How do you integrate technology in your elementary classroom? Lately, I have been using PD 360 to explore that question. PD 360 is online Professional Development available to educators in Portsmouth Public Schools. PD 360 includes short, online videos that cover a range of topics in education. Videos are accessed with a search feature, and include reflections and follow-up questions. Everything is tracked, so progress can be monitored. One of the topics in PD 360 that caught my attention was technology integration in the elementary classroom. There are a plethora of resources and tools that can be used to integrate technology into instruction and I was interested to see which ones would be featured. I like to see which ones give the most bang for the buck. I learned that many of those discussed in PD 360 are the same resources and tools that the PPS TRTs have been promoting through blogs, wikis, Summer Technology camps, Tech Tuesday sessions, School Staff development, 1:1 and small group sessions, etc. If somehow, educators in PPS managed to miss these technology integration efforts, here is a synopsis of some of the resources/tools that the TRTS and teachers across the country are using to integrate technology. There is a common theme here. You will see tools that facilitate student learning through the use of higher orders thinking skills and active engagement in the creation of student generated products. You will not see skill and drill products aimed at passing a standardized test.
Technology integration can include a wide variety of resources and tools that enhance and showcase the learning process. Some of the best actively engage the student in an activity or project where a product is generated. These products require planning, thinking, doing, communicating, reflecting, sharing….. These days, the big question is not if you are integrating technology, but how and what technology you are choosing to best engage students. Technology tools might be used as a form of communication, or for the development of student multimedia projects to showcase learning. Why is that important? These tools allow for differentiated learning, tap into student creativity, and provide a fun, engaging medium for a student to showcase learning. Used independently they are great. Used collectively as part of an organized plan to utilize technology tools to demonstrate knowledge, they are fabulous! Could you, should you use them all? Could you, should you eat everything at a buffet table? Survey the table and choose wisley to compliment your teaching, and student learning styles. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Schedule some time with your TRT to use technology tools.
- Inspiration: Graphic organizers are great for organizing thoughts, reviewing knowledge and more. Students can manipulate templates provided by teachers to generate a customized end-products.
- Presentations (PowerPoint): Useful as a multimedia project for students. Students incorporate their knowledge and understanding of a given topic, while enhancing their understanding of other topics.
- Flipcams: These small, easy-to-use video cameras provide opportunities for all kinds of student video projects. Students can use video to showcase what they have learned about a topic. They might video a science demonstration, use them to capture explanations, or share information.
- Movie Maker: This is a free video editing software for PC’s that enables students to edit video or images that they have captured. Students can use Movie Maker for the development of their multimedia projects. With this, they can add titles, text, transitions, effects, sound and credits.
- Digital Images and PowerPoint: Using Digital cameras and PowerPoint can be a great way to assess student knowledge of a topic. Students can use Digital cameras to capture images and PowerPoint to present their findings. This “assessment vehicle” demonstrates student understanding of a topic. The technology serves as a motivator for students, and they love their own finished products. Wouldn’t this be a great alternative method of assessment?
- Online Surveying: This online technology allows students to express opinions or ideas about various topics. Online surveys can be created with Google docs. It would allow the teacher to create surveys for students to use. Published surveys created in Google docs have code that can be used by teachers to add to a teacher webpage, so that students can access surveys in a safe site. Responses are collected automatically in Google docs, and the information can provide useful data for teacher or student use. Students could work as partners, and enter their responses. Data can be displayed in various types of graphs.
- Online communication: Online communication is great for enhancing knowledge. Certain products such as Wimba (http://www.wimba.com/ ) or Edmodo can allow for online chatting, peer editing, chatting, video, polling… With this form of online communication, the teacher accesses and controls student activity. Through the poll feature, the teacher can see real-time what students think. Students can chat back and forth about a topic. Combined with classroom discussions, the teacher can gauge student learning, and re-direct as needed.
- Web Search: Can be used for student projects such Virtual Vacations or Virtual field Trips. Working in cooperative teams, students plan a trip. Student use the web to gather information about a final destination and attractions along the way. The students could estimate distance and travel times for the trip. Then, they use Google maps to check their estimations. This use of technology enhances problem solving and makes connections with the real world.
- Blogs: This online web-log tool gives students a voice. With a blog, opinions can be expressed, and knowledge showcased. It’s a great way for students to communicate throughout the year, or a great way to wrap up as a culminating activity for a unit of study.
- Wikis: Wikis are collaborative online tools that can be updated by authorized users. This can provide a way for students to share and learn. Wikis can be used to further student knowledge. Teachers can add links to wiki pages to direct students, providing limits and options. This provides for cumulative information in a cooperative environment, providing a productive way for students to remain on-task. The teacher directs student learning, and the students are actively engaged.
- Webquests: Webquests can be used to develop knowledge about a topic. Web quests incorporate HOTS and components on the web. Webquests are developed by teachers and transform learning. (Many are already available online) They include an Introduction, task, and process, and include various activities that are web based for different phases.
- Podcasts: With podcasts, Digital files are created about a topic and are released as episodes. Audio and/or video files can be used to tell the story. (Very useful for a Reader’s Theatre activity.) Starting with a storyboard is good for the planning phase. Using laptops and audio editing software, students can edit audio files. Finished podcasts can be shared with the class.
- Email: Email is a real life, electronic communication that could be used for classroom activities. In our school division, students do not have access to email. In other parts of the country, students have accounts to complete classroom activities monitored by the teacher. (Some Email services for students include ePals & Gaggle.net)
As you can see, this list of tools is not exhaustive. Not too much, not too little, it’s just right, including some of the most popular tools and resources touted by educators across the country. So… the only real questions left about technology integration are, what will you use, how and when?