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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How to Become More Tech Savvy This Summer

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

As I've mentioned before, I think one of the big problems with making best use of technology in the classroom is the richness of the possibilities. They can be overwhelming, as I described in an earlier Edutopia.org post.

So with summer here, I am going to make a suggestion: Forget about the kids! Instead of looking at all the digital possibilities and trying to bring them into your classroom, think about you and see what you can do with some of these tools in your own life. And you know what? After discovering how effective they can be, I bet this fall you will find yourself using some of them in your classroom.

Here are ten suggestions including ideas for classroom use at a later date:

Create Your Own Video Vault

Miro is like iTunes for video. With it, you can download videos from sites like YouTube and TeacherTube and save them on your local hard drive. So, now you can load up a flash drive with some of those viral videos you just have to show your sister and not worry about finding them online when you get to her house.

Oh, and when school is back in session, this will mean you can arrive in class with a host of content specific videos loaded on that same flash drive or on your laptop. You'll never waste precious teaching time waiting for downloads or fighting filters again.

Have Fun with Photos

I just love BigHugeLabs.com. Going to a wedding or other special event this summer? Head here either before or after the big day, and come armed with some pictures. You'll be able to make posters of various kinds, badges, trading cards, and more.

And because the results are JPEG files, you can easily pass them on to friends and family. Too much fun! In the fall, how about using this great tool as a way for kids to make content projects come to life or to celebrate a special day or a special student?

Create Comics

Plasq makes a piece of software called Comic Life. Now, I have to believe that you are going to take your digital camera with you this summer to the beach, to the mountains, horseback riding, to a barbecue, or out in the canoe. Imagine being able to easily -- yes, easily -- turn those pictures into a comic book?

This tool will have your friends saying, "Shazam! How'd you get so creative? This is great!" Meanwhile, back in the classroom, you'll want to use this handy tool as a way for students to create graphic novels that clearly demonstrate their understanding of key concepts, or even as a way to make your own customized lab setup instructions.

Whip up a Wiki

Everyone is going to attend an event or two this summer, like a birthday party, a wedding, or a anniversary. If you're a planner of one of these, then set up a wiki to share all the information about the event.

If you are an attendee, set up one of these babies as a way to organize that group of friends who will also be there, and then use it to maintain your connections after the event. In the classroom, come fall, your summer experience will have you ready to establish a classroom wiki.

Form a Questionnaire

Need to find out who is going to bring potato salad to the family reunion? Want to choose a restaurant for a group to meet at without making a civil case of it? Use a form from Google Docs or a survey from SurveyMonkey.com and ask your questions online. You'll be able to send out a simple Web address to folks and they can answer your questions online, and you'll get the data right away.

Both sites require registration, but they are free. Oh, and if the URL for your survey or form is one of those terribly long things, head to TinyURL.com and shrink it before you send it out.

Use these great tools for asking questions with your kids to help them understand content more deeply and get ready for the tests. Kids who know how to ask good questions are better at answering them, and in order to ask good questions about a curriculum topic, the kids have to understand it first.

Share Snapshots

Summertime is when so many memories are made. And photos help us hold onto those memories long after the sand is vacuumed out of backseats of cars and mustard stains are washed out of T-shirts. If you aren't already using an online photo-storage site to share your pictures online, go to Google's Picasa. There are lots of others, so ask you friends what they like.

What you'll appreciate is the ability to take snapshots of your children doing silly jumps into the pool and then -- at no cost -- share them exclusively with family members and friends you select. When school begins again, how about starting a project with that friend of yours who teaches a few states over? You and your students could share images and information about where you live and the class from away will do the same. What a great way to spice up geography.

Survey the Situation

Going back to where you grew up for a visit this summer? Head to Google Maps before you go, and take a look at the old neighborhood in a whole new way. Sure, the ability to see either a map or an aerial photograph is cool, but wait until you see the street-level views! "Hey," you'll say, "I wonder whose truck that is parked in from of Luanne's house?"

No, they are not images in real time, but you'll be so ready for the real visit after digitally cruising the area. Using maps is powerful across all the curriculum areas, so once you see how easy these are to use, you'll want to explore the settings of novels you're reading as a class or places where historical events took place.

Cache In

Geocaching is a great way to learn more about a place you and the family are traveling this summer, or even about your home area if you are going on a staycation. You really have to visit the site, but basically, through the use of a global-positioning-system receiver, you will find your way to places where folks have tucked away a small waterproof box. Might sound silly, but people who get involved love it!

Search this site by ZIP code and you'll find where geocaches have been hidden in places that only the locals know about. GPS makes latitude and longitude come to life. Geocaching has super possibilities, so if you do anything with maps in your classroom, go geocaching.

Know the News

Visit Newseum to read the front pages of newspapers from around the world -- a great way to see what is worthy of the front page in a place you are headed toward for a visit, or to keep up on the front-page news back home while you are away. If your students are going to be players in a global economy, knowing what is on the front page in a newspaper kiosk in Beijing, Beirut, Houston, London, New Delhi, or Toronto is important.

Listen Up

If you have a road trip planned, a good audiobook can be a great thing to have along. This is the best free audio collection of public domain books out there. The readers are excellent, and you'll find many classics.

How about having The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or A Christmas Carol read to you as you drive? Put them on your mp3 player or burn a set of CDs, and you're good to go. In the fall, consider making CDs of classic literature and sending them home to families as a gift. They will love them, and exposure to high-quality readers and classic literature will help all learners.

Well, there you go, ten of my favorites. But I know you have favorites of your own. Give us a shout and do some sharing. Thanks in advance.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Comments (58)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

LeighAnn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love all of the links you provided in your post! As I read the description of each website or tech tool, I generated a bunch of ideas how I could use them in my classroom! I am already very fortunate to have a lot of technology available at my school (SmartBoards, classroom LCD's, Remotes, Class IPods, 3 computer labs, laptop carts, and a few others. But often, I am overwhelmed with all these resources and find it difficult to keep up with all of these great initiatives and learning how to use them. I know many teachers would feel so grateful to have the resources I do. I certainly use technology in my teaching almost everyday. I just know that I should "beef" it up a little and try different things. Does anyone know of some other sites or links that offer tutuorials on some of the latest technology initiatives? Or possibly the sites that give specific lessons that go along with certain technology tools?
Thanks!
LeighAnn

Meghen Cierlicki's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I tell my music students all the time that the best way to learn a new instrument or improve your technique is simply by using it! It just makes sense that we teachers should become familiar with technology by using it in our personal lives and gaining a real appreciation for it before we can expect our kids to get anything out of it. Great suggestions- my mind is already working for September! Thanks!

Oyin 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Shutterfly.com and snapfish.com also have great online photo sharing albums.
Also, you can check out www.cozi.com, a free online organizer that can help you manage your busy family calendar, track your shopping and to do lists, organize chores, and link you with other members of your family. It's really great !!

Alshaheed 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love your insight on technology, you provided me with a lot of new inovative approaches for my students. We are incorportating smartboards this year, and I'm very excited about the transition. Thanks for the tech tips...

Tami Phipps's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a student of Walden University and two of my classmates talked about reading your suggestions. They were so excited that I had to see what they were talking about. I absolutley loved them!!! Thanks so much for all of your ideas. I can't wait to get back in my classroom and try some of them out. I am hoping that the kids will be as excited as I am. I teach 6th grade and many times I have a hard time getting the kids excited about an assignment. Maybe one of these will help. Thanks again for your suggestions.

Anna Williams's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have never thought of myself has "tech savvy" at all. In fact, I am the complete opposite. Through the help of friends and family and trial and error, I have managed to learn how to login to the world wide web, check e-mail, and maintain a link to people via social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. I checked out your blog to see if I could gain any new insight into the technology world...and I did! I really loved the idea of creating a video vault. I cannot tell you how many times I have attempted to load a brief educational video, only to have a problem and have to leave it out of the plans. I plan to get back to school soon and begin my own vault. Your suggestions were very helpful and I honestly think I can do it myself. I am interested in learning how to use the new Smartboard that is in my classroom now. I know that they are wonderful tools that allow students to learn interactively but I have had no formal training with them.

Josh's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jim,
Thanks for the fresh technology ideas. Your approach seems very logical to me. I defiantly intend on looking into some of your suggestions.

Jennifer Duncan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have always wanted to become more knowledgeable about technology within my classroom. After reading through many responses I have found many valuable resources to look through and use. I didn't realize there was so much out there.

Tina Lowery's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Do you ever wonder what will be the eventual outcome to all of the texting, IM-ing, twittering, and interacting on MySpace and Facebook and now the trend toward online learning? How will it impact interpersonal communication? Will this generation of kids even be able to communicate on a face-to-face basis? What type of impact will this have on the business world? I am all for bringing technology into our learning environments, but sometimes I do fear what we may be sacrificing in the long run.

Tina Lowery
High School Science Teacher
Willard High School
Willard, Ohio

Lonnie Ashton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I noticed that the one thing I was lacking in when I started teaching was technology. I agree that in order to integrate technology in your classroom, you should at least use different forms in your life. Last school year, all I saw was texting and hearing Facebook. So this summer I broke down and created a facebook account as well as an iPhone for texting. Still amazed at how many people can find you. Former students have found me and are telling me how much I've made an impact in their lives. This is pretty amazing since I never received any of this feedback when i was their teacher.

So years later, I feel even better about choosing teaching as a profession.

As for the texting, still not as proficient. My wife says, it's for when you want quick answers. I still call her ever time even when she texts me. Oh well there's always next summer.

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