Let’s kick 2019 off with a TECHNOLOGY TEACHER CHALLENGE. I challenge each of you to use technology to do at least one thing with each of your classes that you have never tried before.
Substituting paper worksheets with pdf’s does not count, neither does posting memos online. That is just replacing something; I want you to think outside the box. Try something that would not be possible without technology.
Technology should not be this huge mountain that you need to conquer; it is part of a life long process of learning and changing as a teacher. The world is changing at an alarming rate; there is no way you can justify teaching the same way we did ten years ago.
As Bethany J Petty said in her book Illuminate:
We didn’t start using light bulbs to illuminate our homes because candles or lanterns stopped working. We use light bulbs and the electricity that powers them to enhance our lives in the same way teachers can use technology tools to enhance the learning environment for our students.
Inspiration for the Technology Challenge
If your school are not yet using an online Learning Management System (LMS), like Google Classroom, ITSI or Edmodo, it should not prevent you from creating your own online platform. Google Sites now makes it possible for every teacher to create their own classroom. You can use the website to provide learners with links to extra resources, videos and even connect with parents.
If your learners have access to devices and the internet (even if it is just one between two) and you have not tried Kahoot yet, you are missing out. Kahoot is an online quiz platform that is ideal to get all the learners in the class actively involved. Set up your own quiz or make use of millions of Kahoots other teachers have set up and see how it change the way you teach.
It is, of course, possible to use Kahoot even if your learners do not have devices (Kahoot – old school style)
If blogging feels like too big a commitment, how about trying something smaller, by getting your learners to create a Writing Journal on Google Slides. I have created a sample in both English and Afrikaans with enough writing prompts for learners to write something every week for a year.
If you want to try one new thing this year and you do not have access to technology in your class, Plickers is a great place to start. All you need to use Plickers is a phone and computer in your class that is connected to the internet – a data projector would be helpful but not necessary. Each learner just needs a card/printout that you link to their name. When you ask a Multiple Choice Question, they hold up their card with the appropriate side up, and you scan the answers with your phone.
Another easy solution for teachers who have only a limited amount of technology in the class is the Station Rotation Model. It takes a bit of planning and practice, but by dividing the class into groups or stations, you can get the most out of the technology available.
While blogging might be more for language teachers, Desmos is for the maths teachers. Desmos is so much more than a free graphical calculator; its Activity Builder allows teachers to create custom sessions that make maths and mathematical relationships come to life.
One of the critical skills needed in a world of information overload is the ability to look critically at graphs and statistics. The New York Times has created a website for teachers “What’s going on in this graph?” especially to help teachers work this into any subject. They post a new graph every week, with some thought-provoking questions to challenge learners and encourage discussion. While the graphs are often focused on the USA, I can definitely see Maths, Science and Geography teachers incorporating this into their lessons.
You can take it one step further by using the Desmos interactive activity based on these graphs, especially if you have a one-to-one class.
One of the biggest advantages technology brings to the classroom, are opportunities to collaborate. An easy way to make use of these features is to get learners to work together creating their own worksheet, also known as the Instaworksheet.
Blogging is a compelling medium to give all the learners in the class both a voice and an authentic audience. You can start a blog for your class, with contributions from all the learners, or even better; you get your learners to start their blog. There is nothing that will get your kids writing as much as blogging.
If you want lots of control, I would suggest using an education-specific site like Edublogs. If you are working with high school learners and would like to give them more freedom and an audience outside of the school, look at Blogger Google’s free blogging site.
The phones we carry in our pockets are probably the most underutilised technology we own. Combine Google Science Journal with the sensors on your phone to bring Science to life for your learners. There are hundreds of activities, something for every grade, already planned with detailed instructions, just for you.
If you are a Social Sciences or Geography teacher and you have not looked at Google Earth Voyager, you are missing out. Take this virtual tour on Settlements & Houses for example. It is the perfect way to introduce the topic, but even more, you can get the learners actively involved in comparing settlements over the world.
Commit yourself now to try at least one new thing with each of your classes this year and share your stories in the comments below