Social Media & The Library

If you can’t tell, this week’s Emerging Tech assignment was to research social media and the library. Honestly, I’ve been really excited for this unit! I actually do use social media and mostly to find interesting articles (also, pictures of sweaters and food and dogs). I have always been one who can’t read enough — always with a book in hand, a magazine on the table, and an article pulled up on my phone. (Admittedly, I hate reading on a screen but I tend to search for articles when I’m waiting on something/someone, and thus, enter the iPhone.)

Our assignment for the week was to figure out a social media plan and also to annotate a handful of social media sources. I did this while watching baseball (why is playoff baseball so entertaining?!) and was so excited that I basically attacked my husband and toddler with everything I’d found when they returned from their weekly trip to our public library.

First and foremost, I’d never looked on WordPress for blogs related to the library. I think it’s because I started this blog to talk about my family and myself. I found several sources here including a blog post that I re-blogged: The Death of the Library is Easily Reversed. This blog post gave me some pause to think about what before/after school options I could offer in the library classroom to meet the needs of students.

After my foray in with the WP search bar, I moseyed on over to Twitter. If you’re on Twitter and want to give me a follow, my handle is: @themumoirs — spoiler alert, it’s mostly about sports, food, and toddler tantrums. Ah, the good life. I have been following some academic-facing feeds for a while though (not everything can revolve around Pittsburgh sports’ teams). Some of my favorites for the library classroom are: MassBook, Digital Commonwealth, and NELA (which is a general site for libraries for all of NE — I like that there are resources posted frequently for how to improve upon the library experience and I think that a number of public library ideals can be used in the school library).

I also did some researching on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Let me just say, I LOVE Insta — I find it so much more refreshing and less to deal with than Facebook. I also can appreciate the privacy features on this site. Whereas my WP and Twitter feeds are public, I keep my Insta and FB private. I like the ability to have as much or as little a digital footprint as I please.

Now, to the social media plan. I put a decent amount of thought into this and wrote mine up accordingly. One thing that I can’t stop thinking about is how to use the BitMoji app to create cartoon versions of students to use in intranet-based chats and forums. Obviously, this would be contingent on the school’s policies and tech-based options but I really like the idea of having a level of anonymity while still being tracked (student log-in/IP) so that bullying doesn’t become an issue. This is something I will have to table for later but it’s definitely something I want to explore more.

I am really enjoying everything that I’m learning in this class. I want to also play around with the different apps, digital media forms, and websites I’ve reviewed in recent weeks and see how I can embed elements into library classroom social media page. I also understand what my limitations are — as a non-youngster, I’m accustomed to using Facebook and Twitter but I’m concerned that it won’t reach young people with my enthusiasm, so I think I’ll need to reach out to the school VSCO girls and learn about the cutting technologies that the teens are utilizing.

I’m excited to continue in my tech search and can’t wait to work in a school library, where I’m able to fully (or even partially) implement my plans.

Digital Media

I will admit, I opened this week’s module for my Emerging Tech class in the parking lot of a new yoga studio I was trying. I am pretty certain that my heart stopped beating for a moment when my professor told us that we needed to create a piece of online media. Yikes! I went on with my morning — yoga, a meeting at 3’s school, and back home for lunch with my favorite toddler and our pup, all the while this weighing heavily on me. I feel a lot more confident giving others creative ideas on how to do things; but for whatever reason, when I have to be creative, it seems like my brain ceases to work.

I decided to do a video in the Animoto App. This app is really neat and allows you to create animated slideshows. I enjoyed playing around with it last week and thought that I could really delve in and spend some time on it today. While 3 was napping, I uploaded photos and created a theme: Summer in Review, more or less. I used pictures (but none of my kids’ faces) to display some of our favorite summer highlights. Honestly, I could have posted thousands of pictures from the beach. Living in a beach town allows us to go to the beach nearly every single day and that’s essentially how I spent my time with 3 & 13 while 11 was at camp; alas, I chose to add in some other highlights of our summer.

My Animoto video can be found here if you missed the linking above: https://animoto.com/play/Lx0TsAghV1pNPzXgGgOPPA

In addition to creating my own little slice of digital media, I was tasked with creating a lesson plan that utilizes five video clips and three podcasts. Much like above, this was slightly stressful for me at the onset. I admit to not being tech savvy; I have never worked in a school that had bounds of technology, which likely contributes greatly to this. Further, I’ve never taken a super interest in video/movies. The first school I taught in didn’t have books; my classroom floor buckled and was condemned by the fire marshall, thus sticking my class and me in a conference room that frequently had no tables-chairs-or both. This led me to wait outside of a meeting Michelle Rhee was in: I, then, took her to my classroom and asked for a new floor (it worked). Needless to say, the situation was dire and as I’m sure you can imagine, if schools in the nations capital were unable to provide physically safe spaces then think of the kind of technology that was accessible. Incidentally, this school was the only place that I ever showed a film by checking one of the TV carts: My ninth graders were rockstars and at the end of the year, when we finished Romeo & Juliet, we watched the 1999 version of the movie. They loved reading and having the text to connect to and felt really accomplished being able to discuss the text in our “cafe classroom” those final days.

While I did find success with this relational book-movie, I never really had success finding things that seemed interesting to my students. I always incorporated music into class and had students create digital media when possible but modeling/showing examples has always been such a weakness for me. Thus, I tried to approach this assignment with the most open mind and deep breathing exercises for the stress.

My professor recommended a mash-up for us to watch and read about this week: It was a conversation between Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Twilight. I thought it was really well put together! It was easy for me to differentiate between the two characters/films despite having not seen either of them. I cannot even begin to imagine how much time and effort it took to put this together, but I love the idea of it and would love to create similar (though much shorter) assignments for students because I think that they could really demonstrate their critical literacy skills through such a task and also, I think they would enjoy it. Full disclosure, I’ve probably watched about a dozen movies from start to finish in my life. I’ve just never had much interest in them, though my husband and kids will sit down and watch them. (I will sit down to watch sports or to read.)

Once I made it to the library (after having a solid 10 hours of thinking to do), I had some ideas on places to look for this task. My first stop, of course, Vivian Vasquez. I took two courses of hers in graduate school at American University and learned so much that I’ve been able to implement in my classroom — critical literacies atop the list. Vasquez introduced me to podcasts back in 2007 and in 2011, I created a class at my school’s summer program for podcasting, which worked out great for my many students with language-based disabilities. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I left the classroom shortly after to pursue other opportunities around curriculum development and that kind of put a stand-still on my tech development. I am eager to plan a lesson for the library classroom that uses Ted Talks, NPR, BBC, TeacherTube (which I’ve used before when I was part of the TrIO program at Chelsea High and Bunker Hill), and whatever other podcasts I stumble upon. I have 13 tabs open on my Internet browser currently of podcasts to investigate. I also think that I need to investigate YouTube more. Sure, I use it; but only to play music that isn’t on the radio (mostly British rock and 90s rap). I’ve always kind of written it off as an educational tool which is perhaps naive or possibly even, dare I say, foolish.

I think that this assignment is pushing me to rethink “MY” way of teaching and really see how far against boundaries I can take my practice. While I both recognize and acknowledge this as a good thing, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated by it; and when I think further about this — it’s kind of silly: Approximately one hundred years ago, when I was just a year out of college, I worked my way from coordinator to Digital Media Manager and later left that position to be THE marketing department at a start-up. I am starting to question where my insecurities around technology come from, because 15 years ago, I was really quite confident. I suppose this all comes back full circle where I pinpointed at the beginning of this post that acknowledged the lack of tech exposure as a classroom teacher. (Similar to setting an intention at the beginning of yoga, I’m going to set an intention from now until the end-or at least mid-semester to not let me get into my own head about technology being intimidating and just going for the gusto, as they say.)

Updates to come.

 

 

Apps

… this is not another blog about appetizers, but rather the technical term, applications.

In this week’s Emerging Tech class, we were tasked with reviewing apps new to us (which, to me, is basically everything outside of Instagram, Pinterest, MapMyRun, and Weather Underground). Because I do not use a lot of apps on my phone, they never actually dawned on me as having an educational component. (I feel like this is a theme; I just never realized all that’s out there.)

My professor shared links of several apps, including a link to the American Association of School Libraries best 2019 apps for teaching and learning. I looked at several of these (mostly ones that I personally had an interest in or ones that I think my kids would like) and wanted to mention some this week:

Khan Academy Kids — 13&11 used this for assignments in elementary school, so I am familiar with the Khan Academy platform. There are a lot of resources for children on the Kids app and even preK-specific options. Personally, I do not like the idea of my child using a tablet or other technology at home; however, I do see how this would be beneficial in a pre-school/early elementary setting. I think that offering tech-based programming while the librarian circulates to help students find books is a great way to multi-task in the classroom, especially given that class sizes range 20-33 in most districts and there is typically only one librarian. This would be a valuable tool in a station-like setting.

Novel Effect — This app is really neat. I downloaded it yesterday to my phone to use with 3. He LOVED it. I think the concept is super cool; you read a book and there are corresponding sound effects that align with certain words once spoken. Personally, I had to delete this from my phone because I don’t like recording my voice and having it filed away somewhere. (Sounds paranoid, I realize. Oh, well.) I think on a basic school-wide iPad or tablet, this could be a great app to utilize. It is fun to hear the various effects and I think even middle-high schools students would be entertained by it in small doses. This app made me think back to teaching MS in Virginia when my ELA students wrote, directed, and filmed ‘TV shows’ for our figurative language unit — my students had so much fun with the assignment and had voice overs and effects for everything. It was a lovely memory to have while testing out this app and I’d love to use it again when I have a practicum experience with younger students.

PBS Kids — Who doesn’t love PBS? I grew up watching Mr Rogers (filmed in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA); it was one of the few shows I was allowed to watch and at an early age had met all of the stars. So exciting! As I grew older, my love of PBS grew. When I taught in the DC area, I sat on a panel where teachers tested/gave feedback to website additions/materials. The PBS Kids app delivers all I’d expect from such an education-centered organization. I love that there are STEM programs available on this platform, but what I really am excited about are the e-books: I think that e-books give families access to reading that they may otherwise not have. I can’t like this app enough and it goes along with everything I’ve ever known about PBS to do — give access to all.

Do Ink — This site is really cool for any school/program with video programming. Do Ink allows for green screen production and could be used for school TV programs, projects for any content area/class, and even instructional videos from specialists. I love the options of creating green screen videos (and there are really detailed instructions as well). The Do Ink Green Screen reminds me of trips to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain; both have weather green screens and my kids, husband, and myself have all enjoyed our personal video productions. This could be such a versatile program for students to use and to showcase student projects to parents or even community members (assuming all students can be filmed; all safety measures are followed). Before moving to Boston, I worked in an alternative school for students displaced from their base/public school. Our principal who was equally awesome and ahead of his time, supported project-based initiatives; we regularly took some really unique field trips that allowed students to ‘get their hands dirty’ and they all related to the end of the year culmination project about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. I would have LOVED for our students to use such technology to report their findings in such a way encouraged by Do Ink. I really appreciate all this app offers and hope to use it some day with my students in the library classroom!

iCell — I will be honest: I never got into science. Most everyone on my dad’s side works in medicine and everyone just assumed I would too — that English degree of mine couldn’t be more opposite. That being said, the iCell app is a really neat tool for giving simulated bio lab information. 11 would love such an app and I can guarantee would play on it for hours if we let him. This app allows you to make notations/annotate along the cell’s structure and image; you can lock and hide your notes if necessary. This makes for a great tool in the classroom and yes, in the library. I am constantly thinking about ways to integrate the library classroom into the classrooms of content and it’s really easy for me to figure out ways to incorporate the library into a humanities class and even mathematics; however, I struggle most with science. This would be a great way to support science teachers and/or students who are interested in studying science independently. A colleague at BHCC who teaches science told me that most of their dissection is now done virtually, so I think that students looking to study science post-secondary could really benefit from having access to such an app. I look forward to keeping this app in mind when I am a school librarian.

iCivics — This app caught my attention because 13 is in the eighth grade this year and is currently studying civics. While we are not a very tech-heavy household, I always keep my kiddos in mind when I learn about new educational technologies. 13 and I have been having regular conversations (class assignment) about duties, responsibilities, and rights. The games on this program would allow for additional support in the classroom. Similar to the PBS and Khan applications, I could see this being used in the library classroom while the librarian works with other students to identify appropriate texts. I think that games are a good break for students in the classroom and this could allow them to utilize knowledge without spreading everyone thin and also while giving them a break from the rigorous in-class work and discussion. To me, Supreme Decision seems like the coolest of the games to play within the app — here, you are presented with a case and have to help the US Supreme Court make a decision. Anything that allows a child to be in the company of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a win in my book.

Flickr — We were asked to look at Flickr this week as well. On a personal note, I could see this leading me down a rabbit hole of lost hours looking at pictures of dogs. On a professional level, I see some really neat things you could use Flickr for in the classroom and especially in the library. To me, using the resources available on the site is where the bread & butter is; I think having students post pictures to an open space in the outside world is scary. (Specifically, I think of students in state custody who may not realize the dangers of someone coming across a picture.) This is an app that I need to table until I am in a position to use it. I feel like it would be best to be able to create such a platform on a school/district-wide intranet because there are so many learning opportunities for students to discuss cultures, places, art, humanities, and even science and mathematic components. One area I could see using this would be a collaboration club between maybe an art class and the library; student number would be small and thus could be more easily monitored with content and commenting postings. I see the potential in this app but the parent/foster parent in me sees red flashing lights.

Lastly, it seems there are a lot of virtual/augmented reality apps. I think that these programs are really neat for students to experience and should spend some time looking into them. Sadly, the mere thought takes me back to Body Wars at Disney’s Epcot (circa 1990-something) where the 3D virtual body tour made it so I never see another thing like it since. I get squirmy just thinking about these programs because of that experience… Still, apps like Sites in VR seem really cool. I love the idea of exposing students to other places outside of their comfort zones. Years ago, back at the Alternative School mentioned above, I had mentioned my travels through Europe. Nearly all of my students were jealous of my travels to Amsterdam because they thought it would be a wild party of Red Light District visits and drugs. They were less impressed with my stories of visits to the Anne Frank House, the tulips, the canals, and the food. I think an app like Sites in VR allows students to gain knowledge beyond stereotypes or grandiose stories and could really be utilized in the library classroom to highlight settings of stories, work with ELA/social studies teachers, or just allow students to investigate their own curiosities of the world.

Learning Tech

This week in my Emerging Tech course, I was tasked with writing about new technologies I’m learning about. This is really neat — I am gaining exposure to so many things and have even more opportunities to ‘nerd out’ if you can believe it. On Monday, I started to look into a series of tech suggestions, whereby I latched on to a few different learning technology tools.

  1. Padlet — This was really neat; you can take a picture and then give a little caption about it. A classmate mentioned using this for book recommendations, which I think is a great idea. I also could see using it as a character highlight when discussing ELA readings or to highlight a specific country, language, or culture for a social studies class. Further, it would be a great visual supporter for word problems in math or even a way to introduce lab items for science. Uploading these to a SMART/Mimio board or to the library/teacher sites would allow students access. I just had so many ideas about how to be able to utilize such a tool in the library classroom, be it through collaboration with teaching staff or to enhance the library experience.
  2. RSS Feeds — I’ll be honest: it never dawned on me to use this tool for educational purposes. I’ve used RSS feeds many times in my personal life and have received many notifications for step-parenting, infertility, IVF, and adoption. I think because I was so entrenched in my personal stories that the thought never occurred to me to use this for anything more. I could see having tabs available on a library site (or just bookmarked on the librarian’s computer) that relate to topics being researched, current events, famous authors, inventors, technology, college applications (because librarians can absolutely lend a helping hand to the school guidance staff) and so much more.
  3. Tumblr — I used to follow a food blog on Tumblr (years ago) but got frustrated by the lack of words. I think that this is a great site to use for blogging for students though. I appreciate lengthy reads; I’m a lover of words, what can I say?! I know many students, however, may prefer to tell a story through images or music or any other artistic means. I love that this is a site that would more easily encourage students to use it in that capacity and I think that integrating this in a classroom or library setting could be a lot of fun. Clearly, in a library setting, students could all post to the library’s page where they highlight current events or review recent books or give tips on how-to use different technologies. There really are endless possibilities and unlike some of the other technologies, Tumblr could easily be used by specials/electives or even outside clubs/organizations with ease.
  4. LiveBinder — HOLY MOLY! The organizational nut in me has died and gone to heaven! I spent hours clicking around this site and thought, “why has nobody told me about this before?!” Honestly, on a personal/professional level, I could catalog all of the consulting I do for grant writing and charter school development. In terms of education or library cataloging — there’s just so much! I could see having students use this to organize and present senior projects or any other type of portfolio (Hello, art teachers!). I can’t wait to start using this tool, myself. If you’ve not heard of it, I advise you check it out immediately (but only if you have a few hours to spare).
  5. Pinterest — This was another suggestion per my professor. There’s both so much and so little to say about Pinterest. I use it for basically everything. When we learned I’m allergic to yeast and had to reframe our entire family diet, Pinterest was my go-to; when we wanted to give 13 a perfect tween escape, I pinned and bought (and was basically banned from ever shopping at Pottery Barn Kids ever again) and had my husband set up every detail of the tween dream; when I wanted to take a cute Halloween treat to 3’s daycare last year, I pinned, failed, and sent a half-empty bag of Oreos with an open bag of pretzels and was reminded why I hate all things crafty and cute… You get it — Pinterest is basically my right hand man. I’ve used it for teaching ideas in the past and for classroom setup. It’s an easy go-to that I can always rely on. (Link to my personal Pinterest (education) site above)
  6. Diigo — I was really psyched to find this tool; online annotation, count me in! Instantly, I my brain was filled with ways to make annotation lessons engaging and fun for students who appreciate the use of technology over the traditional book. I constantly hammer the benefits of annotation and think that an online tool can help students who prefer reading this way. My big thought here, though, centers on how compatible this might be with assistive tech, like Dragon Speak, for students who may not easily be able to find what they’d want to highlight or comment on. This is something I need to dig deeper on. I tried to Google it but only found articles about Diigo with advertisements for Dragon Speak, so I tabled this search for the time being.
  7. Google Classroom — Last night, I had 13 walk me through her Google Classroom. I know the kids talk about using it and in my head, I had pictured a UI similar to Blackboard or Moodle. Her teachers use it to post readings, assignments, and test reminders — don’t get me wrong, this is all great. It allows us to see everything that goes on in the class and allows access to students who miss a day. I was just hoping for more engagement (sure, you can comment to class or teacher, but I don’t really think of a comment box to be engaging). One benefit though, as is Google’s way — it’s super user-friendly and most likely intuitive for students/parents. I just was expecting… more…

These are some of the education tools that I’ve spent time looking at this week. I appreciate the time and space to investigate and learn about these tools. I am starting to realize that it’s not that I’m bad at technology or even that I have a lack of interest; it’s that I haven’t had exposure to various classroom technologies. I think that largely this is because I’ve been out of the traditional classroom for the last seven years, focusing on curriculum development, grant writing, charter applications, and teaching at the college level on the side. I’m excited to continue to gain exposure to these types of tools and eventually implement them in the library classroom!

EduTech

This week for my Emerging Tech course, I’ve been tasked with writing a blog post that shows some of the new things I’ve learned and what I’ve been thinking about based on the readings and discussion.

Wow. What a loaded prompt!

First, I would like to point out that in terms of educational technology, I’m most familiar with things piloted or mastered in the mid-2000s when I finished my first graduate degree. My, how things have changed! I read an article today, titled: Saving School Libraries: How Technology and Innovation Help Them Stay Relevant” and it has me thinking all of the things. I have always been intrigued by the work of the school librarian, but thinking in terms of working “as a catalyst for social change” is something that never dawned on me (Lynch 3). As an English teacher, I always thought that engaging students in reading and discussion could drive such change and as I worked at the college level, I saw just how thoughtful students were when it came to social events and news. I did not really put a lot of thought into how the librarian can shape students similarly, but I love the idea of encouraging students to research, engage, and utilize their critical thinking skills to make waves around them.

My experiences with reluctant and struggling readers, something I’ll likely discuss often, allows me to work with students through a critical scope regardless of where their skill sets are. Another thought in the Lynch article states that, “Libraries need to provide an unbiased, and unlimited, access to information” (3). This is a statement that I think will stick with me as I think of ways to integrate community and technology within the confines of school walls. Further, I think that utilizing new technologies to advance learning will assist with this.

Through my readings, I’ve been introduced to a few new sites and concepts:

  1. Librarians without Borders: This may become my new obsession, as I see that in 2019, trips to Guatemala and Ghana were organized to set up libraries and learning resources. As I type this, I am mentally thinking of ways to help my husband understand why I should participate in something like this next year.
  2. EdShelf: Perhaps this is more applicable to other educators browsing this blog. I bookmarked this page for later (and even created a Library Resources folder in my bookmark bar!). EdShelf has a number of educational tools listed for whatever task you may have at hand. I’d read an article by Joyce Valenza that touched on Augmented Reality and there’s a whole section of applications available for perusal on the EdShelf site. I also clicked on the Read/Write/Literacy tab and was pleased to see ReadWriteThink has an application (this is a website that I used 10+ years ago for resources for my students). I am really looking forward to delving into this site more!
  3. FlipGrid: We used FlipGrid this week to create a 90 second video about our comfort levels with technology. I really enjoyed this task and learning about this platform. I can see this being used easily in collaborative approaches between content-area teachers and librarians as well as professional learning communities (both in-person and online). I love the idea of students creating FlipGrid videos to keep responses concise (it makes me think of Twitter limiting characters with typing). I think there are a lot of applicable ways to use such a platform: word problems in mathematics; breaking down a science experiment and its outcomes; giving a quick book review; reciting a timeline from history. This is something I really want to keep in mind when I’m working in a school library.
  4. Glogster: This was a site recommended in another Joyce Valenza article. It is animation software and on the site, there are examples of how content area teachers are able to have students utilize this within the confines of an in-class project. This is software that seems valuable to use from mid-elementary school through high school. It is more graphic/animated than Prezi but should offer a similar engagement.
  5. Bubbl: In the same Valenza article mentioned above, there’s a piece that focuses on mind mapping via Google Docs. This jogged my memory: When I used to teach in a special education, independent school, I had my students use a site called Bubbl. This site allowed students who needed to visually map out their thoughts the space and capacity to do so. I have also recommended this to college writing students who need the same processing accessibility.
  6. The last is a concept that I need to wrap my mind around. In both the Lynch and Valenza articles, it is stated that libraries need to advocate for improved digital access to include social media, blocked sites, and cell-phone usage. This is something that I am going to continue to wrap my mind around and think about how these tools can be responsibly used to further the educational growth of our youth. I think a lot of this as to do with the fact that I work hard to preserve a tech-free space within my home and get anxious at times that I’m very far behind in cutting-edge technologies. For example, my three year old thinks cell phones are only for FaceTime with his grandparents (also, for taking pictures) but has never used one otherwise.

While I battle mentally with the cell phone piece, one thing that is starting to give me a little relief is that I’m realizing maybe I’m not as overall technology resistant as I can sometimes feel.  Reading this week’s assigned articles have given me the ability to take a deep breath and rethink my technology uses within the classroom. Sure, I always have preferred to lecture without PowerPoint slides, but I’ve always printed out my lectures for students who need to read and re-read information and may not be adept at note-taking.

As a classroom teacher, I have always tried to touch on the various learning styles my students may have. Now, I am thinking about how I can support teachers with similar tasks through technology-infused assignments and various resources. Now that I’m reading and gaining access to sites, I am feeling less intimidated about the prospect of such a task.

Finally, in the midst of thinking and reflecting on technology in terms of what I’ve had access to and what is available to students and teachers, I want to think of ways that students can publish writing. When I was an undergrad, I received The Writer’s Market as a gift — this was a book with thousands of pages of publishers and contests for writers. I think it would be so fun to eventually run an after-school or advisory program where students write in accordance to contests to submit for a chance at publication. I am not sure if most teens would find this cool, but I’m really jazzed at the thought. (I also find it encouraging that in my nine years teaching at a local community college, I’ve had four students major in English — I know there are other writers out there who are eager to find these opportunities.)

Top Ten Technology Tips for Teachers

This week’s blog post for my Emerging Tech for Libraries course focuses on technology tips for teachers. By right, I am not big on technology; Verizon basically had to wrestle my iPhone5 out of my hands and force an upgrade to a newer, working model; thus, my confidence with technology is not as high as others. This assignment pushed me to think about what I appreciate with technology and how I’ve integrated technology in my classroom as a middle and high school English teacher and also as a math special education teacher. I have been thinking back to what 13 & 11 had access to in elementary school and now, in middle school. I am also forced to rethink what I learned from my graduate students at UMass who were always trying to find ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

So, without further ado, here’s my list:

  1. Understand the tools available to help students gain skills independently. There are some great programs out there that allow students to take control of building their skills. For example, Symphony Math is a program I’ve used to help students gain confidence for numbers sense; Lexia Reading is a program that works on phonetics with students; Read180 is used by some classrooms to build reading skills; while, Achieve3000 offers articles that are based on student reading levels but allow for similar lessons across the board.
  2. Communicate with school staff to understand the available technology within the building. Some reading teachers, for instance, have access to programs that most classroom teachers do not, but that doesn’t mean that content teachers can’t collaborate with reading instructors or other specialists to bring specific technology to students in need.
  3. Think of how best to communicate with parents — most districts use a LMS system, which allows for updates to grades but not always notes to parents. Class Dojo is a program that 13&11’s teachers used in elementary school; this program can track behavior management, projects, and other facets of the classroom. Any tool that simplifies communication with parents and maintains transparency is a win-win.
  4. Check out laptops from the library/utilize computer rooms. Students need to gain confidence and understanding navigating the Internet. In a world of Wikipedia, it’s imperative that students know and understand how to research properly. Lessons can be piloted through collaboration between classroom teachers and technology/library specialists at school to enable students to gain higher order thinking skills all while learning proper ways to research and document.
  5. Maintain consistency around rules and expectations with technology. For example, 13 & 11 do not have cell phones — their school has a policy that phones should be kept in their lockers but last year, we noticed that some teachers wanted phones in the classrooms to use for video. I’ve read about schools allowing students to use their cell phones for in-class research and I do see the benefits of this, but I think in order to do this successfully, all parties need to be on the same page and have access to the same materials.
  6. Teach students how to utilize presentation software. Most schools teach PowerPoint, which is great — I know 13 & 11 used it in elementary school for in-class presentations; they also used GarageBand on iPads in school. In my college classes, I’ve had some students who learned how to use Prezi, which is a really fun and engaging way to create a presentation. I think that encouraging students to play around with new programs and offer mini-tutorials on how to incorporate proper content will allow for more functional and efficient public speaking opportunities.
  7. Allow students to communicate in class the ways they communicate socially. Several years ago, I taught a Romeo & Juliet lesson. Instead of droning on about the tragedy, I had students take things into their own hands. In groups of two, on the laptops, students devised texting conversations between two characters. They used modern language while making connections to the text. Once they finished, we posted them on the Mimio and had students put their modern words into iambic pentameter, had them make predictions and inferences about how things would turn out with the level of communication at their fingertips now, and offered feedback about accuracy and staying on point. It was a fun activity that engaged the class and allowed them some space to showcase their communication skills vs. mine vs. the text.
  8. Investigate critical literacies. In graduate school, I took a course by Vivian Vasquez — she’s amazing and taught me so much about emerging technology. This was back in 2007, so tech has obviously evolved since then, but the concept remains the same. Functional literacy can take many forms and does not strictly involve reading words on a page — I took this concept and applied it to my students who struggled with reading comprehension by using audio books and read aloud/think aloud sessions paired with grade-level readings for them to create v-logs. Removing the blatant reading and writing duo that often accompanies a text allowed students who had high comprehension, but low reading/writing skills, to shine. In classes with 30 students, it can be difficult to find and understand each student’s literacy strength, but that is where specialists come into play and allow for support and tech integration.
  9. One thing we always talk about in reading is the importance of forging connections to the text. Utilizing laptops to search for articles that took place around the time/setting of a book can help students better understand some of the context given throughout the text. It is also fun to set up these searches as a scavenger hunt that utilizes higher order thinking and Bloom’s buzzwords.
  10. Ask your students how they utilize technology for academic purposes. This question can yield two-fold responses: First, you’re able to gain access/insights to the ways students utilize technology, so you can beef up your own usage and second, you’re able to redirect any red flags (Wikipedia; plagiarizing) by demonstrating software you use (for example, at BHCC, I had access to software that would note how many sentences were from outside sources). This offers a great deal of transparency and allows for natural, in the moment lessons and redirections all while using a SmartBoard and integrating further levels of technology.

I hope these tech tips are helpful — it took a lot of thought for me to think about how I’ve used technology, on how my kids’ teachers and schools have offered technical solutions to work, and how I can improve the usage of technology for myself and fellow staff.

When I was in school, we had overhead projectors that would sometimes overheat and shut down; we also had chalk. The ability to utilize technology within the confines of a classroom truly offers boundless experiences for students, which is equal parts great and terrifying. I tried to think of how both teachers and students could benefit by my list, thus the examples; and how a librarian would be able to facilitate learning outcomes with both staff and student. Currently, I have a lot of thoughts swirling around my brain about how this could all look and play out — the librarian really can serve as a central hub/school’s access point between so many departments. It’ll be neat to further explore this and understand how all of these pieces can come together.