Braving The Technology

So this summer, my technical knowledge has been progressing. It was my mission and I’m on route to conquer it. I do feel a bit like a soldier heading to battle, because this is one area of teaching that is taking me way out of my comfort zone. But at the same time I’m crazily excited about each new stride into the world of the unknown I make.

The differentiation possibilities with technology are endless. In fact the more I learn, the more I see possibilities that I hadn’t even dreamt of. Take OneNote Class Notebook for instance. That had been sitting on my computer as part of Office365 since well, probably forever without me even knowing it existed. Without me realising it, I had an amazing differentiation tool right at my fingertips, totally free of charge and ready for me to exploit it.

So, what does it do? Well, it enables you to create a NoteBook for your class. Within your NoteBook you have a library section that you can fill with notes, questions and resources. You can also include links to webpages and videos, as well as record yourself talking to your students. Students can see things in this section and copy and paste them into their own NoteBooks but they can’t edit them, so you know your original content is secure.

Next is the ‘Collaboration Space’ where students can work together on various projects. They can type simultaneously with each other, or they can use it as a space to peer assess work. It’s hard for me to get my head around this properly (in the absence of students to test it on) but I’m really excited about the possibilities and I know it’s something that’s going to make group work and collaboration a lot easier for students.

Thirdly are students’ individual NoteBooks, here they can complete work which only they and you as the teacher can see. Even better it saves automatically, no more panicking when they turn the laptop off when saving or lose their memory stick; both of which last year were monumental meltdown inducing problems for us. This next part I’m really excited about: I can post individual tasks for students here, I can post links to websites that relate directly to that student and I can even read pages of novels aloud and post them on the page. There are times we all wish we could clone ourselves. And well, this looks about as close as that is possible to get! I can be on every person’s screen, giving individualised instructions at the same time – no more waiting until I get round to each student to give instructions. (Admittedly the thought of my voice in stereo all around the room is a frightening prospect, but well, that’s what headphones were made for!)

This programme is all of my differentiation dreams come true. I’ll still be very much hands on – I have no plans to become a virtual teacher, but this will allow for a much greater level of independence for my students. And that has to be a good thing! Even better, once I’d got over my initial terror, it was pretty easy to figure out. If you can work in Microsoft word, you can easily master this.

So, if you like me are new to this expanding possibilities of technology this seems like a really good place to start. For those of you that have Office365 email at school, all you need to do is click on the little squares in the top left corner and you get a whole range of apps. I haven’t played with the others yet, but give me chance and I’ll get there!

I’m still not exactly what you would call a whizz, and I have a zillion things I want to learn to do, but I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come. And hey, I’ve still got four more weeks of the holidays left to learn lots of new things…. What are you going to try today?

Push Your Own Boundaries

If there is one thing in the classroom that terrifies me, it’s technology. It’s something I know I need to get better at; I mean apart from anything else, if I can master it the differentiation possibilities are endless. My students love anything technology related, it instantly motivates them and I have no doubt that when my lessons include it they produce better work and learn more.

So this summer, my self-set mission, is to improve my knowledge and work out creative ways to include more technology in my room. Yesterday, the perfect opportunity came along. Whilst I was sitting totally in my comfort zone at home cutting out pieces of paper for the interactive notebooks I’m making for my GCSE group, a suggestion was made to me by a fellow twitter user (well worth getting onto if you haven’t already – the teaching community on there is amazing). The suggestion: Why don’t you add QR codes? QR codes, I thought – what on earth are they?

Anyway it turned out the QR codes are those little picture links that you scan which take you directly to websites. After the initial ‘There is no way I can do that’ panic subsided, I followed the link sent, to http://ictevangelist.com an amazing blog full of wonderful tips, downloaded the recommended app QRAfter (only £1.49) and started to play.

Much to my delight, it was ridiculously easy. Pick a website, type the web address into the app, press a button and hey presto, you have a little picture link. The app emails the link directly to you, meaning you can immediately print it off. I’ve stuck mine directly into the interactive notebooks I’ve made, so they’ll lead straight to links about what it was like to be a cotton picker in 1930s America, and what racial segregation at the time of Maya Angelou’s childhood looked like. But, for larger classes you could just as easily print the link out and put it on a poster in the room.

We have access to two iPads in the unit and I’m going to download the scanner onto them (totally free of charge), but I’m thinking I may also let students use their own phones. The excitement in my KS4 group would be literally palpable if I TOLD them to get their phones out in a lesson. It would be a sure fire way of guaranteeing engagement, even in an early morning lesson.

This app is differentiation at its best. It allows you to incorporate visual content into your lesson. It promotes engagement from those students who find traditional methods of taking information on-board challenging. It even provides a way of allowing students who are unable to read and/ or write to access online video content independently.

This is technology that anyone can do. Trust me. If I can do it, you can. What are you waiting for? Give it a go today….