5 Free #EdTech Tools to Check out for Back to School

The start of school is just around the corner! Many educators are brushing off old lesson plans for revision or restructuring their curriculum. As you prepare for the start of school, here are five ed tech tools to check out to help get your lesson planning game on point.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom has become the go-to tool for educators to assign and collect

assignments, disseminate information, and even to keep parents informed. With some new, robust updates (better ways to navigate individual student work, transfer classes, team teach, and third party integration to name a few), it’s time to up your Classroom game. By using Google Classroom, you can easily keep student work in one place; no more emails entitled “homework” from personal emails you don’t recognize (e.g. “swimlover02@email.com”). Remember that Classroom is free and available to all (even if your school is not a G-Suite for Education institution). It really is worth a look!

Remind

Email is dead, it’s all about texting. In spite of this, our primary means of communication with students and parents remains email. Most teachers move around this by simply sharing their personal cell number and collecting them from students. Of course, this can be a real hindrance on privacy and can lead to concerns about appropriate boundaries. This is where Remind comes in. If your school is anything like mine, it’s fast moving and constantly changing. Remind is a great way to text students and parents important information (e.g. “due to snow day, test moved to Friday” or “Field-trip departure moved to side gate”). This does not require teachers, students, or parents to share their personal cell phone numbers. It also keeps a record of all texts that a teacher sends out. Privacy and boundaries protected!

Socrative

Capture

Socrative by MasteryConnect https://www.socrative.com/

Socrative has long been a favorite of educators. It’s a way to conduct reviews, run bell ringer or exit ticket activities, and otherwise gamify your classroom. Socrative has gone through several iterations. In addition to their free service, they now offer a “Pro” version ($59.99/year) that allows you to take your Socrative game to the next level. My students always enjoy days where we engage in Socrative activities; it allows them to show off what they know and tackle what they need to learn.

Quizlet

Now, you may be surprised to learn that I advocate a flashcard system. However, rote memorization still has a place in education. Whether you’re teaching geography, vocabulary, spelling, physics terms, or more, there will always be a place for flashcards. Quizlet has really become more robust than ever before. There are a number of ways to use Quizlet in your classroom. You can create sets yourself and share with your class in advance. Students can collaborate on sets. Quizlet now even lets you use your sets to engage in creative games (not just flashcards or matching).

Twitter

Twitter remains the go-to social network for teachers. If you are a Twitter user, it’s time to rejoin your chats and check out what your PLN is up to. If Twitter has been on your “To-Do” list, now is a great time to start! Check out my articles: “Effective Ways for Educators to Use Twitter” and “5 Ways for Teachers to Get Started on Twitter.” If you need to expand your “follow” list, here are some Great Educators & Institutions to Follow.

These are just 5 (Free) resources. There are many more. Please share your favorite in the comment section below!

Advertisements

5 Blogs to Follow to Get You Ready for the School Year

It’s August… school will be starting soon for many of us. In fact, I have less than three weeks before I’m sitting in a classroom with children again. What does this mean for most educators? It’s time to start thinking about school once again. If you haven’t noticed, I made a concerted effort in the month of July to unplug. This meant little writing and little (electronic) reading. However, it’s time to get back at it! Here are 5 blogs that I follow that help me get back in the school year mindset. Add these to your favorite RSS reader (if you need one, check out Feedly).

Cult of Pedagogy

Cult of Pedagogy covers everything from the social implications of education to specific practices in your classroom. This is a great place to stay on top of trends, practice, and the emotional roller coaster that is education.

EDU Wells

I had the privilege of meeting Richard Wells at a conference a few years ago. He is truly an innovative and forward thinking educator. If you want to see what innovative pedagogy looks like in practice, then his blog is it. He is a lead teacher in New Zealand, a country that has revamped its educational practices with dramatic results. No tests? check! No set curriculum? That’s them! No grade levels? Yep, right there! It’s truly an inspiration.

Media! Tech! Parenting!

While Marti Weston may have retired from schools, she has not retired from education. Once a week or so, I find a thoughtful and provocative post on a relevant topic. I had the privilege of working with Marti via ISTE. She is an inspirational educator.

Mind/Shift KQED

This public media blog covers educational topics across a myriad of topics: low-income students, special education, department of education, etc. It’s a great place to see what’s happening in education throughout the country.

Hack Education

Audrey Waters certainly knows what’s happening in education. Sometimes inspiring, other times provocative, I come away from this blog with a lot to process. This is a great place to reflect on current policies and practice.

These are only 5 blogs… there are hundreds, no thousands, that merit your attention. If you have one you think I should highlight, please share it in the comments. Better yet, start your own!

ISTE Guide for Beginners!

It’s ISTE season yet again! Shortly, thousands of people will descend on the city of San Antonio to talk about education and technology. There will be old timers (“I remember when ISTE was…”), vendors (have you seen how Sprocket intends to innovate education), and newbies. If this is your first ISTE, no doubt you are excited. However, it can also be a bit intimidating. If you’re not ready for it, it can eat you alive! Here are some of my tips for surviving as an ISTE newbie:

Get on Twitter

There will be two prominent hashtags on Twitter: #iste (for conference attendees) and #notatiste (for those that didn’t make it). Both will feature amazing content and ideas. Be sure to check in on Twitter a few times a day. Better yet, share your own reflections and experiences of the conference!

Set 2 or 3 Goals

It’s easy to go overboard at ISTE. However, there are so many sessions, playgrounds, posters, happy-hours, etc, that it can become information overload. Instead, in advance, set 2 or 3 goals that you want to accomplish. Are you rolling out a new digital storytelling program? Does your maker-space need a makeover? Perhaps you want to update your digital citizenship program. Whatever your projects, there will be multiple sessions, speakers, and vendors geared towards your objectives. Focus on those!

Watch the Screens

The lines for keynotes can get overwhelming and your favorite ignite! session might conflict with another activity. There are always screens everywhere around ISTE. If you don’t mind not being in the same room, hang out in a lounge and watch the presentation on the big screen tv.

Network

Being on Twitter will really help you here. Meet people, go to happy hours, or just randomly introduce yourself. You will meet many like-minded educators in this world. Say hello, hand out and collect business cards, and follow one another on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, don’t hesitate to reach out to your favorite super stars if you run into them. I once got quite star-truck over running into Vicki Davis a couple of years ago. Now she follows me on Twitter and has even invited me on a podcast!

Wear Comfortable Shoes

If you listen to nothing else that I say, listen to this: wear comfortable shoes. You will walk… a lot. ISTE is a very large convention and there are events all around the area. You need comfortable walking shoes. I once made the mistake of wearing heels when I was presenting. Never again. Comfortable shoes will be your friend.

So if you’re at ISTE, pop over and say hello if you see me! I’d love to hear what you’re working on. Have a great trip and see you soon!

The Jobs of Today May not Exist Tomorrow – How do we Prepare Students?

Not long ago, I wrote a blog post entitled: Lifelong Learning is an Essential Skill, not a Buzzword. The more I read about future-readiness, 21st century skills, job market reports, and advances in technology (especially AI), the more I understand this to be true. Recently, PEW Research published a report on the Future of Jobs & Job Training.

18732734804_7b3a90ea19_h

Courtesy of Gerd Leonhardhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/gleonhard/18732734804

This report reaffirmed the fact that in the near future, millions of jobs will be lost to automation and AI that can do these tasks not only just as well, but often better than their human counterparts. These are not just rudimentary, repeatable tasks, but sophisticated, white-collar jobs that have generally been considered “safe” from automation: dermatologists, journalists, claims adjusters, financial reporters, and more. With the rise of automated driving, millions of workers who rely on driving as their means of employment are looking at becoming obsolete (long-haul truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery wo/men, and more).

Pushing aside the very real, and daunting, questions of what this means for our job market and even Capitalism, for educators and parents this means: how do we prepare students for the stark realities of an ever shifting job market? While new technologies may be depleting jobs, knowing how to leverage them will become an even more essential skill in the future.

“The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”

Looking at how and when people learn job skills and other training will also need to be examined. Will a traditional high school, college, and beyond model remain the default given the rapidly changing employment models?

“A central question about the future, then, is whether formal and informal learning structures will evolve to meet the changing needs of people who wish to fulfill the workplace expectations of the future.”

PEW delves deeply into this topic, asking experts about their vision of the future and determined 5 Major Themes:

Five major themes about the future of jobs training in the tech age

Considering the uncertainty of the future, what we do know is that we must prepare young people to be flexible and agile learners, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators, and to know that they must develop a passion and drive for lifelong learning.

While the article is long, I strongly encourage my readers to check out PEW’s publication and put together your own thoughts.

Lesson Plan for Teaching Kids to Spot Fake News

Fake News is the phrase du jour. The reality is that misinformation propagates social media (especially Facebook). With the proliferation of Social Media and the use of Social Media (by main stream news organizations, political pundits, and our sitting President), it will remain a platform for sharing information (including the news) for the foreseeable future. Both Facebook and Google have made attempts to tackle fake news. In addition to their own filtering methods, Facebook allows users to flag and report fake news stories. Google has also expanded its fact-check tools to spot and flag fake news.

The reality is, however, that we cannot expect our online platforms to keep up with the deluge of fake media. Media literacy is a necessary skill for our students to learn in order for them to wade through the glut of information available to them online. However, a recent study from Stanford found that most students cannot tell real news from fake.

There is an exercise that I like to do with my students. We talk about the realities of fake news, perhaps ask them to share stories that they thought were real, but later learned were fake. I share with them resources for spotting fake news:

How_to_Spot_Fake_News

Next, I ask them to create a Fake News Story for me. Something that they are likely to see online via Facebook. For this exercise, students often create the obvious: “You Won’t Believe what the Democrats did this Time!” or “Donald Trump is Getting Impeached!” examples. These stories are the most obvious to spot.

The best exercise, however, comes when I ask them to team up and we make a game out of each. Each team presents five news stories. Three of those news articles are fake, two are real. If they are able to “trick” the opposing teams, they receive 1 point for each news article they fool the opposition into believing. They receive 1 point for each article they correctly identify as fake. Students then work really hard to “trick” their classmates – they play off of one another’s known biases, create convincing “news networks,” and spell check like no one’s business! They learn the ins-and-outs of posting and sharing news, viral marketing, and deceptive practices. This makes them better discerners of published media and more able-minded digital citizens.

Suggested Edits – My Favorite Tool in Google Docs

Suggested Edits MenuIf you assign writing assignments to your students, then be sure to learn how to use “suggested edits.” Suggested edits is similar to “track changes” in Microsoft Word. To turn it on, simply click on the Pencil (with the words “editing” next to it) and select “suggesting.” The menu will turn from grey to green.

Now, when you make changes to a document, they will show up as “suggestions” rather than direct edits. Users can even write notes to one another on the “suggestions” comments. This is a great way for multiple users to edit the same document or for students to do a peer editing exercise.

Suggested Edits