Tag Archives: classroom

New Ideas for Using Technology in the Classroom

In the past I have mentioned my intent to use more technology in the classroom. Here are a few ideas that I have been exploring more and more on a daily basis. Of course, this depends on the resources that you have available, but all you need to be able to truly do these things is to have a laptop with wireless or networking available, and also a projector. In order for your program to truly be successful, you also need your students to have computer/internet access at home or in a computer lab at school that they can use during their study hall hours.

#1–Nicenet. Located at www.nicenet.org, this is an amazing teacher tool, especially for challenging your gifted students or your high school students. Students love it for two reasons: They can use it to interact with each other outside of school walls and they can have more exciting assignments that can accomplish more in less time. Let me explain. Nicenet is an online bulletin board that you, as the teacher, control and moderate. It is a private site that is only accessible by you and your students. Therefore, you do not have the potential problem of outside advertisements or spam mail that could contain dangerous content for your students. You can use it to do the following things:

–Post a discussion topic or assignment for your students to independently “turn in” online.

–Allow students to write responses to each others’ entries and start a discussion stream.

–Post links to websites for reading or youtube videos that fit into classroom goals.

#2–Youtube. Located at www.youtube.com, this is a tremendous resource for teachers. You do have to be careful of what content you are using–many sites are student-developed and may not contain accurate information. (Similar to the issue with Wikipedia.) However, they can provide an excellent anticipatory set or introduction to material. ESL students especially can focus with Youtube, especially if content vocabulary is introduced ahead of time. When my students read FDR’s “The Four Freedoms” speech in their books, they were able to hear the audio of Franklin D. Roosevelt giving the speech. Teachertube is another site similar to Youtube that contains academic videos that you can search according to subject area. Just remember that sometimes they videos need to be “buffered” or uploaded ahead of time so that they will play smoothly. You can do this by pausing the video and waiting a few minutes before playing it.

#3–Microsoft Powerpoint presentations. With the appropriate technology, teachers can quite easily use this powerful visual tool for presenting information. I suggest giving a Powerpoint presentation while asking students to fill out graphic organizers. It gives them a format for notetaking to keep them on task while you take care of your Powerpoint direct instruction of content. You can make it also more interactive by using a Powerpoint to create games and quizzes for students as a tool for review. You can also use it to show students primary sources that can be found online.

#4–Edmodo. So much controversy has bloomed over whether teachers should be using Facebook or connecting to their students’ Facebook pages. I personally do not “friend” my students or allow them to “friend” me. In my opinion, it is best to keep a professional distance from the personal lives of my students and avoid any issues that may arise as a result. However, I recently ran into a kind of Facebook alternative–one that allows a teacher to message her students, post documents and links, and maintain a calendar independently. This option is located at www.edmodo.com. If Nicenet gets too complicated in format for your younger students (say, Middle school or Upper Elementary), this new tool may be the answer to keeping your class in one private location where the focus is professional, not personal. Some of the tools provided by your school’s technology (such as Renweb or Edline) may overlap with this tool, but you can certainly control some of the design functions and use it in different ways. It’s a brand new tool offered through TeacherTube, which mean it may have a few glitches left to work out. After I’ve had a chance to set up my site, I’ll review it and let you know what I think!

In the meantime, I highly encourage all teachers to think outside of the box and actively push yourself to understand how to use technology. Don’t give excuses that you are too old to learn, but actively seek ways to be innovative with your classes. If you don’t know how to use the technology, ask someone who does to show you. Use whatever resources that you have available. Your students will thank you and you will appreciate it when they appear more engaged and ready to participate in your classroom activities. I personally have been astonished at the depth I have found in my students’ Nicenet responses. In most cases, it is more in-depth than I would ever receive in a classroom discussion since it eliminates fear of public speaking and encourages contribution and interaction. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Old dogs CAN learn new tricks!

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Decorating Your Classroom for the New School Year

After a one month hiatus, I am finally back! Thank you for your patience as I was in the U.S. visiting my family.

Now that the new school year is approaching–for me, it begins at the very end of July–I wanted to write a few words on decorating classrooms. For me, this is a very important step to the new year. Why? Because kids literally judge you by the way your classroom looks when they walk in the door. New students look around and ask themselves: What will this teacher be like? Will he/she be mean? Will he/she be fun? Will he/she give me something new to learn?

First year teachers at my school are usually so busy getting themselves organized with their lesson planning that they end up neglecting classroom decorations. Finally, at the tail end, they throw up a poster with the class rules and perhaps a small bulletin board with some construction paper quotes. Leaving your classroom bare or under-decorated tells the students either that you are too busy for them, that you are lazy or that you are boring. Sounds harsh? Well, remember how you felt as a young child, looking back. Whether you acknowledged the decorations explicitly or implicitly, chances are you gained an impression of the teacher from the layout of the classroom.

Other teachers, usually the bitter ones, seem to pick out their posters based upon the already-anticipated flaws that they imagine their students will have. They have fun, colorful posters that blare loud messages such as “No Homework, No Life!” or “You are Responsible for You!” Granted, it is important to have at least one or two reminders concerning appropriate behavior in the classroom. Since I go over the rules on the first day, I leave the rules up on my white board in decorative fashion for the first month, along with a poster encouraging students to make right choices. However, don’t be afraid to have a few posters that are simply there for fun, beauty and enjoyment! When students walk into your classroom and every poster is behavior-related, the students then also get a negative impression of you. They think to themselves, “This teacher is really uptight about the rules. He/she doesn’t really care about me as a person unless I can keep up with all of their procedures.” (And, I’m sorry to say that they’re usually right, aren’t they?)

The best types of decorations combine inspirational (not dictatorial) messages alongside fun, interesting content posters. Also keep in mind that students enjoy interacting with decorations. Try making a bulletin board where students have to respond by writing on it. Students enjoy keeping track of time and events, so make one bulletin board a special announcement bulletin board, where you place a fun calendar, post flyers, and hang cool news articles that will be of interest to them. The key is also color. In a high school classroom, decorations do not need to be wall-to-wall the way you see in an elementary classroom. However, the space should be well-used, with some strategic placements in order to keep the classroom from looking like it contains blank walls. Use the decorations to reinforce rules, introduce lesson plans, give further information about lesson plan topics or to inspire kids to achieve more. Once your classes get started, allow kids to contribute to your decorating process, displaying their work and their posters that they create.

When you decorate your classroom well, students should get the impression that you care about them as people, that you have interesting things to teach them, that you will be fun, yet organized and disciplined. I have heard so many teachers along the years say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their teacher.” I agree that you are their teacher and agree that you are not their peer. However, that should not stop you from building positive relationships with your students and getting to know them as people. Show this attitude in your decorating process, and try to reflect it in your teaching style.

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Technology in the English Classroom

One of the greatest challenges that will be facing me next year is how to best utilize technology in the classroom, whether as an instructional tool, an assessment tool, or simply showing students how English and technology work together in today’s 21st century world. So far, our school is equipped with a fairly large computer lab–around 25 computers network-connected. We also will have a projector and laptop in each classroom beginning with next year. I’ve also talked the school into purchasing a few video cameras for use in creating video projects, and they have thankfully complied. This year, I used my personal portable DVD player for school DVD viewing because we have a limited supply of DVD players at the school, and some of them were missing remote controls or not working correctly.

Despite all of the increasing technology that is being made available to our school, I am facing the challenge of how to incorporate it into my classes and also with the challenge of how to coach a new middle school teacher how to incorporate it into the middle school curriculum, which is even more focused on computer literacy. They will need to be able to film, edit and upload Youtube videos, blog their own portfolios and demonstrate agility with Powerpoint and MS Word. I’m super excited about what the future holds, but I know that I will also need to teach myself how to do these things before I can begin to instruct students in their use.

So here is the challenge for you who view the Forum and want to share lesson plan ideas: Do you have any worksheets, plans or instructional guides that incorporate technology in your classroom as a student project? An assessment activity? An instructional tool? If so, pass the information along to your fellow teachers by either emailing them to me or by commenting on this site. I’m sure that there are many other teachers who are in the same boat here, and need to educate themselves or gather together resources and ideas. Remember–if you have any requests that you would like to be blogged on this site, be sure to let me know! I want this site to be helpful for you, and your needs may be different than my needs as a teacher. Also, if you saw something on this site that helped you, be sure to let me know!

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