Saturday, July 21, 2012

Top Three, err...Two Ed Tech Tools To Tackle This Summer

After leaving the ISTE 2012 conference in San Diego I am truly overwhelmed by all of the amazing things I have learned.  Nothing sums up the amount of information overload one feels at ISTE than the participants walking around the conference by day three with ribbons attached to their name badges that read, "My Brain Hurts". Remember, if your brain hurts that means you are exercising it and making it stronger - so commence the learning!

While summer is a time for teachers to recharge their batteries, it is also a time to reinvigorate one's own learning.  Cutting edge web tools are available for teachers to learn about any time of the day.  I always say the best way for teachers to integrate technology into the classroom is to use technology personally first.  Once comfortable using a specific technology like an iPad or Twitter, teachers will find many ways to use these tools to improve student learning.  After attending the ISTE 2012 conference in San Diego, I came home determined to tackle some of the ed tech tools I had recently discovered.

Here are my picks for the top three two ed tech tools to spend time learning about this summer.  I had originally wanted to discuss three ed tech tools in this post, but I realize time is always an issue for educators and BOTH of these tools can really consume you.  So, I decided to be realistic and highlight these two amazing tools I have been exploring recently.  Pick one or or both, but do something for yourself and advance your own learning with these amazing tools and resources.  If you talk to me this summer I will most likely be working with one of these tools.

1.  Blogger -  Five years ago I started a personal blog and found it a great way to share my thoughts and family events online.  Recently, I started a professional blog as a way to share new ideas with local teachers and the global community.  A couple of teachers in my district have shown interest in blogging with their students and several maintain class blogs to communicate with parents.  Authentic writing is critical today to bring relevance to student learning and so I am researching the use of blogs with students as I develop a workshop for teachers this fall.  I met Lisa Parisi and Brian Crosby at ISTE 2012, where I bought their book "Making connections with blogging:  Authentic learning for today's classroom".  I am in the process of reading this book and even picked up a signed copy to give away at my workshop.  It contains many resources including sample consent forms fr publishing student work. The biggest impact I see with students writing blogs is the feedback an interaction with others who read their writing.  Writing for a real audience gives students purpose and meaning to their work and can significantly raise student engagement.  When students blog they can receive comments from other students and people both locally and globally.  This takes student writing to a whole new level and provides real motivation for our students.  To get started I suggest starting with a class blog and then bring students in once you are comfortable with the format.  

Use the tools and resources below and get blogging!

2.  Twitter - this is literally my new best friend.  It is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing at night.  Seriously, every educator should be connected on Twitter, but prepare yourself, it can be addicting.  I had a personal Twitter account a few years ago, but until I discovered how to use it for professional learning I did not see the real value in this amazing tool.  As a teacher, Twitter has increased my Personal Learning Network exponentially.  The feedback, resources and support I receive from people on Twitter is a game changer.  No more nights searching the internet for lesson ideas or the latest ed tech tools to use in my class.  Twitter allows me to tap in to cutting edge technology and teaching practices instantly.  Two Twitter highlights for me include listening to an @TheEduBros talk in the newbie lounge at ISTE 2012 and getting a message from @adambellow (Who I heard at an ISTE Ignite session) when I needed help accessing my Educlipper account.  Wow, I am starstruck!  

Here's how:  
Follow everyone you find interesting.  You can use the "Who to follow" suggestions by Twitter or explore others who are mentioned in tweets that your read.  Get involved.  Retweet, reply to tweets and post your own.  Being part of the conversation is the whole point.  Follow a #hashtag.  The # symbol is used to mark key words or topics in a Tweet.  Search for a specific # in Twitter and find all related tweets.  Participate in an discussion. Twitter discussions are a great way to learn and meet other educators in real time.  I was having a hard time keeping track of chats and when they occur so I made my own Twitter Chat Google Calendar
So, what do you think of my choices?  Also, please comment with Twitter chat topics and times so I can add them to the calendar.