This post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.
There are a million resources for technology in the classroom.
Many of them are redundant. Many are distractions.
Some of them could be useful, but they are not a priority for a teacher first adopting technology in the classroom.
Here are my top 5 forms of technology for you to begin working with and a few notes about why.
Then, five more I’m sure glad I found.
Can’t Live Without Them
Google Drive / Docs – for students work and for hand outs. Keeps work from being eaten by the dog. Allows you to access student work from school, home, or a flight across the country (if there’s wifi). Allows easy feedback via comments, and can serve as a platform for making worksheets and texts, and a bank for digital media of all kinds.
Google Calendar – for communicating the lesson plan for the day, along with links, announcements, reminders, and homework. (For a full write-up on how I use the Calendar each day, click here).
ClassDojo – for recording feedback on students growth, communicating it to other teachers, to students, and to parents.
Exittix or Socrative – for formative assessments: did students actually understand what they say they understood? These “no-stakes” assessment platforms will help you make real-time decisions about what to do, next. And will ensure that the students are learning what you think you’re teaching.
Schedule Once – Integrates with Google Calendar, Outlook, and others. Allows students to set up appointments with you in a way that will reduce migraines for everyone.
Prezi – ditch Power Point and create multi-media, zooming, cloud-based presentations on Prezi.com… and allow students to learn it and use it for presentations. Unlike most projected presentation format, Prezi gets better every year.
Google Voice – “If students could only reach me at night to tell me that they will be absent from tomorrow’s big 4 person courtroom simulation.” Or that the link to the essay questions is broken!
But I don’t check email at night. And I sure as heck am not giving out my cell number. Well, The Wire taught me that a disposable phone is the best way to make contact with someone without fear of the info falling into the wrong hands. Google Voice numbers are disposable. You can even chose some of the digits. And I’d rather shoot a few texts back and forth with a confused study group than walk into the school the next morning to find waiting for me a mob of distressed students.
Today’s Meet – students who have action items for you to deal with could email you, where their “heads up” would be mixed into the thousands of other emails you get, or you can direct it to a “back channel” like Today’s Meet. In class, I use it like a Help Desk, where students ask for help in real time (if I’m busy helping someone, for example, they ask their question there, and knowing their question is posted, they move on in the work. I walk over and answer their questions in the order I receive them). Outside of class, Today’s Meet is where I direct students to nudge me to regrade their test-retake, or give credit for revisions if I don’t have time to open the gradebook on the spot.
Which I don’t.
Poll Everywhere – allows students to vote with cell phones or laptops, for beginning class with a generative question. Questions can be based on homework or can be to introduce new ideas and themes.
Super Grouper – I do a lot of putting students into random groups. And while I love pulling popsicle sticks with their name on it, this simple, Google Doc Script based tool allows you to pre-randomize groups and post the list where they can see it (on your class Google Calendar, for example). You just saved yourself five minutes and a lot of unnecessary groaning / cheering.