Thoughts and Tools

Technology in my classroom

When I consider the amount of time I spend on my computer, it is almost embarrassing!  My computer has become an essential part of both my personal and professional life.  In what ways, you might ask?  Well, let me tell you how I’ve grown in using technology in my classroom.  You can take a quick tour of my technology layout by exploring the dots on the picture.  Since I’m using the free version of ThingLink, I can’t change the text on the “read more” link.  So, be aware this will actually take you to the product main page of the software being highlighted.  Despite the minor glitch, I hope you like the effect!


Broadly speaking, I use my computer for two main purposes in my classroom: productivity and education.  My productivity tools help me create, communicate, and store information.  Educational tools help me deliver content or enable my students to create content in a learning context.


Productivity Tools


My school district has heavily invested in an integrated financial and school management system: Renweb. This tool has streamlined my data-collection procedures.  I now enter all my grades directly into the online database (way less paper!).  I also use it to communicate with parents and students and post documents and papers.  In the future, I may also use its LMS features to host more blended types of classes.


I also heavily rely on Microsoft Office products; particularly Excel and Word. I like having my work locally available. The internet isn’t guaranteed to work, after all.  So I don’t tend to rely on cloud based documents or programs for mission-critical functions.  I create seating charts, grading sheets, percentage calculators, data analysis tools, lesson plans, and other schedules using Excel.  I use Word for almost every other classroom document I need.  They are the foundation of my teaching production cycle: planning; creation; execution; and analysis.


My classroom has also been fitted with a SMARTBoard device and the corresponding NoteBook software.  While I may not use all of its bells and whistles, I am very happy to have available a responsive (smart) touch device that is web-enabled.  It is the main way information is displayed in my classroom.


Of course, these tools are just the platform on which to create a learning environment.  I don’t teach my students how to use the SMARTBoard, it just melds into the fabric of the classroom like paper and pencils do.  There are, however, powerful tools that become notable for the added ways that they enhance the learning in my classroom.


Educational Tools


I use ALICE to teach computer programming.  It’s a great way to get ‘under the hood’ of Object Oriented Programming in a non-syntactical, drag-and-drop environment.  And it turns programming into storytelling easily because of its creative ready-made characters.  It’s free, and really great fun to play around with. Check it out!


My classroom is one where my students can bring their own devices (BYOD).  As such, I have been developing ways to integrate smart-phone technologies into my teaching.  PollEverywhere and Google Docs are powerful ways to leverage those tiny computers in our pockets! I love using PollEverywhere as a way of generating whole-class input into a conversation that can be seen by everyone.  It really changes the voices and dynamics in the classroom to have student ‘tweets’ show up on a SMARTBoard in real time.  And small group collaborations can work surprisingly well (and quickly) using Google Documents!


To finish exploring my educational technology ‘garden’, I consider GeoGebra one of the best additions to revealing the ‘hidden’ mysteries of mathematical equations out there.  I can’t imagine teaching math without it – at least not well.  I also use Adobe Animate (formerly Flash) and YouTube.  Animate is something that I’m able to generate content with, teach students to use, AND have students create their own content.  It’s very versatile in its abilities.  I don’t think I need say much about YouTube.


What about you?  Are you an educator?  What tools do you leverage for learnings’ sake?  Are you a student?  What tools have made an impact on you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…leave a comment!


About the graphic

I had fun making the graphic to the right!  I was playing around with two new tools for me: Piktochart and ThingLink.  I'd love your feedback on the effect.  I've also just discovered EdShelf, and am playing around adding tools and exploring there too.  Check it out!

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Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School