What do I use and how do I use it?

The Pew Surveys have inspired me to do a quick inventory of how I use technology in my classroom. This seems like a good time to examine and reflect on how I have used technology to inform my choices for the next school year. Ah, the joys of summer.

I teach in a one-to-one school where I and all the students have access to MacBooks. I probably take this for granted by having my students use them all the time.

We subscribe to FirstClass, Blackboard, turnitin.com and several other services that allow us to maintain contact with students and share files and other resources with ease.

I use Pages almost every day to greet my students. When they walk into the room, I have an agenda on the overhead projector for them to follow.

Sometimes, I’ll send them an email using FirstClass with instructions and links on it, so that they can start class with an activity.

I use Blackboard as a course management tools. Students access most classroom documents here. I have gone almost completely paperless by sharing documents this way.

 As and English teacher, one of my most important tools is turnitin.com. I use this website almost exclusively for students to turn in work. It allows me to read, respond, and grade student writing all in one place. It also allows a great way for students to complete peer reviews and share their work with other students. This website has saved me hours of grading and the pain of lugging around hundreds of essays to grade. The downside is that I have to have an internet connection to grade, but the new app they are talking about will allow me to grade using my iPad even without an active connection.

I also maintain an online forum through the Nebraska Writing Project. Students create online identities and partake in discussions using this resource. I have modified the forum and I use it frequently to extend classroom conversations.

I use TodaysMeet now and then to have them backchannel during classroom discussions. I used this once this year during a large group presentation and had hundreds of students sharing their thoughts anonymously. That was a riot.

Googledocs and especially Google forms have become an essential part of my teaching. I use forms as a tool to get feedback from my students in an easy to read and organize spreadsheet. The forms can be customized and easily manipulated to do what I need them to do.

The Apple iWorks suite is a major part of my document and presentation creation. I have found that creating class lists on Numbers and using that to track student progress is a great way to write comments about student work and progress without grading everything. I use this almost daily to keep track of in-class observations. It’s great because unlike paper, I never have to worry about losing it. I still use paper classroom grids for some quick checks, but I have been using Numbers more and more. I can also do this using a Google spreadsheet, and that way I can access it from anywhere anytime. 

I used the Apple server set up that we have at Westside to create a student wiki this year. I have used Blackboard wikis and other tools like this, but none have worked very well. This wiki was nice because it allowed students to upload large video files with ease, and it was secure because it was set up so that only those with Westside logins could view and edit. I was a bit surprised with the general apprehension that students had in using this form of online sharing tool. To be fair, I haven’t done much with wikis myself. 

I’m out of ideas right now. I’m sure more will come, but this is a pretty good start of my personal technology inventory. 

One Reply to “What do I use and how do I use it?”

  1. I’m glad that I jumped in to view this response…you have given me so much to think about. I want to go home and investigate these further. Staying pretty much on googledocs with my 6th graders, I am hoping to try some new things with them this next year. Thanks for the tips.

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