Today I did (another) one of those things that makes me question my abilities as a Tech Specialist. Typically, it’s small stuff, like mentioning an item in an email and then forgetting to attach the item, or drawing a total blank when asked how to fix a problem that occurs on a daily basis and that I’ve fixed at least a hundred times.
But today’s blunder took the cake. While making modifications to a list I created for teachers on our portal using Sharepoint 2010 – my favorite program (read I HATE this program!!!), – I forgot that the Alert feature was enabled. So, as I worked with a colleague to modify the existing list, I inadvertently sent out emails to all those receiving the alerts for every single item on the list – a whopping 170+ emails! I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this until tomorrow since I wasn’t really checking emails today, except when I picked up my iPhone, I had 170 new messages! Imagine my chagrin when, after muttering not so nice words about the culprit of these emails, I realized it was me! I hastily sent out an apology email to all my coworkers – again, nice work Tech Specialist! Many of them bounced back because the recipient’s mailboxes were full.
The end of a semester is the perfect time to reflect on classroom routines and procedures. My husband, a retired military officer, would call this an AAR – after action review. This time of reflection and evaluation can serve as a great way to refocus our efforts and re-energize us for the coming term.
As a classroom teacher, I made a regular practice of assessing the routines and procedures I put in place for my students. Sometimes they worked; sometimes they didn’t. One constant, however, was that no matter what grade level I was teaching that year or what state we were stationed in at the time, I could guarantee that those kids would eat me alive if I didn’t have certain things in place!
Now that I am a technology specialist, I like to think about how I can integrate the technology we use everyday into making those procedures and routines more manageable for both the teachers and their students. Here are 5 suggestions on how to infuse technology into your everyday routines.
- Use a PowerPoint slide to introduce the lesson. I always started each of my classes with an introduction to the lesson – the essential question, standards to be covered, a take away message, and the activity for that lesson. However, this can get confusing when you teach 4 different grade levels in one room and are trying to post all of this on one dry erase board. (Yes, I actually did that!) I found that it was helpful for me to create a slide for each grade level and/or subject, something that I could project on demand without erasing everything else from the board. It also came in handy when I had a substitute, because all they had to do was display the appropriate slide for my students in my absence. Easy peezy!
- Use a PowerPoint timer slide for transitions. One of the most difficult things for me when I taught elementary was transitions – from the room to the hall, from the hall to the restroom, even from one activity to the next. I learned later that the need for a transition procedure still existed, even in the upper grades. Microsoft.com has tons of free countdown timer slides in increments from 1 to 15 minutes that you can insert right into your presentation. You can even make your own countdown slides. Visit http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/does-your-presentation-need-a-break-HA001188063.aspx to learn more.
- Use iTunes or Pandora to set the tone of your classroom. They say music soothes the savage beast. I don’t know about that, but I do know that it works wonders on a bunch of rowdy kids entering your classroom! Pandora allows you to create radio stations based on music genre – classical, rock, pop – you choose. Or, purchase a serene track from iTunes. Select a quiet, tranquil song (instrumental works well) and let it play through your computer’s speaker. Or, if the firewall at your school blocks these, just insert the green audio cord from the back of your PC into the headphone jack of your cell phone or mobile device as the students enter the room. Turn off your lights to enhance the effect. You would be amazed at the results, regardless of the age level!
- Put the technology in the students’ hands. An engaged student is a focused student. Allowing the students to “drive” during your lesson can help channel
their energies in a more positive direction. I typically select the one student that “sets off” the rest of the class and train them to do some of the tech tasks in my room. Since this kid commands attention, the rest of the class will follow suit. This also frees me up to circulate around the room and use proximity control to minimize a lot of the other off-task behaviors.
Try a few of these, or share some of your own, and let me know how they work for you.
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you lie in bed at 4:30 a.m., delirious after a sleepless night with a sick child or spouse, wondering if you should call in to work or try to tough it out – only to realize that your sub folder is not on your desk? Of course you have! Consider Dropbox your new BFF.
Dropbox allows you to deposit your files in one location and access them from anywhere – your phone, your computer, your tablet – anywhere! And best of all, it’s FREE! Simply download it onto all of your devices, then upload files to access later and Voila! Now your sub plans, handouts, and other docs are at your fingertips. Just grab them, send as an email, and you’re done. Now you can focus on more important things, like beating the phone rush to make that doctor’s appointment!
Try it out – visit http://db.tt/hj4JT7Vv.
As part of the new Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) , teachers are required to show mastery in five domains – Planning, Instructional Delivery, Assessment of and for Learning, Learning Environment, and Professionalism and Communication. Teachers can provide documentation as evidence of mastery for each domain’s standards. Technology integration is one of the easiest ways to assist teachers in meeting those standards.
Teachers now have a resource to help integrate technology into every step of this process. On his new Google site Tech 4 TKES, Chester Fuller shares a wealth of information and provides a breakdown of standards aligned with technology resources that assist in meeting each standard. He also gives examples of evidence that can be presented such as certificates of participation, learning logs, and other documentation. The site is easy to read and a great at-a-glance resource. Visit his site at https://sites.google.com/site/tech4tkes/instructional-strategies.
Yesterday, I was in a state of panic. Our first Parent Town Hall Meeting is fast approaching, and we need to advertise to ensure we get great participation and a gourmet meal prepared by our very own Chef Brown! I needed a flyer to pass out to students before they leave for Thanksgiving Break, but I was having a complete mental block on a design.
Enter the Eduverse – that collective body of educators ready and willing to help at the drop of a hat. I’ve never really been a networker per se, but the concept of the Eduverse presented by Kevin Honeycutt (kevinhoneycutt.org) presented at this year’s GaETC was really enlightening and inspiring to me. He talked about leveraging the power of thousands of people who are smarter and more creative than I am to help solve the problems I encounter as an educator on a daily basis. What can I use to get to the kid who sleeps in my class every day? How can I get my class excited about reading the books on the county’s reading list? Is there a free video that ties in with my lesson today? Enter the Eduverse!
By simply sending out a quick SOS email to the Parent Liaison group, I was able to get not one, but 5 sample flyers and permission to modify them to my heart’s content in less than an hour! I’m starting to see Twitter and Facebook in a whole new light. I don’t have to be the smartest, most creative, most innovative person in my circle. I just have to ask for help and work smarter, not harder.
For more on the Eduverse and the power of social networking, check out Kevin Honeycutt’s session Connecting to the Eduverse on ESSDACK – http://www.ihigh.com/essdack/video_897173.html