Giving Teachers the Opportunity to Say "Yes" to Ed Tech
My contribution to the March 2013 issue of Educational Leadership focuses on strategies to help encourage reluctant educators to try using technology in their instruction. The article includes many useful resources, but here are a few more that my students and I have found provide an added benefit to our learning and teaching, as well as making our lives easier—plus, they are all very simple to use.
Saving Resources on the Web
I am a longtime fan of the Delicious social bookmarking site, which lets users save and organize web resources. For example, one of the classes I teach is an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge course, and I have "curated" nearly 1,500 related links that my students and others around the world use.
Many districts block the Delicious site though, and my students seem to like the WebKlipper tool as an alternative. It also has some different features, including letting users virtually annotate saved webpages, and comes in particularly handy for research projects.
Encouraging and Monitoring Student Work Over the Summer
We're all familiar with the results of the "summer slide" in many students’ academic achievement. One way to reduce its effect is to have students do work online in the many sites like Zondle, No Red Ink, or ZooWhiz that let teachers easily create virtual classrooms so that the work can be monitored.
They are easy for both teachers and students to use and, though I am not a big fan of extrinsic motivators, arranging for students to receive extra credit from next year's teacher can't hurt.
Some of our students or their parents do not speak English, and when teachers are unable to communicate with them in their native language either, it can be frustrating not to be able to express important content or generate the goodwill that trying to speak a student or parent's own language can create.
If you do not have an interpreter around but do own a smartphone, try one of the numerous translation apps. Most smartphones these days also have a text-to-speech feature.
We have a long way to go to reach Star Trek's Universal Translator, but the apps that are listed in this Mashable post can be a big help in a pinch. SayHi is a newer app, not on that list, that is also worth a look.
I do not teach a science class, but I use science extensively with English language learners for language-learning activities. Here are a few of my favorite science sites:
Can educators be extraordinary teachers without using educational technology? Of course they can; many have been extraordinary teachers in the past, are in the present, and will be in the future. But one responsibility we all share is developing supportive collegial relationships, which includes encouraging each other to learn and try new things. They key word in that sentence is supportive, not threatening, patronizing, or arrogant.
The word faculty originally meant branch of knowledge, while the word community meant common ownership. By sharing our experiences and resources in a supportive way and being open to the offerings of others—tech and non-tech-related—we can model the difference between the two.
Larry Ferlazzo has taught English and social studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., for 10 years. Previously, he was a community organizer for 19 years. He writes a popular blog for educators, a teacher advice column for Education Week Teacher, and has written five books.
ASCD Express, Vol. 8, No. 12. Copyright 2013 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.