to the conversation and you have a transcript of the conversation.

3. Glogster- Enough of the weekly newsletters or weekly emails. Do a Glog and add some creativity to your weekly message. Here is an example:

4. Blogger- Enough of the weekly newsletter or weekly emails. Put weekly messages in a blog. It creates a running record, allows you to embed video and photos. Here is an example:

5. Photobucket- When you are conducting walkthroughs and you come across kids truly engaged in learning, take a picture with your cell phone and upload it to Photobucket. The photos can be downloaded to your computer and used in a newsletter (I mean a Glog or Blog).

If principals don’t support technology initiatives, the initiatives may be slow to get started or not even happen. In York County, all of our principals and assistant principals received an iPad last year and were trained on using them to make their work more productive and efficient. This strategy has definitely helped move our division’s mobile learning initiative (using cell phones, iPod Touch and the iPad for instructional purposes) forward. This fall we are implementing a Bring Your Own Technology Initiative (BYOT) for students and staff. I can’t wait to begin blogging about that!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Three Secrets to True Technology Integration

“When I come to your class to observe you, I would like to see a lesson with technology integrated into it.” That statement coming from an administrator is scary to many teachers. I’ve known some teachers to panic when asked to integrate technology into a lesson for an observation. What is the secret to a good technology integrated lesson? Keep the planning simple. True technology integration is a habit of mind that is routine and transparent. True technology integration happens spontaneously. It’s just done, almost without students realizing it. It happens when teachers are able to introduce lessons and units, reinforce what was taught, extend important concepts, enrich interesting topics, assess for content understanding and remediate student mastery.

Here are three secret steps that I refer to as the “ICE” method to help create worthwhile, relevant lessons that integrate technology:
1. Investigate. What will students learn in reference to the curriculum?
Identify what you want your students to learn based on your curriculum. Use goals, objectives, lesson plans and assessments as you normally would. Technology should never take the place of good instruction.

2. Create. What will students do with the technology that will help them learn the curriculum?  
Form a lesson that utilizes some form of technology to introduce, reinforce, extend, enrich or assess an objective from the curriculum. Try to incorporate activities that utilize at least one of the four Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration.

3. Evaluate. What 21st century skill(s) will the activity address?
Assess what students learned with the assistance of the technology and how the activity reinforced one of the four Cs. Create a rubric and checklist that considers the use of technology with the activity.

Administrators can’t mandate technology integration—they have to model it and give recognition when it is happening (I will save that discussion for another post). However, because technology integration is rarely planned for, or assessed for its effectiveness, considering these three secret steps may make planning a technology integrated lesson a little less scary for teachers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Four mistakes educators make when integrating technology into instruction

Technology should never be the lead actor in the play. It should always be the supporting actor for good instruction. For example, if you are using cell phones in class, don't say to students, “Today we are going to do a cell phone activity”. Instead, you should say, “Today we are going to compare and contrast…”

Here are four critical mistakes that teachers make when integrating technology into instruction.

1. Becoming Masters of Technology. Thinking you have to master the technology before allowing students to use it. You do not have to be an expert with the technology before you allow students to use it (this is often just an excuse not to use the technology). Students will happily assist you.

2. Being afraid that you will “break” the technology. Sure hardware can be broken if not taken care of properly. However, for the most part it is difficult to break something that is on the Internet—Web 2.0 tools. You are not going to break the technology. 

3. Thinking too big. Every student in your class does not have to do the same thing at the same time. Differentiate. Use small groups. Assign a project that can be completed outside of class. For example, students could be assigned a book report where they use Animoto to create a commercial that summarizes the book. Students can email the final product to you. Another idea is to consider soliciting help from another staff member or parent to help in the computer lab instead of going it alone with 25 students and 25 computers.

4. Not identifying the purpose. Sometimes we use technology for the sake of using technology (bringing the WOW factor into the classroom). The WOW factor does allow educators to leverage novelty to engage students. The problem with this is, many times we miss a real opportunity to develop technology integration pedagogy and teach 21st century skills. For example, if you have students work in groups to produce a Google Doc, I would think the purpose of that activity is not just to have students use a Google Doc to complete an assignment. The purpose should be to have students communicate, collaborate and think critically (three of the four Cs of 21st century skills- communicate, collaborate, create and critically think).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Putting the Genie Back into the Bottle

What are you working on now Dad?”  “Ryan, I’m doing some research on students being able to bring their own computers to school. “  What?!  I wish we could do that in my school!” I asked Ryan if he were allowed to bring his laptop to school, how would he use it.  I guess since he was working on Spanish at the time he replied, “Well, today I would have used Google Translate in class to help with these translations instead of looking them up in the back of the book.  I could have saved some time.” Wow.

With the increasing popularity of students using cell phones, iPods and iPads in the classroom, the next logical step is to allow students internet access using their own devices.   Students just like my son and Joe would love an opportunity to use their own devices to expand learning.   

Recognizing that once you let the genie out of the bottle, it will be nearly impossible to put it back.  What are some things that should be considered before, during and after students are allowed to bring their own devices to school?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Handle the Haves and Have Nots

What do you do with students who don’t have cell phones? This question comes up quite often when I talk to educators about implementing cell phones in the classroom.  When parents ask, they can sometimes be rude—especially if their child comes home with a permission slip to participate in cell phone activities and they don’t own a cell phone.  To address this very valid concern, I would suggest trying the following:
  1. Be clear and upfront with students when going over cell phone expectations-- put-downs should not be tolerated.
  2. Design lessons and activities that require students to work in pairs or trios (no more than three).  
  3. Design activities that use cell phones outside of the classroom. For example, have students post a blog response to a question via text message. They can borrow their parent’s cell phone.
  4. Ask a local cell phone provider to donate a few cell phones for your class.  The calendar, calculator, stop-watch and camera functions can be used without active service.
  5. Use one cell phone as a center/small group learning activity.
  6. Look for mini-grants or ask your PTA to purchase a few pay-as-you-go cell phones (TracFones). 
I would also suggest monitoring interactions between students during the activities and address any issues immediately--just as you would if they were sharing crayons or markers :-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Google Docs Forms Uses for Ed Leaders

For the last few months I have been hearing how great Google Docs is for educators.  The potential is unlimited--especially for Principals!
Each year we give our teachers an End of the Year Packet (a pretty thick one) that includes directions on how to close out the school year. Most of the time, the staff gets pretty excited about the packet because it means that they are one day closer to summer vacation. The packet typically lets staff know when to turn in items like, books, equipment and keys. The forms they have to turn in focus on classroom repairs, committee/club sponsorship and things that we should continue, stop and start at our school.

This year I looked for an easier (free) way to collect , compile share (not to mention save some paper) this information. So, I decided to use Google Docs to collect data for the six forms that I typically have staff complete and turn in to my Secretary. In just a couple of hours, we had data for 15 teachers--without counting a single piece of paper!

I used Google Forms for these three items:
Committee and Club Request

Classroom Repair Form

Continue, Stop, Start Form

I also used Google Spreadsheet to collect information on students that were in Child Study or the 504 Process and students that we place on a "watch list" to receive academic intervention for the following school year (I did not share those because of student confidentiality).  The great news is that everyone can work on the same document.  Analyzing the data is relatively simple and collaborating between teachers is a breeze.