George Lucas Educational Foundation

3 Technologies I Can't Live Without

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Technology is oozing into all areas of our lives. This could be good and bad, of course, but the fact of the matter is we must recognize it. There was a time in my teaching career when I thought that technology was extraneous. It was something that I believed didn't need to be brought into the classroom; I was of the mindset that we must hand write every essay and only use hard copies for research. To the surprise of most people, I'm a younger teacher. I'm not old and unfamiliar with technology. Technology permeates my life which is a reason that I thought it shouldn't filter into my classroom.

The cold, hard facts speak differently though. Business Insider reports that 90% of 18-29 year-olds sleep with their cell phones and that half of these people check their phones when they wake up in the middle of the night. Research from The Brief Lab shows that we check our smart phones on an average of 150 times per day and that attention spans have shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2012.

For these reasons, among a myriad of others, I know that we must utilize technology appropriately in the classroom. The technology we implement has to encourage collaboration with others, creativity through software, and interaction with self. The following are 3 technologies that I now CANNOT live without in my classroom:

1. Google Drive: By now, most people know how amazing Google Drive is. It offers a place to store information and access that information anywhere and it's all for free. Even better, functions like share, chat, and comment encourages collaboration with others. I have completely overhauled my writing classroom by having all of the writing take place on the Drive. From pre-writing to revising, the entire process is now collaborative through teacher-student and student-student interaction. For a video tutorial on how to collaborate with your students on Google Drive, check out my blog post (http://brownbagacademics.blogspot.com/2014/06/tutorial-collaborating-wit...).

2. Smartphones: Don't underestimate those tiny computers resting in students' pockets. While not every teen has a smartphone, CNET writes that 70% of them do. I always encourage my students to pull out their phones while working. Many of my students work better while listening to music. Some have even discovered that if they play the same song on repeat they will get into the zone, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "Flow". They are proving research to be right without even knowing it! I've also encouraged students to take photos of what they're working on or what they're researching and include it in their work. This makes their assignments multi-modal and allows for students to be more interactive with their ideas. With the apps and functions on cell phones, the opportunities to implement technology are literally limitless.

3. Coggle: The free mind-streaming software has offered my students an opportunity to interact with their own writing visually. Coggle focuses on building Parent > Child > Sister relationships. It might seem as if this would be good for brainstorming (which it is!) but it has been an excellent tool for visual essays and essay planning. A focus on organization and relationships between ideas stimulates critical, creative, and independent thinking. Visit my blog (http://brownbagacademics.blogspot.com/2014/07/coggle-yourself.html) to see how my students have utilized Coggle to write visual essays rather than traditional essays.

There are many truths and myths out there about how technology is impacting our young people, present self included. It's important to take all of these seriously. But that doesn't mean jumping to the rash conclusion that I did: we shouldn't avoid technology altogether. If we teach our students how to utilize technology in a way that benefits others and themselves, we are giving them a skill set that will truly enable them to be life-long learners. Perhaps, if done correctly, the implementation of technology will create a more creative, independent, and interactive group of young people.

In what ways have you utilized technology that encourages collaboration with others, creativity through software, and interaction with self? Comment below and leave a link to your own posts if you have one! Let's use this as an opportunity to collaborate with other teachers from around the world.


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Comments (9) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Completely agreed on Google Drive, it was really the digital backbone of everything I did with my students the last couple years.

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Brownbag Academics's picture
Brownbag Academics
author of Brownbag Academics blog

I completely agree Dan. My entire writing class now takes place online. So grateful for Google Drive! What would we do without it now??

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Add me to the chorus of folks who love Drive. I'm also amazed at how much I can do with my smartphone. Honestly, it's taken so many things out of my briefcase. Phone, fax, flashlight, scanner, magnifying glass, camera, calendar, notebook, grade book...that thing is worth it's weight in gold.

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Brownbag Academics's picture
Brownbag Academics
author of Brownbag Academics blog

It really is Laura. Aside from the face that my iPhone battery undoubtedly dies by 2 p.m. everyday, it's my savior!

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

Coggle looks nice for mapping out stories. However I had some glitches show up my first time trying it out- but I notice it is in beta still.

I use Kidspiration for mapping stories, brainstorming, and for some assessments for science (sorting type activities.) For story work it is efficient because we can take their map and convert it to outline form. Then we export it to word for additional details and final edits, then print out. It prevents the students from having to enter text twice if we are typing stories. Kidspiration is great for helping kids quickly reorganize their text because each bubble in the map is a separate text box in the outline view.

Unfortunately it is still software based and older. I'm hoping for enhancements and either internet or app based Kidspiration soon. In the meantime I will keep trying Coggle out and see if I think first and second graders can effectively utilize it.

Brownbag Academics's picture
Brownbag Academics
author of Brownbag Academics blog

I'll definitely have to check that out! Would you say that Kidspiration is more geared to the elementary? I would imagine that Coggle might present some problems for 1st & 2nd graders. If they could use it, though, they'd have a blast!

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

In addition to these apps, I'd add http://edu.symbaloo.com/ - we use that heavily in my district, it's free, fast and awesome for organizing sites for elementary kids to access.

Here is our collection - you have to click each .html link separately:

http://ncs-tech.org/embed/

Symbaloo rocks!

-kj-

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

Kidspiration is geared towards elementary, but Inspriation is the older student version. Both are very capable programs.

The good news is I just saw on their website that they FINALLY have an iPad version of both Kidspiration and Inspiration. http://www.inspiration.com

Kevin- I have used ikeepbookmarks to organize my links into folders for my classroom to utilize both in class and at home. But it isn't as flashy as Symbaloo. Symbaloo is very cool. It looks like Symbaloo you can create folders and I really like the icon buttons better than the text based ikeepbookmarks. With Symbaloo can you choose the icon it shows or is that set based on the website link?

http://ww2.ikeepbookmarks.com/home.asp

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Brownbag Academics's picture
Brownbag Academics
author of Brownbag Academics blog

Thanks for the tip, John! I'm always interested in checking out new interfaces to use in my classroom :)

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