teaching with technology1

 

One thing I love about having been an ICT teacher and currently being a computer science teacher is the technology I get to use. These subjects feed my geekiness, and I love trying out the next piece of kit, the next web app or the next piece of hardware.

I'm sharing my list of the edtech tools I use as a log for myself to look back on, and also to see what others use. So I would love to hear from you if you use something different or better. Over the years my go to tools have changed, so I guess that this will not be the first time I write a post like this. 

 

Please note that ALL software listed here is FREE. This is a big thing for me, as it removes the licensing issue and limitations of students using the same software at home.

 

Software

Google Apps for Education

I'll start with my go to apps for student productivity. I prefer Google Docs, Slides, Sheets and forms to other office applications and versions, for it's ease of use and shareability. All my students have Google school accounts, and using it helps them get used to what their online world will be like after school. Learning is usually demonstrated and evidenced by students completing work on a doc, answering questions on a google form, which can be self marked, or by copying a screenshot on a slide. Google drive is also a big part of this for me. This is where I store my work, and can access students work.

 

Prezi

I talked about Prezi in this blog post, and is used for creating and displaying presentations. This is used as an alternative to PowerPoint or Google Slides. These are embedded into Google sites, allowing them to view them at leisure during or after the lesson (or before for flipped learning). You can also have students create their own, and use them as learning logs and timelines.

 

Class Tools website resources

I was recently reminded of this (in the last few months) via another teacher. I used to use it as a keyword game and quiz generator years ago. I've started using it for that again now. I also use the countdown timer which plays a song a lot. This is great for getting my more challenging students to have a great start to the lesson. On occasion, I have used the random name picker also, for cold call questioning. The website features many other useful tools, too.

 

School Report Writer

This awesome website has saved me HOURS over the last few years. It allows me to write reports quickly and easily using clever algorithms. To use it, you write a number of basic statements for different student levels on different topics - behaviour, homework, attendance, assessment results - click the sentences that apply to the students, and personalise at the end. 

 

Turtle Academy

This is specific to computer science. This tutorial site teaches students the Logo programming language, and allows students to track their progress. However, I don't just follow the lessons in class, but base my teaching on concepts within it, allowing them to use the program creator section. Logo is a great beginners text based language that can bridge the gap between Scratch and Python, and the site gets rid of the need to download any software.

 

Codecademy

Again, specific to computer science. This is a great tutorial website for learning, Python, Javascript, Ruby and lots of other languages, and allows students to track their progress.

 

Google Sites

In a future post, I will be discussing how I used Google Sites to deploy work to my students. They currently use Sites as their e-portfolios, which I hope to write about in another posts. This is a good web authoring tool, which allows you to embed Google Apps easily, making it perfect for GAFE schools. 

 

Andromouse

This android app allows me to control my classroom computer, and laptop (mouse and keyboard) from my android phone, via bluetooth. This frees me from the front of my classroom, allowing me to walk around and still demonstrate on the board.

 

Google Admin

This android app is used for resetting Google passwords. This is more useful at the beginning of the year for new students who forget their passwords often.

 

Google Chrome

Out of preference, and a history of Internet Explorer being a bit problematic (to browse with and to create websites for), I use and get students to use Chrome. This also seems to work best with GAFE. I like to write my own code and develop my own webapps for class using Google Apps Scripts, and I've run into a few issues even with using Firefox. So Chrome is my go to browser.

 

Google Keep

I use this for noting down student merits, detentions, reminders for phonecalls home or just little notes. I can also set reminders too. This little app has proven to be more powerful than I originally thought, when it came out a few years ago. I hate writing things down on pieces of paper. I lose most of them, and the ones I don't lose, I end up never reading. Storing them on my phone or a school tablet allows me to feel confident and safe that my information is there when I need it, and in the cloud if I don't have my device with me.

 

Google Timer

If I haven't had time to load up Classtools.net or my little Windows based timer app, I can just Google "10 minute timer" and the timer comes up. Full screen and you get a clean screen with a timer. Simple.

 

Outlook (and android app)

For emails, calendars and scheduling, this is nearly every schools go to communication application and will seemingly live forever (if Google doesn't have its way). I don't need to say much here, and wasn't sure I should include it on the list as it's so common place, not just in schools but pretty much of the corporate world. It is now more of a standard than simply educational technology. But I use it everyday, mostly for admin than for teaching, so I've included it in my list. The android app (the latest version of which is currently not sending notifications to my android watch! fixed now), is equally as useful.  

 

Gmail

This in comparison to outlook is more edtech for me, as all my students have accounts, and are recieving emails from me and other teachers. Being a young department in my current school, students are learning email etiquette. Therefore, gmail is currently a very important edtech tool for me.

 

Camera on Phone or tablet

As I don't have time to copy down diagrams, or rewrite things from the board to a notebook, I tend to take pictures of whatever is of importance and reference it later. If it's notes I want to share with the students after the lesson, or an impromptu discussion note that was not planned, then it is snapped, placed on the Drive, and shared with that particular class.

 

CamStudio

I use this to screen capture certain tasks, that students need to learn. This has now become a necessity for me for teaching specific tasks and skills in computer science and ICT, especially for the more learning challenged students. I record the task once (with a little post production), save it in an easily accessible place, play it for the students once during the lesson (depending on the class) and show them where to find it. This saves me from repeating the process of a task over and over again for the group and/or individuals, and allows students to be independent. This allows them to play it as often as they need, rewinding or going faster where necessary. The version I use is portable, so I can keep the program on a USB key. For some reason, I can't get the latest version 2.7 to play smooth on replay, so I currently use the old version 2. However, I'm open to any tips on this.

  

XviD4PSP

I use this for compressing videos. Once CamStudio finishes recording, a 2 minute video can be up to about 200mb, which is way too big. XviD4PSP reduces it to about 10% of it's normal size depending on the settings. This is still big, but good enough. This is another portable app, so you can keep the program on a USB key.

 

iTalc

For those that cannot afford IT classroom management software, like LANSchool and NetSupport school, this is a free and useful app, which allows the teacher to control all the computers in the classroom (and other rooms if setup) from the teacher computer. You can lock , send messages, take control, and view them all at once. I also use it to turn off all the computers at the end of the day. It's a bit buggy at times, but hey...it's free. 

 

Wurkbuk Management Console (WMC)

This is cheating a bit, as this is my own software. I use this to manage the Google Site eportfolios that my students use. I deploy work with it, copy and edit assignments, check homework etc. This saves me a mountain of time. I'm placing it here becuase I use it everyday and because I would like to know what other teachers use to manage e-portfolios. There are other bits of software that I made, such as self marking google form scripts (like flubaroo, but better, even if I do say so myself), and end of term assignments etc, but the WMC is what I use most. I'll blog about it sometime in the future.

 

Ditto

Writing feedback on computer can be the most arduous of tasks. Using ditto clipboard manager allows me to copy and paste by clicking on the comment, to paste it onto the worksheet or comment box. It also allows me to organise the comments and is portable, so you can keep the program on a USB key.

 

 

Hardware

Windows PC

A regular feature of every computer science room, and needed in this day in age. As much as I love chromebooks for teaching with, the windows PC will not be disappearing from the workplace or adult life anytime soon, so this must be a feature in schools. As I don't want to be restricted to downloadable software, which usually costs a bit (dreamweaver, MS Office apps, etc) I tend to just go straight to the Chrome browser and use the free resources above.

 

Chromebook

This is a dream to teach with. It's fast to load up, responsive to most instructions, small and light. I'd prefer to have a room full of these compared to PCs. Students also only need to use one password (Google) instead of two (Google and Windows). Pretty much the same as above in use, but with the added benefit of speed and portability. However, for computer science, it's not really a high end developer station at present, so has its negatives, so can't yet use for GCSE or A-Level.

 

Interactive Whiteboard

I must admit, I've never really seen or utilised this as a resource that benefits the whole class compared to projector and screen. Only a max of two people can use the interactivity at a time. However, as a teacher tool used correctly, it's great. It allows you to annotate, record image, video or audio and store, then share it with the class.

 

LG G Watch R

This, a present from my wife, has proved to be quite a useful piece of kit for the classroom. Before I was using my phone as a mouse and keyboard, I was reluctant to get it out in front of the students, especially when they were not allowed to use their own. So having my watch allowed me to keep in contact with other teachers who would sometimes send emails or other important messages during class, while I kept my phone in my pocket or in my desk draw. Even though, I use my phone more, and keeping it away from the students is no longer an issue, I use it as a timer, to record audio notes during class, and check other things...like the time.

 

Conclusion

There are many reasons why people use technology in the classroom. Writing the above list has allowed to reflect on my reasons. It's clear from the descriptions above, that I use tech to make my teaching life easier as well as enhancing the learning of my students. I use it as a core part of my craft, not just an addon. Could I teach without it? Of course. Would there be a need for me to learn to teach without it? Only if technology disappeared from the world we live in. Would I want to teach without it? Simple answer, No.


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