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Which Technology Tool Do I Choose?

Mary Beth Hertz

HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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As my first post discussed, it is important when taking the leap of bringing digital tools into your classroom to think about your learning goals first. However, how can you know where to put a tech tool in if you don't know what's out there?

There's no need for me to reinvent the wheel listing my favorite sites to use here, though I plan on sharing my experiences with specific tools as this series progresses. The resources below offer tools for every subject and grade level.

Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways
Tom's ever-growing list of Creative Commons licensed, crowd-sourced slideshows depict ways to use various digital tools in the classroom as well as many other ideas for your classroom.

Jerry Blumengarten's (Cybraryman) Technology Page
Jerry's impressive collection of articles, blogs and resources for using technology in your classroom.

Terry Freedman's The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book can be downloaded here.
Terry's free book (a downloadable pdf) includes projects collected by classroom teachers using technology in their classrooms and centered is around common classroom books and age appropriate activities.

The Emerging Top 100 Tools for Learning List.
This is a crowd-sourced list of technology tools ranked by number of votes.

To get started, I often peruse resources such as these to get ideas. I can then better choose a tool that meets my needs. These are some basic considerations I make when choosing a tool:

  • Is it free?
  • Do I need an account?
  • Do my students need an account? If yes, what kind of information does the service ask for?
  • Does it offer teacher accounts?
  • What are the Terms of Service? Can my students legally use the site?
  • Can my students' finished products be easily archived or shared?

Once I have considered these questions and find the tool to fit my criteria, I begin playing around with the tool to see what it does. This is the final test of a tool. Can I envision my students using the tool? Do I think it will meet the requirements of the learning goal? If yes, then I move forward with the next step?thinking through the management of the tool and what it will look like in the hands of my students. Some of the considerations I have while playing around with the tool are:

  • How long will it take my students to set up an account or log in?
  • What are the most vital workings of the tool that I will need to show my students to get them started?
  • How long will it take to produce a finished product?
  • How will my students hand in their work?

One of the struggles of integrating technology in the elementary classroom is finding tools that are simple enough for students to use and that do not require students to have an email address.

Here are some examples of sites that allow for teacher accounts or do not require students to have an email address to use them.

Shidonni
"Create, Play and Share." Students create their own animal and world. They can feed, bathe, clothe their animal, feed their animals, play games and create books. Has a social networking aspect that allows them to send their creations to their friends in a closed environment. Teachers create a free account here.

Ed.VoiceThread
Create multimedia presentations that can be shared by link or embedded. Allows for commenting. Free teacher accounts allow for controls for privacy and for $60/yr or $10/mo you can create student accounts.

Diigo
Social bookmarking tools that has free teacher accounts. Students can bookmark, highlight and take notes on sites they find. These sites can also be shared with groups.

GlogsterEdu
"Poster yourself." Create multimedia, embeddable posters. Teacher accounts allow for class creation. There are both free and premium accounts.

Wordle
Create word clouds and then take a screenshot. No log in required.

Wikispaces & PB Works
Create a collaboration space. If you upgrade your free wiki to an educator wiki it allows for the site administrator to create users without needing an email address.

Over the next few weeks, I challenge you to look through the resources listed above and find one tool or website to play around with. Once you are comfortable with what it does, figure out how it might transform a lesson or learning goal in your curriculum. It could be a website to reinforce skills or a tool your students could use to create a finished product. Go on, take the leap!

I'd love to hear about your experiences and about your favorite tool you explored in the comment area!

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Comments (10) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

David Dean's picture

Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoy the link to Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways. I look forward to more posts in this ongoing series of entries.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Ajaan

Richard Byrne is a friend of mine and his site IS a wonderful resource. Thanks for pointing it out!

Rabia's picture
Rabia
manager in school

can you suggest me to integrate English lessons (Grade level 1) with technology?

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Rabia, I love introducing my grade 1-2 students to Wordles at http://www.wordle.net/create
Students learn to type in words to create awesome word clouds . No log in is required. It is great for typing in sight words, vocabulary words, or any word work. We also use Google to do Google Slides projects but I have done offline work with first grade students using Microsoft PowerPoint as well. For example I've had students create a slide show based on the phonics rules we are learning and then the students teach the rule to the class by presenting the slides and teaching a mini-lesson to the rest of the class.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Hi Rabia,

It would depend on what kind(s) of technology you have available to you. If you have iPads, Puppet Pals is a really fun app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/puppet-pals-hd/id342076546?mt=8) where kids can create stories and overlay audio. You could use this to teach them beginning, middle and end and story structure.

Otherwise, Wordle is fun, as John mentioned, or my little ones used to love starfall.com to read stories and learn words online.

Are you looking for ESL resources or teaching Language Arts (reading/writing)?

Rabia's picture
Rabia
manager in school

Thank you for sharing such productive ideas Mr Thomas, I would like to try Wordles in my class. The ppt google slide sounds a great idea also it is providing autonomy to learners, isnt it?

Rabia's picture
Rabia
manager in school

Hi Mary,
puppet pals is a lovely idea, I would give feedback of my experience once I will try. Yes I am looking for reading/writing activities supported by digital tools

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