I am currently completing my Junior Division ABQ and have been posed the question of using technology in the junior classroom. Am I able to use these same tools in the junior classroom? The answer is ‘yes’ for some of these tools and ‘no’ to others. For example, I routinely used Poll Everywhere in my classrooms as a means to engage my students in a way that allows them to use their cell phones/iPads/laptops to augment their learning. This would not be the case in a Grade 4, 5 or 6 classrooms since the majority of these students may not have such devices as a result of their age. Some tools that may be especially helpful in teaching language arts in the junior grades are discussed below.
Starting a class blog with general information, homework postings and lesson information is definitely a “must-do” for every teacher. This platform of communication is user-friendly and allows the teacher to post important information for the class. The blogging platform effectively engages students and parents alike and allows them to view the classroom happenings through a unique lens.
Teachers can take the blog concept further and create blogs for each of their students (these can be linked to the main class blog). Students can post on their blog for a variety of reasons – journal reflections, research summaries or even answering questions posed in class. By providing the blog as a platform to submit assignments, the teacher is motivating the students to prize their work and polish it so it’s worthy of publishing i.e. posting on their blog. Older students, especially, have a heightened awareness of the value of work posted in the Internet and by giving them the responsibility of posting to a blog, the teacher is allowing the student to take ownership and pride in their work to a new level.
The ability to blog is one of the “new literacies” that our students are expected to be well versed in. Blogging allows students to fine-tune their thinking and writing skills and work on all aspects of the writing process including proofreading and editing. As well, when using student blogs in the classroom, a teacher is able to stress the importance of Internet safety and good digital citizenship while modeling these values.
Great blogging platforms to use include Edublogs, KidBlog, Blogger and Wordpress. I personally have used Edublogs Pro (paid account) for my Gr. 9 Applied Science class with great success (click here to view the class blog).
This tool allows collaboration between students in a completely new way. The next time you assign a project in pairs or groups, ask that the group put their work into a Google Doc. The platform is similar to MS Word, except that multiple users can edit and change the same document in real time. Just think of it as a “chat window” in which all users can edit each others’ work. This is a phenomenal way for students to collaborate with each other and with their teacher. It allows the students to practice teamwork and social skills on a whole new level.
Melanie Wiscount of Wilkes University summarizes the use of Google Docs in the classroom very well in the following slideshare presentation.
Skype has revolutionized communication in a way that is as dramatic as the first phone had. Skype allows you to video call anyone, anywhere and chat with them. I use Skype every day to keep in touch with my sister and my Mom in Chicago and with family in India and worldwide, but can this tool be used in the classroom as well? The answer is a resounding ‘YES’!!
Skype has launched “Skype in the Classroom” which “…is a free and easy way for teachers to open up their classroom. Meet new people, talk to experts, share ideas and create amazing learning experiences with teachers from around the world.” An example of one of the featured projects at this site involves “Skyping” with Park Rangers from Yellowstone National Park and learning about a variety of things such as geology, ecology and cultural history. This program facilitates connections and collaboration between teachers and classes who may geographically very far apart but on the page with regards to curriculum and classroom topics.
I see myself using Skype in a much more basic way. For example, if I am teaching my Grade 5 students about environmental impact of garbage and recycling, I would love to take them on a field trip to the local city-run recycling plant. If this trip were not feasible, it would be great to connect with the recycling plant’s community engagement person and arrange a Skype “visit” in the classroom. This would allow the expert guest speaker to “visit” our class and allow the students to interact with him/her and ask questions. In this was, Skype could be used to bring any expert into the classroom as a guest speaker.
Livescribe technology is one of my favourite technologies for differentiated instruction. Livescribe technology consists of a special pen and paper that records writing and audio simultaneously. A quick description of Livescribe technology is shown below along with “10 ways to integrate the Livescribe Echo Smartpen into your classroom” (courtesy of Two Minute Tech Tips, YouTube).
According to VOKI, it is “a great way to have students share their knowledge of a topic in 60 seconds or less. Makes students organize their thoughts to focus on key details.” This site allows students to create a speaking cartoon avatar and describes its function as anabling “users to express themselves on the web in their own voice using a talking character. You can customize your Voki to look like you or take on the identity of lots of other types of characters… animals, monsters, anime etc. Your Voki can speak with your own voice which is added via microphone, upload, or phone. ”
This can be integrated in the classroom in a variety of ways and teachers can use the “Lesson Plans” tab on the Voki site to explore lesson plans created b y other educators. I see myself using this tool in lieu of an oral presentation. Students would enjoy creating their Voki character, voice and script and would especially enjoy watching the Vokis created by their classmates. This adds a new twist to presentations and would motivate students to learn and communicate concepts due to the novel product that they would create.
Kinect in the Classroom
This is a tool that I have not yet had the chance to use in the classroom, but I am excited for the opportunity to try it out. Microsoft has listed many ideas of how to use Kinect in the Classroom and has posted the following video on YouTube.
I found this teacher’s blog especially helpful in understanding how Kinect can be used in the classroom and hope to be able to implement some of these techniques in junior classroom of mine. The gamification of learning motivates students and engages them in a new way and use of the Kinect allows teachers to explore kinesthetic learning and teaching methods.
As professionals, teachers are committed to engaging and motivating students to learn in a variety of different ways through different multiple intelligences and the technology tools described above allow teachers to do this in a unique way. Just as we commit to ongoing professional learning in all areas of teaching, we must remember to continually learn how to use new technology tools and how to incorporate them into our regular classroom practices.