Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ten Steps to Becoming a Techy Teacher

Friday was a professional development day in our school district.  Sessions were offered all over the city in various schools.  I presented one at our school called Ten Steps to Becoming a Techy Teacher.  When I signed up to present, I thought I would just be presenting to members of our own staff.  It turned out, however, that 39 people signed up from all over the district, including a few people who specialize in technology. That unnerved me a bit!

I am not a technology specialist, I am a teacher who uses technology in my classroom.  I began this journey about five years ago, after taking an on-line class from the local area education association, called "Using the Internet in the Classroom."  My initial interest was in having a class blog or website, and it has grown from there.  Here is my idea of Ten Steps to Becoming a Techy Teacher.

Step 1:  Get Yourself a PLN

Don't try to figure it out all by yourself.  Develop a PLN or Personal Learning Network.  Meet fellow teachers on-line who are more than willing to answer your questions, and share what they know.  I can't tell you how many times I have put out a question on Twitter, Facebook or Plurk and been provided with multiple resources to answer my question.  Here is a post from Richard Byrne about developing a PLN.

One of the easiest ways to develop a PLN is to join a Twitter chat.  I participate in #4thchat each Monday evening.  I learn a lot, and I meet new people who teach the same grade that I do.  I wrote a post a while ago about getting started with Twitter Chats.  Here is a link to that.  Below are two resources to find a chat that meets your needs.

Step 2:  Go to Camp

There are lots of technology conferences that go on across the country, but as a classroom teacher, I don't have a budget for attending conferences.  That doesn't stop me however, and it shouldn't stop you.  Instead go to Edcamp or participate in an on-line conferences.  You will learn a lot and I promise you will be inspired to try new things.  

So far I have attended three Edcamps.  I have been to Edcamp Omaha twice, and this fall I went to Edcamp Des Moines.  Here are a few posts describing the Edcamp experience.
Find an Edcamp near you by visiting the Edcamp Wiki

If you would rather not leave home, try out an on-line conference.  I have participated in Edmodocon and the Reform Symposium.  

Whichever you choose, Edcamp, Edmodocon or Reform Symposium, the price is right.  You can attend any or all for free, and the experience is invaluable.

Step 3:  Make Connections and Collaborate

My students and I have shared some great opportunities collaborating with other classrooms around the world.  Use available technology to Skype with another classroom, or invite an author into your classroom.  For three years my class participated in a Thanksgiving project with other classrooms. Barbara Gilman, @BarbInNebraska, created a wiki.  Each participating classroom created a page about Thanksgiving to share with the other classes.

Some of my favorite ways to connect are through Kidblog or Edmodo.  Currently we are participating in the Global Read Aloud and connecting with other students and educators via Edmodo.

Learn more about the Global Read Aloud by visiting the wiki here.

Step 4:  Manage Your Classroom with Technology Tools

I love my on-line planbook.  I can write lesson plans, wherever I may be, and it's easy to use.  Check out  It's inexpensive, just $12 a year, and is loaded with tutorials to help you along.

For managing files and documents, I can't get along without Dropbox, Evernote and Skydrive.  All three are great ways to store files in the cloud, and access it readily from any computer.

For fun I like to use Instant Classroom as a way to group students for activities, or to randomly select students.

I also use Class Dojo to get rewards and encourage good choices in behavior.  My kids like it.

Step 5:  Practice Digital Citizenship

Teach it to your kids and practice it yourself.  If you're not sure where to start, use the Digital Citizenship Starter Kit from Edmodo.  Check out more resources from Cybraryman or Krissy Venosdale.

Be sure to to check your school district policies regarding Internet use and using student names and photos.  I make it a point never to use student names with a photo.  I also get releases from parents at the beginning of the year, so I have written permission to include students in photos.

Whether you are social networking or blogging, what you put on the Internet becomes part of your professional identity.  Use correct grammar and mature vocabulary.  Proofread! Once it's out there, you can't take it back.  It's also a good idea to Google yourself every now and then.  It pays to find out what websites and photos are being connected to you.

Step 6:  Communicate with Parents, Kids and other Educators

Write a blog.  Make a classroom website or wiki.  Take advantage of tools like Remind101, which is a way to send text messages to parents and students without giving out your personal cell phone number.

Step 7:  Teach Kids to Learn using the Internet, But Keep Them Safe

I work with 4th graders and one of my favorite tools for research is the webquest. This helps students to get to the websites I want them to explore.  A great resource for ready made webquests is Quest Garden.  I usually make my own, and that is easy to do with a wiki.  Here is one we are currently using to learn about mountains:  Mountain Trek

I don't let my students use Google, but here are some of my favorite kid friendly search engines.

Step 8:  Teach Kids to Create Content

I love the creative possibilities of using technology.  Some of my favorite creative tools for kids are:

Step 9:  Let the Kids Be the Teacher

It can be overwhelming when you are introducing a new tool to students, so don't try to do it alone.  Let the kids be the teachers.  I often introduce a new website to a few students.  Then I let them teach the rest of the class.  We often partner to begin with, before we begin to work independently.

Lots of times, I learn from my kids.  They discover possibilities that I had totally missed.  You just have to be willing to let them explore a little, and listen to what they learn.

Step 10:  Share

Finally, share what you know.  The rest of us will be eternally grateful.  

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