Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eight Sites I Have Grown to Love this Summer

It's getting close to the end of July and the bare white walls of my classroom are like a Siren call in my ear.  The itch of "getting my room ready" is getting worse everyday.  But this year, getting my room ready is not going to be the same as my previous fifteen years in education.  My "room" includes the four walls and door that my district assigned me but it also includes the digital classroom that I am also preparing and have been working on all summer.

It has not been easy.  I don't know if you are like me when it comes to technology integration in the classroom, but many days I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of tech applications, websites and options on the internet right now.  It seems almost impossible to keep up with the latest innovations on the web.  And worse, connecting those applications to our classrooms is even more difficult.  Some days I just want to shut off the computer, find the trusty teachers manual and go back to the way things were, when teaching seemed to make sense.

Unfortunately, education is changing (has changed) and I need to push myself to learn how to use these new tools so that I can prepare my students for a future where knowledge is a mouse click away and adaptability is the coin of the realm.

Remember that moment during your first year of teaching when the enormity of your ignorance became abundantly obvious.  Was it during a team meeting or after a particularly hard day managing the classroom?  For me the blinding flash of reality hit during a special education staffing my administrative team was having over a new student coming to my classroom.  In a flash the blinding reality of my ignorance overwhelmed the executive functions of my frontal lobe and my amygdala kicked in, it was survival time baby and the need to flee the building was overwhelming (there are never enough greeters at Wal-Mart).

In that flash I realized that I couldn't keep up with the lesson planning, grading, differentiation, teaching, special education paperwork, and classroom management.  I did not know enough about any of these topics to feel like I had anything under control.  I was new to everything, so I felt confident in nothing.

But with the help of a great mentor teacher (Shirl Hawes), I started focus on the areas that would have the biggest impact on my students.  So, being self-contained at the time, I focused on becoming stronger in a different content area each year.  That kind of focus plus giving myself the permission to be good at some things and just okay at others gave me the ability to enjoy the process of growing and becoming a better teacher.  Of course all of this is said with my deepest apologies to my first class.

So here are the bite size pieces I have taken on this summer.  The resources on the net are just too big to digest at one time.  Set a goal for yourself this year, incorporate a certain number of tech applications and then let go of the rest.  There is always time next summer to learn something new!

Professional Development on the Web

Twitter:  Right now this is the best place to connect to others on the internet.  I have learned how to blog, revised my thinking of project-based learning, found great sites to inspire creative thinking and kept up with the news of the day in education.  I follow teachers and sites that will help me get better at what I do.  DavidsonGifted is a good site to go to start your timeline.  Don't forget @TheHeadKnuckle

SimpleK12:  This is a great place to watch free webinars on the latest internet tools for the classroom.  Learn about new trends in technology while watching from your home computer.  I am signed up for two webinars later this months.  What I like best about this application is that I can find content to meet my needs right now.  Voted one of the best education blogs in the country.  Tons of ideas and applications.  It is amazing how much tech professional development you can do off of this one site.

For me, the hardest part of teaching is staying organized.  Always has been, always will be.  And I learned a harsh lesson this spring when, in an attempt to organize my web resources, I saved all my websites to the Favorites folder on my computer at school.  It seemed like a smart idea, except those sites were saved specifically to my machine at school and at the end of the year when that machine was replaced all of my Favorites went with it!  The option?

Delicious:  Organize and save all of your favorites with Delicious.  Your favorites will be available to you anywhere you log into the site.  Plus, with the tagging feature, you can further sub-categorize your favorite sites.  I find this especially helpful when looking for and keeping track of sites I use for different units of study.

Web Tools to Use with Students
I used to have podcasts of classroom information on gcast, but gcast went away and so did my podcasts.  I am going to post the podcasts on podbean and record them using Audacity.  Audacity is a free download and easy to use.  I just record the lesson or information I want the students to use and then upload it to podbean.  Parents and students love this because it makes it easier to make up missed assignments are clarify confusions about what we are doing in class.

I just set up my account with voicethread and I can't wait to start trying it out.  It seems like a great way to preview lessons, allow for whole class discussions and allow students to bring more of their interests and thoughts to the conversation.  Upload a picture, document or video and then you can demonstrate a lesson on any concept you want using the voice recorder.  A great way to model and share how you want children to annotate literature or compute algorithms or dissect a frog.

Death to Power Point!  I love this presentation software.  It's an awesome tool that allows you or your students to move through a presentation, to zoom in on what is important or to fly away to a different concept.  It allows you to show the macro view of what the whole unit is about and zoom into the micro section that you are working on currently.  A great tool to help students see how things fit into the "big picture."  It also works to keep their attention by changing the focal point of the eye, keeping the brain awake, waiting to see what will come next.

Those are eight sites that should keep you quite busy!  Good luck and remember just get really good at a couple of these and you will be well on your way to integrating technology into your classroom.

 But if you want more visit  He is a professor from East Carolina University.  Click on his 60 in 60 presentation to view even more helpful technology tools.

1 comment:

  1. I've had a basic understanding of Audacity for some time, but recently needed to transfer some rare recordings of a 60's band from m4a files to CDs. Audacity Rock!