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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

Comments (59)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Kelley Hercules's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This was great! I got some outstanding ideas for this coming school year. Thanks for everything.

Rhonda Gabriel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would love to use technology in my classroom. The only piece of equipment that I have in my room is an overhead projector. I also have a tv, vcr, and dvd player. My classroom has 5 computers but they don't connect to the internet, my students use them to play games on. I feel that my students could learn so much more if they had internet access.

Aubrey 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After having taken part in a technology class this past year at my school, I see how important it is to intergrate into our classrooms. Even though I think I know a lot about technology, I find every day that I am light years behind my students. I can't agree more with the original post that we need to develop technology skills for ourselves first and then our students. If we as educators can see the benefit of technology in our own lives, it makes it 100% better and easier to use it in the classroom. I found that when I worked hard to develop a concept and understand of a new program I was more excited and motivated to use it in my classroom. The students love having information presented to then in new and different ways!!

Suzon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for the inspiration. I am definitely going to try these out before classes resumes this fall. I have some older students in my classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville and I want to to show them things that they can work into their lives. Perhaps these tools will make technology friendlier and help them overcome their technology terror.

Shane Day's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the great ideas. With so many ideas floating around out there it is nice to have some direction. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Oyin 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for all these great resources. I agree that it's always good to try out some of the new technologies for yourself and figure out how much you enjoy using them. My family uses picasa a lot for online albums. I'll be trying out some of the suggested websites, especially bighugelabs and the wiki.
Thanks again!!

Hayley D'Angelo's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently in a graduate degree program for Integrating Technology in the Classroom. I found your post extremely helpful and very true. Thanks for posting!

Cynthia Fedo's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It's not just the veteran teachers who have difficulty incorporating technology into classrooms. As a third year teacher in my 20s, I would love to use more technology in my lessons and I can absolutely see how it grabs students' attention instantly when I do use it, but it can be time consuming and sometimes confusing to set it up initially.

What has helped is the suggestions and explanations of favorite resources to use and the idea of how to incorporate them into the curriculum to engage 21st Century learners.
Recently, my students displayed some of their writing talents with a multi-media presentation involving both Photostory (similar to PowerPoint bit with movement) and Audacity (voice recording program). They were amazing! The students recorded their voice with Audacity and added music and sound effects. They then created a Photostory and imported their soundwave file to fit the pictures.

Both programs are free but we did run into a few glitches. So as always, encourage students to save often to avoid losing their work. I learned right along with the students and it was a great way to close out the year.

I look forward to diving into other technology challenges and thank all of you for your contributions.


s's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Rhonda,

In my five years of teaching this is the first time I'm at a school where there was a computer lab. It makes such a big difference for all students. I like you seem to always get stuck in rooms where the computers were not working.

S Ortiz
Walden University

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?

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