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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Integrating Technology with Limited Resources

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

OK, so you know about all of these great tools out there that can transform teaching and learning in your classroom but all you have is an ancient PC in the corner of your room. How can you effectively integrate technology with this dinosaur?

Hopefully this post will help.

Use your computer as a center

Create a class wiki or website (click here for ideas for where to go to do this) where you can set up links for your students to access easily. When they are at the center they are allowed to access these sites for reinforcement of classroom lessons. Assign a specific website that aligns with your lesson or the skills that your student(s) may need more practice in.

Create audio books

You can purchase an inexpensive, quality microphone for about $20-30 at Best Buy or a similar store. Set this up to the computer (usually they plug into a USB port like a mouse). Have students read a story into a program like Audacity (a free download). They can then listen to each other's stories while at the computer as a center or share their stories with other classes. The stories can be shared either through being uploaded to a website, to iTunes or by burning a CD of the stories to be given to another class.

Collaborate on a story

Create a schedule by which your students rotate on the computer -- 5-10 minutes per student. Provide a topic or guidelines for the story, preferably one that aligns with daily or weekly learning goals. Each student sits at the computer and adds to the story that was started by a classmate. Of course, with one student at a time this may be time consuming, so also consider having two students at a time sitting down together to add to the story. Each student or student group could choose a different color to write in to keep track of the edits.

You can have a document saved on the desktop for students to open or you can use a Google Doc or use TypeWith.me to allow students to add to the story. Both online options allow for you to export the file as a printable document. This would be the best option if you don't have word processing software installed on your computer or if you want to share the story easily online.

Student blogging

Set up a schedule for your computer. Use Edublogs or Kidblog to set up blogs for your students. They can spend 10-15 minutes a day or just 15 minutes a week working on their blog posts. Both of these sites require that posts go to you first for approval. Topics could include an explanation of a concept they learned in class, a short story, their favorite comment or idea that a classmate had, a reflection on a book they are reading, or a reflection on a political stance or social studies theme.

You can then allow students to leave comments on each other's posts as well as parents and family members.

Share student voices

Have student work you want to share? Take photos of the work and upload them to a Voicethread. Then have your students come to the computer while they are working independently to record their voice describing or reflecting on their work.

This work can then be shared with other classes, other schools and parents/family members.

Create screencasts

When students are working independently on the computer, how do you make sure they know what they're doing? Screencasts, or short videos that capture what you are doing on your screen, can help you teach students how to use a tool or site or explain what you want them to do while at the computer. Students can watch the screencast as many times as necessary so they don't need you to sit at the computer with them while they complete tasks you assign.

Funding tech in your classroom

The following places are a great place to start when trying to fund technology initiatives in your classroom.

Donorschoose.org is a crowdfunding site. Create an account and set up a project. You can then send the link to your friends and family and anyone else to help get your project funded through donations.

WeareTeachers.com provides a list of grants and contests to help teachers get the resources they need.

Grants Alert is a regularly updated database of grants and their deadlines.

Donations are always acceptable too! Many companies will donate their old computers when they upgrade their offices. Makes some contacts at large companies in your area. They can write it off as a charitable donation!

Please use the comment area to ask questions or add any resources or ideas I may have missed!

Comments (30)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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David Dodgson's picture

Thanks for these great ideas. All the classrooms at my school are equipped with just the one PC running on XP so I'm always on the look out for ideas to get the most out of it, especially if they involve the students doing somehting rather than me.

I've used typewith.me for collaborative writing and also for writing a composition from standard notes (I'm an EFL instructor by the way) as a way to create a class version for everyone to check their own writing against.

I would love to try audacity and screencasting but there's just one obstacle. Permission is needed from the school admin for any programs to be installed on the class computers and the red tape can take a while to untangle itself. I'll be trying to get my requests in as soon as the teachers return from holiday!

DavidD

Gregory Hill's picture

I would recommend scavenging thrift stores, pawn shops, craigslist, etc. for used equipment. Might not be a lot, but you will find some gems of video cameras, digital cameras, ipods/mp3 players, etc. In an afternoon of work you can cheaply pull together some really great stuff.

Have lots of conversations with friends about buying new technology. Urge them to upgrade if they are able, or to go buy that new gadget, as long as they donate the old version to your classroom. I have 3 (albiet older) video ipods and 4 digital cameras from this. Laptops too. Any laptop with at least 256MB of Ram and less than 8 years old can run a lot of internet applications. People have these laptops in their basements.

Throw a "techluck" party where friends bring their old digital cameras, video cameras, laptops, microphones, headsets, etc. You cook and provide hospitality. This interaction also provides a community of people interested in what you do. They'll be fans of your classroom and can interact with your kids.

These new tools make a huge difference in how my kids can share their learning.

Lastly, I recommend finding the 10 largest companies in your city. Explain to them you are a teacher with limited resources and how laptops (I only recommend laptops, since they have screens, mice and keyboards built in, and are portable) will fundamentally transform the world you can open to your kids, as well as provide them with a depth of thinking not found with paper and pencil. Send this email to the human resource person at each of these companies, asking that person if there are any laptops that have completed their IT cycle, or if there is a program for computer donations to schools or organizations. If you email 10 (or more) a few will bite. I know of 3 people (including myself) who were able to piece together 1:1 classrooms in similar ways.

Don't be shy, and be creative. We are not suffering from a scarcity of resources, but rather an abundance of resources that are not equitably distributed to the most important users: learners.

Candace Jackson Gray's picture
Candace Jackson Gray
ESL adults, h.s. math, historian

David I am going to try this in my new semester. I wondered how you did this. I don't always feel the need to reinvent the wheel. I am an ESL and math teacher for teens and adults. my mail is at the yahoo place, cordelia works. Thanks

Candace Jackson Gray's picture
Candace Jackson Gray
ESL adults, h.s. math, historian

I've made some similar endeavors, but not for technology. This is wonderful. I would like to know more about the 1:1. Could you contact me from the comment above?

Monina Correa's picture

Thanks a lot for sharing. I will integrate more technology in my classes this school year and our resources are not much. Your idea of using the classroom computer as center is really great. Thank.s again

Angela Haynes's picture

Hi - I really like the idea of creating audiobooks for the classroom. Are you suggesting that students record original works, or trade books? There would be copyright issues with trade books being duplicated in the classroom.

Holly Gramling's picture

Hi- I really like the idea of the class creating an original story, one section at a time. After the story was written, so much could be done with it in an English Language Arts classroom. The students could collaborate and turn it into a book complete with illustrations. The students who are musical could compose and record a soundtrack for it. Some of the students could write a review and a press release. It could even be turned into a short video or play. There are so many possibilities.

Melissa's picture

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments. I thought that you presented viable and practical solutions to the dilemma of effectively integrating technology into instruction with a limited resource supply. In fact, your ideas were not only practical, but they also have the potential to be very meaningful and engaging learning experiences for our students.
I specifically appreciated your comments regarding the use of screencasts. I have found it to be quite difficult to effectively maximize my students' learning at the computer during my students' center time. I typically fall back on asking students to visit the same select few websites during their center time because I am unable to help them navigate new sites. Of course, I do ask my students to view different information and to complete different activities on these websites; however, I believe that my students would benefit from the opportunity to visit other sites. By utilizing screencasts, I can provide my students with the support they require to navigate new websites while not having to personally assist each student. I will definitely be taking the time to further explore this concept.
Additionally, I really appreciated your comments regarding the use of blogs. I have not yet utilized this technology in the context of my instruction, as I was somewhat concerned about how I could successfully manage my students' use of this technology. I was not aware of the fact that there were blog websites created for the specific use of teachers and their students. I will certainly be further investigating the websites you mentioned. As a teacher, I want to ensure that my students will not come into contact with any unsavory information. I was also pleased to read that my students' blog posts will be sent to me for approval prior to their final submission to the site. Lastly, I also enjoyed reading how blogs could be integrated into my students' learning across the curriculum. I truly believe that the use of blogs would greatly augment my instruction and further my students' degree of comprehension and learning.
Thank you for all of the insight you provided! Reading your blog post was a great learning experience for me and I hope to employ some of the technological tools you recommended.
Thanks again!
Melissa

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